Cold Camp by TimJ
Last Updated :: 5/26/2006 5:44:25 PM EDT
Cold Camp by TimJ
Chapter 1

He broke camp at sunset, packing his gear into his Kelty pack, everything going back where it had come from. He was comfortable with the routine of the act; it gave him a feeling that some things were consistent, and hope that some things would remain so.

After packing, he pulled the camouflage cover over the pack, securing it at the top and bottom so that an errant tree branch wouldn’t pull it off at the wrong time. Shrugging on his Blackhawk chest pouch he picked up the pack by the sides and lifting it over his head, settling it onto his shoulders. He jumped up and down to get the pack just so, and buckled the waist belt, pulling it just a little tighter. He wondered to himself how much more weight he was going to lose. Not that it was a bad thing. His trek so far was burning the soft life off of him 1 pound at a time, and every day he felt both younger and much, much older.

He picked up his rifle, and draped the sling over his shoulder and neck. He set out cautiously, stopping every few minutes to listen to the sounds of the forest. So far so good. Just birds saying good night to the sun, and the last few crickets of the season looking for love in the twilight. As the fading light turned the world from Technicolor to gray and black, he paused for moment to look up at the darkening sky. The stars were much brighter now that there were virtually no electric lights to blind suburban man to the wonders of the universe.

Well, he thought, we really were a short footstep from the dark ages. Continuing on, he consulted his USGI tritium compass every so often, and adjusted his course as he needed to. After moving a click and a half, he again stopped, and removed his canteen from his hip belt. He took a long pull of the tepid water, and swallowed. He stowed the canteen and moved forward, even more slowly than before, using every bit of his somewhat rusty skills to make as little noise as possible.

After two hours and then some he saw a break in the trees, marked only by a band of twinkling stars through the leaves. He stopped and took a knee, loosening his right pack strap and unbuckling the waist belt of his pack. Rolling his shoulder, he shifted the weight of the pack to his left, and slid it to the ground at his left heel. He then dropped to the prone position, pointing his rifle at the road that lay 20 meters to his front.

Shivering slightly as the chill of the night crept up on him, he listened for activity on the roadway. The sound of a motor, a cough, muffled voices, a radio breaking squelch, the distinctive whir of the thermal sight of a TOW launcher mounted on a Humvee. After a half hour of hearing what he wanted-nothing- he again rose to one knee and adjusted his left shoulder strap, then replaced the pack on his back. The cold sweat on his t-shirt made him colder still as the pack resettled on his spine. Pulling the straps tight he left the waist strap unbuckled in case he needed to dump the pack in a hurry. He slowly made his way to the edge of the brush that lined the two lane state highway in front of him, and promptly walked into a rusty wire fence. “Damnation” he hissed. The rusty fence was put there by the state to keep random and easily deterred trespassers from despoiling the wood surrounding the reservoir where he had refilled his canteens and spent the day. He felt the wire with his bare left hand, and determined that it was thin enough. Reaching into the left accessory pocket of his chest rig he pulled out his trusty Leatherman Tool and unfolded it. Cutting carefully, with his attention still focused mainly on listening for the sounds of approaching danger, he clipped the wire in two areas, about 30 inches apart, and down four layers of wire. Re-stowing his Leatherman he pulled the wire towards him, and folded the cut area down. He quickly crossed the fence, and turning, pulled the wire back into place, as best he could by touch. He turned to the road and took a knee, looking both left and right for signs of approaching vehicles, or something or someone waiting quietly on the shoulder. Seeing and hearing nothing but normal night sounds, he quickly rose and darted across the road, his pack thumping against his back with every step, his rifle held at high port in both hands. Reaching the far side of the road, he crashed through the first row of pucker brush that is so common on roadsides, and stopped. He flopped to the prone, and peered over his rifle at his back trail. After several minutes of listening to his heart return to a normal rhythm, he stood and buckled his belt, turned on one heel, and moved slowly and deliberately through the woods, keeping the highway, as best he could, 200 meters to his left.

He again made camp in a wood. It wouldn’t be dawn for a few more hours, but according to his map this was the last significant patch of undeveloped land on his route for about 10 miles. And between that patch of land and this was the Turnpike, eight lanes of potential danger. He had several miles of semi rural land to cross, and at least two of suburban tract houses to pass safely through. He ate a cold MRE beef stew, and dug a small cathole to take care of other matters. He buried both his waste and MRE packet in the same hole. He had stopped outside of a dense stand of Oak trees growing from a wild pile of bracken and vines. He risked a brief red filtered search with his LED flashlight, and found what he was looking for in a few moments. On hands and knees he followed the small game trail into the thicket, wriggling on his belly when his pack hung up on the dense vegetation. Reaching the clear spot at the base of the three oaks, he listened tensely for a few minutes. He then took off pack and removed the cover. Rolling out his ensolite ground pad, he unrolled his sleeping bag and laid his poncho over it. Fishing around in the outside pocket of his pack he removed a small bundle of green bungee cords and quickly assembled a low poncho hooch over his bed. He removed a pair of socks from the pocket and threw them onto his sleeping bag. He then sprinkled dried leaves over the top of the poncho, and quickly crawled back down the game trail. He then covered the trail as best he could in the dark in an effort to disguise his path. Reaching his hooch, he again covered his pack with the cover. After listening to the sounds of the night and detecting no apparent threat, he removed his chest pouch and laid it next to the sleeping bag, and placed his rifle on top of that. He removed his boots and socks, and put the socks in the bag. Dusting his feet with foot powder, he pulled on a pair of dirty but dry socks, crawled into his bag, and drifted off to a fitful sleep.

Chapter 2-Preparation

He woke with a start and it took a moment for him to remember where he was. He then tensed. What was it that had woken him? He reached out from the bag slowly and felt his rifle next to him. Feeling slightly less tense he listened for a moment. Suddenly a Blue Jay called from above him, its raucous cry startling him. He laughed at himself. Just a bird, he thought. He looked around. It was a bright, mid-October day, Indian summer they called it, when the cold air and wind of fall was replaced with one final sign of the summer that had passed, and a reminder that the cold time was just around the corner. Releasing his L1A1, he unzipped his fart sack and stretched. He really was too old for this stuff, he thought. He smiled to himself. He sounded just like his old platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Chadwick. Hell, he was now older than old SFC Chadwick had been when he was platoon daddy for a bunch of miscreant recon soldiers back in the day. Getting out of the bag, he sat on the edge of his sleeping pad, which he still called a puss pad, often to his wife’s dismay. He did have a way of letting things slip, which could be awkward when you were a middle management type for a stuffy brokerage firm. Pulling his pack towards him, he removed the cover and fished around inside, removing a pair of dry polypropylene socks as well as a pair of GI wool socks. Removing the socks he had slept in, a thick pair of wool hunting socks, he dusted each foot with foot powder before putting on the sock liner and GI sock. He then pulled on his hiking boots, and laced them up. Stowing his sleeping bag in its compression bag, he placed that inside of a waterproof bag, and returned it to the bottom compartment of his pack. He then took down his poncho hooch, and returned its various components to their place in his outside pocket.

Time for food his rumbling stomach told him. He laid the pack down and unzipped the front compartment, taking inventory of his food supply. Five Mountain House dehydrated meals. Seven MRE’s, still in their heavy plastic bags. 12 stripped down MRE’s, all but the essentials removed to make them lighter and more compact. A large Nalgene bottle stuffed full of instant white rice, and a smaller one full of instant oatmeal. Six Ramen noodles packets, looking slightly worse for the wear in their heavy-duty freezer bag. A small container of sugar, one of salt, and one of mixed spices. Sighing at his unappetizing breakfast fixings, he dug a small hole at his feet. Pulling on esbit stove from the GI buttpack clipped to the top of the pack, he removed one heat tab, broke it in half, and returned one part to the stove, which he then replaced in the buttpack. Placing the tab at the bottom of the hole, he removed the canteen and canteen cup from the waist belt, and filled the cup halfway with the remaining water. He then fished a disposable lighter from his pocket, and lighting the heat tab, placed the cup of water over it to boil. While the water heated he took care of his morning toilet, and took a moment to wash himself with a small facecloth he kept in his personal hygiene kit. He then dropped a Ramen into the water, opened a stripped MRE, and removed a green foil packet of beef stew, which he opened and spooned into the canteen cup also.

While waiting for the Ramen stew to cook he refilled his canteen from the water bladder in his pack, noting that he needed to find potable water before the next day started. After eating, he consulted his map. Fortunately a company had long been offering atlas’ that contained fairly large scale topo maps of different regions of the country. He had purchased on for his state, Connecticut, which also covered diminutive Rhode Island, one for Massachusetts, where he was now, and one for New Hampshire, where he was headed. He had treated each map with water sealer, and kept them in a conveniently sized pocket on the front flap of the pack. With an alcohol pen he marked his present position, as close as he could determine. The next danger area for him was the Mass Turnpike. He could cross at a less populous area, but that would take an additional three or four days of walking. He had long ago determined that this route was safe enough to risk crossing the highway at this point. Studying the map, he committed to memory the terrain ahead, noting the main roads, train tracks, and streams he would need to cross. A cemetery would provide a good spot to move through and not be seen, but most of the area ahead was suburbs. He would have to wait till dark and try to traverse 2 miles of backyards, sidewalks, and streets before reaching the largest danger area he would face on his trip. Restowing the maps, he dug around in the pack and removed two rectangular items. One was a small, self powered AM/FM/Short-wave receiver. Although it didn’t have the SW frequency range he would have liked, its ability to produce power via a built in dynamo was deemed a valid compromise. Winding the machine up, he plugged in a headset, and plugged one earpiece into his left ear. Scanning the channels, he found the airwaves nearly dead. The only stations he could find were coming in so faintly and with so much static he could gain nothing from them, so he needed to pull out some help. Again opening the buttpack, he removed the small wire bundle that was his field antennae. Made from brown wire, it was a copy of the “Jungle 292” improvised antennae used by the US Army to improve transmission and reception of their often weakly powered FM radios. Tying the wire to a carabiner unclipped from his pack, he threw the ‘biner over a convenient tree limb, and wrapped the wire around the small handle of the radio. As the AM antenna was mounted internally, this was as close as he could get the wire. It was crude, but scanning the AM band again, his reception was much better.

“…hssssss…..and today the European Union announced another 15,000 men for the International Security Forces providing security for the American people in light of the recent crisis. President Susan Billary welcomed the announcement, saying it was one more step to restoring order in America. The President also announced that in light of the large, now defaulted debt owed to many of the governments in Europe and Asia, payment would be made in mineral and oil rights to many millions of until now protected areas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, areas of Utah and New Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico, and forests in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and Michigan. The President had this to say…”My fellow Americans, today I take a great step forward in reducing the amount of debt faced by the American people. By letting our debtors utilize some of our untapped resources they have agreed to forgive or debt on our defaulted Treasury Notes and Bills, in which they had invested considerable amounts of their nation’s assets. I want to remind the American people that the foreign troops you may see are merely ambassadors of their respective governments, here to protect their interests until we are able to restore order….”
The announcer continued “While many members of the cabinet stood behind the Presidents announcement, Attorney General Bloss was to resign today, proclaiming that the turning over of sovereign American soil to foreign governments was tantamount to treason. However, he apparently decided that the pressure was too much for him, and Washington, D.C. police told us today that he died last night by his own hand, with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head…..We will now be signing off, and will return to the air, as we always do, every two hours on the even hour. This is SDFR radio, signing off.”

The radio went silent. Scanning the bands, both AM and FM, produced nothing. Sighing, he shut off the radio, and removed the wire from the antenna. He then took out his Yaesu handheld short-wave transceiver, and connected the wire to its antenna. Plugging in the earpiece, he tuned it on and started scanning the 2, 4, 6, and 10-meter bands. What he heard was nothing new or unexpected. Electricity was still out to all but government facilities and hospitals. The government had passed a decree against the possession of any rifle or pistol above .22 rimfire, and any shotgun that held over four rounds in its magazine. Gasoline was being rationed, and people were being encouraged to move to secure facilities-school gyms, churches, National Guard armories, where they could receive food and shelter. One operator even stated that his neighborhood, near an oil depot, was being forcibly moved the next day. He didn’t feel he had any alternative but to comply. Food was being rationed, and new ID cards would be needed before months end for anyone seeking government assistance. One Ham even broadcast that his neighbors house had been raided by foreign troops and local police, the occupants being taken away in a big tank “You know, with eight wheels and a cannon on top”. He stopped broadcasting abruptly, as if someone had pulled the plug on his radio. Other reports had it that people who were more then 20 miles from their address of record, either that on their drivers license or new ID were being detained unless they were able to show that they were staying with a local family. Well, Dave thought, since they prevented people from traveling last week no doubt they are rounding up a lot of folks. The whole reason he was trekking to New Hampshire from his home in Northeast Connecticut was because a government edict preventing people from traveling on the interstate and local roads except for local trips. Police and National Guard checkpoints, as well as nosey sheeple looking for the reward of $10,000.00 were actually successful at shutting down almost all non-approved traffic in a matter of two days. After listening to the chatter and learning little more than what he expected, he took down and put away the antenna. Finding a sunny patch on the floor of the small clearing, he took the batteries from the Yaesu and put them in the small solar charger, and put the charger in the sun. He then replaced the Yaesus batteries with a charged set, and put the radio away.

Next, he turned his attention to his rifle. It was a home built L1A1 kit on an Imbel receiver. Dave had originally built it for himself, but had sold it to a friend when President Billary had finally passed her “turn them all in” law. As it was a duplicate of a rifle he already owned, he flet te sale was appropriate. His friend had immediately cached it, along with the chest pouch, 12 magazines, and two .50 caliber ammo cans full of 7.62 ammo. Since Dave had actually sighted the rifle in, and his friend had never shot it, he was confident that it was still dead on for his use. He unloaded the rifle and using an StG 58 cleaning kit wiped down the bore with a patch held in the pull through thong. He wiped down the bolt and carrier with an oily rag, and made sure the gas piston was moving freely. He then reassembled the rifle, as always taking care not to make any unnecessary noise. While reinserting the bolt, he dropped a round into the chamber and closed the bolt on it slowly, pressing it into battery with thumb pressure, thus avoiding the distinctive metallic ‘clack’ of the bolt slamming home on a fresh round. Inserting the magazine, he touched the safety with his thumb, ensuring it was on.

Again reaching for the pack, he pulled the waist belt to him, and removed an East German Makarov pistol from its nylon holster. He unloaded and checked the bore, wiped it with the oily rag, reloaded it, and replaced it on his belt. Ironic, he thought, I have two somewhat customized .45’s in my stash, and here I am with a borrowed pocket pistol.

Rolling up the pad, he attached it to the pack. Before securing the pack, he removed the Yaesu and earpiece. He then leaned against a tree, and pulled the camouflaged pack in front of him. He had a schedule. He also had to wait for sunset, and wanted to wait for full dark before moving the highway. Hurrying was dangerous, and Dave had plans for the rest of his life. Those plans did not include Federal Detention

Chapter 3

Resting against the pack, Dave looked at his watch, and set the alarm. He then drifted into a light sleep. Waking to the beeping of the watch a little more than an hour later, Dave again connected the little Yaesu to the improvised antenna, and pushed the third of his preset frequency buttons. Today was a Thursday, and an odd numbered day of the week, and he checked the frequency in his head, ensuring he was on the right push. As Noon approached, he again put in the earpiece, and turned up the volume. Just as his watched turned to 12 o’clock exactly, he heard squelch break on the frequency. Marveling at the technology that could produce a watch that kept synchronized time so well, he listened to the music playing in his ear. The gentle tune of Greensleeves broke through, a version played by a folk group using words from the mid 1880’s. The female singers soft voice called to him, “Away, away, come away with me, where the grass grows wild, and trees grow free. Away, away, come away with me, and I’ll build you a home in the meadow…”. Dave sniffed. It was a beautiful rendition in ordinary times, and given his situation, very poignant. A voice came on the air. “Sua Sponte.” The transmission ended. Dave leaned back is if a heavy burden had been suddenly lifted. Sua Sponte, the motto of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment, was one of the prearranged code words that indicated that all was well back at the ranch. He knew his wife and sons were safe, and so were his friends. Sua Sponte, "of their own accord". The rangers other motto was leave no man behind. If he was in serious trouble, sick, injured, on the run, he could answer with codes of his own, indicating approximately where he was, and what was wrong. They would monitor the frequency for a half hour after playing the message, and the alert frequency was part of the retreats preset scanning. Hearing this his friends, some of them, anyway, leaving behind enough staff to ensure the security of their families, would come for him. Mutual aid was one of the things they had agreed upon long ago. Can’t pay rent this month? We’ll help. Sick and can’t shovel your walk? We’ll be there. It all worked out and in this case Dave’s investment was paying off.

Dave settled back, the camouflage painted rifle sitting across his lap. Looking at the rifle he smiled to himself. What would old Sgt Chadwick say about this, he wondered, drifting back to sleep.

“McGrath” the voice ordered.
“Yes Sergeant” answered Dave, his eyes on the ACU clad NCO at the front of the room.
“Since we are covering the basics, kindly explain camouflage, cover, and concealment to the platoon”
“Yes Sergeant,” answered Dave, “Camouflage disguises something, to make it look not at all like what it is. Concealment is something that hides you from observation, and cover does the same and provides protection against small arms fire.”
“That’s right, college boy” said the Sergeant, “You win a cookie. Breaking up the form of you or your equipment is camouflage. Take your rifle,” he held up his M-4 carbine, “It’s just straight lines and all black. Pretty good color, but it still is a large black straight line when all is said and done. What we’re going to do today is to rectify some of the problems this presents to us in a tactical environment. Pratt” the Sgt pointed at a red headed soldier in the front, “that box on the corner of your table, pass out the contents, one color per two men.”
Pratt lifted the box and began passing out small spray paint cans to the assembled men.
“This is called “Bowflage”, and it’s a removable paint sold to hunters. We’ll be using this today on our carbines. Hunters might need this to sneak up on Bambi, but your game is harder-Bambi doesn’t use mechanical ambushes and RPG’s on Joe Sixpack. Later we’ll be constructed camouflage for your rucks and your sorry asses. I don’t care much for pretty equipment. When you put your ruck down in the field I want you to run a 70% chance of losing it in the bush.” The platoon chuckled. Sgt Chadwick was a hard core trooper. Having served most of his career in Special Forces, he was doing a three year stint in a line unit to perfect his troop leading skills. The platoon was, for the most part, glad to have such a colorful and knowledgeable NCO leading them. At the very least he kept them interested-he came up with so many wild schemes the platoon would have stuck around just to see what he came up with next. “I can’t train and lead a guerilla battalion without having time training and leading troops” he had explained when he reported to Lt Moore the previous spring. Lt Moore agreed, and was happy to have him. An ROTC graduate, Lt Moore was also unique in that had served for four years a Marine Infantryman before college. Also, he was smart enough to know his own limitations, and had hence learned quite a bit more about leadership and command than any other Lt in the Brigade.
After painting their weapons and receiving Sgt Chadwick’s approval (several men had to redo their weapons to Chadwick’s standards), he had Pratt start passing out woodland pattern ruck covers and four foot square sections of camouflage net. Using black electrical ties and para cord, they attached the netting to their pack covers. They then cut the net to size, and using strips of burlap from rolls (“I have the NSN for everything” Sgt Chadwick had answered deadpan when Lt Moore asked him where it had come from), they added detail to their new covers. This cover is what Dave had on his pack now, although with slight modification.
“These covers have been treated by the esteemed Mrs. Chadwick,” said the Sgt. She was always “The Esteemed Mrs. Chadwick”. Never a name, “with a water repellent, as has the burlap. You nasty smokers had better not set the burlap on fire, boys, or I will make you regret it” His malevolent smile reinforced his word. “We’ll be doing a smaller cover for your boonie hats, too, so leave some burlap, Williams”. Looking at Williams, Dave could see that he had a cover that looked not so much like a camo'ed pack cover as a lump of burlap the size of a hay bale. Williams smiled apologetically and started removing material. “That’s better,” said Chadwick, tying more burlap to his own pack cover.
Their first field problem after the camo session proved the worth of the camouflage. They were crossing an open area when they heard helicopters. “Down” yelled Chadwick. The men dropped beneath their covered rucks and peered up at the Blackhawks coming in from their left front. Flaring, the birds touched down and quickly disgorged their cargo of heavily laden infantrymen. “Psst” hissed Chadwick, “we’re recon. No one fires unless fired upon, pass it on.” Under the roar of the idling UH-60’s the men passed the word. Suddenly the engine noise changed, and the four ‘Hawks applied power and lifted off in a cloud of dust, leaves, and grass. The LZ soon filled with the sound of an infantry platoon moving, the jingle of rucksacks being put on, the sounds of squad leaders issuing commands for movement. Heading out through the tall grass, the squads formed into wedges and moved out, right through the recon platoon. Even though he knew it was only training, Dave felt tension as soldiers bearing heavy weapons and packs walked through his platoon. After the platoon entered the woodline, Dave let out a sigh of relief. The camo had worked. Over 40 men had just walked over and around 18 men lying in the grass, and not one had been spotted. After calling in a report of the size and direction of the just landed platoon, the recon troops split into their three teams and one command group, and continued their mission. Camouflage, concealment, and staying still had just made a great impression on Specialist David McGrath. It would one day save his life.


Dave woke from the cold. The sun had set and he could see stars shining brightly above him in the clear Fall air. He drank some water, and nibbled a Maple nut cake from an MRE. Finishing, he took the cover off of his pack and reversed it. He had, some time ago, had has wife, Sandy, sew green cotton onto the inside of the pack. He could then reverse the cover and it would appear to be a commercial pack cover and not present an alarming appearance to the gentler citizens of the hiking world. Dave felt that he would create less of a scene if he were noticed walking through suburbia than if he had a large, burlap covered tick on his back. He removed a cotton flannel shirt from his pack, and put it on over his chest pouch to hide it from casual observation. His rifle would present more of an issue. Taking his pack he left the little hiding spot and crawled out of the thicket. Taking his bearings, he consulted his compass and set out. Before long he came to the first of many houses. They were all dark, some with a little light showing through curtains, but it was apparent that this was a no power zone. He made his way through backyards, carrying his rifle on his left side, up close to the side of the pack. Eventually he came to the cemetery he had noted earlier. Staying near the wooded edge of the property, he paralleled a small stream and left the security of it only when he came to a school. He paused on the embankment, and conducted what he had once called a security halt. Listening for anything unusual, he only heard gunshots once, three of them, from a very long ways off. What did give him cause for concern was the car that turned into the parking lot of the school near the gym. When the door opened he saw it was a police cruiser. The two officers in the car went to the door of the gym and knocked. Light flowed forth as the door was opened, and the Officers entered the gym. Darkness returned as the door shut, the sound of the metal fire door hitting the jam echoing across the ball field like a bass drum. Dave was up and moving before the echo was gone from his ears. He wanted to move now, while the cops were inside. He made his way along the edge of the field, and then ran across the street and into a backyard. Taking cover behind a shed, he rested for a moment to catch his breath. He then rose and continued through a seemingly endless maze of backyards. Several blocks away he almost died of fright as a shed door opened in his face. Stopping and backpedaling, he backed around the corner of the building as a man holding toilet paper in his hand walked across the backyard and entered the house. Dave slunk around to the back of the shed and was suddenly assaulted by the ripe odor of human waste. “Outhouse” he thought to himself. Had things really gotten that bad so soon? Well, he reasoned, if the water treatment plants were without generators, water would be rationed. Only those with artesian water would have enough.
He skirted several houses that had dogs in the yards, and had to change his course several times to avoid large stockade fences. He finally sought cover behind a house that was somewhat secluded from its neighbors by trees, apparently being built near the center of a large double lot. In fact, the house was large enough and old enough to have been here before the area was developed into a tract of soul-less, cookie cutter colonials. Taking shelter behind a garden shed, Dave dropped his ruck and drank the last of his water. This was going to be a problem. If the water was being rationed, how could he fill up? The sound of a door slamming sent his adrenal gland into overdrive. Grabbing the FAL, he rolled over into the prone and aimed at the house. The door opened and slammed again. The wind, he thought. He looked at the house. Several windows were open, with curtains blowing gently out of them. The door itself, wait, the screen door was askew on its one remaining hinge. Abandoned? Dave watched for a half hour, and then quickly opened his pack to get the water bladder. Unclipping his buttpack, he slung it over his shoulder on a length of para cord and headed for the house.

Pausing at the back stoop, he examined the door more closely. It definitely had been broken in. Whoever did it may be inside, thought Dave, sleeping something off. Well, no guts no glory he said to himself, and quietly climbed the concrete steps. He entered the kitchen to find it untouched, except for wood splinters on the floor from where the jamb had given way. The living room and bedroom were trashed however. In what was apparently the master bedroom one section of wall had been exposed, plasterboard all over the place, trampled by a number of feet. What the H??? thought Dave. The dressers were open and the contents were scattered all over the room. Dave looked around. The wall in the hall was covered with family pictures. A young man in a sailor’s uniform, the same sailor in uniform with a young girl in her wedding gown, both smiling. Children turning to adults, must be grandchildren, too. Returning to the kitchen, Dave noticed a yellow paper attached to the table with a thumbtack. Using his red filtered light, and lying on the floor to avoid exposing the light, he read the notice, all information on the preprinted form. Dave saw that the details were filled in with the same block printed handwriting, and the date was yesterdays:

Official Notice Department of Homeland Security

The property located at 13 Maple Terrace is hereby under seizure by the Department of Homeland Security for the crime of (filled in) willful possession of unregistered assault weapons.

List of items seized:
M1 Carbine, SN 1503117
Japanese rifle, S/N 456329
.45 pistol, US Property marked, S/N 67644 (stolen Gov’t property)
Ammunition, three cans
Unintended Consequences, seditious material
Patriots, Surviving the Coming Collapse, seditious material
Boston’s Gun Bible, seditious material
Various sedition material found on hard drive of iMac computer S/N AG 456E3410

All items seized as evidence.


Dave crumpled up the form and dropped it to the floor. Well, they went and did it all right. Rounding up old people for a few war trophies. Unbelievable. Dave sat for a minute. Get some stuff and get out said the little voice in his brain. Dave got to his feet and turned. He opened the frige and looked inside. His eyes were drawn to a bottle of soda and a 2 1/2 gallon jug of spring water-almost full. He removed the jug and the soda, and put them near the door. Finding nothing else of use in the fridge, he went through the cupboards, finding some cans of tuna, beef stew, canned meat, and various veggies. Justifying his actions by the fact that the now owned the contents of the house, he stuffed as much as he could into the buttpack, grabbed a few apples and bananas from a basket on the counter, and knelt by the door. He heard crickets in the backyard, and determined that it was safe. Leaving the shelter of the house behind, he quickly retrieved his pack, donned it, and continued through more backyards.

Chapter 4-Beginnings

Dave approached the highway cautiously. He went through the parking area for a school bus contractor, the silent yellow buses magnifying the sound of his steps on the gravel He had wanted to go around, but the way was blocked by a fence and a steep gully. He approached the rear fence, and dropped his pack. Taking a moment to look around and listen, he once again unsheathed his Leatherman and undid the soft aluminum ties that bound the fence to the bottom crossbar. Propping the fence open with his pack, he wriggled under the fence, then held the fence open and pulled his pack towards him. Gently replacing the fence, he returned the ties to their spots and resealed the fence. He took a moment to reverse his pack cover and donned an olive green BDU top. Rebuckling his chest rig, he once again shouldered his pack and entered the woodline. About 75 yards into the woodline, he saw an open area to his front. Dropping his pack, he placed it near the base of a large pine tree.

Pulling on a pair of aviator gloves, he removed a pair of small binoculars from the ammunition pouch on the right side of his packs hip-belt and put them in his left cargo pocket. Moving with as much silence as he could, he slowly approached the cut. As he got closer, he dropped and crawled the last ten yards, winding up under a mountain laurel bush. Below him the empty interstate stretched like a black snake in the setting moons light. He was right where he wanted to be, about 75 feet above the road on a cutout, an almost sheer granite face to his front. On the other side of the highway he saw a similar face. To his left the ground gently sloped away, and he could just see where the highway crossed the low area, resting on a built up berm that rose about 15 feet above the surrounding terrain. He took the time to study the ground opposite him, straining for any sign of an OP. Scanning the roadway, he saw no vehicles on the shoulders, and no sign or sound of anyone. Remaining where he was for an hour, the only traffic was three Humvees led by a State Police car heading East, from his left to right. The Humvees towed covered trailers, and were running without light discipline. That meant, said Dave to himself, that they do not expect ambushes or hostile acts, which meant that they would not as observant as they would if they were fighting a guerilla war.

Moving away from the road, he checked his watch. Dawn was fast approaching. He moved back and eventually found his pack (good camo, Sgt Chadwick, he thought as he finally found it). The sliver of moon had set, and the light of the stars lit his way. He moved to his right and dropped his pack again. Walking and kneeling frequently, he finally found a likely spot. A large pine tree with broad sweeping branches close to the ground, very near the edge of the cut, with a large fallen pine right in front of it. Retrieving his pack he returned to the pine and crawled under the lowest branch. Using a bit of para cord and some stout dead sticks he quickly set up his space blanket over him, shiny side down. In doing so he hoped to avoid observation from any aircraft or road bound vehicles equipped with thermal vision. Laying out his sleeping bag, he unstrapped the waist belt of his rig, and pulled the magazines forward, allowing him to lie on his stomach comfortably. As he settled in for a long wait the first rays of dawn streaked the sky. He watched the road, and his thoughts drifted to the circumstances that had brought him here.


David McGrath was a typical American kind of guy. Two kids, a wife, a mortgage. He lived in a modest home in semi rural Connecticut, and attended church weekly. He had grown up in a home broken by divorce, but had a good relationship with his father and mother, who had not let the divorce destroy their relationship with their children. Dave had a fairly typical childhood for his area. Growing up he lived in a more rural area of the state, in a house surrounded by farmland. He spent much of his free time as a youth roaming the neighboring woods, graduating from a bb gun to a pellet gun then, on his 16th birthday, a .22 rifle, the same one his grandfather and father had used. He learned to camp through his father and the Cub and Boy Scouts, and developed a life long love affair with wild places.

Starting summer during his 14th year he worked for Mr. Houston, the old timer who owned and farmed the land surrounding Dave’s house. Mr. Houston was a good man, a Swamp Yankee, as they were known locally. He had only left his farm for any appreciable time once, when he spent three years in the Pacific babying the piston engines of Marine Corsair fighters. Like many of his generation he had come home from the war and married his childhood sweetheart. As far as Dave knew there had been no children, no heir to pass on the trade of farming. Mr. Houston never spoke of it, and it just wasn’t something you asked someone about unless they volunteered it. Mrs. Houston was a little bird of a thing, always baking pies and cookies, and Dave and his sister had been welcome guests in her kitchen since they were in diapers. She canned the vegetables grown in her modest kitchen garden, and they raised both a pig and a calf every year for meat. They were the closest thing Dave had to grandparents, as both sets of his had died before he was born. When Dave turned 8 Mr. Houston was complaining about the squirrels and crows destroying his garden. Dave suggested shooting them with the BB gun Mr. Houston kept behind the kitchen door. Mr. Houston put him off, saying he had too much work to do on the farm to play with rodents. Dave suggested he find someone to do it. After considering and discarding several names, Dave finally suggested that he be allowed to do the job. Mr. Houston agreed with a twinkle in his eye, and it wasn’t until years later Dave realized that he was the man Mr. Houston had been looking for the whole time. From that day forward, Dave was never outside without the BB gun. That Christmas he received one of his own from Mr. and Mrs. Houston, and the next summer he started getting rewarded for his efforts-three ears of corn per squirrel, and two for each crow.

When he started working for Mr. Houston around the farm, Dave learned much about life. The birth of dairy cows, how to tell if an udder was infected, and mechanics by working on the battered Ford pickup that was the farms workhorse, and the several old tractors Mr. Houston around the place.

During the school year he rose early and helped with the morning milking, and grew to love the early morning smells and sounds. Every summer he did take a break, though. His uncle Tom was a history teacher at a local Community College, and house sat for one of his friends for 6 weeks every summer, when his old roommate took his summer trip to Europe. Dave would go for one to three weeks to stay with his family, spending his days at the loaner beach house swimming in the Atlantic and boating in Long Island sound. Dave’s uncle was a major military history enthusiast, and collected many historical firearms and replicas. He would take Dave to his cabin in New Hampshire once or twice a year, and they would spend the weekend shooting them. Cap and Ball revolvers, flintlock and percussion muskets and rifles, lever action Winchesters, and his uncles’ trapdoor Springfield. Dave’s favorite was the M-1 Carbine an old man had given his uncle. Despite his uncle’s best efforts, Dave developed a taste for more modern, magazine fed arms. Eventually his uncle gave him the carbine, saying it was about 50 years ahead of his interests anyway.

Eventually his uncle took a position with a large college in New Hampshire, and Dave visited him as often as he could until his untimely passing due to the affects of Agent Orange exposure. Dave graduated from high school at 18, and while not a stellar student was able to get into the state university that was about 50 miles from his home. He attended school for two years, and studied History and Finance, and joined ROTC. During his summer camp for ROTC Dave received a taste of military life. All of the adult males of his family had served in the military in one capacity or another, except for Uncle Rich. Dave suspected his Uncles lisp and feminine ways were more than an act put on for the draft board. In fact, Dave could trace military service from members of his family going back the Mexican War, and he had relatives on both sides of the Civil War. For all of his effort, Dave didn’t really enjoy college. He dated a couple of girls, but found the majority to be shallow and vain, interested more in parties and social circles than anything of substance. Dave started to think of dating them as "defiling infidels", and started to reexamine his own life. This decision led him to enlist in the Army in the spring of his sophomore year. He told his mother that weekend when he went home, much to her surprise. She was counting on Dave going to school and becoming successful.

Mr. Houston was happier with his choice. “Glad to see you doing something useful”, he said in his gruff way. Dave could tell he was bursting with pride, “sitting around all day listening to panty waisted professors yakking about things they have no real experience with is a good way to get a pedigree, but no way to learn about life. You keep your mouth shut and do what they tell you and you’ll do fine. And drop Mrs. Houston a note from time to time, she’ll be worried sick about you.” Dave smiled. That was the most affection Mr. Houston had ever overtly displayed to him.

His semester ended but Dave’s thoughts were on the summer. He had two weeks from his last final exam until he reported the MEPS station for his processing. He spent most of that time working around the farm. Mr. Houston was getting long in the tooth, and Dave had a lot to do around the farm before he left for Fort Benning and Infantry School.

Dave eventually graduated from Infantry School and went directly to Airborne School across post. Jumping out of planes was as exciting and as awesome as he had hoped. He got his orders in his first week of jump school-Korea! He was both intrigued and apprehensive. He spent the next two weeks trying to find out what Korea was like, but the rumors that floated among the initial entry soldiers contained more false information than a Clinton press release. Service in Korea turned out to be better then he expected. Here was real soldiering. As part of an Air Assault Battalion, Dave spent much of his time humping a large rucksack up and down the numerous “yammas”, or hills, in the Land of the Morning Calm. Dave eventually wound up as a machine-gunner, by his own insistence. He loved firing the big 23-pound M-60, and being an important part in his platoons organic firepower. Also, being able to hump the “Pig” while heavily burdened and in a country with little flat ground gave one a little more bragging rights than the ordinary guy had.

Two months before his tour ended he got new orders-Fort Bragg. “All right”, said Dave to his roommate, “82nd Airborne, here I come.” Dave was excited about the prospect of joining “America’s Honor Guard”. They had a reputation as a fierce fighting unit, and certainly he stood a better chance of seeing some interesting deployments.

When Dave arrived at Fort Bragg and checked in at the reception station, he talked to a Sergeant who was waiting, like Dave, for orders to a unit within the division. “It’s like this” the Sgt. began, “when you get to your battalion you’ll be assigned to a company. The day you get your orders, take a walk to the battalion area and talk to the guys, find out which company has the best reputation, then talk to the first shirt or the CO, and let them know you’re being assigned to the battalion and due to the company’s reputation you want to go to them. When you get to battalion HQ the next day, they will usually send a runner up to grab you from the staff pogues, and you’ll get the assignment you want.”

Dave took the advice heart, and when he got orders for the 1/504th Infantry he did just that. Putting on his best BDU’s and his newly issued Maroon beret; he walked over to the Battalion headquarters, and asked the CQ where he could find the Scout Platoon. The CQ took Dave to the door and pointed out Recons area to him. Dave thanked him and smiled. Looked like where he wanted to be. Above the door was a large, hand painted sign, a black field with a gleaming white skull grinning down at him. The sign boldly proclaimed “Where Mortal Man Fear Tread, Recon Leads the Way!” He knocked on the door and a smiling black face soon opened it. “Watcha want, troop?” asked the soldier, a Specialist by his collar insignia. “I’d like to speak to the Platoon Leader or Platoon Sergeant’, said Dave. The soldier grinned “Looking for a job?” Dave nodded. “Well, this is the place. Lt. Moore and Sgt. Chadwick are really cleaning house. If you aren’t squared away and STRAC as Audey Murphy you won’t stand a chance. You just in from Benning?” Dave shook his head, “Alpha, 1/503rd, Second ID.” The smile grew broader “First Rock! I was in Charlie Company in ’92. I’m Williams, c’mon, the Platoon Sergeant will want a guy used to humping the ROK.”

Dave was promptly introduced to Sergeant First Class Wesley Chadwick. Dave was slightly intimidated by the Sergeant. He had more patches on his uniform than Dave had ever seen. Drill Sergeant, Pathfinder, Jump Wings with a star, indicating a combat jump, CIB, Special Forces combat patch on his right shoulder, Ranger and Special Forces tab. “Pfc. McGrath requests permission to speak to the Platoon Sergeant”, said Dave from his best parade rest. “Speak”, rumbled Sgt. Chadwick. “Sergeant, I report to battalion tomorrow, and I would like to be assigned to the Scout Platoon.”
Chadwick looked at him. Jump wings. Reasonably fit. Didn’t sound like an idiot. “You a college boy?” asked Chadwick. “No Sergeant, I’m a soldier”, replied Dave. “But I did attend college before I wizened up.” Chadwick considered him again. “Troop, that makes you a college boy. Can you type?”
“No sergeant, no more than hunt and peck.”
“That’s the right answer. Where you coming from? Benning?”
“No Sergeant, Alpha 1/503rd, Second ID, Korea.”
“What’d you do there?”
“Walked point in the Z, then humped a ’60.”
“Why’d they let a cherry walk point?”
“I grew up hunting and am good in the woods.”
“Country boy?”
“As much as a Yankee can be.”
“You use a radio?”
“Yes, Sergeant, I was an RTO for a short time, but I really wanted the ’60, so my Platoon Leader squared me away.”
“What’s your GT score?”
“Last PT score?”
“Can you swim?”
“Yes Sergeant”
“How well?”
“I spent a few weeks every summer at the beach, so well enough.”
“Like jumping?”
“Well, Sergeant, the first five were pretty cool.”
Williams laughed “Cherry”, he said, a derisive term for new jumpers.
“That’s enough, Williams,” said Chadwick, “you were a cherry not to long ago yourself.”
Williams looked away, embarrassed to be chastised by his well respected Sergeant.
“Come by before you report to battalion tomorrow. I’ll ask Lt. Moore to go up and grab you before the staff wienies make you a commo section chief. We’ll look at your file and make sure we want you, but based on what I’ve heard we’ll try you out. If you can’t hang, or you’re an idiot, or if the platoon doesn’t like you, you’re gone to a line company. got it?”
“Loud and clear, Sergeant”, answered Dave. His face glowed. Recon! Better not screw up, boyo, he thought.
“Get out of here”, said the sergeant.
Williams walked him to the door. “See you tomorrow. You’re going to love it here, this platoon is kick ass. It’s a lot like the Rock-we train hard, but they give us less B.S. and more high-speed training. The platoon is going to rough terrain jump school in six weeks, you’ll get a couple more jumps before you go. In four months JOTC in Panama, and we’ll be in the field pretty much the whole time until then, except for RTJ School.”
Dave thanked him, and headed back to the reception barracks. One more day to kill before the fun started.

The next morning was spent out-processing the reception company, and he reported to Battalion HQ with seven other men at about 11:30 A.M. He managed to get over to Recon by saying he need to hit the latrine, and he told Williams he was going to battalion HQ. As he stood in line, a short 1st Lt. Came out of a door to their right.
“O.K., O.K., I’m Lieutenant Castner, and I’ll be assigning each of you men to the unit. Any NCO’s?”
One man, an E-6, raised his hand. Lt. Castner pointed, “Go on in, Sergeant, and Specialist Gomes will take care of you.”
The Sgt. nodded and picking up his small backpack left the group. Lt. Castner called the remaining junior enlisted men to attention.
“You men are about to join the 82nd Airborne Division, the most powerful force projection organization in the United States Army. Before I hand out your assignments, is anyone here not 11 Bravo?” (11B is the MOS for Infantryman-Willard)
No hands went up.
“OK, anyone here type?” Again, no hands. “Anybody have college?” No hands.
The Lt. Looked at the man next to Dave. “What’s your GT score?” he demanded. (GT score is like a military IQ test-Willard)
The man swallowed, his Adam’s Apple bobbing like a dangled orange, “109.”
“109 what?” asked Castner.
“109 SIR!” barked the soldier.
“And yours,” he said, turning to Dave.
“86, sir,” lied Dave. He didn’t want to type for anyone.

Castner went down the line, asking every man the same questions. He then had the men turn in their records, which they were carrying from their last post. He handed them to a clerk behind a desk as Sergeant Chadwick walked in. “Can I help you, Sergeant?” asked Castner in a condescending tone.
“I’m all set, L.T.” he said, pronouncing each letter of the abbreviation separately. “Just picking up my new man. McGrath, grab your sh*t and come with me.”
“Wait a second, Sergeant,” ordered Castner, “I’m not through with that man.”
“You’ve got his folder, you’ve tried to steal him for your office staff, you’re done” said Chadwick, “we’ve got to get him settled, the platoon is jumping the day after tomorrow.”
“Why was I not informed of this jump?” asked Castner. He tried to get on as many lifts as he could, and was not beyond screwing up a training mission just so he could get in one jump.
“It’s a training jump for the platoon, sir, and you are not in the platoon.” Answered Chadwick honestly, “and you are not in my chain of command, so I have no reason to inform you, sir. Let’s go, McGrath.”
“You stay right there, specialist,” ordered Castner. Dave stopped. “This man goes where I say he goes, and when. Sergeant, step into my office.”
The lieutenant turned on his heel and walked away. Chadwick turned to Dave and said, “Grab your stuff and go to the platoon CP. I’ll get this straightened out.” And he followed the young Lt. Through the door.

Dave heard the shouting start as he left the HQ building. He collected his bags and went down to the CP, where he introduced himself to Lt. Moore. He told Lt. Moore what was happening, and Lt. Moore hustled over to battalion to see what he could do.

Dave wound up spending 5 years at Fort Bragg, all of it in the Scout Platoon. He left as a Sergeant E-5, and would have had Staff Sergeant had he re-enlisted. He had decided the Army wasn’t for him after deploying to a peacekeeping mission in a squalid third world African nation. As had played out so often in the past, order was restored soon after the arrival of American troops. But as the Democratic administration in Washington vacillated on its policies, the rebels grew bolder, stealing food convoys and murdering civilians with almost free will. As the situation deteriorated, the Americans were finally pulled out-having been prevented from accomplishing anything of substance by an administration fearful of any risk to American lives or European sensibilities. Dave and the platoon discussed the operation at length during the months following their stand down, and all of them agreed that they would have risked their lives to fight for the poor, starving wretches they had seen on the roads and in the refuge camps. A person would have to have lost all his sense of humanity not to be touched by the misery and suffering they had born witness to and they all felt let down that they were not encouraged to unleash their anger on the savages responsible for it. They were ashamed, too, that their government would build up the hopes of so many innocent people, and then abandon them to almost certain death.

Dave returned home and got a small apartment, and started attending college at night. He worked full time in a hardware store, and visited his Mother and the Houston’s nearly every weekend. He eventually returned to a normal school schedule, and finished his degree. He started working for a large insurance company, training new employees. He liked the work, it was a little like dealing with new soldiers, and he had a lot of freedom in his job. He eventually was promoted to a management position, and it was interesting enough that he didn’t feel boredom creep up on him very often. It was through this job that he met his wife, Sandy, a computer programmer at his firm. They dated for a few months and kind of drifted apart, and drifted back together nearly a year later. They married when they were both 33 years old. She was the child of a lawyer father and homemaker mother, and had three brothers and two sisters. She was a little more liberal a woman than Dave had ever envisioned marrying, but other than politics they enjoyed many of the same activities and were very compatible, and very much in love.

Dave’s activities that sometimes caused strife in his home were his habit of keeping quite a bit of canned food on hand. He eventually put together a mountain of dehydrated food, enough to feed 6 people for up to a year, by his calculations. His wife didn’t understand his preoccupation with storing ammunition, clothes, and medical supplies, either. Dave finally told her all of the gory details of what he had seen in Africa, and she lightened up on him, although she still bore reluctance to the idea that she was living above a supply dump. Her mind would not allow her to believe that there was any real chance of famine and social breakdown happening in her America.

Dave still shot as often as he could. It was at his local range he bumped into a man of about his own age shooting a .45 into a bank of three targets. He drew from the holster, fired six shots, reloaded, and fired six more. Dave recognized the el presidente drill, and when the shooter turned around he was wearing a ball cap with the words Ranger across the front.
“Hiya, ranger” said Dave by way of greeting, “nice speed on the el presidente.”
“Thanks” said the stranger, “you military?”
“I was in the 82nd for a few years. How about you?”
“I left the 82nd and went to Second Battalion, then to Fifth Group. Got out a few years ago. What battalion you with?”
“Recon, 1/504th”
“Really? I was Recon, 2/505th.”
They fell into a discussion about when they had served and where they had deployed, and it turns out they had been briefly introduced at Rough Terrain Jump School, when Daves Platoon had arrived and the strangers platoon was leaving.
“Jim Bowen” said the stranger, extending his hand.
“Dave McGrath”, said Dave.
They talked for while, and found that they had run across many of the same people while in service. Jim’s memory of names and places impressed Dave. Dave’s knowledge of firearms impressed Jim. That afternoon they became fast friends.

Jim and Dave started their own social group. One of Dave’s friends from high school and college, Scott, moved back to town after living and working abroad for several years. He too was an avid shooter and a survivalist. Jim’s brother Rob often joined them, and there were several other local shooters who joined them for shooting, cookouts, and weekend camping trips. When Jim moved to New Hampshire to escape Connecticut’s ever expanding socialist government, he urged Dave to move there, too. But Sandy was adamant about staying in Connecticut, where her parents lived. Eventually most of Daves circle made the move north, too. While Dave’s uncle had passed away while Dave was in the Army, he had left Dave his small cabin where they had gone shooting
so long ago, along with all of his firearms. Dave wound up selling most of the guns to provide a nice annuity which he presented to his widowed aunt. Dave kept the house as a vacation retreat, and as he and Sandy had children they built on small additions. They put on space for a larger bedroom and expanded the living room, as well as adding a one car garage with a play room for the kids over it. Dave had his friend Steve assist with most of the work. Steve was a local man who fit in nicely with the Connecticut crew that had moved north. With his help, Dave dug the basements and poured foundations for the additions. Also with Steves aid he completely enclosed the basement of the garage in concrete, reinforcing the ceiling, putting in extra drainage, and actually drilling a well in the far corner. There was a reinforced doorway going up to the garage, which was hidden in the back of a small broom closet upstairs, and via a larger steel door in the basement. Dave, over the next several years, moved most of his storage food up there, and kept a number of guns, ammo, and medical supplies there. He bought as many off the paper guns as he could afford, and put them up. He became a licensed HAM radio operator, and through HAM flea markets picked up a good base station and several portable models. He attended an EMT course at the local community college to improve his medical skills. He had taken the Combat Lifesaver course at Bragg twice, but felt that the EMT course would serve him for civil emergencies.

Daves sons, Thomas and Patrick, were born three years apart. They were typical boys, and Dave and Sandy were kept very busy with them. They took frequent camping trips, and canoed, biked, and hiked locally. The boys also played Little League and soccer, neither of which Dave really knew much about. Dave and Sandy were both active as Cub Scout leaders, and the children attended the school run by their local parish. Dave and Sandy both agreed that public education was not acceptable in their area.

Dave watched to slow decline of Pax Americana for years. The steady slide of America into socialism was unmistakable. Every year more money flowed out of the public coffers and into the pockets of the lazy welfare recipients, who merely had to vote for the same candidates to keep the payments coming. The virtual elimination of the southern border with Mexico created a situation where millions of illegals entered the country and funneled billions back to Mexico without paying taxes. The Southwest became flooded with Spanish speaking persons who insisted that the American Southwest was theirs. No politician with the courage to speak the truth was quickly branded a racist, insensitive moron by the fifth column national press. The few true Constitutionalists in the House and Senate were too few to stem the building tide of oppression that socialism inevitably brings, but they battled boldly on, for as long as they could. As the US Government funded its ever increasing programs-President Billary had finally nationalized health care-it increased its reliance on foreign money. Foreign governments invested heavily in US Government debt obligations, backed by “the full faith and credit of the United Stated government’. This meant, of course, that it had the power to tax people dry to pay the foreign governments back. He took comfort in the fact that he and his family could hole up in their cabin and be warm, dry, and safe.

Dave and his friends had as many theories about what was happening than there were stars in the heavens. Steve maintained it was an Illuminati conspiracy. Other plots involved the Masons, the former Soviet Union, or punishment from God. Dave figured it was laziness and a bad educational system. They all agreed upon one thing, that there was something rotten in Denmark, and they weren’t going to abandon the constitutional republic without a fight. They made group buys of stores, as well as individual buys. They cached supplies all over their area, made plans for security, commo, and medicine. They frequently trained as a military unit, and used local IDPA, three gun, and practical rifle matches as a ground to test their performance.
After a terrorist attack left Dave without power for a week, he convinced his wife just how tenuous Americas hold civility was. The next time a power station was destroyed by fire-it was held to be eco-terrorists; Dave was out of power for two weeks. Dave was then able to convince his wife they needed to invest in a small generator that they could also take north with them to power the cabin, as winter storms were known to leave their mountain home without power, to. Dave managed to help his friends purchase a 300 gallon gasoline tank, which they all filled. The gas was rotated annually, and was also treated for long term storage.

Chapter 5- The Crisis

When it began it was like an avalanche. A snowball here, another there, until it cascaded into an inevitable slide into chaos. America had never been able to eradicate the terrorist threat begun by the attack on New York City. After the Democrats took the White House and Congress in 2008, the war on terror lost its momentum. Iraq was turned over to the UN, who gradually forced the United States out of the country. Iraq took two years to slide back into a dictatorship, with one of Saddam Hussein’s chief deputies as the new dictator. With a weak kneed coward at the helm of the US ship of state, Afghanistan was eventually abandoned again, and became a bastion of Islamic militancy. Terrorist attacks against US nationals abroad became common, and there were three or four major attacks in the US every year, everything from random home invasion that ended always in the homes being burned to the ground with the terrorists inside, to attacks against power lines, school buses, and shopping centers.

The U.S. government actually stopped far more attacks than occurred, but the public outcry for more and better security was quickly answered by politicians. The Department of Homeland Security was expanded, and all local police agencies were eventually consolidated into state police forces. Eventually the plan was to go national with the police, but that would take a few more years of public outcry for safety.

When suicide attacks destroyed the liquid natural gas port at Boston, and an oil refinery complex in Louisiana, the price of gas went up dramatically. Additional attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and on the Alaskan pipeline created further supply trouble. As a result, the price of food, which was moved mostly by truck, went up. In response to public outrage over this, the government instituted tight price controls over food and other consumer goods. Many farmers were foreclosed on, their already thin margins reduced to nothing by the heavy hand of Congress and the President. The President proposed an initiative to nationalize food production, which was quickly passed by a Congress that was bipartisan in name only. Many farmers took this badly, and there were a very few well publicized armed standoffs, and as Dave knew through the resources on the Internet, many more that were virtually unheard of outside of their locales.

Many other farms were taken over by government appointees, and as in the Soviet example these farms were far less productive than private farms of the same size. Like many other people, Dave and Sandy began a garden of their own, and raised quite a bit of their vegetables that way. They canned much of it for the long New England winter, and donated what they could to their church’s food kitchen.

Constant pressure on the Americas power system was compounded by the fact that local zoning and the effects that environmental extremists lobbying elected “representatives” had all but eliminated the construction of any new electrical power plants in the last 20 years. Many of the coal and oil powered plants were running on outdated equipment, and due to the mass migration of manufacturing to other countries replacement parts were only available from overseas sources. Due to the devaluation of the dollar overseas, this made fixing worn or non-functional equipment very expensive. Nuclear power, of course, which would have alleviated much of the dependence on foreign sources for power, was all but a lost cause. Despite the excellent safety record of Western Nuclear plants, the Three Mile Island incident and Chernobyl had given the anti-nuclear power crowd enough material to ensure that the United States was at the mercy of semi-hostile second world fiefdoms. Dave had long ago discovered that the development of affordable, efficient solar power technology was controlled by the large oil and power companies, usually through subsidiary companies. Any new advances in solar power quickly had their patents bought out for large sums of money, and the technology was kept from the public eye. Technology that would have allowed every house in America to be roofed in photovoltaic shingles for little more than twice the cost of conventional asphalt shingle, efficient batteries, and practical electric cars, all locked in the vaults of the some of the largest corporations in the world.

Most of the country was subjected to rolling blackouts, and food was sometimes rationed-unheard of in the land of plenty since World War II ended. Dave took comfort in the fact that he had stored food that he could depend on if things got worse.

The straw that broke the camels back in Dave’s mind was the fact that the government instituted national travel and power restrictions. You got a card with a number of points on it, which indicated how from work you lived and the fuel economy of your vehicle. You were basically allowed to buy enough gas to go to work and back with little left over for travel and running about town. If you went over your “allowance”, or “resource allocation”, in Newspeak, you would have your next months allocation reduced proportionally. The same went for electricity and home heating oil. Fortunately Dave heated with wood for most of the year, so he was able to trade some of his heating oil allotment for gasoline with his neighbors. The government also acted to prevent farmers from producing “gasohol”, an alcohol based fuel made from corn. Regulating its manufacture through the auspices of liquor control, the government both prevented farmers from making a living and achieving any kind of energy independence.
When the government mandated that everyone needed to register at their local post office, Dave began making preparations to bug out.

The next week the government declared that due to the numerous attacks by terrorists that all previously legal center fire semiautomatic rifles were banned completely, and that people had 30 days to turn them in for a tax credit, the amount of which would be determined at a later time. Any persons in possession of same after the cutoff date would be charged under the Patriot Act 3. No jury, no habeas corpus, no speedy trial. Dave and Sandy gave their notice, and his family left.

They sold their home for far less than market value, took their equity and converted it into silver coins, and moved to their cabin. Dave went to work for his friend Steve, running a backhoe and driving a dump truck for his excavation business. Sandy stayed home with the children, and volunteered at their school during the week.

New Hampshire was an ideal choice for his relocation as the conservative “Live Free or Die” state took its motto to heart. When the government passed it’s last anti firearms legislation, the state general assembly voted with a 90% majority to invalidate the law within its borders. They reasoned that the Federal Government had no power to pass or enforce laws contrary to the Constitution of either the United States or the individual states. A number of states followed suit, including Maine, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and Utah.

While the states and federal governments battled in the court rooms, Federal Agents were escorted to the borders by State Police and National Guardsman. Attempts by the Federals to activate, and hence federalize the national guard units was met with an unexpected response-the state governments disbanded the guard units and reformed them as “State Guard” units, not subject to federal authority. In “passive” states, like Connecticut, people were treated like a resource for the government to use at its pleasure. People who were suspected of not turning in their guns were arrested, held, released, and arrested again in a well orchestrated plan to place as much pressure as possible on them.

Sandy and Dave were able to keep in touch with their family through the spotty telephone system. They were shocked to learn that Sandy’s father, who had spent the majority of his career researching land titles as a lawyer, had been physically assaulted by federal troops in a courtroom in Hartford. Always a devout liberal, Sandy’s father had been a member and supporter of the ACLU. When the son of an acquaintance was held without charge or contact with the outside world, his working class parents begged him to take the case. Although it wasn’t the law he was used to practicing, he was a crusader at heart and attempted to file for the release of the young man on the grounds that he was being held in violation of his civil rights.

“You honor, this man is not a foreign terrorist, he is not an illegal alien, and he has committed no crime that we are aware of. As such, he should be remanded to my custody,” said Ted, Sandy’s father.
“These are not ordinary times, Mr. Peterson,” said the judge, nodding to the three Homeland Security Enforcement troops in his courtroom. They began to move towards the bespeceled lawyer, “further, you overestimate the leniency of this court in cases of sedition that border upon open revolt to the rule of law.” The judges voice rose, “You need to realize that the special situation we are now in…”
Ted Peterson, Esquire, shook his finger at the judge, “ This ‘special situation’ is all of your own creation…the courts and the President do not have the authority to ignore the Constitution this much,” he held up two fingers about an inch apart, “therefore you cannot hold a person incommunicado for any period, nor can you hold him and deny him counsel, as you have done, or not inform him of what he is charged with!” he ended by thumping his hand on the table, making the opened law books spread across its surface jump.
The judge sat, red faced. “How dare you address this court in that manner! How would you like a contempt charge, Mr. Peterson?”
“AT LEAST I WOULD KNOW WHY I WAS IN JAIL!” Shouted Peterson, his voice trembling with rage, “unlike some people here, Anson.”
“You will address me as ‘Your Honor’ in my court room, Peterson,” snapped the judge.
“There isn’t enough honor in this courtroom to fill a mouse’s thimble, Anson” stated Ted, his voice firm, his jaw jutting out defiantly.
“It’s only through the graces of our long association that I don’t have you thrown in jail, Ted,” sad the judge. He nodded again the security troops, “Gentlemen, please remove this man from my courtroom. If he attempts to set foot in here again for any reason…that’s any at all, Ted, arrest him and lock him up. This matter is settled.”

The guards grabbed the unsuspecting lawyer by the arms and dragged him, despite his wild struggling, to the door. Once out in the hallway, the lead thug leaned over said, “Old man, we can do this the easy way or the hard. Your choice” Ted struggled even harder against the arms dragging him downs the hall.
“OK, your choice,” and without further provocation, punched Ted directly on the nose. Ted felt bone break and blood flow as he continued to fight. The man struck Ted again and again, in the stomach, solar plexus, and face. When they finally got the now limp man outside, all three of them took turns kicking and punching the man for a few more minutes.

Ted lay on the sidewalk for almost three hours before an ambulance arrived for him. He vaguely remembered Samaritans being driven away from him by a Homeland Security troop who stood near him the whole time. His wife came to pick him up from the emergency room, and took him home. She tried to talk to him, but he would only grunt and mumble in reply. She cleaned him up and put him in bed, and went to call Sandy. It took her almost four hours to get through to New Hampshire.

When Sandy hung up the phone, she was crying. She was still sitting at the kitchen table crying when Dave got home from work.
“What’s the matter, Hon?” he asked, as he took off his mud spattered boots just inside the door.
“My Dad was assaulted and beaten half to death this morning,” she cried. “He was in court trying to get them to release old Mr. Donnelly’s kid, and the judge had him thrown out. The Homeland Security goons almost killed him.”
Dave frowned. “Where is he now?”
“He’s at home, Mom picked him up and took him home. He’s not talking much, Mom thinks he’s depressed and angry. She’s worried he might do something rash.”
Dave sighed. His father in law, while always treating Dave well, was a dyed in the wool liberal. He was happy as a clam when Billary became President, and laughed at Daves “kooky theory” that the President was murdered to facilitate Billarys rise to power. He was now, sadly, a victim of the big government he supported.
“My Mom wants me to come down and stay with them until he gets better,” Sandy said, looking up at him. She knew how he would feel about THAT idea.
“No F’ing way are you going down there, Sandy. It’s way too dangerous. I’m on their list for a dozen guns I never turned in, and I sent their last demand letter back to them in a box of dog sh*t. They will pick you up in a heartbeat as an accessory.”
Sandy looked mournful “But they’re my parents! You’d go if it were your Mother or Father!”
“But they are both safe at my sisters in Paulden and my cousins in Laramie. Your folks should come up here. We can clean up the kid’s room over the garage for them. We have plenty of food, and lawyers can still practice up here.”
“I tried to talk her into that, but she wants to stay in her home.”
“Call her and talk to her, then let me talk to her, she usually listens to me on any question not relating to politics.” Sandy smiled. Dave and his Mother got along well, and she thought that other than Dave’s “Neanderthal” politics, he had a good head on his shoulders. After all, he married Sandy and stayed in the area, while all of her other children had scattered to the four winds, and she only heard from them when they needed money or at Christmas time.

It was almost 11 p.m. by the time they got through to Sandy’s Mother.
“Your dad is talking dear, but he’s ranting about revenge. He says the judge will pay for stealing the country, and that he must be a Republican at heart…..oh, I don’t think we could make the drive, I mean your Father, and you know how I hate to drive. Why don’t you come and get us, dear? I’ll feel much safer, and you can help me with your father……no, no, I don’t listen to the news much, dear……OK, let me talk to Dave.”

Dave took the phone, “Hi Mom, how’s Ted?….well, have Doctor Ianotti come out and look at him tomorrow, he might have a concussion…..yes, I know…no, I won’t say I told you so, especially to him….no we don’t mind you coming at all, we’d love to have you……yes, bring the cats and dogs, the more the merrier,” and we can always eat them if it gets bad, he thought, “I am completely against any of us coming for you. You can make the drive, we can meet in Jaffrey, it’s only 80 miles or so from your house to the border. You need to do it before they shut down travel…yes, I believe they will……well, I was right about….OK, OK, but you see my point….well, talk to Sandy….love you to, Mom”
Dave handed Sandy the phone, “You need to convince her to leave right now and drive up here with your Dad. I can meet them in Jaffrey. It will take them two hours.”
Sandy took the phone and argued with her Mother for 45 minutes. Carol was adamant that Dave or Sandy come get her, just as Sandy was insistent that her Mother drive herself up. They were still at an impasse when the phone clicked dead. Sandy tried repeatedly to get through to her Mother, but the poor quality of the phone service prevented them from completing the call.

Chapter 6-Where Mortal Man Fear Tread

Sandy spent the next day at home trying to reach her Mother with no success. She finally resorted to calling the old woman that lived across the street from her parents, Mrs. Robidas. Although cordial with her, she was known as the neighborhood busybody. At least she would be able to let Sandy know if her folks were home. It only took Sandy half an hour to get through to Mrs. Robidas, who was happy to tell Sandy everything she knew.

Mrs. Robidas launched a one sided conversation as soon as she knew it was Sandy. “You know dear, they came at about 4 A.M. and took your Father and Mother in a van. I don’t know what they must have been up to; did your Father own guns? They must have been looking for guns or drugs. Anyway, the police took them away. They broke the door down dear, the house is wide open. Oh, they’ll use all of their oil if the heats on. Do you want me to go turn it off? I really shouldn’t be seen over there if they are terrorists, dear, but I’ll do it this once. But when will they be home? Do you know? Oh this is awful. What could your father have done? Maybe I shouldn’t talk to you, I bet they’re listening. Sandy, you need to get your parents a good lawyer. Why did you move away, your mother misses you so. Well dear I’m going to go, I don’t want to miss Days of our Lives” and with that she hung up. Sandy hung up, having not been allowed one word during Mrs. Robidas’ rave.

Sandy called Dave on the 2-meter radio and let him know what had happened to her parents. Dave told Steve, and they both drove to Daves house.
“We’ve got to get my parents out of jail,” said Sandy, her eyes red with tears.
“We don’t even know when they are going to be released, or even with what they are being charged with,” reasoned Dave. He had a feeling he was going to lose this one, no matter how much sense he made.
“I don’t care. Those are my parents, and this is still America”
“Well,” said Steve, “This is still America, but down there it isn’t, Sandy. Things have changed.”
“I. Do. Not. Care,” stated Sandy deliberately, “Dave, you and the guys do all that commando training out at Steve’s place, can’t you rescue them?”
“Sandy, a raid into a place like that with no support? We’d all die. You know I’d do it if I thought we had even a slim chance of pulling it off. We’ll come up with something, I promise you. Steve, I want to meet with the group up at Jim’s place, can you help me round them up?”
“Sure, we’ll stay on 2 meters and I’ll see what I can do.”

They met in Jim’s barn. Jim didn’t use it for anything other then storage, so he and the others had fixed up a large corner of it as a meeting room. They often met there for classroom training or just to hang out and BS. The wives of the men called it the clubhouse.

The discussion about what Dave should do was animated and lively. Some suggested he write off his in laws, others suggested raiding the prison, and one even half jokingly suggested that Dave head out alone to find them, stay at his place for a day or two, and then tell Sandy he couldn’t find them. Dave finally decided he would go down there, before Sandy took of herself. They discussed how he could do it. He still had his license plates from Connecticut, and he had not removed his state inspection sticker. He decided to put those plates on his car. Jim’s brother Gene made him a very close copy of a real registration certificate. He would hide his New Hampshire plates and registration behind a body panel, and replace them in his in laws garage, then use that on the way home. He decided not to carry any firearms. This was a soft recon, and if he was stopped an M-4gery and 15 30 round mags would take a lot of explaining. After some discussion, he adopted the suggestion that he dress as he had been hiking. That would allow him to explain his BOB. If questioned he could say he had been hiking the White Mountains. It was an iffy excuse, especially given the gas restrictions, but there was still limited tourism, mostly by people who had the means to purchase black market gasoline. It was the best he could come up with. They arranged daily radio contact, and pre arranged signals to let him know if the situation in New Hampshire had changed. They also vowed, over Dave’s protestations, to come get him if he was hurt, surrounded, or in other danger. As the meeting broke up, Bill, who lived 20 miles north of Dave in Connecticut, handed him a note as he shook his hand. Dave read it later. All that was printed on it was “under my grill”. Dave destroyed the note after reading it.

After filling his wife’s car with gas, Dave went home and began packing his backpack. He wanted enough gear to bug out, but did not want to draw attention to himself. The pack itself was a forest green Kelty internal frame. It was expedition size, around 6500 cubic inches. Dave tried not to overload it, but liked the flexibility the larger pack gave him. The pack itself had integral side pockets. Into the left Dave put a lightweight, camouflaged, USGI poncho and 6 green bungee cords. Also in the pocket was a roll of 550 cord, GI duct tape wrapped around a Calyume stick, and a heavy green Space blanket. In the other pocket he put a black knit watch cap, a pair of GI leather gloves with wool liners, a pair of green aviator flight gloves, his expedient antenna, spare AA batteries, his folded up GI “boonie” hat with it’s camo cover, two locking carabiners, and a small bottle of water purification tablets.

The main compartment was accessible by a zippered flap, and this flap itself was a flat pocket. Dave kept his waterproofed maps in here, along with a spare compass and an alcohol pen set and a small New Testament. In the main body of the pouch he put food, his water bladder, a pair of OD jungle fatigues, 4 pair of GI wool socks, four pair of polypro sock liners, foot powder, a Katydin water filter, an extra rubberized poncho, German surplus, more 550 cord, his two meter handheld, his wind up radio, a small solar battery charger, two t-shirts, a flannel shirt, and a small personal hygiene kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, medicine, Band-Aids and gauze, sewing kit, nail clippers, soap and a facecloth, and a small packet of baby wipes.

In the top pocket he kept a small LED flashlight, toilet paper, and an OD green handkerchief.

He attached a GI buttpack to the outside compression strap of the pack. In that he a carried a space blanket, a change of socks, one MRE, and an esbit stove full of fuel along with a disposable lighter. Attached to the buttpack was a length of 550 cord so he could detach it and use it as a shoulder bag. Under the buttpack in a bag made for a MOPP suit he carried a lightweight Gore-Tex rain suit in black.

On the waist belt he carried a GI canteen and cover set with a metal canteen cup. On his left hip was a black accessory pouch from a commercial gear maker that carried a small mirror, a Leatherman Tool, a lighter, bug repellant, a metal spoon, a sharpening steel, his old GI tritium compass, two heat tabs, a film container of cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, a survival space blanket, a red lenses LED flashlight, a condom (for water), and even more 550 cord. Next to that on the belt was his knife, a Cold Steel ODA.

His 20-degree Wiggy’s sleeping bag went into its compartment in the bottom of the pack, and he strapped his dark grey ensolite pad to the outside. Everything in the main pack was housed in heavy-duty waterproof bags.

In his pockets he carried a Swiss Army knife, his keys with a small LED light attached, and his wallet stripped of all unnecessary material. He also had a Spyderco knife clipped on his right front pocket.

He put his custom pack cover in the top pocket of the pack, and looked at his load. Well, for all the military stuff he used he may as well carry an ALICE pack. But this pack was so much more comfortable. Oh well, gotta try, he though to himself.

While Dave was busy making preparations, Sandy made phone calls to the police stations closest to her parent’s home. They would release no information to her, not even confirm that her parents were being held. She started calling local emergency rooms and found that her father had been checked and released just a short time before. Sandy immediately called home, and the poor phone service caused her a 20 minute delay. The 20 minutes seemed a lifetime to Sandy.

“Mom, are you okay, it’s me, Sandy,” Sandy blurted when her Mother answered.
“I’m OK dear. They arrested your father last night, and took me in as a ‘material witness’. I refused to say anything dear, not even yes or no. They questioned you father the whole time, and told him he could be picked again, at any time. He’s upstairs taking a bath.”
“Mom, pack your stuff and come up here.”
“Dear, you father wants to fight this in the courts.”
“Mother, the courts are a lost cause. Can’t you see? How much pressure can dad take? How much can you take? The next time they might not let you go so soon. You could be held for weeks.”
“Sandy, I know it seems bad. But we’ll be OK.”
They spoke for a few more minutes, and the call was disconnected. Dave told His wife “I’ll leave right now. I will basically kidnap them if I have to, but I should be back tomorrow after noon if all goes well.”
“What if it doesn’t?” asked Sandy, now looking like she regretted Dave’s leaving.
“I can walk home if I have to. And we’ll be in touch, I have my radio.”

After tearful good-byes with Sandy and the kids, Dave headed his wives Subaru south.
Dave felt like he did before a parachute jump-excited, apprehensive, and he would never admit to himself, a little bit afraid.

Chapter 7- Checkpoint Charlie

Dave crossed the border on a small back road that saw little traffic. He planned to take back roads all the way, feeling that the road less traveled would be safer for him. He did get pulled over in a small picturesque Massachusetts town, by a local cop who didn’t look too happy in his newly issued black BDU Homeland Security uniform.

“What’s the problem, Officer?” asked Dave, his hands on the steering wheel.
“We’re just checking all out of state plates and cars coming from up north”, replied the man, who looked to be about two years past retirement age. Dave nodded. ‘Up North’ meant New Hampshire, a whole 20 miles or so away.
“Well, sir, I’m just coming back from a hike in the White Mountains. Here, let me get my license and registration…” Dave leaned over towards the glove box.
“Don’t bother son, you seem harmless enough. Watch your speed and go home and stay there. It’s going to storm soon.”
“Thank you officer.” Dave rolled up his window and drove off. Seeing as the sky was clear, Dave assumed the officer meant the storm brewing was political, not atmospheric. Perhaps he’d be heading “up north” soon himself.

As Dave crossed into Connecticut he was forced to turn onto a main road by a “detour” sign. As he turned onto the road, he hit his brakes. The traffic in front of him was backed up with no indication as to why. As traffic moved forward, he saw police lights. It looked like a checkpoint. Damn! He was trapped. If he tried to make a break across the shoulder he’d be spotted. He couldn’t turn, as there were Jersey barriers dividing the lanes. Depending on how difficult it was he’d try to bluff his way through.

As Dave approached the head of the line, he saw a number of cars pulled off to the left, with security troops going through them. Some people were in handcuffs on the side of the road, watched by sub-machinegun wielding thugs.

Dave was waved up by a black uniformed troop wearing a reflective vest. Dave rolled down his window. “What’s up, officer?”
“License, registration, proof of insurance,” said the man for the umpteenth thousand time that day.
“Sure, here you go…” Dave handed the man his papers.
“Where are you coming from,” demanded the Security Troop.
“I was hiking up north. I’m going home.”
“If you were up north you must have friends up there, huh?” asked the guard, suddenly very friendly.
“No,” answered Dave, “just a solo hike.”
“Pull over to the left, please,” said the officer. It was an order, not a question.
He handed Dave his papers and waved the next car forward, looking for a way out. Armed police were everywhere. He felt trapped. He was trapped.
He pulled up to a signaling troop.
“Turn off the car and leave the keys in. Please step out.”
Dave did so. He looked at the troop, “Kenny?” he asked. Kenny was Sandy’s cousin, who they only saw on the Fourth of July, when Sandy’s family threw a big party.
The cop looked up and looked at him hard. “Oh, Dave, how are you?” He quickly looked down at the documents in his hand. “This looks all in order. Where are you going?”
“Home” said Dave.
“Where ya been?” Officer Ken asked.
“Took a few days to hike up north,” he answered.
“Oh, we’re supposed to search anyone who’s not between their work and home. Waddaya got in back?” he asked, reaching into Dave’s car and pulling out the keys.
“Just my backpack,” answered Dave. Just then two more troopers came over.
“Anything, Ken?” asked one.
“Nope, nothing here.”
“You check the gas yet?”
“No, I’ll check it in a minute.”
The other troop opened Dave’s door and released the gas cap cover. “I’ll get it.”
“It’s all right, I can get it.”
“Trying to steal all the collars yourself, huh?” laughed the other troop, “Allow me,” he said to Dave. He took a long plastic tube and snaked it into the gas tank, pulling out some gasoline. He let the gas out into a clear glass quart container. Taking a bottle from a pouch on his belt, he used the dropper to squeeze a few drops of fluid into the gas. The drops hit the gas and immediately swirled blue and purple. “Uh-oh, we’ve got bootleg gas, here, Ken” said the other man. Looking at Dave he said, “Where did you get this? Are you hoarding? Huh?” he got close to Dave, “You a bootlegger? We got a cell for you.”
“No,” said Dave, “I bought in Nashua at a gas station.”
“Well let’s see a receipt.”
Dave managed to find the home made receipt on the passenger side floor of the car after a brief search.
“Well,” said the troop, “it’s still obviously bootleg, probably from Canada. You can go, but we’re confiscating your car.”
“You’re what?” asked Dave, incredulously.
“You heard me. Talk back again I’ll lock you up for interfering with a peace officer in the line of duty.”
Kenny butted in, “That’s enough, Tony. He’s mine, I’ll handle the paperwork.”
“Okay,” said Tony, giving Dave a hard look, “but don’t take any sh*t off of nature boy there. And call me if he gives you any lip.” Leering at Dave the thug turned and strutted off.
“Look, Dave, I’m sorry. If I had found it I would’ve let you go. Heck, I have bootleg gas I my car right now. But with big nose Tony I’m gonna have to write this up.”
“Can I take my pack?” asked Dave.
“Sure. Look, let me write this up and I’ll give you a ride. I actually got off duty about a half-hour ago. I can drop you, well, where do you live, anyway.” He looked at the license. “How about I drop you near your in laws, can they get you home?”
“Sure, that’d be great,” said Dave, “and thanks for the help.”
“Oh I’m glad to help Dave. This war is tough on all of us. I wish people would just cooperate, things would be so much better.”
Dave waited while Ken finished the paperwork. He gave Dave a receipt for the car that indicated the driver was free to go. He told Dave to take his pack and start walking, he’d pick him up about a half mile down the road-“Don’t want to try to explain giving you a ride” he said.

As they rode in silence, Dave in the back, Ken drove, listening to his police radio through his earpiece. “Hope you don’t mind Dave, but I’ve got to keep up with current events.” He said, laughing. A few minutes later Ken answered a call. “This is Romeo 4-5” he said.
Dave saw him turn and look at Dave. “OK, sure….no, I understand….I will, I’ll be there in 20, captain.”
Ken turned to look at Dave. “I don’t know what you are up to, Dave, but your in laws are in huge trouble and I’ve got to go in to the station and give a detailed report on what I know. I’m going to drop you off here,” as he pulled up to the curb, “and you go home and stay there. We may wish to speak to you.”
Dave thanked him for the ride, but had barely started to speak when Ken disappeared in a cloud of dust.

Dave was still ten or eleven miles from his in laws. He set out on foot, his pack a familiar weight. As he walked along the road an old pickup pulled up. An old man wearing coveralls and a feed store cap rolled down his window. “Where you headed, fella?” he asked.
“Merrow,” answered Dave, naming the town next to his in laws.
“I’m going right by there. Hop in back and I’ll give you a life.”
“Thanks, that’d be great,” said Dave, dropping his pack over the bed and climbing in over the tailgate.
Dave had the man drop him off near the town forest. He took the path through the forest, and came out three miles for his in laws. As he headed across side streets and the odd unbuilt lot, he heard the sound of sirens in the distance. As he got closer, he realized that it was coming from quite close to his in laws house. When he got to their street, he saw it was their house. It had burned down to the foundation. Police and fire units where up and down the street, the firefighters still pumping water over the smoldering embers and beams. Dave quickly walked into on open garage, and dropped his pack. He then walked up to the crowd that had gathered behind the yellow police tape.
“What happened,” he asked a man standing open mouthed.
“Police raid this morning. Man inside shot two cops, then barricaded the house. Shot at the cops all morning, then set the house on fire, and killed himself and the two people inside.”
Dave looked at the man. “Who killed them?”
The man looked at Dave and shook his head. “Well, they found the bodies of the old couple, but they think the guy who did it escaped.”
Dave repeated himself, “Who was that?”
“They say it was their son in law.”

Chapter 8- Escape and Evasion

Dave was stunned. “His who?”
“His son-in-law. Big gun nut, according to the news. They’re still looking in the rubble for the remains.”
“Thanks,” said Dave, blood pounding in his ears. He turned and walked away, trying to look non-chalant. He stepped in to pick up his backpack and heard a voice "SHOO!!! Get out of here, you hobo!” Dave turned to see a large woman wielding a straw broom. “You heard me, shoo! We don’t want hoboes around here.”
“I’m not a hobo, Ma’am,” said Dave, “I’m just passing through.”
“You just keep…don’t I know you? You’re Sandy’s husband aren’t you? Why are you hoboing? Lose your job?”
“No Ma’am, I just came down to get my in laws.”
“I knew that wasn’t you when I heard it. You’re a nice boy, always shoveling my walks when it snows, not like my lazy good for nothing son. Doesn’t even call me when it snows.”
“Yes Ma’am, that was me,” said Dave.
“You look hungry, you hungry?”
“Not really Ma’am. I need to get going.”
“Where is your car? Where are you going?”
“The police took my car,” Dave told her,”I’m walking to New Hampshire.”
“That’s ridiculous young man. Take my car. You can bring it back when this is all over.”
“I can’t do that,” said a surprised Dave, “I might never get it back to you.”
“I don’t care; I can’t drive since they took my license away. It’s got gas in it. You never let me pay you for all those times you plowed me out, take the car as payment.”

Dave didn’t know what to say. He offered her money, but she declined. “I’ve got enough of that, young man. I get plenty of food, too, I tell them my Harold is still alive but bedridden, they give me double rations,” she ended with a cackle. She certainly looked like she got double rations, “So here, let me get the keys,” and she turned and went into the house.

Dave drove straight to Bills house. Billy had a house in an older neighborhood, with large backyards and old, tall hedges. He pulled the Dodge Dart into the backyard and parked near the barbecue pit. He looked all over it for a hidden compartment or some clue as to what to do next. After searching for ten minutes, he paused to look the fireplace over. Constructed of bricks covered in granite paving stones, it was really an outdoor fireplace. Chimney, grill, stone blocks for a base…the base! Dave went to the front of the grill and dug around the large flat stone that the fire burned on. He dug with his hands for a minute, then went to the shed and after a brief search found a length of iron water pipe and an old shovel. Clearing away the wood ash and cinders from the large paving stones, he dug up the front of one, exposing the lip. He pried that up, and then the others, finding sand beneath. He struck the sand with the shovel, but it only went in a few inches before striking something hard. Clearing the sand away, he found another layer of 1 inch thick pavers. He dug those up and exposed what looked like a cesspool cover. Preparing to gag, Dave pried up the cement cover and found a plastic sealed opening. Cutting away the plastic, he smelled nothing like what he expected. He went to the car and retrieved his LED flashlight from the pack. Returning to the opening, he removed the red lens and turned on the light. He saw rebar steps leading down to a small chamber filled with plastic wrapped packages. Slowly climbing down the steps he shined the light around.
“Pheeeeweeee…” he whistled. Cases of MRE’s, boxes of ammunition, long trunks he assumed contained rifles were visible under the plastic wrapping.

He approached the closest pile, what looked like two steamer trunks, elevated from the cement floor by two pallets. He saw a plastic freezer bag taped to the top. Opening it, he saw it was a list of the boxes contents. He went down the list. Civilian clothes, first aid items, shoes. Moving around the cellar, he read more. Feminine hygiene items, rice, a bicycle (!), and finally, one that said “FAL rifle and equipment”. Dave whipped out his Spyderco and cut open the heavy plastic sheeting. Underneath was a black plastic locking case and two long plastic food containers duct taped to it. Under that were two .50 caliber sized ammo cans, and one .30 caliber sized one. He cut off the duct tape and lay the long case on top of the steamer trunks.

Undoing the latches, he opened the case to reveal a camouflage painted L1A1 rifle. He recognized it, having built it in his own shed. Bill had fallen in love with it, so
Dave sold it to him for the cost of his parts, immediately building another just like it. Dave had hoped it was this rifle when he saw the tag. It was built on an Imbel receiver with an Inch parts kit. In deference to Dave’s preference, it had a metric magazine release and took Metric magazines. Dave had built it in accordance with the law of the day, with US made fire control parts, gas piston, hand guards, pistol grip, and butt stock. Looked like Bill had been busy though. The muzzle brake had been replaced with a Vortex flashhider. The sling he had put on it was rolled up in the corner of the case, and the rifle was coated in grease. He closed the case and placed it near the ladder. He opened the first plastic container. In it was a Makarov, four magazines, a box of hollow point ammo, one of ball, a leather holster, a nylon holster, two USGI ammunition pouches, and a small pair of binoculars.

The second container contained an StG-58 cleaning kit, a stripper clip guide for FAL mags, a GI ammo pouch with two empty FAL mags in it, and a Woodland camouflaged nylon chest pouch with room for eight magazines, as well as two smaller ones for pistol mags or similar sized objects. Dave set these items aside, too. Opening the ammo cans he found them full of 7.62 ammo on stripper clips, the .30 caliber can contained ten 20 round FAL magazines. Dave was elated.

He moved the boxes one at a time out of the dim hole and put them in Bills shed. There he opened up a can of white gas and cleaned the rifle of its protective layer. He cleaned each magazine and loaded them from the stripper clips. As he opened the second can, he found that, under the bandoleered ammo were three boxes of soft point .308 and a handful of loose rounds with black tips. Dave dutifully unloaded five mags and loaded two with 20 rounds each of soft points and the 38 rounds of Armor Piercing he had. Dave placed the two mags of AP in the right most pouch on the chest rig, and two mags of soft points in an ammo pouch, which he would later attach to the left side of his waist belt. He cleaned up the Makarov and loaded it up, and put it aside to later attach to his waist belt on the right. He put three 50 round bandoleers in his pack.

Dave then returned all of the extra equipment, boxes, and ammo cans to the subterranean cache. He looked around once more, to see what else he might need. Not seeing an ultralight or a Star Trek transporter he could think of nothing else. He did find a tube of silicon sealant, and used that and some of the plastic from the rifle case to reseal the opening. He’d have to talk to Bill, that guy was serious about his caching. Dave had seen everything Bill had brought up when he bugged out, and decided he must have inherited money somewhere to buy all that he did! He then rebuilt the fireplace, and did his very best to return it to its previous condition. He even scooped up some old doggie droppings from around the yard and threw them on top to make looking there more unpalatable for the fedgoons. Dave’s work had carried him well past sunset. He loaded the car, adjusted the chest rig, and put the Makarov under his thigh on the seat. The L1A1 was placed next to him, covered with his flannel shirt. He wasn’t going to jail. War had been declared, as far as he was concerned.

Dave took back roads as far as the Massachusetts border. He then abandoned the car at a public transportation “park and ride” bus area that was basically deserted. He left the doors unlocked and the keys in it, wishing luck to whoever used it next. Tightening up his pack straps, he settled the comforting weight of the FAL over his shoulders on its assault sling and headed down the embankment and into the woods.

Dave had long planned several bug out routes from his home. He had routes for cars, bikes, and a partial escape route down a river and into neighboring Rhode Island, where he had a few friends who would help him. He had three routes for walking north. The one he chose took him East of Worcester, Massachusetts, West around the I-495 corridor, and up through the countryside to New Hampshire. The largest danger area was the Mass Pike, Interstate 90, which ran due West from Boston to Albany, New York. He had driven and walked much of the route, trying to determine where good places to travel were, and noting new housing developments as they sprouted up, which was often. He identified three areas where he thought he could cross the highway without detection, and was heading to the most likely one. He only had to reach the New Hampshire border.

Once in NH there were several maintained hiking trails that plugged straight into the northern part of the country. He crossed the border in a rainstorm, choosing to move in the dark and in bad weather, as he would stand less of a risk of being spotted. Two more nights of uneventful travel brought him to the base of a large pine tree overlooking the Turnpike.

Chapter 9-Refugees

As Dave watched the road, traffic started to pass by him, almost all of it from the East, moving away from the population center of Boston and its surrounding suburbs. He took time to drink water and scarf down a can of beef stew. He took the binos and wrapped them in his snipers face veil, a camouflaged net that would hide his lenses but not obscure his vision appreciably. Under his little hooch he changed out of his green Dockers and into his OG jungle pants. Like his shirt it was sprayed in light stripes with black spray paint. He tied them off at his ankles, and made sure his hiking boots were tied with the laces tucked away. Rooting around in one of the ammo pouches on his belt, he removed an old section of Humvee mirror he had carried in the service. It had been cut down and backed with green duct tape, “hundred mile an hour tape” in Army parlance. Using tubes of green and brown camo crème he painted his face and neck, using the lighter green on the dark areas of his face, and the dark brown on the high points. Making sure he covered his ears well, he tried to slip into his “tactical’ mindset. This was the most dangerous area he had to cross, and he was sure that after this he would be home free.

Taking his wind up radio from his pack, he again scanned the AM bands. What he heard only intensified his tactical animal.
“…..message repeats. Forces from the International Security Assistance Forces, ISAF,” the announcer droned, pronouncing ISAF “issaf”, “are here to protect their individual nations interests in the United States. They are also volunteering to assist the Department of Homeland Security in protecting the American people from terrorists, both foreign and domestic. Do not interfere with them as they go about their duties. Their presence here is in compliance with United Nations Declaration 6664, and covered under the International Agreement on Infrastructure Protection. President Billary has opened Americas doors to our friends from Europe, who have stated that they wish to repay America for all that America has done for the world. Compliance with the ISAF forces is mandated by special legislation passed last night in an emergency joint session of Congress, and further backed by a U.N. resolution passed this morning in New York City.
These cities in our broadcast area are currently under curfew-Boston and surrounding suburbs, Providence and Rhode Island, Hartford and east, and the New York City metropolitan area, to include western Connecticut. Anyone attempting to defect to areas that are refusing to comply with the legal government of the United States are subject to arrest and detainment. Any residents of the following states and areas who are now in the safe areas-Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and northern New York state, and any other state not mentioned, are to report to the closest US Post Office facility to register with the department of Homeland Security. As you know by now, President Billary has declared specific areas to be in open violation of many of the security measures passed in light of the terrorism committed against the American people in the last two years. ISAF troops will be moving into these areas to protect the assets committed to their respective governments under the Debt Consolidation and Repatriation Act of this year. Persons are directed by Executive Order 5712 to stay in their homes or places of work, unless transiting from one to the other. Anyone on the road in violation of this order will be subject to detainment for an unspecified length of time. Anyone found to be in possession of prohibited items, including firearms, narcotics, food for more than a two day period, gasoline over 15 gallons, any gasoline in separate container, and two way radios capable of broadcasting on frequencies above 23 centimeters, will be subject to forfeiture of property used to facilitate said crimes, and civil and criminal penalties not to exceed $1 million in fines and/or 25 years in federal detention.”

“We repeat-if you are traveling, return to your homes. If you are in possession of prohibited items, turn them in to your local Homeland Security forces. If you have knowledge of persons violating these terms, please contact your local Homeland Defense forces. Rewards of up to $500 are now being offered for successful reports of antisocial hoarding and activity.”

“In local news, a Moosup couple is dead after their son in law, currently wanted on charges of antisocial behavior through non compliance with the Terrorist Control Act, engaged police in a three hour standoff this week. Police have identified David McGrath, 43, of Lower Quinonapaug, as the shooter. The standoff ended with the house of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Peterson being burned to the ground after the couple were killed execution style by McGrath. Police reports indicate that McGrath, a decorated Army veteran and known anti-government activist, used an accelerant to set the two story on fire, likely gasoline. Three police officers were killed, and seven wounded in the shootout. McGraths remains were not found in the charred rubble of the house, and he is presumed to be armed and very dangerous. A manhunt is underway for him.”

“The Electrical Resource Allocation Board today announced new restrictions….”

Dave listened as the voice droned on. Well, he thought, I wonder where the bloodhounds are. He thought about the implications of the news report and decided it didn’t change his situation much. He was committing about 40 felonies as it was, two or three more wouldn’t matter, especially since he hadn’t committed any acts of murder, and the laws he was breaking were unconstitutional anyway.

The activity on the road increased. Dave watched in grim fascination the parade of cars and trucks heading west. “Where do they think they are going?” he asked himself. “No place to go, nothing to do when they get there.” Dave looked at the road below. It was the second time in his life he had seen refuges.


The African sun beat down on the men dressed in their brown body armor and Kevlar helmets. The scout platoon and their attached snipers were in an overwatch position, covering a roadblock manned by men from their battalions B Company. For this deployment they were using armored Humvees, mounting either M-2 HB Browning .50 caliber MG’s or MK-19 40mm MG’s. Dave had his squad dismount their MK-19 and mount it on its M-3 tripod to cover the main road. The second Humvees M-2 was deployed on the top of the Humvee to provide flanking fire on the secondary road that came in from their left. If needed the Humvee could rapidly move to one of three preselected spots to provide covering fire for the grunts 300 Meters below them. The GI’s manning the roadblock were in a tight spot. Their Rules of Engagement prevented them from firing on anyone unless they themselves were fired upon. Manning a roadblock, their job was to prevent people from reaching the capitol, which lay 20 some odd miles behind them.

The mass of refuges was spurred into a panic by reports that the rebel forces were moving towards them on a murderous, drug fueled spree of rapine and destruction. They were rumored to practice a bizarre form of human sacrifice (the specifics of which were left to the listeners imagination), and were known for their brutality to those not of their tribe. As far as the Americans were concerned, they should be allowed to shoot everyone of them they saw carrying a gun. Ironically, that is just what they were not allowed to do. Several times they saw armed gangs of men assaulting members of the approaching throng and drag them, screaming, into the tree line.

“Let me smoke them, Sergeant,” asked Specialist Ruiz, watching through his crosshairs as yet another nubile young woman was dragged into the trees, her children left alone and crying by the side of the road. The emotion in his voice was bordering on tears.
“No can do, Ruiz,” answered Dave, “I don’t like it either, but we have orders.”
“Well the orders suck,” spat the tall Cuban. Ruiz’s parents had risked their lives to take their three small children on a perilous trip in a leaky boat, landing in the dead of night near Miami. They had taught him about the evils of oppression form an early age.
Dave agreed, although he held his tongue. Surely the American government would see what was happening and let them act with honor. Act as soldiers.
The soldiers manning the checkpoint had a harder time. Trying unsuccessfully to stem the flow of wretched, half starved women and children, they saw the fear and desperation in their eyes. Although ordered to not allow anyone passage towards the beleaguered capitol, in practice they only presented token resistance to the refuges, who only had to step around the roadblock to pass by. The Americans had been ordered to block the road, and they did. Their orders did not tell them to block the shoulders of the road. The troops manning the roadblock did what they could for the injured refuges. Sometimes it was nothing more than retightening looses bandages or handing out aspirin. The faces devoid of hope would be something they all would remember forever.

The refuge tide continued as the sun got higher in the sky. Typically, all activity slowed or stopped from close to noon until after 2, due to the heat. As the crowd continued to pulse forward like a living beast with a thousand legs, sounds of gunfire reached the ears of the entrenched Americans. Gradually the sounds of motors could be heard between the bursts of gunfire. The throng scattered as a murmur came up the line. People surged past the Americans, seeking the safety of having the paratroopers between themselves and the gunfire. Finally Ruiz and Günter, his spotter, reported to Dave.
“Sergeant McGrath, I’ve got three or more trucks coming up the road, big Mercedes troop carriers with Russian 51’s on top. They look like they’re headed this way.”
“Roger that, Ruiz. Keep an eye on them and remember our ROE, even if it does suck.”
“Hooah, Sergeant,” answered Ruiz, settling the Remington M-24 into his shoulder.
McGrath was in the habit of carrying his own radio, and unclipped the handset to call a report to Battalion.
“Sierra 5-3, sierra 5-3, this is Lima 2-niner, come in, over.”
Static hissed from the handset.
“Lima 2-niner, this is Sierra 5-3, go ahead, over.”
“5-3, we’ve got at least three troop trucks…” Ruiz waved a hand, “…break”
“I’ve got four trucks with troops and three technicals.”
“5-3, that’s four troop trucks with heavy weapons and three technicals approaching our location. They are attacking the civilians, break.”…..”we request permission, again, to engage them, over.”

A pause, as if the puzzle palace were discussing the merits of that.

“Negative, 2-niner, negative. The ROE stands, You are only to fire to protect the lives of US Forces and US citizens, do you copy, over?”
Dave sounded as dejected as he felt, “Roger, 5-3, I understand. Lima 2-niner, OUT.”

“Listen up,” Said Dave into his privately purchased Marine VHF radio, “If these t*rdburglars so much as point a weapon at you, light them up. Got it?”
“It’s about time” came the replies from the other Humvee and the troops at the roadblock. Dave had given the NCO in charge at the roadblock the extra handheld radio that operated above the frequency of their heavy GI Issue ones. In Africa, they weren’t worried about what the FCC would say.

The trucks pulled up to the roadblock in a cloud of dry, red dust. From the lead truck a gaudily clad man leapt down, his movements quick and jerky.
A voice came over the VHF “Looks like he’s hopped up.”
They watched through binos and riflescopes as the man approached the roadblock and began screaming at the American soldiers.
“Recon,” said the voice of the B Company NCO, “keep your eyes on these dudes, they’re demanding we give them our weapons and vehicles and clear the roadblock, as they represent the sovereign government of this rat infested sewer.”
“Roger, we gotcher back, Sgt. Gooch.”

The wildly gesticulating “sovereign government representative” turned to the vehicles, waving at the men to come down. Dave saw the B Company Platoon Leader in charge leave the cover of his Humvee and approach the “leader”. As he called out, the convoy leader whirled, pointing his AK at the Lieutenant ever so briefly.
“Take’em,” said Dave. Ruiz fired, and the man started doing another dance as most of his head disappeared in a pink cloud. The Lt. stood there open-mouthed as the nearly headless corpse ran around the road, blood spurting from the remains of his throat. Before the echo of Ruiz’ shot had died another shot rang out. The driver of the lead truck had just shot the stunned Lt. The Lt. dropped heavily onto the macadam. Almost immediately a cacophony of gunfire rang out. The .50’s on the Humvees, two at the roadblock and the one to Dave’s left, opened up. The two Mk-19’s were in action, pumping 40mm high velocity grenades into the troop compartments and engine areas of the trucks. The troops at the roadblock were keeping up a steady fire, the M-4’s, M-203’s, SAWs, and the platoons two M-240’s were raking the technicals and trucks. Dave saw that the two Mk-19’s were alternating fire to keep a constant rain of 40mm HE on target.
Dave immediately keyed his radio, “Sierra 5-3, this is Lima 2-niner, we are in contact, repeat, we are in contact, we need immediate fire support at preregistration point Budweiser, say again, Budweiser, we have seven vehicles full of armed hostiles engaging US Troops. We have one Line 2, over.”
“Copy 2-niner, one line 2. Negative on fire support, the ambassador sent them packing, said they were too offensive, break…”
“…we are moving up the reaction force, they should be there in 20 mikes, over.”
“Roger, 5-3. We will give you a Sitrep in five, 2-niner out.” Releasing his headset, he dropped from kneeling to prone and flipped the covers off of his ACOG scope.
Looking over to Randt, one of two M-203 gunners on the hill. “Randt, take James and Hansen and cover the left flank, I don’t want to get surrounded.”
“Hooah that, Sergeant,” Randt replied, getting up and tearing off down the line.

Reacquiring his reticule, Dave saw that most of the rebels were dead. Apparently one technical had gotten away. He drew a bead on a man firing an RPD in a long burst over the heads of the B Company men at the roadblock, and slowly squeezed the trigger. Dave felt the relatively soft recoil of the M-4, and when he reacquired his sights, the man was laying on his back, the RPD silent. Dave heard the steady fire from Ruiz’ bolt gun as he engaged several more rebel troops. Finally, he saw no more movement.
“Cease fire, cease fire,” he called, hearing the command get picked up and down down the line.
“Only shoot the live ones… heavies, take turns reloading.”
Dave got on the VHF as firing faded at the roadblock. “Gooch, how’s the LT?” Silence. Then a voice, “He’s OK, got hit in the plate, no penetration. He figured playing possum was safer than John Wayneing it between his p*ssed off men and our new 50 meter qualification range.”
Dave laughed. “I’m gonna have my sniper and shooters make sure those toads are dead. Reaction force should be here in fifteen.”
“Yeah, we’re on with Battalion right now on our push. Thanks for the cover, that was some shot, I thought the L.T. was a goner for sure.”
“Thanks, I’ll let Ruiz know.”
Ruiz looked over at him with a question on his face. “Sgt Gooch says good shot, Ruiz.”
Ruiz shot him back a grin. “Now show me headshots on any of them that look like they have the strength to pull a trigger.”
Ruiz nodded, “My pleasure,” he said, and set about his task with a grim smile on his face.
Dave called out, “All my ACOG’ers, make sure those POS’s are dead. The rest of you, I want casualty and ammo check, now.” Dave walked the perimeter as the infrequent shot rang out from Ruiz’s position. Checking on his men, he found no wounded, no shortage of ammo (having Humvees to hump ammo sure helps, mused Dave), and good spirits all around.
“About time we did something proactive,” said Barnes.
“Hey Sergeant, we hit any collaterals?” asked Weissman, his junior RTO.
“None that I could see. Those people boogied before that last truck stopped moving.”

Charlie Company showed up in the backs of several Humvees and Medium trucks, and secured the area. After policing up the battlefield, they had 67 confirmed dead tangoes, two American flesh wounds, and about one thousand cheering refuges.

After this incident the troops from Daves brigade were relegated to a role on the coast of the country where they were less likely to encounter armed hostiles. The Ambassador wanted them gone, saying that people had a way of dying around paratroopers. Daves men nodded their assent. “Bad people die around us,” said Weissman. Coming as it did from a pimply 18 year old just out of basic, his sentiment was well received by the company.

Dave crawled back into his hooch and leaned back to think for a few minutes while listening to the AM band for any intel. As he looked at the space blanket hanging above him, he paused. If he was going to be here all day, he didn’t want to create more of a thermal signature than he had to. Reaching into his pack, he pulled out his lightweight poncho and a few bungees, and strung it up a few inches under the space blanket to provide a heat barrier between his body and the silver blanket. Feeling better, he turned on his Yaesu. Noon was approaching. Being further north and on higher ground, plus being in such tight quarters, he decided against stringing up his 292 antenna. Instead he connected it to the little radio and strung it around his hide. Hopefully it would do its job.

Sure enough, at noon, he heard the carrier wave on todays frequency. Motley Crue’s song ‘Home Sweet Home’ came over the earpiece. Dave smiled. His friends certainly had their sense of humor intact. As the song ended Sandy’s voice came on the air. “Hurry home” she said. The signal went off. Dave smiled. I am hurrying, he thought. But speed could kill. Better to get home safe than to ‘Go home’ to the camp fire in the sky. He still had things to do.

A stead throbbing sound broke him from his reverie. Helicopters. Big ones, maybe Chinooks. He crawled to the lip of his hide and scanned the road and sky.

To the right, towards Boston, the road went up another rise and turned from sight. At the lower edge of the rise, he saw eight figures, four from each side of the road, run out. All were dressed in woodland BDU’s and carried rifles. Some dragged freshly cut trees, others donned fluorescent vests. Signaling for the cars on the road to stop, and reinforcing that signal with rifles at the shoulder, they dragged the trees across the road to make a crude roadblock. As they did, Dave saw two men, one carrying an ALICE pack with a long whip antenna poking up from it. The man with him took the proffered handset and spoke into it. The sound of the helos grew louder, the ground beginning to vibrate so that Dave could feel it, his whole body thrumming. Coming in over the highway, from the little valley to the north east, came two huge birds, which banked and turned towards Dave. He recognized them as Sea Stallions or a variant, CH-53’s. These bore a green and dark brown camouflage pattern Dave recalled as being German. Viewing them with his binos, Dave saw the distinctive Maltese cross on the nose of the closest one, with a white rectangle below which bore in black letters ‘ISAF’. The helos quickly set down on the highway, on each side, the one on Daves side closer by a hundred meters or so. He saw crew chiefs scramble from the rear of the big birds as two Apache attack helicopters swept over them, a hundred feet from the tree tops.

As Dave watched, he could see activity at the rear of the CH-53’s. Suddenly from the rear of one, then the other, camouflaged jeeps of a kind Dave only recognized as being European sped from the rear of each bird. One sped towards the blocking crew, the other headed past Dave to stop just past the overpass to the left of the hide. Turning his focus back to the Stallions, Daves mouth dropped open as a small armored vehicle rolled off the back ramp. Hardly taller then the crew chief, it sported a tiny turret with what looked like a 20mm cannon sticking out from it. “Weasels” said Dave. He certainly never expected to see German Fallshirmjaeger armor in New England in the Fall. Like the scout cars, one Weasel headed for the overpass and one for the crude roadblock. Then troops began pouring from the Stallions, about 30 in all. They carried rolls of wire, steel pickets, and other items. They fell in and started towards the overpass. As they cleared the helicopters, the big birds engines changed in pitch, and they took off one at a time, heading West. Dave watched the troops set up a better roadblock with triple strand concertina wire, engineer pickets, and a growing sandbagged emplacement near the bridge abutments. What the heck was going on, he wondered?

Chapter 10-Redemption

While Dave was observing all of the activity taking place below his lair, he heard the familiar whine of turbo diesel engines. Looking left, he saw three State Police cruisers and a line of Army 2 ½ ton trucks, known as ‘Deuce and a Halfs’, along with several Humvees coming from the West. Since the active duty forces had changed their vehicles to a new cab over style in the late ‘90’s and early 21st Century, Dave supposed they were National Guard vehicles. Tailgates thunked with their distinctive hinge creak and metallic slam, and the area under the bridge and beyond was quickly turned into a roadblock with a large enclosed area, and a smaller holding area next to a green canvas GP Large tent.

Hearing car engines, he looked right. The team at the far end had removed their crude roadblock and were waving cars though. Dave now understood what was happening. The roadblock was to stop the exodus from the city. This was a natural chokepoint-the high walls of the highway cut prevented escape, as did the steep embankments of the highway over the swamp. Cars had no escape, and people on foot would be spotted if they tried to escape. Dave watched as the first line of cars pulled up to the checkpoint. Standard stuff, papers checked, some cars were searched. There was an unpaved area between the two sides of the highway, marked with the “official use only” signs seen all over America. Most of the cars were reversing direction by crossing there, and headed back east towards Boston and the suburbs. A growing number of cars and small trucks were directed into the larger fenced area, where the people in them were handcuffed and forced to sit as their vehicles were searched for contraband. Dave saw only one or two vehicles that were allowed to leave this area. After the search, the bound people were escorted to the smaller pen, and brought, one at a time, into the large tent. Dave eventually saw a line leaving the tent. Those people, hands still bound, were led up a small steel tailgate ladder and loaded into the back of waiting deuces.

After several hours of this, the traffic died to a trickle. Dave imagined the ISAF forces, who Dave had started referring to the “as if” forces, had set up several of these checkpoints along the Interstate. While he watched, the last of the travelers were led to the waiting Deuces, which drove East themselves. The remaining troops tore down the wire enclosures, and loaded them into the backs of Humvees and Deuce and a Half’s, and packed up the large tent. A detail of men was tearing down the large wire enclosure while another went around siphoning all of the parked cars of fuel. Just as the men finished, two tow trucks pulled up. A German troop in mottle Flectarn camo spoke to them for a few minutes, gesturing towards the large parking lot. Dave could see the drivers nodding in response. They then each hooked into a car and drove off, chains rattling. The little Weasel tanks, which had served as quite an intimidator during the roadblock operation, rolled east, escorted by the German scout cars and the three State Police Cruisers.

Soon all that was left was a lot of empty cars and SUV’s, and one two and a half ton truck. A small detail of Flectarn clad troops carrying G-36’s was sweeping the area for anything left behind. Soon they completed their police call, loaded the truck, and drove off. Silence returned to the little valley. Dave was impressed with the speed and efficiency of the operation. They came in quick, set up fast, and maintained a constant presence up and down the line of waiting cars, and then were gone, on to the next mission. “Fighting these clowns might be harder than we think,” Dave mused. While the soldiers had taken in the roadblock, Dave had paid special attention to the crew and the far end of the valley. As they had come out of the tree line, Dave didn’t know whether they had walked in from the next valley over or had been laying up, watching the road. Dave had seen no other troops in the wooded areas, and hoped that some type of patrol unit wasn’t keeping the valley under constant observation. He remained vigilant for any sign of enemy activity

As afternoon turned into evening clouds swept in from the south west. Dave grunted to himself. ‘At least it will be warmer tonight, if it doesn’t rain’ he noted. Dave reapplied his camouflage face paint in the fading light, and then started taking down his hooch.


The last thing Dave took down, just before he left, was the space blanket. It was now pitch black. Where before a cloudy night had provided ambient light by reflected back to earth the illumination of millions of electric lights, the cloud cover now merely prevented starlight from reaching the ground. Dave took comfort in the dark. Although he didn't have any night vision with him, even the most advanced light amplification tubes would be barely functional in such dark without using artificial light, usually in integral infra red illuminator. That would severely restrict their operating range, and provide Dave with an edge. Securing his pack, Dave crawled away from his hide. When he was what he judged a safe distance away from the edge, he stood and began patrolling east, towards the little valley. He veered away from the highway, and went deeper into the woods. The darkness coupled with the vegetation prevented him from walking too quickly. Dave found himself wishing he had some kind of eye protection as stray branches found his face in the inky black. As he moved, a light rain started to fall. Dave silently cursed the cold water that made him shiver while at the same time thanking God for the increased security the rain provided a lone traveler.

After Dave decided that the rain wasn't going to stop, he called a halt, and quickly donned his thin Gore-Tex rain suit. Although he was already wet, he didn't want to chance hypothermia, and the insulation effect of the extra material would help him retain body heat. Once again on the move, he found that maybe he was too hot. 'Damned if you do…' he thought to himself, sidling around a large oak that sprang out of the dark, 'damned if you don't.' His course took him into thick scrub oak and bracken that hindered his movement. He slowly made his way around the growths, using his tritium compass to maintain a rough course east. After an hour of cautious movement, he came to a small watercourse that was running shallowly and rapidly with rainwater. Dave felt that the asphalt lined way was likely a drain from the parking lot he had crossed the night before. Bearing left, he followed it down into the valley, and shortly emerged at a wide creek, lined with rushes and cattails. Dave crouched at the edge, straining to hear any unnatural noises above the rain. He gave it a slow three minute count, then slowly stood up, his leg muscles already cramping from the cold, the exertion, and, Dave commented to himself wryly, old age. He turned and stepped away from the edge several paces. Dropping his pack, he removed the Cold Steel ODA from his belt and started cutting reeds. After a few minutes work, he resheathed the blade and began to weave the reeds through the cover of his pack. After ensuring, mostly by touch, that the pack was camo’ed correctly, he added some material to his boonie hat.

Carrying the pack to the waters edge, he slowly stretched. Then, with a resigned feeling of anticipation, stepped into the creek. As he had hoped, it wasn't very deep. Water tended not to run deep in the Fall in these parts, and during his listening halt he had determined that it was moving slowly, if at all. He backed up to the bank and pulled on his pack, leaving the waist belt open. If he fell into the water and needed to ditch the pack, he didn't want to have to struggle any more than needed. He moved cautiously along the creek, the bank on his immediate left. By his estimation he had between 500 to 600 yards to go to get to the Turnpike. He would walk for a time, then stop and listen. All he heard was the rain on the vegetation and water, until he was what he thought was 200 yards from the highway.

Coming from the other side of the creek he first heard what he thought was a wounded animal. He took off his hat and cupped one hand behind his ear to hear better. Replacing his hat, he crossed the creek, and listening again. This time it was clear. It was a child crying. Naturally this peaked Daves interest. Was it bait for a clever ambush? He then heard a second sound, a female voice. He couldn't make out the words, but it sounded as if she were trying to comfort the child. Dave considered his options. He ruled out ambush, just because it would be far easier for a patrol to watch the creek, the most natural line of travel in the area, unless of course, there was a trail he was unaware of over there. Dave thought it out. The area definitely saw humans in better times. Various detrious was apparent in the woods-paper fast food wrappers, beverage cans and bottles, an old shopping cart. Probably people fishing or kids coming out here on weekend nights. Dave slowly scanned a 360 around where he was standing. Seeing nothing, he moved North a few more feet and listened again. This time he heard another voice, deeper, a male. It was in a lively but hushed conversation with the female voice. Dave crept down stream. Coming to a cut out in the bank, he felt with his hand and found enough room to drop his pack silently. Feeling light as air without the pack, Dave again moved towards the sounds. Moving, stopping, listening, moving again. He came to a clear area, apparently there was a path on the other side, and it or a branch of it led to this fishing spot. Dave noted Styrofoam cups and some cans floating near shore. Dropping to the prone at the extreme edge of the opening, he again cupped his hand to his ear.

The female voice said "…gotten us into this. She's sick, tired, and hungry. We can't do this. We should go back."
"We can't," replied the male voice, "I'll get locked up and what will happen to you then?"
"At least we’ll be warm and dry", said the miserable woman.
Dave crept further up the trail.
"But I'll be in jail, you too, I bet. And the kids will go to foster homes. No way. We have to get away."
"But we don't even know where we're going," whined the woman. Dave estimated them to be about 20 feet away. He could now hear them clearly over the steady rain.
"We’ll find something. I can always find work," Dave heard the man say, his thick accent dropping almost all of the "R" from work. A thought registered with Dave-the mans a local.
"I've always taken care of you guys, and I always will. We'll find a way around the Turnpike, somehow."
The woman was in full blown 'I feel sorry for myself and I don't care' mode. "Every exit ramp is has cops on it. It's too far. It's raining, for gawds sake, and the kids are shivering under that blue thing. We're all gonna get pneumonia and die out here in the woods. I want to go home."
Dave was close enough now to hear their feet crunching leaves as they shuffled their feet.
"No, Rhonda, that's it. We ain't going back. We're gonna find a way to the other side of this thing if it kills me."
Dave stood up and stepped towards them. Startled, they both backpedaled, the woman moving protectively towards where Dave presumed the kids were under "the blue thing".
"If you want to cross the highway come with me."
Dave could see the man struggling with something on his shoulder. "Leave rifle there, mister. If I wanted you dead you'd be dead right now. Rhonda," he said, keeping his FAL on the man, "I can get you across safely. Trust me."
"Howdjoo know my name," she threw back at him.
"I've been listening to you for the last five minutes. The kids are under a blue thing, and he's going to find work wherever you're headed."
"Who are you?"
"I'm not a fed," McGrath answered, "I'm heading home to New Hampshire. Under the current situation, this is the only way I can do so."
The couple looked to where the other was standing, not seeing each other in the dark.
"Who are you?" asked the man.
"Like you. I'm trying to avoid being locked up. Like you, too, I'm not a criminal. Look, I left my pack upstream. I’m going to go get it and come back. Make up your minds by the time I return. I have a schedule.”
Dave turned on his heel and followed the path to the creek. He heard the couple having a hushed but vigorous conversation as he walked away.

When Dave returned, again approaching the couple cautiously in case they decided to bushwhack him. They were still talking when he returned.
“Well, what’s it going to be?” Dave asked directly.
Dave could hear the woman shuffle her feet over the light rain. “We don’t know what to do….”
Dave stepped closer to her, remembering a line from a movie. He stuck out his hand to her and said, “Come with me if you want to live.” Ironically, she took his hand and said, “How do I know I can trust you?”
Dave was silent for a moment. One more answer and he was gone. “If I wanted to kill you for food I could have already done so. If I wanted to rape you I’d have killed everybody else here first. You have 30 seconds.”
Just as he stopped, he heard a child sneeze.
Rhonda said, “Jennifer, quiet,” but Dave was already next to the blue tarp, dropping his pack. He pulled out his red lensed light and looked at four bedraggled children, ranging from what he guessed was three to twelve. “Hi,” he said, in his friendliest voice, “I’m Mr. McGrath. Do you guys want some hot soup and a dry bed?”
The littlest child, a tow headed girl with huge eyes, nodded meekly while holding a plush duck.
“I can get you across the road and then we can camp and have hot food. Would you like to come with me?”
The little girl looked up at Dave in the red light. “What kind of soup?”
Dave grinned, “I have chicken noodle soup, Ramen soup, and beef stew. Do you like any of those?”
The girl nodded, “I like Chicken noodle snoop.”
“Well, let’s get you packed.” Dave stood and turned his light on the parents. “Pack your stuff, you’re coming with me.” The man nodded, “OK.”
The former NCO looked at the man. About 5’9”, average build, no beer belly, long hair, wearing jeans, hiking boots, a flannel shirt under what likely was a blue rain jacket (it was hard to tell in the red light). He had an SKS on his shoulder by its sling. “Why are you guys running?” Dave asked.
Rhonda answered, “’Cause he sent a letter to our Congressman telling him he wasn’t giving up his stupid gun. ‘From my cold dead hands’ he signed it. My cousins husbands partner at the dart league is a cop, and Tony’s name was on a list of people the were going to arrest for not turning in their guns. He told him and my cousin called me. We packed and left right away, but we ran into roadblocks everywhere. We parked at the Shop and Save and we been walking evah since.”
Dave considered this a moment. “Tony, do you know how to use that rifle?”
“Yeah man, I was in the Navy.”
“What’d you do,” asked Dave, cocking his head in the dark.
“Machinist Mate on the Theodore Roosevelt.”
“OK,” said Dave, “’The Big Stick, huh?”
He could hear the pride in Tony’s voice,” That’s right, the baddest ship to sail the Seven Seas.”
“Well, Lt. McHale, we have got to move, and like right now. The longer we stand here in the rain, the closer we get to losing the cover of darkness.”
“Right”, said Tony, resolve in his voice, “Rhonda, you get the kids, I’ll get our backpacks.”
Dave watched them, letting Tony borrow his red lensed light. Rhonda was struggling to get the kids ready. Dave walked over.
“Do the kids have raincoats?”
“No,” said Rhonda, anxiety in her voice,” we packed so fast I forgot them. I could kill him for this,” she stated, meaning Tony.
“Well, let me help you then.” Dave turned to get his pack.
“You have four kids parkas (she pronounced it ‘pahkahs’) in your pack?”
Dave gave an unseen nod, “The next best thing.”

Several minutes later they were moving out, Tony and Rhonda carrying surprisingly high quality internal frame packs of purple and blue. Cindy, the little one, was perched on Dave’s shoulders, resting between the pack, which rose higher than Daves head, and his neck. Dave was happy she didn’t need diapers. The other kids held onto either their mother or fathers hands, and had backpacks of their own-small day packs Dave was sure they used as school bags in less trying times. Clad in rain parkas made out of four of the trash bags Dave had in his pack, they looked like shapeless blobs with heads and legs. On the little girl giving Daves neck a temporary cramp the bag covered her feet, too, if she stood up. The family followed Dave to the creek.
“How are we crossing?” asked Rhonda, a little too loudly. Dave stepped over to her. Leaning to her ear, he whispered, “Rhonda, you need to be quiet.” A little louder, he addressed his wards, “From here on out you need to be silent. No talking. No sneezing,” he felt little hands pushing his hat over his eyes and heard a giggle, “and no fun until I say so. Got it?” He heard a tiny voice say, “Yes, Mr. McGwath.”
He turned to Rhonda and Tony. “Follow me, Rhonda first, Tony, you don’t shoot anything unless I fire first, got it?”
“Loud and clear,” whispered Tony.
“Let’s go,” Dave said with finality, and stepped into the creek. He heard voices hiss as the family followed him into the cold water. The rain had picked up, and was falling steadily in large, quick drops. He turned his head and whispered, “Hey, Cindy Lou Hoo, put my hat on.” Small hands pulled his boonie cap off and a tiny voice whispered in his ear, so close it tickled, “This is a big hat, Mister McGwath.”

They followed the stream without incident until, looming before them in the dark, was the embankment, the Interstate devoid of traffic 30 or more feet above them. They could sense it more than they could see it. As they got closer, the water got deeper and the stream spread out into a large pool. Dave walked to the side, where the land was marshy, and turned. “You guys stay here a minute. Cindy Lou, do you want to get down?”
He felt the girl move, but couldn’t tell if she was nodding yes or shaking no. “I can’t see you.” Smiled Dave. The little voice in his ear whispered, “No.”
“OK, hold on,” Dave moved towards the embankment, wading through the pool that had collected. He moved from the right edge of the pool to the left, and soon found what he was looking for. A large culvert ran under the road, big enough to let the stream through if it rained enough, and large enough for deer to cross through of the felt so inclined. He let his L1A1 hang on the assault sling and reached up and grabbed Jennifer under each arm. “I’m gonna take you down now,” and swung her off of his shoulders. He stood her in the culvert and turned his back. Sitting a little, he let the weight of the pack rest on the lip of the corrugated steel and took off the pack. Stretching his neck to each side, he heard it crack. Much better, he said to himself. Turning to Cindy, he said, “you’ll be safe here with your duck. I’ll be back in a minute with your Mom and Dad, OK?”
“What about my sisters and brother?” the little voice asked.
“I’ll bring them, too, Cindy.”

Dave waded straight out. The water never got to his waist, so he was sure the oldest two kids could make it. Finding the family, he took the next youngest, Carolyn, and put her on his now unburdened shoulders. Signaling with his hands to the others, they followed him into the middle of the giant puddle.
Reaching the culvert, he set Carolyn down next to his pack. Turning, he picked up Julia, and then the oldest child, Jake. He then climbed up into the steel cave himself. Moving his pack deeper into the tunnel, he told the children in a whisper to go up to it and wait. He then helped Rhonda and Tony up.
“How did you know this was here?” asked Rhonda.
“A hunch,” whispered Dave back to her,” let’s get the kids and get out of here.”
The parents reassured their kids that it was OK, and Dave reshouldered his pack in the tight confines of the steel tube. Leading the way, Dave set out well ahead of the family. He found a few areas where sticks and debris blocked the way, which he cleared as quietly as he could. The only sounds were his breathing and the footsteps of the six people behind him. Wishing they could deaden the echo more, Dave soon reached the end of the culvert. Another pool had formed here. He sat on the wet edge and lowered himself into the water. When his feet didn’t touch bottom, he quickly sat back up. Dropping his pack, he waited a few moments for Rhonda to catch up with him. “Wait here,” he whispered, and holding his rifle up high with one hand he again lowered himself. His feet touched bottom at about four feet. Pulling his pack after him, he laid it in the water as silently as he could. As he habitually kept everything in it in waterproof bags of one kind or another, he wasn’t concerned about the contents getting damaged. Pulling the pack behind him like a large green and mottled pool toy, Dave held the FAL in his right hand, keeping the muzzle pointing wherever his head was turned. Reaching the far shore, far in this case being a hundred feet or so, Dave noted that the water was about two feet deep. He placed his pack on the shore, beneath a large tree which overgrew the bank. He then returned to the family. “Tony, I want you to come with me. Peanut,” he said to the older girl, “I’m going to carry you to the shore.” She nodded her assent and when Dave turned she climbed onto his shoulders. “Hold on,” whispered Dave, the rifle in his hands. He felt her hands grasp him. “Not so tight,” said Dave as she squeezed his neck tightly. He felt the hands slacken. Tony sat on the edge and slid right in. His pack took to this badly, and immediately turned turtle on him, dunking him into the frigid and dirty water. Dave felt the small hands squeeze him as he took two steps and reached under, grabbing a handful of black hair. Struggling to maintain his balance, Dave pulled Tony to his feet, and immediately fell on his tail into four feet of water. He went full under, letting his rifle fall free, and felt the girl let go and kick away. Struggling to regain his footing, Dave the super soldier got to his feet, choking and sputtering. He turned and saw a smiling face floating just above the rain spattered surface. “Are you OK?” he and Carolyn asked each other simultaneously. They both grinned. Dave lifted the young girl out of the water and seated her on the edge of the culvert. Tony was stangling next to him, looking like a half drowned rat. His pack was floating next to his waist. “Let’s try that again,” suggested Dave, “Tony, carry our pack over our head.” Tony nodded, and picked the pack up. “Still got our rifle?” Tony grinned sheepishly, and walked over to the culvert. Putting his pack down next to his daughter, he said “No.” Quickly turning away, he walked out a few steps and dropped under the water. It took him several tries to find it. “We’ll clean it up after,” said Dave. “Gotcha,” answered the chagrined man. Tony stayed with Daves pack while Dave ferried the children over. Jake, the boy, was tall enough to make it on his own, and accompanied his mother on the final trip.

Once again burdened with their packs, the small group, with Dave in the lead and Tony again on slack, followed a much smaller stream through a low area of marshes. They moved as quickly and as silently as they could until they came to a spot where a spur of dry land jutted into the marsh like an island rising from the sea. Dave changed their course and they crossed the dry land and the shelter of the trees overhead. Following the contours of the valley, the traveled in silence for almost an hour until Dave felt a tug on his left ear. “Mister McGwath?” a sleepy voice said, “I’m cold and hungwy and tired. When can I have some soup?”
Dave stopped and took a knee, glad for the excuse. He looked at his watch, and pressed a button on the side. The illuminated face told him the time. “Sweetie, the sun will be up in two or three hours, and I need to find us a place where we can be safe from the bad men. It won’t be long, I promise.”
“OK,” she said. Dave felt her shiver, “but my duck is awful cold.”
Dave swung the little girl down as her family gathered around. Dave looked up, “You guys need to spread out. Rhonda, check on the kids. Tony, go back 20 feet and watch our trail.”
“OK, boss,” said Tony.

Dave lowered his pack thankfully, and rummaged around, pulling out his medium weight polypro top. He told Jennifer, “Help me put this on you,” as he pulled off her plastic bag. He put her in the shirt, which hung on her like drapery. “I can put my duck in here,” She said. Dave gave her a snicker and put the bag back on her. “Do you like the hat?” he asked. “Oh yes, it’s my favorite,” she said emphatically. Dave laughed more loudly. “Mine too,” he said. Checking with Rhonda, he found that all of the kids were cold, tired, and unhappy. He made sure they had warm shirts on, with Rhondas help, and had them drink water and go to the toilet. He pulled Rhonda aside. “We need to move until we find a good spot to stop for the day.” Rhonda yawned in reply. “I know it’s tough on the kids, but if we get found it will be tougher.”
“I understand,” she said,” we can do it. We hike all the time. The kids can make it.”
“OK,” Dave said, suddenly tired. He wished she hadn’t yawned. He was really feeling the extra 20 pounds of peanut he was carrying, “I’m sorry to have to push them so. I’ll try to stop more often.”
Rhonda nodded. She was surprising Dave,” I understand. You’re a good man, Mr. McGrath.”
“I’m just doing my job,” Dave said, surprised at his answer as soon as it left his mouth.
“You must be a guardian angel, then,” said Rhonda, standing up. She turned to mother hen her kids.
‘Just a man’ Dave thought. ‘A man who hopes he doesn’t get you all killed.’

The rain gradually tapered off, and with two more stops, Dave found an area he thought would be good. A tall stand of white pine surrounded by grape vines, the leaves still clinging tightly to the only homes they had ever known. McGrath placed a now sleeping girl on the ground as gently as he could, and lay his pack next to her protectively. The other dropped to the ground with soft groans and sights. Dave spoke to Tony.
“I’m going to check this stand out. Keep an eye on things. If anything happens, go back the way we came for a quarter mile and wait for me, alright?”
“Alright,” said Tony, “Look, I want to thank you for everything…”
“Later,” said Dave, trying not to be rude. “We can catch up after we’ve slept, OK?”
“Yeah, sure,” said Tony.
Dave placed a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “You’re a good man, Tony. I’m glad you’re covering my back.” Tony puffed out a little.
“Thanks. Want me to cover our trail?”
“That’d be great. Just don’t shoot me-I’ll be coming back the way I left.”
Dave stopped and let Rhonda know which way he was going and what to do if there was trouble. As he left he added, “Jennifer is sleeping next to my pack.”

Dave crept around the copse, and finding no easy way in finally crawled and wriggled his way in to the stand. Just as he expected, the center area was mostly devoid of brush. A little cathedral under weeping boughs that dripped cold water from their tips. He circled the area and again found no obvious path out. He sighed and pulled out his Spyderco knife. Slinging the FAL on his back, he cut a small circuitous path out of the thicket. This took him almost a half hour. Rejoining the group, he led them to the entrance. The children crawled right in, Rhonda following. Dave and Tony half dragged, half carried their packs into the glade, the three trips taking their toll on the men’s elbows, knees, and energy. Finally ensconced in their new home, Dave returned and did his best to both cover their back trail and camouflage the tunnel.

He returned to the thicket to find all of the children awake, looking at him.
“Can we have our soup now?” asked Carolyn.
“Sure you can. Take off those bags and sit on them. I’ll get the soup on.”
Dave removed the esbit stove and his canteen and cup. Digging a hole in the moist earth, he placed a full hexamine block in it. Laying on his side and curling around the hole, he quickly flicked his disposable lighter and after a moment ignited the block. He quickly pulled his firefly light out of his t-shirt where the little LED light hung on his dog tag chain, and removed two cans of condensed chicken noodle soup from his pack. These were cans recovered from the empty house what seemed like weeks ago, but was only days. Using the P-38 which hung from the same chain, Dave quickly emptied them into the cup, which was already on the flame. Hissing and sputtering, the soup quickly gave off an aroma that made Daves stomach grumble. He, too, was hungry. He filled the cup the rest of the way with water, noting that virtually no sign of the burning block was visible. Tony came over. “The kids all have cups and forks and spoons in their packs.”
“Good,” said Dave, “get them out.”
Soon, but not soon enough for the chilled, hungry kids, the soup was hot. The children ate hungrily, and soon were yawning over empty cups. Dave helped Rhonda and Tony string up their blue tarp. Dave spread his two ponchos over this to provide camouflage. They barely reached the ends of the shelter. Dave and Tony spread pine needles over the ponchos. Dave told him they would add more when it was light.

Rhonda spread out Daves pad and the self inflating pads from her and Tony’s packs. Spreading out the sleeping bags she and Tony had, she zipped them together to make one large bag. The children, stripped of their sodden shoes and clothes, were dressed in dry sweat suits. Dave was glad to see the kids things were packed in trash bags in their little book bags. Soon, all four kids were fast asleep. The adults gathered near the little pit Dave had dug. “I’ve got some Chicken stew in my pack,” said Rhonda, "since the kids ate all the soup, would you like to cook that?”
Dave and Tony quickly agreed. Soon the large can of stew was on another hexie block. They ate in silence, each drinking their own water, the couple from matching Nalgene bottles. Finishing up, Dave said “I’ll take first watch. You guys get some sleep.” Tony and Rhonda nodded and crawled under the tarp.

Dave gathered his things, buried and camoued the fire pit, and repacked as much of his pack as he could. Putting on his recovered polypro top, he put on his warm, dry heavy wool socks, relaced his boots, and leaned against a tree, watching over his wards like the guardian angel he would never admit to being.

Cold Camp Chapters 11-18