The small military base nestled in the mountains of central Maryland had sprung back to life. Fort Ritchie at one time housed training groups for the OSS, which was the World War Two forerunner of the current day CIA. However, due to budget cuts and consolidations, the small north-central Maryland base had closed and their operations moved to Langley, Virginia. Now it was re-opened as a regional intelligence unit and forward UAV base. Although the UAV’s or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were launched and serviced from this location, the pilots that flew the missions by remote control were sitting comfortably one thousand three hundred miles away in Eglin AFB, Florida.
“Room A-Ten-Hut!” The Lieutenant had barked the order in the meeting room. Twenty indolent soldiers sloppily rose and stood as their new commander entered. The impeccably uniformed officer marched into the room and with a practiced eye, looked over the unmotivated men in his charge.
“Good afternoon, my name is Colonel Mohammed Farzhi. Please be seated. I am your new Commander and I have been sent here to put an end to this unit’s miserable performance.” The Colonel paused to allow his words to be fully understood. “This unit has the worst capture and processing record of any in the region. As of today gentleman, that will change! I have reviewed your past action reports and I want to find out why we are not performing as expected.” The Colonel stopped speaking and looked each of the Staff Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers directly in the eye. “I would like to hear from you why this is.”
At first nobody moved or made any effort to respond. A senior NCO slowly raised his hand, was recognized and then stood at attention. “Sir, it might be best if you would tell us exactly what our mission is here. Please let me explain; when we first volunteered, our orders were to quell any rebel activity as World Police Units. Now it seems that we are nothing more than baby-sitters to these unmanned aircraft. What is our real mission here?” The Sergeant then sat down.
“Good question Sergeant. Our number one objective is to eliminate the enemy. We are the World Police Force and are given authority over everything in this country.” The Colonel paused as the group in front of him started to pay attention. “Lately you have spent a great deal of time and manpower making the Predators combat ready. Although they are piloted from Florida, we do maintain them and arm them from here. From now on; we will use them in our own operations and we will not be just a support service for other units. This is our primary mission.”
The soldiers nodded and murmured quietly amongst themselves in agreement with their commander.
The Colonel continued “However, our second objective is one of business.”
Before the Colonel could explain, the Sergeant said aloud. “Business?”
“Yes Sergeant…business. Do you think that we are here out of benevolence towards the United Nations? Where do you think that the money for your pay comes from?” Pausing again as his men were confused at his line of reasoning. The Colonel sensed this and moved closer towards the group, putting them at ease. “Listen men, the UN has no country, no sources of wealth except from what it receives from its members.” The Colonel took an empty chair and turned it around sitting at the same level as his men. “When we find terrorists, we are the ones who do the fighting…we are the ones who confiscates their money, homes and anything else of value, right?”
The twenty nodded in unison.
“We do their dirty work and then the money then goes into the coffers of the UN and in turn they pay you, understand?”
Again heads nodded
“Let me ask you something…how many soldiers have given their lives over here?”
Shoulders shrugged as one hand shot up. “Sir, in the past six months we have lost four men from our unit.”
“Four men…four good men, lost for what?” The Colonel paused again “Look, we all come from the same country. Most of us didn’t know each other before we volunteered for this, did we?”
The soldiers shook their heads no.
“Some of us have a background that goes far beyond this…some are Al Qaeda trained and some are Taliban trained…and some are just regular Pakistani army, right?”
Heads nodded in agreement
“However we have two things in common. First we are all Muslims, we follow and worship the one true God, Allah….and his Messenger and Prophet Mohammed. Praise be unto him. Secondly we are united in that the Great Satan, America….must be destroyed.”
The soldiers smiled and nodded their agreement.
“So, Allah has given over this country to us….and we will take from it as we need…starting today.” The Colonel paused again as the excitement and anticipation grew, he then went on. “What I am going to tell you stays among us. I don’t want the Iranians, the Arabs or the Europeans to know what we are doing…is that understood? In due time they will do the very same things, however...we will have a head start.”
The room buzzed with excitement
”From now on, any money we confiscate will come to me, I will then take a portion of it and divide it amongst all of us…what is left will go to the UN. Properties will be also divided amongst us and we will then start bringing our families over here to live.”
Multiple hands raised as the men now had a newfound drive and desire. “Sir, what about the people?”
“You know what to do with the Jews…as far as the infidels are concerned, you may take them and use them anyway as you see fit.” The unspoken order and blessing was given for more murder, rape, robbery and now slavery.
Americanized greetings were now exchanged with high fives and subdued cheers.
Another question broke their jovial mood “Sir, we were promised that we would have control over the technical assets that the remaining infidels operate. We still don’t have the training we need on the M1 Tanks and the Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The Americans are very hesitant in this area and I don’t trust them having any control over their armor here.” Agreements were mumbled and heads nodded.
“As I said before there are going to be changes made. Here is what I want implemented immediately. First of all; the few Americans that are in control the technical aspects of this base, the M1 Abrams and Bradley Fighting vehicles, and the Predator and Encompass computer systems housed in the bunkers beneath us, will immediately start training you on their equipment. After your training is complete, they will then be transferred to ‘other bases’.”
Smiles came to the faces of the Pakistani soldiers as they knew what ‘other bases’ meant.
“Next, on a tactical level, the patrol size will increase from the six man teams to ten man teams.”
Again heads nodded in agreement
“We will integrate each patrol which will now include the sniper/spotter team, close in sub-machine gun teams and automatic weapons teams. These patrols will be data linked to the Predators that will be armed with Hellfire missiles. Although we don’t have the newest model Predator which is armed with six of these missiles, they still carry two Hellfire’s and we will use them.” Now the room was audibly excited. “The new patrols will start tomorrow morning.”
Sgt Salim Kahlil jumped up and throwing a text book British styled salute exclaimed; “Colonel you have our full support!”
Colonel Farzhi smiled as he now had twenty motivated and dedicated men to do his bidding. “I now need some one to show me how this Encompass computer system works.”
Twenty hands instantly shot up.
The evening’s meal would not have made the cover of Good Housekeeping magazine; as it would be next to impossible to show in photographs the incredible flavors from such a simple meal. Macs organic garden produced the sage, garlic, canned corn and winter squash; while Molly’s culinary skill blended them together with Charlie’s turkey to create one of the finest meals Gary had eaten. Finishing up the feast left him not only satiated but hopeful that at some point in the future he would have another meal of this caliber. Everyone helped washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, after this, the family with their new found friend, relaxed in the living room.
The living room was filled with antiques; the walls were lined with shelves which were neatly arraigned with books and magazines of all genre. This was a very cozy and enriching place to spend a cold winters evening. Mac had expertly placed a couple pieces of seasoned wood into the glass door wood stove, while Molly sat in an antique wing backed chair and started working with her needle point. April was at the end of the leather sofa, opposite of Gary; she was busy taking in the waist and seat of Gary’s pants, while Charlie sat next to Gary. To Charlie, Gary represented a mix of Secret Agent Man, GI Joe and Indiana Jones rolled into one. This family represented to Gary the only sane and peaceful group he had the pleasure of meeting in over three years.
Mac had put some classical music on while King rolled over and stretched out on his side in front of the radiating fire. Gary stretched out his legs and sat on the floor between the antique oak coffee table and the rich brown and aged leather sofa. He smiled at the relaxed German Shepard, and slid over to him. King looked up from his heat induced dog trance, rolled over on his back and offered his belly up to be scratched, which Gary obliged.
“Gary would you like an after dinner smoke or a drink?” Mac said as he produced a small engraved wood box. Opening it revealed a small amount of marijuana and a few rolled joints.
“Thanks Mac, I haven’t smoked that stuff in years. I’ll pass on that but will take you up on the drink.” Gary had given up drinking well before the troubles began, however tonight seemed like just the occasion to have a shot…or two.
Mac poured Gary three fingers of bourbon in a crystal glass. Gary took a sip and coughed from the alcohol burning his throat. “Whew! That’s something I haven’t felt in a while!” Everyone laughed.
Molly, who was wearing drug store bought half eyed reading glasses, looked over the rim at Mac and spoke silently with a glance.
“Ok, I know, I’ll smoke this outside.” Mac said as he got up and walked out on the front porch.
Gary smiled as Mac headed outside. Looking over at the mother and daughter, it was clear the genetic link between the two women, with both Molly and April having very similar facial features and skin tones. Gary tried not to stare at April as she pushed a large needle through the tough material of his pants. Gary’s mind wandered as he mused over the home grown woman doing his sewing. April sat, like her Mom with bare feet cross-legged, focusing on the placement of the needle and thread, her auburn shoulder length hair pulled back with some sort of red elastic band tying it into a ponytail.
April sensed Gary looking at her, and coyly smiled “What are you looking at?”
Gary felt a flush on his cheeks from the slight embarrassment, lowered his eyes and said. “Nothing, just watching you sew.” For the first time in many years, Gary saw beauty. War and the horrors of it, can decay ones mind…eroding and corrupting the things of beauty.
April smiled and went back to work, her insides tingling at the thought of somebody taking notice of her; it felt good for a change. April broke the uneasy silence between the two without looking up from her sewing. “I know why you’re here Gary…It’s because of the computers, isn’t it?” She looked up at Gary who was genuinely puzzled.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
The outside door closed with a thump and Mac walked back inside and sat in his chair, next to the stove, catching the last part of the conversation.
“Here we go again. April, how many times have I told you to stop listening to those religious nuts on the short-wave radio?” Mac said dismissing her comment out of hand.
“Dad it’s true. The computers that control everything we do…” April pointed to the area behind her neck where the Encompass chip was imbedded “…are supposedly in a bunker in the old Army base right up the road.” April responded brusquely. “Besides Dad, you are the first one to say that there is some sort of conspiracy or government deception.” April said, tossing back years of her Dad’s theories to him.
Gary interjected “April, I’m not here for any computers. Right now, I’m just trying to survive…nothing more and nothing less. However, given the opportunity for any payback for what they’ve done to my family…” Gary paused for a moment turning off the heat to his anger, and then diverted the subject. “So you have a short-wave radio? What are these people saying?”
“They say that the World Police are murdering a lot of people; especially targeting Jews and Christians. They also say that anyone who opposes or doesn’t submit to them simply disappears. They suspect that there are mass graves and that someday, someone will bring them to light. The people on the radio are also saying that it’s the end of our country and the world as we once knew it.” April stopped her sewing and looked at Gary “I don’t know about that, but it is pretty scary stuff. They interviewed some people that had dreams that the United States is doomed.”
April was very serious and Gary took notice of her demeanor which had changed from attractively confident to a palpable fear. Her comments were chilling in light of what he had seen take place over the past few years. Gary had not said or alluded to anything about the bodies he had found, Encompass chips he had with him, or about his own nightly dreams…or even the voice that occasionally directed him. This information he decided to keep to himself as he nodded and sipped the whisky.
In the basement of a non-descript gray concrete block building twenty air miles away from the farm, two men sat behind a glowing computer screen in a darkened room. “Colonel, this is the Encompass System, so let me show you how this works.” Captain Ali Haki looked at the three rice grain sized chips in the palm of his hand. Taking a hand-held scanner, which was similar in looks to the type used for scanning bar codes at any grocery store, he individually scanned each one. Each produced a text message that read the persons name and ID number.
“Captain, first tell me how you came in possession of these chips.” Colonel Farzhi said
“Yes sir. We had received a call from an informant in the town of Simmonsville. This informant is a pharmacist who had an individual try to purchase medications outside of their assigned location, which in this case was Philadelphia. If you weren’t aware sir, no medication can be purchased outside of your assigned area. We then linked to the pharmacies camera security system and ran a facial match analysis on the individual and saw that they were interned Jews from Philadelphia. It seems that the Jews also tried to make their illegal purchase using gold. At that point we classified them as terrorists and changed their status to Code 1. The chips then began broadcasting a signal which we tracked. We caught up with this group outside of town and terminated them.”
Behind the computer terminal Sgt. Salim Kahlil viewed the screens as they popped up. Colonel Farzhi stood to the side observing. “Sergeant, tell me what I’m seeing here.” The Colonel, who had just arrived in the States a few weeks ago, was not well versed with this advanced system.
“Certainly Colonel. The first chip scanned is that of Samuel Greenberg. See the red bar at the top of the screen. This means he has been identified and coded as a terrorist. The Code 1 designation next to his name means that he is either a Jew or ‘other High Priority’ suspect. Code 1 also means that we can legally take whatever action necessary against them and that they are listed as Top Priority. Code 2 is for confirmed terrorist militants.”
“I see, so what can we learn about this Greenberg?”
Captain Haki spoke “Well sir, if you look at his profile you will see the name of his wife and children. Just by clicking on their names we can also access their personal data. We can go to the business screen and see what transactions he has made through his electronic credits. Now, on this next screen we can track his movements. You see; when we give a person a Code 1 or Code 2, their Encompass chip activates and sends out a signal to the Global Positioning Satellites every twenty minutes. It’s like leaving a trail of bread crumbs in the forest, so to speak. We can only go back a few days to see exactly where they have been, the system isn’t capable of storing the history of everyone’s movements for more than seventy two hours.”
The Colonel made an observation and questioned “I see that there are four members of this group, and yet you only have three chips…where is the fourth?”
The Captain couldn’t answer with absolute certainty “Sir, maybe one of the chips was destroyed or was lost, I don’t know.”
Colonel Haki nodded and accepted the Captains explanation “So, tell me, how can this group of dogs just go wandering about when we are tracking them?” The Colonel wanted answers on how this system was being circumvented.
Sergeant Kahlil continued “As the Captain said sir; this group was not in their assigned areas, so it would seem that they were being helped, even though everyone knows that the penalty for helping Code 1’s and 2’s is severe. The tracking portion of the individual’s chip must be manually turned on by us, so when it is; the system itself will automatically track them until we manually turn it off.” Turning it off usually meant the elimination and physical removal of the Encompass chip from the unfortunate soul’s neck.
“Captain Haki, I see that this Greenberg has in his electronic bank account a little over three hundred thousand dollars. I want you to take half of their money and transfer it to our unit’s payroll. The other half you will then transfer to the UN bank. This will be standard procedure for every terrorist we eliminate from here on out.”
The Captain smiled at the Colonel and with a few clicks of the mouse Sgt Kahlil emptied the Greenberg’s bank account.
“Now, what do you do with the person after we terminate them? I am assuming that the impotent US government still doesn’t know that we are eliminating so many of their so-called citizens.”
“Yes Sir, after terminating any terrorist; we take and dispose of their bodies in various locations. We also transfer their ID code to the “relocation and education camps” in other parts of the country. The Greenberg group will be transferred to Camp 12 in western Pennsylvania, the computer will show that they are all being fed and cared for. If anyone asks it will also show that they are awaiting deportation to Israel.” The Captain proudly showed the creative bookwork to the Colonel.
Camp 12 in western Pennsylvania was one of many camps scattered throughout the United States that electronically showed prisoner populations in the thousands, but in reality only had a few human inhabitants.
“Very good Captain, now let’s find out where this Jew has been and maybe this will tell us who helped them. I want to send a strong message to anyone in this sector who helps terrorists.” The Colonel, like a shark, scented blood in the water.
With a few clicks of the mouse, a screen with red dots appeared, much like a connect-a-dot puzzle. “Sir, it looks like this group had traveled from north to south using back roads. It is here…” Captain Haki pointed to the computer monitor “…where they seem to have spent at least eight to ten hours.”
“Ok, so where is ‘here’”
“I can overlay the tracking screen with local land records and this should tell us where they stopped.” The Captain took a moment and brought up the real estate records for their sector “It looks to be property that is owned by a Mac Finney.”
The Colonel looked at the land maps on the monitor and planned his strategy for dealing with the farmer who gave Jews or possibly militia terrorist’s unlawful help. “Here is what I want to do. Do you see this line of mountains? I want you to have a ten man patrol enter the woods here” The Colonel pointed to a location about one mile north and out of sight of the farm. “The patrol will travel south along the base of this mountain until they are here.” Pointing to the area directly across from the farm “This is where we will coordinate our attack from.”
The Captain wrote the Colonels orders down to transfer them to a paper topographic map.
“Now, what weapons do our troops use, and how do you plan on positioning them Captain?”
“Sir, we will have five assault troops who will use MP-5 submachine guns and have a full load of fragmentation grenades, CS gas grenades and incendiary grenades. The two machine gunners have the SAW M-249 light machine guns with one person carrying extra ammo. Our sniper/spotter team uses the Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle. I will be the spotter and will carry the radio and a MP-5. Now as far as positioning the assault, I think that the sniper/spotter team should be directly in front of the farm at the edge of the tree line. The assault team will be about fifty yards to the left and slightly in front of the Barrett, while the SAW teams will be fifty yards to the right and also slightly in front of the Barrett. The sniper/spotter team will remain stationary throughout the assault while the machine gunners will provide heavy covering fire on the right flank for the assault team.”
“Excellent Captain. I will have a Predator tasked for this mission. Let’s time this for seven A.M. The Predator attack will be the signal for the ground attack to begin. The Colonel paused and then as an after thought said. “Captain, I want the other ten team members to observe the operation.”
“Yes sir” Captain Haki acknowledged the orders.
The Colonel turned to leave; as he did he turned and said over his shoulder “Let’s show this Mr. Finney that helping terrorists is a very bad and unhealthy business.”
With a snap of a thread April proudly pronounced that the alteration on Gary’s pants was complete. “Gary, try these…..” April looked over at Gary who had moved up on the sofa, was sound asleep. Charlie had curled up next to his new hero and too was sound asleep. “Mom, would you look at these two.” April said shaking her head and smiling. April looked over at her father and he too was asleep.
“I guess the turkey must have done them in. Let’s get Dad and Charlie into bed, and if you would cover Gary with a blanket, ok? You know how early your father gets up every morning.” Molly set down her needle point project in the wicker basket at her feet. “I’m going to try to get up and fix them both breakfast.” Molly looked at Gary and spoke to April. “I don’t know if I could have gone through what he has.” Molly said, her voice full of compassion. “I hope that we never have to go through that.”
“Mom, do you think that Gary was involved in those killings of the police and military families that the news talked about? I mean, he doesn’t seem like he could do such a cold blooded thing like that, does he?”
“April, I don’t think that Gary is a cold blooded killer, as the media has made the militia out to be. I honestly believe that we’re not being told the whole story. Maybe we’ll never know what actually went on with those awful events.” Molly reached out and touched her daughters arm as only a Mother could do “You know, we’ve met quite a few people in the past three years and it seems that everyone is deathly afraid and running scared of this government and the World Police. Gary’s not like that, he’s the first one I’ve met that’s not afraid of them.”
April nodded at her Mothers assessment of Gary “Mom, do you remember Mrs. Miller, my High School History teacher? Her husband, Jack is in the Navy. Gary reminds me of him. Mr. Miller isn’t afraid of anything.”
The subject had shifted to something less ominous. “Whatever happened to Mrs. Miller? I really liked that woman, she was a good teacher.”
“Mr. Miller was transferred to Georgia, a place called Kings Bay. I think he is in submarines or something. Anyway they moved last year. Mrs. Miller was telling me about Kings Bay, it sounds really nice. They have beautiful beaches and warm weather, along with a real history of pirates and battles and stuff like that.” April paused as she thought of one of her most favorite people. “I really enjoyed her classes and I sure would like to see her again.”
Flying over a suburban neighborhood Gary looked down and saw six black clad commandos perform a dynamic entry on a two story brick home. One man using a steel pipe, smashed in the door and the five others stacked behind him, charged into the house. Screams were heard and the men exited carrying the kicking and screaming woman and two children with them. A black government Suburban with darkened windows pulled up and the woman and children were forced into the vehicle which quickly and without sirens sped away, never to be heard from again.
The scene quickly changed as Gary zoomed to another part of the country and found himself in an huge underground facility. This expansive area was filled with people busily working at computer stations and scurrying about carrying printed documents, similar to any large corporate office. Separate from the main area, a glass enclosed executive suite commanded a view of the entire work operation. Inside the secure room, a meeting was being held.
“Madame President it seems that the tactic you’ve decided on, the kidnapping and holding for ransom the suspected terrorist’s families has backfired on you. The terrorists are now attacking the police and military families with a brutality never before seen in your country. The morale and desertion rate of your forces is at a critical level and it won’t be long before you have no forces loyal to your cause.” General Santana knew he was one step closer to his goal.
“General Santana, I don’t see how we can disarm the terrorists without some blood shed. We knew that starting out; however I didn’t think that they would attack our soldier’s families. That’s just plain wrong and we are going to step up our campaign against these murderers.” The President didn’t see that by her authorizing the initial attacks on the militia’s families that they would respond in kind. She still didn’t see the country dissolving day by day, as her inflated ego held out hope that her vision of this country was still obtainable.
“President Chase, I have an idea that might work. The terrorists know that your soldier’s families are very important, right? It is your armed forces Achilles heel. So let’s take that out of the equation. Why don’t we trade military forces? Let’s take the best of the World’s Police, bring them here and take the US forces that have families and swap them. Your forces will become World Police forces and will go help in other parts of the world, while you retain control of your country and can finally see it grow. Our World Police force will enforce the law and do so without repercussions on families.”
President Chase thought about this proposal and as long as she had control of the country, it seemed logical and workable. “General, I like the idea. Let’s do it. I’ll issue the orders immediately. General, I would like to you oversee this change.”
General Santana and his aide left the meeting with President Chase at the Mt Weather, Virginia underground complex. The President, her advisors and government officials had gone underground for their protection and were conducting what they thought was business as usual; 200 feet under the ground in a solid granite bomb shelter.
General Santana, sitting comfortably in his personal executive helicopter transport, turned and spoke to his Nigerian assistant, Kendai Obama. “Here is what I want Obama. First make a call to the countries that we have a working relationship with for volunteers. I want only highly trained and motivated military or police personnel sent here. Next, you are to have all of the experienced and skilled US soldiers shipped out. They are to be shipped everywhere and spread out so thin that they will never be a problem to us. I only want the dregs of the US military left behind.” The General paused so that Obama could jot down his commanders notes. “The men and women left behind will also need to be skilled on their complex systems. We will institute a training program where they will train us on their technology.” Pausing again and smiling to his aide “Eventually, we will have control of their nuclear submarines and missile silos…but first we need to control and eliminate any civilian resistance.”
Obama smiled at the Secretary Generals success.” Yes sir, I’ll get started on it right away.”
Gary again found himself soaring through the air. Sitting on the deck in his back yard as he had done hundreds of times, he saw his tall green tomato plants caged in their raised beds; the large green fruits were just staring to ripen. Hickory smoke was drifting up from the barbeque grill and he could smell the perfectly seasoned baby back ribs that were slow cooking. Sipping a tall glass of ice water and enjoying a cigar while listening to jazz on the satellite radio broadcast, Gary was at complete peace. Louie, the Golden Retriever was laying on his side, taking a nap in recently scooped out cool brown dirt. Ruthie, his four year old daughter walked up to him and climbed up on his lap.
“Daddy, see my piscada?” Ruthie held out a large red eyed bug
“Honey, it’s called a Cicada, not a piscada. He looks like a nice bug.” Gary stopped and looked at his daughter “I thought you were afraid of bugs.”
“I’m not afraid of him and I like him a lot.” Ruthie looked at the creature in her hand. “Can I keep him as a pet?”
“Fine with me, just don’t hurt him, ok?”
Ruthie promised that she wouldn’t then turned and looked up to her father “Daddy, Mommy and I are alright. We miss you a lot.”
“I miss you two a lot, Ruthie. You know I love you and Mommy.”
“Yes Daddy, I know. Oh Daddy, guess what? I’m learning to dance!” Ruthie was very excited about this. “Mr. Weiss is teaching me. He dances great and I like him a lot.”
“Yes Daddy, Herschel Weiss. He really like to dance and sing songs to me, he is my friend.” Ruthie paused and took her Daddy’s face in her small hands, turning it forcefully towards hers. “Daddy, today’s going to be very busy for you…it is going to be a hard day, so it’s time to get up…get up Daddy and get moving.” Ruthie reached over to give Gary a kiss on the lips.
Gary sat straight up and his lips and face were wet. King sat beside him wagging his tail, he had licked his face. “King,” Gary sighed as he was awake “I thought you were my daughter.” Gary looked at his watch and saw that it was early morning, 4:15am to be precise. Gary swung his legs off the sofa and put his head in his hands thinking about the dream and his daughters warning. Speaking softly to himself. “Ok, let’s think this through for a minute. These dreams started when I holed up in the cave…they have always been in the past…so why am I being warned?” Gary’s thoughts ceased when he heard someone stirring in the kitchen. The sound of water running combined with the audible metallic clank of some sort of pot. Soon thereafter, the aroma of fresh coffee cooking wafted out to the living room. Gary got up, checked to make sure he was dressed, and followed his nose to the origin of the delicious smell.
“Good morning Mac, that coffee sure smells good.”
Mac sat at the kitchen table, dressed in his faded work jeans and well worn sweat shirt. “Morning Gary, it’ll be ready in a few minutes. You’re up early.”
“Yeah, King thought I was fair game for a face licking.” Gary laughed and bent down to scratch the Shepherd’s ears, not mentioning the dream or his daughters warning. “I’m an early riser anyway.”
Mac went the back door and let out the antsy King.
The first cup of coffee in the morning is always the best. Gary savored the steaming full bodied strong brew and then went into the den to change into his now cleaned and altered camouflage clothes. Somebody had thoughtfully placed the basket which contained his grenades, knives and other stuff that filled his pockets next to the sofa. Gary took his time, dressing and arming himself. Every morning he ritually checked the magazines and chambers of both the .45 and the silenced Ruger pistol. It would not be a good thing to need to use one of these pistols and have the chamber empty or the magazine half full. Lastly he slid the bolt back, ejected the chambered round of the Garand. The Garand didn’t use a magazine like a regular battle rifle. The clip, which held eight rounds, needed to be removed from the rifle in order to refill it, which Gary did daily. Finally, Gary loaded up his jacket and pants leg cargo pockets, emptying out the once filled basket.
Mac came into the living room “Are you leaving?”
“Yeah, I’ve got some things that I have to take care of today.” Gary didn’t know what the day was to bring, but Ruthie made it sound as if he needed to head out as soon as possible. If trouble was coming his way as Ruthie had clearly warned, then the last place he wanted to be was near his friend’s home.
“Gary, you’ve got to have some breakfast before you head out. Molly just got up and it will be ready on just a bit. I know that Charlie and April will be disappointed if you are gone before they get up.” Mac didn’t beg or plead; he just made the thought of hanging around for a while longer sound so very inviting. “Hey I’ve got something to show you, come out to the barn with me.”
As the men walked outside the house and headed back to the barn, a cold humid blast greeted them “It smells like snow today. Isn’t it funny how you can smell a snow coming? These late winter/early spring snows can be pretty nasty.” Mac’s mental weather station was usually right. Entering the barn Mac led Gary over to the far side where his workshop was and turned on the overhead florescent lights. Mac moved some scrap lumber and pulled out the rifle that Charlie had used to take the turkey.
“That’s a nice rifle Mac. I’d say it looks to be about 70 to 80 years old” Gary took the brown patina covered rifle and read the model. “’Winchester Model 60, single shot .22, shorts, long and long rifle’. Well, this certainly will feed your family in the right hands.” Opening the bolt and removing it Gary looked inside the barrel. “You really need to clean this. If you have some brake cleaning fluid, that’ll work pretty well, then just run some cotton patches through it, and lightly oil it. You need to be careful that you don’t use a hard steel rod when you do this as it will damage the rifling.” Gary handed the rifle back to Mac and looked him directly in the eye. “Mac, you’ve got a real nice family. I just want to say that I really do appreciate all of the kindness you’ve shown me.” Gary reached out his hand to shake Macs, when Mac took his hand Gary pulled him close and gave him a brotherly bear hug.
Mac was not ashamed or embarrassed by Gary’s show of affection. “You’re welcome, bro. Do you see anything here that you might need?”
Gary looked around saw boxes with all kinds of dusty clutter. Mac was a collector of junk and Gary loved junk. Spying a few rolls of duct tape. “I could use a roll of that duct tape. I see that you also have some army surplus trip wire, I could use a couple of rolls of that too.”
“Help yourself man, help yourself.”
Gary took what he needed and remembered the dream conversation with his daughter. What stuck out in his mind was that Ruthie couldn’t pronounce the name of a bug, yet she pronounced a complex personal name very well. “Mac, does the name Herschel Weiss mean anything to you?”
Mac turned and looked at Gary as if he had three heads. “What did you say?”
“I said, does the name…”
“I heard you. Where did you hear that name?” Mac was definitely flustered
“I’ll tell you where I heard it if you’ll tell me what it means.”
Mac thought for a few moments and was visibly upset. Taking a deep breath “Herschel Weiss was my Grandfather. He’s been dead for over 20 years now.”
“Go on” Gary still was confused, however the confusion wasn’t brought on by him knowing the name of Macs Grandfather, but why was it important. Gary had given up on thinking about the other world-ness or supernatural knowledge that he was somehow privileged to be given glimpses of. The real brain teaser came with the question of ‘why him?’
“My Grandfather was the kindest and nicest man you would ever meet. There wasn’t a mean molecule in his body. Anyway, he was in Germany during WW2 and spent years in a labor camp. My Grandmother and Grandfather were taken to different camps, one to a labor camp and one to a death camp. My Grandfather never saw her again. Grand-papa Weiss never said anything about his time in those camps, until I was sixteen.” Mac paused for a moment to gather his thoughts “I remember he took me for a walk and we sat down under this tree and he showed me his tattooed number and told me about the Nazi’s and the camps. That was the only time he ever talked about it.” Mac again paused and wiping a tear from his eye “Gary I’ve got to tell you something. I’ve never told anyone, not even Molly. My name is Weiss…not Finney”
Gary didn’t say a word he just listened for the explanation.
“In 1974 I joined the Peace Corp and went to Zaire to help with a water purification project. When I was there, my best friend got Yellow Fever and died. His name was Mac Finney, mine was Joel Weiss. We buried Mac in Zaire and I came back after my service was over. When I went through Customs I inadvertently handed them Macs passport and since Mac and I looked a lot alike, they waved me through. I didn’t have any family left here as my folks had moved to Israel and were killed in a bombing attack. Mac had no family to speak of either, his mother and father had split up and moved on with their drunken pathetic lives.” Mac again paused and looked at Gary “I didn’t want to have my name be a noose around my neck like my Grandfather did. Grand-papa Weiss told me that there was no shame in surviving.”
“Damn man, that’s some heavy shit you’ve been carrying around.” Neither man spoke for a few moments. “I can’t say what you did was wrong, because you are alive…unlike those guys that are across the ridge over there” Gary pointed to the ridge where he found the mass grave. “It seems that admitting you are Jewish, is a death sentence like Nazi Germany.”
“What do you mean ‘those guys across the ridge’?” Mac asked
Gary explained to Mac what he had found not only across the ridge, but the other mass graves as well. Mac was at a loss for words and seemed genuinely scared. “We just saw that family a few days ago. They stopped here for some food and Molly washed some of the baby’s clothes. They stayed for the day, then left and headed in towards Simmonsville. I wonder how they got caught.”
“Maybe someone turned them in. I understand there are rewards for turning in illegals. The rewards would have to be good, because these traitors also have a way of disappearing, if you know what I mean.”
“So, now it’s your turn, how do you know my Grandfathers name?”
“I guess we both have secrets. My daughter told me.”
“Your daughter?...your daughter that was killed?” Mac seemed somewhat skeptical about this piece of news.
“Yeah. Ok, remember last night when April said she heard on the short wave radio that some people are having weird dreams? Well, I’m one of those people. I don’t know why, or how, but I just do. Mac, I have seen everything and everyone that’s caused our country to be where it is today. For some reason I am…” Gary made the bunny ears motion and said somewhat sarcastically “blessed…to know this. I’ve asked myself a million times, why me? All I get is more dreams…so; I’ve accepted it and go on.” Gary paused for a moment. “Ruthie said that Herschel is a good dancer. Mac, she didn’t say ‘was’ she said ‘is’...present tense, she also said that he is her friend, again present tense.”
Mac was at a loss with the realities of the afterlife; to him it was just religious mumbo-jumbo. He recalled “My Grandfather told me that he loved to take my Grandmother dancing. It was their escape from the reality of their world at that time.”
Both men stood still and were quiet, the conversation was over. Mac was crushed and spoke first “I’m going to tell my family today. I don’t know how they’ll react, but today I have to come out of the closet with this.” Mac smiled at Gary “Let’s eat, this touchy feely stuff is making me hungry!”
Stepping out of the barn and taking the short walk back to the house; Mac saw that the goat pen’s door was open. “Crap, the goats have gotten out again. These guys are sneakier than thieves. We’ve seen more coyotes around here recently; I hope the pygmy goats are alright.”
The entire family ate a hearty breakfast of fresh eggs and pancakes. Goodbyes were said and Gary slung on his backpack and the Garand and walked out of the house. Walking out to the front yard, Gary made a cautious and thorough look both ways, not for approaching cars, but for any indication of danger.
Two miles to the north, two Humvee’s had unloaded the ten man assault team which promptly entered the woods making their way to the base of the ridge. Once there, they headed south towards the Finney’s farm.
The airstrip at Fort Ritchie was buzzing with activity as camouflage clad aircrews were busily preparing for the day’s mission. Opening the small hangar doors the crew pushed the lightweight Predator out into the open. Refueling and arming the craft was the first order of business, followed by connecting the power cable from the portable power generator to the ungainly looking craft. The MQ-1 Predator is identical to the RQ-1 Predator with the exception that the designation MQ meant that this craft was armed and could be used as a combat support aircraft, in addition to its original duties as a reconnaissance aircraft.
The overall number of personnel that were part of the overall mission for a Predator was eighty five. Sgt Saddiqi was the Ground Control NCO in charge of today’s mission. Speaking to one of his crew “Airman, let’s power up and contact Flight Control.”
Airman First Class Mohammed Ravi was excited as this was his first mission without the American’s help. The American’s had recently finished training their UN Iraqi and Pakistani replacements and were being transferred to another part of the country to train other Ground and Support crews on the Predators. The replacements had also assumed the American’s corresponding rank as part of the assimilation. “Yes, Sergeant.” Airman Ravi plugged in the power connection from the gas operated generator and once that connection was made, turned on the main power switch of the ungainly bird. Successfully completing his task, he gave the thumbs up to the Sergeant.
“Flight Control, this is Predator Ground control, Fort Ritchie. Power is on and we are awaiting your pre-flight check.” Sgt Saddiqi spoke into his microphone which transmitted to a satellite uplink and to Flight Control 1,300 miles away.
The only indication of what was taking place inside the Flight Control building at Eglin Air Force Base was the unit insignia on the front door. The insignia was of a cartoon snarling Coyote surrounded by lightning bolts and read “12th Reconnaissance Squadron, No Place To Hide” Inside of the building sat twenty four Flight Control Operators, or pilots, which controlled the two dozen US operational Predators. “Ground Control Fort Ritchie, this is Flight Control Eglin, transmission is good and I’ll begin the pre-flight checks now. Ground Control who is our Forward Observer on this mission?”
“Flight Control the FO is call sign ‘Navajo’” The UN occupying force in its entirety was fascinated with American history, especially the history of the Old West. The World Police force looked at the American Indian with reverence and awe, as they felt that the Native American Indians were the first of many group to be destroyed by the infidel Americans.
“Navajo, this is Flight Control Eglin, do you copy?”
The assault team was strung out at 5 meter intervals and making their way to the base of the ridge, once there the group would turn west to take their positions. Capt Haki was the only team member to have radio communications and received the signal on his satellite radio headset. Halting the team with hand signals he spoke to the Florida Flight Controller. “Flight Control this is Navajo. We are approximately one and a half miles from our target position, over.”
“Navajo, I am looking at the weather forecast for your location and see that a strong low pressure front moving in your direction. It says that later today you’ll have snow and approximately 15-30 mph winds out of the northeast. Navajo, this is outside of our operational envelope, so I can help until the weather degrades.”
Sergeant Saddiqi and Airman Ravi were listening to the conversation between the FO and Flight Control. “Sergeant, will there be a problem today?” Ravi asked
“Ravi, you know that our Predator is a medium altitude lightweight reconnaissance craft. This means that it isn’t able to operate in winds over 35 mph. The clouds will have to make us operate at lower altitudes than we would like. It could also interfere with the laser targeting system for the Hellfire and with the Forward Looking Infra-Red and optical surveillance systems. This might not give the assault team the ability to have real-time battlefield information as they would like.”
“Sergeant, will the missiles be able to engage the target through the clouds?” Ravi asked
“Yes and no. The laser from the craft paints the target and the missile sees the point where it is to impact. If the Predator were miles away from the target then the missile would travel horizontally upward and downward, like a bullets trajectory, to impact the target.” The Sergeant gave a visual demonstration to the wide eyed Airman. “This type of flight path would have problems with clouds, as the missile would lose contact with the laser and go out of control. I would think that today’s mission against a stationary target would be an attack from directly overhead, and should present no problem, except to the terrorists on the ground.”
As the Ground Crew was talking amongst themselves, the Predator remotely came alive. First the sound of the electronic servo motors which are attached to the control surfaces started to move and then the FLIR and optical pod under the nose of the craft swiveled around. Finally, the rear mounted Rotax snow mobile engine cranked, sputtered and finally started firing all four cylinders. The Ground Crew disconnected the umbilical power cable and the Predator was under total control of the Flight Controller. With a chain saw like noise the Predator increased power and sped down the runway, taking flight into the pre-dawn gray sky.