Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Turn Over


"Goeie more korporaal, I trust you slept well?" Colonel Mzolo looked up from his desk as the provost brought Corporal Jensen into the captain's office.

"Good morning Sir, I slept well enough." In truth, Jensen looked miserable.

"Do you understand why we had to place you under arrest?"

"Well Sir, I did kill a civilian, but I was defending one of my mates."

"Yes, I know that, but do you know the precarious position we are in here? Truly do you understand it?" The colonel stood up from behind his desk and looked out the window of his office.

"The people who are running things behind the scenes think we are being too soft on the locals. Something like this wouldn't bother them in the least. There are those who would have had everyone in that establishment sent to the camps, or worse, had them shot right then and there."

Corporal Jensen's eyes opened wide at that comment.

"You are too young to have known the times when our beloved country was liberated from the rule of apartheid, it was very bloody for a number of years. You whites were hunted, driven off your farms and murdered in cold blood."

"But Sir, my father told me that before that time, the black Afrikaners were treated like dogs, kept in 'townships' which were little more than slums of tin shacks. I understand the rage your people must have felt."

Colonel Mzolo nodded and said, "Then perhaps you can understand the people of this country. They feel as if they are second class citizens in their own country. There have been riots in some of the cities, there are those who are calling for blood. On both sides."

The colonel continued, "You have read of the war in Serbia I trust? I believe it was part of your schooling to join this regiment."

"Yes Sir, do you think this country could go that way?"

"Yes, yes I do. These people have a proud history, but a history littered with bad politicians and greedy businessmen. But I can see them rising up, the deaths of those three men the other day might just be the beginning. So we need to tread carefully over the next few..."

Colonel Mzolo's aide suddenly burst into the room, at the same time the Colonel heard the sound of many vehicles outside, he looked to the compound and saw a number of tracked APCs¹ entering. The troops manning them appeared to be Chinese. He turned to his aide...

"Yes Sir, they are Chinese. We are being replaced..."

Billy had spent the night at Jack's cabin, they had much to discuss. When he awakened he heard Jack talking to someone, was that a radio?

As he came into the living room, Jack gestured at him to "wait one," then pointed to the kitchen. Billy went in there and saw that a fresh pot of coffee had been made. From the looks of things, it didn't appear that Jack had slept at all the night before.

He fixed himself a cup and was stirring it when Jack walked in, a worried look on his face.

"Well, the shit may have hit the fan, Billy."

Billy looked at his old friend expectantly.

"Riots in New York City and in Cleveland, the Feds had the governors in New York and Ohio call out the National Guard, most of whom refused to report for duty. From what I understand, most of the police walked off the job as well. Utter chaos."

"Who's rioting Jack? The usual suspects?"

"Not this time, regular folk in the streets, demanding an explanation for the UN being in the country. The Feds refuse to answer any questions, the ATF office in the Bronx was attacked and burned down apparently. No report of any casualties yet, but I assume there will be a lot."

Billy nodded at the radio, "You got all that from the radio?"

Jack lifted the radio and looked at it, "Secret squirrel model, most people know nothing about them. Encrypted, frequency agile, transmits in short bursts to a satellite. Decrypts the short bursts it receives in seconds. Let's just say, I have friends in low places."

Billy shook his head, "Now what do we do?"

"You haven't heard the worst of it, I just had word that the Afrikaners are being replaced, by a full mechanized battalion."

"What country?" Billy asked, he could guess, but he wanted to hear it out loud.

"The goddamn Red Chinese. F**kers were waiting in Canada, supposedly there to train with the Canucks. In reality it was probably a set-up. In all fairness, my Canadian sources are as mad about this as we are. Their government is no more representative of the governed than ours is. There's a lot of money behind this, international money. I wish I knew who was pulling the strings."

"So we fight?"

"Better to die standing than on our knees I suppose." Jack said, shaking his head. That things had come to this. He felt betrayed beyond belief.

The Afrikaners loaded up quickly, other than their military equipment and spare clothing and ammo, there wasn't all that much to load. Unlike some militaries, they had no personal items with them. It was something their government frowned upon, why did the troops of a fine socialist country need personal belongings?

Corporal Jensen, still surprised that he had kept his stripes, stood in the hatch of one of their APCs and watched as the Chinese took over the compound. But what shocked him most was watching the UN flag being pulled down from the flagstaff in front of headquarters, to be replaced by the banner of the People's Republic of China.

"Nils, look, the bastards aren't even pretending to be here under the auspices of the United Nations."

Lance Corporal Nils Ndaba stood up next to the corporal and looked back at the compound. He shook his head, looking at Jensen he said, "Things are going to get awfully bad, aren't they?"

"Yes brother, they are."

¹ APC = Armored Personnel Carrier

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Calm...


"Damn it!" One of the paramedics swore, he had checked Will's pulse, there wasn't one.

Frank sighed, then walked over and looked down at the body, Will Hopkins had been a good kid growing up, hard worker, smart. Smart enough to get a scholarship to go off to college, where, like many kids, he fell in with the wrong crowd. Drugs, alcohol, he was into anything and everything except studying.

After flunking out of college he tried to enlist in the Army, he popped positive on the drug test. It was a time of zero tolerance, so the Army turned him away. He came home, got into dealing drugs and had been in and out of trouble ever since.

"Hey Sheriff?"

Frank turned around, it was Becky Collins, a local kid, grew up not far from where he had been raised on the other side of the county. "Hi Becky, did you see what happened?"

"The soldiers started it. Will was being Will and..."

"He was loud, telling stories..."

"Yeah, he was being an asshole. He was blocking a big section of the bar and one of the soldiers wanted something, so he shoved Will out of the way. Honestly though, the soldier had tried to get him to move, I guess he just got frustrated."

"So after the soldier shoved Will, what happened?"

"Will threw a punch, which the soldier managed to dodge. Then Will smashed a bottle and went after the kid, one of the other soldiers pulled a knife out and stabbed Will in the side. No warning, he just stabbed him." Tears were running down Becky's face at this point.

Frank said, "You want a ride somewhere Becky?"

"That's okay Sheriff, my apartment is right behind the bar. I think I'll go home now."

As he finished writing the pertinent details down in his notebook, Deputy Holder rolled up in his county-issued SUV. Frank tucked his notebook away and walked over to his Deputy, fortunately Holder was one of the guys he had appointed, before the troubles.

"Tom, rotten evening to be out."

"Yup, I got the message just as I was getting home. Figured you might want some back-up, so here I am. What we got?"

"Homicide, sort of. That's Will Hopkins over there on the ground. Stabbed by a soldier after a brief altercation. Will bled out while the paramedics were working on him."

"Sort of a homicide Sheriff? What the heck is a 'sort of' homicide."

"Well, Will was being Will..."

"An asshole..."

"Yeah, that. Soldier wanted to get up to the bar, apparently he asked Will nice a couple of times to move, Will didn't move. So the soldier moved him. Will got pissed, took a swing, missed, then went all broken bottle on the guy. Before Will could do anything else, one of the other soldiers stabbed him."

"Uh Sheriff, I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree, but what soldiers?"

"Apparently they were manning a roadblock out towards Billy and Ida's place, they left a couple of scout cars out there, they actually stopped me as I was coming back from there. I'm guessing the men got bored so their lieutenant decided to take 'em into town for a bit. One thing led to another."

"You gonna file a report with the colonel?"

"Reckon I have to, shit's gonna hit the fan."

"Why don't you head in, I'll take over here. Body to the coroner's office?" Holder asked.

"Yeah, I'll stop by and notify Bob and Linda. Tell 'em their boy's dead."

Holder shook his head, in the morning, three dead soldiers, now one of their own was dead. It wouldn't be long before some of the hotheads decided to take action. He just wasn't sure whose hotheads, the locals or the peacekeepers. He was glad Frank was in charge, not a job he wanted anymore.

Billy had to watch the dirt track leading up to Jack Bishop's cabin, it was muddy in spots from the rain the day before. He still wasn't sure what to tell Jack, after all, it was from Jack that he'd gotten the old German MG 42 they'd used in the ambush. The gun was buried now, in an out of the way spot that only he knew of, just as well, they didn't have much in the way of ammunition for it anyway.

He now regretted listening to some of the others about stopping what they called the "marauders." After all, it was just some bored kids looking for excitement, and food, he remembered the rations he'd received in the Army, gourmet meals compared to the garbage the peacekeepers were issued. Somebody was "saving" money somewhere, no doubt pocketing funds allocated to feed those troops.

But something had to be done. He wished he could get enough people together and go to DC, that's where the real trouble was, he figured. But he wasn't ready to fight the rebuilt U.S. Army. Not the Army he'd been in, the new force were nothing more than glorified riot police. Which explained the peacekeeping force which the goddamned UN had imposed on the U.S., election irregularities my ass, Billy thought.

He slowed down as he came to the turn off for Jack's place, most folks wouldn't give it a second look, more like a trail than a road. A four wheel drive was absolutely essential to get up to Jack's, one with a lot of extra power, the "road" was that bad.

He damn near bounced his chin off the steering wheel as he pulled in, pothole the size of Lake Tahoe he thought to himself. Looking up ahead, he could see Jack's 4x4 parked outside the cabin. Unless he'd gone hunting, Jack was probably home, or at least nearby. As he rolled up and stopped, he could see Jack in the window. So the man was home!

Billy got out of his Jeep and waited, stretching to get the tension out of his body, the drive up wasn't something for a timid man, it took a lot of concentration and sheer muscle power to keep a vehicle on that road. He heard the door close and looked towards the cabin, Jack had two cups of coffee in hand.

"How goes it, Billy? I haven't seen you in a while, last month right?"

"Yup, down in town, you were buying dry goods as I recall."

"Yeah, can't really supply my own flour up here. Meat's no problem, but a man's gotta have bread from time to time, least I do." Jack handed one of the cups over to Billy, who immediately took a sip, he had noticed that it was a lot cooler up here than it was down in the valley.

"So Billy, what's this I hear about foreign soldiers getting killed? I also heard that a local kid got himself killed in Brooktown by a soldier." Jack was watching Billy intently as he asked about the ambush.

"Yeah, the ambush, that was us, that old '42 came in real handy, until it jammed."

"Heh, I warned you about that old ammo."

"Okay, where can I get a stock of 7.92 mm for that gun?" Billy was just kidding of course, there was a severe "ammo shortage" according to the news.

"I gotta bunch of brass, if you want to come up and reload 'em yourself. Me, I'll stick with what I got, 5.56 was good enough for Daddy, it's good enough for me. Let's go inside, it's fixing to rain."

"Now what's this about a local kid getting killed?"

"Sounded to me like a bar fight, Will Hopkins started it, Will died."

"That boy was headed for a bad end." Billy said, shaking his head.

"Yup. But we need to talk about what's next, come on inside."

Billy followed Jack into the cabin, he knew that things were about to turn bad, real bad.

The lieutenant and his men had returned to the roadblock not long after the incident in Brooktown. He knew that he would have much to answer for once the incident was reported to command. He wasn't really worried, his men had been provoked, they were also very aware of the deaths of three men in another company, gunned down on a country road by terrorists. Of course, why they were in a bar some five miles from the road block might raise a few eyebrows. But he wasn't the first officer to cut his men a little slack, he probably wouldn't be the last either.

Still, he had a certain amount of trepidation as he saw the colonel's personal vehicle approaching. He heard someone approach his right side, before he could turn he heard his sergeant speak, "Don't worry Sir, I'll vouch for your actions."

The lieutenant remembered his father's words, "Take care of your sergeants, son, and they will take care of you."

The colonel's vehicle rolled to a stop and the man himself stepped out, followed by his personal security detail. Those men took up positions around their colonel, watching outwards for any threat, real or imagined.

"Lieutenant, good morning. How was your night?"

Snapping to rigid attention the lieutenant reported, "Sir, only one vehicle approached the roadblock during the night, it was the chief of the local constabulary. I took a squad into town, well, the nearest village actually, so that some of the men might have a chance to get out of the cold and perhaps sample the local beer."

The colonel walked up to the lieutenant, he got very close to the lieutenant and said, "And...?"

"We got into a fight with one of the locals, he tried to attack Private DeVries with a broken bottle, Corporal Jensen stabbed the man, he died."

"Corporal Jensen is dead?" The colonel asked facetiously, knowing that in his nervousness the lieutenant had misspoken.

"No Sir, the local man died, Corporal Jensen stabbed him."

"And where is the corporal now?"

"He is under arrest, I have him in the APC¹."

"Under arrest? Surely he was just trying to assist Private DeVries."

"But he stabbed the man from behind, I felt that Private DeVries could have adequately defended himself without Jensen's assistance. So I arrested him, if you feel that was too much, I can release him."

"No, no, you did the right thing Lieutenant. We must take these things seriously, do your men know of yesterday's ambush?"

"Yes Sir, they know that we lost three men to the terrorists."

"Very well. Tell your men to mount up and return to the compound, we'll let the political officer sort out Corporal Jensen's situation. I want you to ride with me, your Sergeant should be able to get the men back to barracks." The colonel glanced at the sergeant who snapped to attention and nodded brusquely.

"Carry on then Sergeant. Shall we Lieutenant?" the colonel said as he gestured to his own vehicle. "I want to get back before it rains again. By the way, he's called a Sheriff."

"Sir, who is?"

"The chief of the local constabulary you referred to, he's the Sheriff, the head law enforcement officer in this area."

"Oh, I see..."

After the colonel's vehicle left, the APC carrying the under arrest Corporal Jensen and the two scout cars followed. The sergeant's driver asked him over the intercom, "Do you think Jensen is in serious trouble?"

"I don't know Kotze, I really don't. I do think that the Americans are getting frisky, how the colonel will deal with that remains to be seen. For now, we follow orders, we do our jobs."

"I want to go home Sergeant, I want to go home."

"So do I lad, so do I."

¹ Armored Personnel Carrier

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Hard Choices

Billy had been right about one thing, this fog was getting worse. Frank Teller slowed down as he entered the thick forest. The fog wasn't as bad in amongst the trees, but the road twisted and turned as if laid down by a drunk. Wasn't really the case, the road followed a stream which flowed down through a tight valley. There wasn't really any place else to put the road.

As he drove, making no more than twenty miles an hour, another thing he refused to change right there¹, he thought about the conversation he'd had with Billy. It made him uncomfortable. Yes, technically the deaths of those three soldiers was murder, as the local government had "invited" the peacekeepers in, those soldiers were here legally.

Just as he thought that, he remembered a thing he'd seen some years back, and which had been in his mind for a few months now, "The people who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law. The people who killed her were following it." Just because some group of lawmakers made a thing "legal," it didn't make it moral.

He'd stayed on as sheriff because he'd been asked to, he hadn't questioned the fact that no election for that office had been held in quite some time. The government had said that in this time of emergency, it was better to wait before holding new elections.

He had to admit, the last ones hadn't gone so well.

The young trooper was having trouble staying awake, so for what seemed the hundredth time, he stood up in the turret of the small, two-man scout car. It was the commander of the vehicle's turn to sleep, which he was, nestled into the driver's seat normally occupied by the trooper.

As he stretched, he noticed headlights coming down the road, brief glimpses of headlights actually, the road through the forest twisted and turned before straightening out just before the roadblock. No one else stirred, the other men were sleeping as soundly as his vehicle commander.

Frank slowed down even further as he came to a stretch of road near the forest's edge. There, in the fog and the gloaming, were at least two vehicles parked either side of the road, blocking it. There seemed to be a makeshift barrier across the road as well. He could just see them as there was a small fire near that barrier. He couldn't see any sign of people.

He slowed to nearly a stop as his headlights shown upon one of the vehicles, someone was standing in what had to be the turret of the vehicle, which he recognized as one of the old scout cars the peacekeepers had brought with them. What the Hell was this, he thought, no one had informed him of any roadblocks in this area.

He stopped the car and doused his headlights, he didn't like this, not one bit.

As soon as the car stopped and killed its lights, the trooper went to full alert, who does that kind of thing?

"Sergeant, wake up, something strange out here!"

He yelled down at the vehicle commander, who had started to stir when he heard the turret coming around.

"What's the fuss? Can't a man get any sleep around here..."

Just as those words came out of his mouth, the gun on his vehicle opened fire.

Frank jumped nearly out of his skin as he saw tracers fly over the roof of his vehicle. He immediately got on his PA system and announced, "County sheriff! Hold your fire damn it!"

When no further rounds came his way, he dialed to the military frequency on the radio the peacekeepers had installed in his car. Thinking to try and remember the call sign they had given him, he remembered then keyed the mike, "Military unit on County Road 12 North, this is Starman, hold your fire!"

Unfortunately, his message went to the local headquarters who then had to relay to the unit that the colonel had placed on the road in question. Who were not monitoring their radios!

The vehicle commander heard the PA call, he realized that he had to take command of the situation, he had no idea where the patrol commander was. He picked up his own mike and announced, "Civilian vehicle, turn on your interior lights and place your hands on top of the wheel, do not move!"

Grabbing his machine pistol, he told the trooper to cover him. He then dismounted.

Looking around he saw the men from the other scout car sleeping underneath their vehicle. The infantry carrier which should have been parked behind them was nowhere in sight. Where the Hell did that goddamn lieutenant go haring off to?

The interior lights in the civilian car came on to reveal a man sitting in the driver's seat, hands on the wheel as instructed. At that moment the spotlight on his scout car came on, shining directly into the driver's eyes.

Good idea trooper, the sergeant thought to himself.

As he began to move forward, he yelled at the other scout car crew, "Wake up you lazy bastards, get in your vehicle and watch to the rear!"

While Frank understood what was going on, he'd shown lights into the eyes of suspicious types himself more than once, he was still pissed off. This is my goddamned county you foreign bastards, he thought. Best to just sit still and not escalate the situation.

"Sir, please step out of the vehicle with your hands always in sight."

Once again Frank's ears were bothered by the stilted way these foreigners spoke, but he did as he was commanded.

The sergeant noticed the badge on the man's jacket, also the word "Sheriff" on the patch on his sleeve. Looking more closely, he finally recognized the man. It was the county sheriff, a man named Teller he recalled.

"So, Sheriff Teller, what brings you out here on such a nasty night?" the sergeant asked in what he thought was a polite tone, but which Teller took for sarcasm.

"I might ask you the same thing," Frank glanced down at the man's insignia, "sergeant. I'm investigating a triple homicide."

The foreign sergeant looked puzzled for a moment, then the word "homicide" registered. His English was only fair.

"Ah yes, the killings this morning. You have suspects?" The sergeant was proud of himself for remembering that word, "suspects."

Frank looked again at the sergeant, whose machine pistol was still pointed in his direction. "Say sergeant, do you mind if I put my hands down, I'm a little old for this. After all, aren't we on the same side?"

"Of course, Sheriff, my apologies." As he said that the sergeant also lowered his weapon.

"Do you have a pass to be out here after curfew?" the sergeant asked.

Frank looked nonplussed for a moment, "A pass Sergeant? My badge and my office are my pass. Has something changed in the last few hours?" He then worried that he might have gone too far, but the soldier was from a place where freedom was something people read about, not something they had ever experienced themselves.

The sergeant looked embarrassed for a moment, then reverted to type, "My apologies Sheriff, no nothing has changed. I would guess that you need to be on your way?"

"Yes, if you could clear a path, that would be excellent. Are you in command here?"

The sergeant hesitated for a moment, then said, "Yes, yes, I am in charge while my lieutenant is investigating elsewhere."


"Yes, Sheriff, please, let me clear a path for you."

After the sergeant had had one of the vehicles back off the road and the sheriff had passed through. That same sergeant wondered if he had done the right thing, letting the local man go through. As he had no orders to the contrary, just to look for suspicious activities, he decided that he had done the right thing.

But he wished that his lieutenant had been on the scene. He wondered what that man was up to at the moment.

As Frank drove away from the roadblock, a call came in on his county radio.

"Patrol One, Homebase, we've got a call of a disturbance over in Brooktown."

Brooktown was a small village just off the road ahead. Frank had to wonder what the Hell would be going on there in the middle of the night. Then he remembered the nervousness of the sergeant when asked whether he was in charge or not.

Frank accelerated to get to Brooktown, he had a feeling he knew where that man's lieutenant was, Brooktown had a small bar.

Frank's car rolled into Brooktown, he saw that there was an ambulance outside "O'Reilly's Bar and Grille" parked next to one of the peacekeepers' armored infantry carriers. He didn't like the looks of this.

He turned his lights on, then pulled into O'Reilly's parking lot. There were two paramedics working on someone splayed out near the door of the bar. A foreign soldier, Frank saw the weapon slung over the man's back, was standing nearby, smoking a cigarette.

That man turned to him as he walked up to the scene.

"This matter is not your concern Sheriff Teller. One of the locals started a fight with one of my men, my man finished the fight."

Frank looked down, he saw Will Hopkins, a local troublemaker and ne'er-do-well, on his back struggling to breathe. He could see why, he'd been either shot or stabbed. One of the paramedics was trying to control the bleeding, the other was trying to intubate the victim.

"Sorry," again Frank had to look at the man's insignia, "lieutenant, but this sort of thing is exactly my concern. If you wish, you can take that up with your colonel. That man on the ground is a civilian, definitely my concern."

Turning to the small crowd gathered around, Frank asked "Any witnesses see what happened?"

The foreign lieutenant immediately said, "I already told you what happened and..."

Frank ignored the man, he noticed that Judd Walker was standing in the crowd, they had served together overseas. "Judd, go inside and call 5211, tell the operator 'Blue on blue,' then tell them authorization code 'Whiskey niner fife tree.' You got that?"

Judd nodded then went inside. Turning to the lieutenant Frank asked, "Have you got anything else to add lieutenant? Perhaps you should return to your roadblock, your sergeant is missing you."

Frank could see the lieutenant turn pale, he knew he'd made an enemy there. But he honestly didn't care. He heard the lieutenant bark a command at his troops, who all loaded up in their vehicle and drove off.

Things were going to Hell in a handbasket.

Frank Teller had just resolved to join the resistance, these bastards had gotten on his last nerve.

¹ There had been a recent government "mandate" to begin using the metric system.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Honk Honk!

 Last week was pretty hectic around Rancho Juvat in a good, if sad, kind of way.  The great transfer of family members to Honk, Honk! is now 2/3's complete.  Granddog, Tex, departed around lunch on Tuesday. Checked in to the Facility at Houston International where he went swimming, chatted with a few females in the facility, had dinner and then took a nap prior to his flight.  The Houston to Amsterdam flight was uneventful and he checked in to the facility there with no issues.  Being a little too chilly for a swim, he opted for dinner (Length of flight and time change made it a dinner to dinner day, Beans) then took another nap.  Departure was on time and a short crew change stop in Bangkok led to a short walk and a chance to mark the local flora.  Then, back on board for the remainder of the flight.  He and his travel compartment arrived at Little J's apartment complex as scheduled.  However, the travel compartment was a tad too large to ride in the elevator.  Little J, and the escorts disassembled it and Little J and Tex arrived at the apartment in style.

Just in time for a nap.

With Tex successfully on the other side of the world (not a figure of speech),  DIL is now free to begin her version of the journey.  Departure will be this Tuesday.  We'll leave for the Austin Airport around 11AM for a 6PM flight.  Her route of flight will be Austin to Houston to Frankfurt, where she'll spend the night. Then Frankfurt to Honk Honk! the next day.  

And it only cost 20,000 miles to upgrade to First Class.  Miles well spent. (Even if she does have to wear an F'in mask!)  I gotta say, Mrs J and I will miss them both.  Having them around for the last 6 months has been a lot of fun.  

In the final episode of hecticity, I'm actually writing this on Saturday, as Mrs J and DIL are in College Station for MBD's baby shower.  She's one month away.  Given that this will be a very estrogen rich event and full of "There I was" birthing stories, I opted to stay home and take care of the animals.

Hey! Beans, they could starve in two days! Besides, otherwise, I would have gone......crazy.

On a saner note, I was headed to my truck on Friday and heard the sound of Freedom (that would be Jet Noise, Beans), so me, being me, started looking around and saw this.

Now who would be up there turning multiple circles in the "Cons" (Contrail level, Beans)?

Well shortly after I snapped the picture, right where the 3 lines come together, the aircraft emerged.  My ancient eyes had more resolution than my cell camera, and I could easily tell that it was a KC-46A Tanker.  Given that that airspace is directly in the path of flights from Houston, Atlanta and a few other large Southern Airports and LA, San Francisco, Phoenix and a few other Western Airports, the FAA isn't going to block off that airspace just to do circles in the sky, so they had to have refueled somebody.  Since I could only see, barely, the tanker, I suspect they were fighters. What or which service, I have no idea.  

But, as easily entertained as I am, it made my day.

Speaking of my day, what a difference a week makes.  Last week, walking with Mrs J and the dogs in the morning required a shower after the walk, as I was not presentable to either the dogs or Mrs J.  Temps at 8:30 were in the low 90's and humidity was in the top 1/3'rd.  This week, 55o feels mah-vel-us!

Even the cows were enjoying it. 

Annie (as in "Little Orphan Annie") even made a new friend.


So, lots of moving parts this past couple of weeks. Like much of you, I read the reports in the news about "Aliens" on the border.  Who knew they're really coming from a galaxy far, far away..

Gotta keep a sense of humor....Always!

Peace out, y'all! Have a relaxing week.

Sunday, September 26, 2021



The sheriff came limping up the drive, he should have retired a while back, but no one wanted the job now. Old Frank stayed on, not because he needed the money, as little as it was now, but the folks in the area still trusted him. They knew that he was ambivalent about the so-called "peacekeepers," at least he had managed to keep things calm. Up until now.

The chief stepped to the front door, he turned to his wife and nodded. She would serve the coffee, then make herself scarce. She too felt that the sheriff's visit was anything but coincidence.

"Evening Frank, looks like we're gonna have thick fog tonight, sure you want to be out this late?" The chief said that with a grin.

Old Frank shook his head, "Yeah, yeah, kiss my ass Billy. I ain't as old as you think."

Billy, the chief, knew exactly how old Frank was, he'd served in the sandbox, the first one. It's where he got the limp. Frank had wanted to make a career of the Army, which he did. But that war in the desert had cut that career short, medically retired with fifteen years in.


"Love some, this weather is going to turn cold soon, I can feel it in my bones."

"Me too, let's go sit in the kitchen, Ida's had the stove going so it's warm in there."

"Sure thing, evenin' Ida."

"Evening Frank."

After Ida had gone upstairs, Frank took a sip of coffee, then looked Billy straight in the eye, "I hear the peacekeepers were out here earlier."

"Yup, apparently there was an incident on the old county road this morning."

"An incident Billy? An incident? Three men were murdered out there, gunned down in cold blood." Frank sat up straight, he didn't like the chief's tone.

"Well, I don't know about cold blood Frank, people are starting to get pretty upset about those boys over there in the compound. I heard that they're breaking into empty houses. Hell, some of the houses they've gone into weren't empty. From what I hear."

"We aren't at war with anyone, last I checked Billy. So those deaths go into the books as homicides."

"Not at war Frank? Not yet."

The sheriff drove off into the fog, thinking he'd made his point with the chief. As the chief watched Frank's taillights disappear into the thickening fog, he knew that things were coming to a head.

Those three men had been singled out. They had roughed up a local teenager two days before they went out "foraging," as the peacekeepers liked to call it. Goddamned theft is what it was, Billy grumbled to himself.

"Any problem hon'?" Ida came up behind him.

"Maybe, Frank's hinting that if I know what's going on, I should use what little influence I have to calm things down. He should know better."

"Things are starting to get out of control, aren't they?" Ida asked with a worried tone.

"Yeah, they are honey. The soldiers are getting bored, so they drink more, they harrass the townsfolk, they need action. I'm afraid some of the hotheads may actually escalate the situation now that they've lost people. The colonel who was here today? He's not a bad sort. But he has superiors to answer to, that worries me."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm gonna head up into the mountains tomorrow, talk to Jack."

"Jack Bishop? Wasn't he in the Army with you?"

"Well, we were in at the same time, he was special forces, I was just a tanker. He might have some good advice. He's been in these kind of situations."

"These kind of situations?" Ida asked with an upraised brow.

"Yeah, indigenous people waging guerilla warfare."

"Is that what it's coming down to?"

"I'm afraid so, love. I'm afraid so.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

No New Fiction, Real Life Intruded - In a Good Way

The Coast Guard House, the Newport Bridge in the distance.

If you're ever in Narragansett (the town, not the bay), stop by the Coast Guard House Restaurant. Rather than slave over my keyboard bringing you more, hopefully, entertaining fiction, I was out with The Missus Herself and two other couples enjoying a fine meal overlooking Narragansett Bay to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south.

Yes, yes, it was a bit pricey but in truth it was well worth it. Atmosphere was good (why do Americans feel the need to talk loudly at dinner is beyond me), the food was excellent, and the company was superb. Oh yes, the service was excellent as well.

The meal began with a calamari appetizer prepared in a way I've never had it before which was superb. (I'd give you the details but it was some sort of creamy, coconut-based?, sauce with a rather spicy red dip, garnished with basil, okay those were details weren't they, very tasty it was!) Followed by a main course of filet mignon paired with a lobster tail with asparagus with half a twice-baked potato. All very delicious.

There may have been a couple of Founders Breakfast Stouts in there, with an Irish coffee for after. Portions were just the right size, the food was prepared to perfection.

Heck, if you're going to spend a lot of money on food, then that was the way to go.

So rather than write something for you, I was out there, boosting the economy and playing the gourmand. Hey, someone has to do it, am I right?

More fiction to come, let your imaginations run wild, you know I'll throw you a curve ball at some point, right?

Bis morgen, as they say in Deutschland...

Listening to the surf is good for my morale...

Friday, September 24, 2021

The Hunt


The colonel sat in the front seat of the third vehicle in the column. He watched as the clouds rolled in, it looked like they were in for some rain. He got on his radio, "All units, X-Ray, stop the column, maintain tactical intervals, company commander to me. Out."

As he watched the vehicles pull off, every other vehicle going to opposite sides of the road, every vehicle covering a predetermined sector, he saw the company commander dismount from his vehicle. As that man began to walk to the colonel's vehicle, the clouds burst.

The driver started to pull the curtain separating the driver's cabin from the gun position in the roof, in an attempt to keep the rain from getting on him. The colonel told him to leave it be. As he did so, a very wet captain jumped into the back of the vehicle.

"I don't know if you noticed colonel, but this paved road ends in about 200 meters! Dirt track from then on, a muddy dirt track by the time we get there!" The captain was having to yell, the rain pounding on the roof of the car was enough to drown out normal speech.

The colonel looked up from his map, "Yes, that's one thing the map makers got right. That track leads up into those foothills..." He was about to point to where the hills were, but it was raining so hard the hills were now obscured. Leaning into the back he showed the captain the hills he was referring to on his map.

"If you look here..."

A bright flash outside made the colonel think that they were under attack, then a loud crack of thunder nearly overhead made everyone in the vehicle jump.

"What the f**k was that?!" the gunner yelled down from his position.

The chief sipped his coffee as he watched the rain pouring down. His wife walked in and put her arms around him from behind. "Looks like a real gully washer out there hon'."

"Yup, might slow down any patrols out looking for 'terrorists'."

The chief lived not far from where the paved road ended and a dirt track led up into the mountains. The rain was really heavy now, it was as if a grey curtain had been drawn over the landscape. Normally he could see the road from his front window, but not at the moment.

The bright flash followed almost immediately by the thunder made the chief flinch, "Jesus that was close!"

"Oh dear..." his wife stood away from him and peered intently out the window, "Who is that coming up the drive?"

"Shit. They're soldiers, honey."

The colonel, the captain, a sergeant, and a young private climbed onto the porch of the farmhouse. At least we're somewhat out of the rain, the colonel thought. He turned to the sergeant, who was just about to beat on the door with the butt of his rifle, put a restraining hand on his forearm and shook his head.

"Allow me, Sergeant."

The colonel knocked on the door, politely. An instant later a woman came to the door and opened it, "Yes?"

"Excuse me ma'am, we are lost I think. Might we come inside for a moment?" The colonel had seen a man sitting in the front room, drinking coffee. The man had muddy boots, which at first made him suspicious, but then he remembered his own father, farmers often had muddy boots.

"Certainly. Colonel, yes?"

"Yes ma'am, I am a colonel." He nodded to the sitting man who was starting to get up.

"No need to get up Sir, we just need to know if this road leads up into the mountains, or does it rejoin the main highway further on?"

The farmer walked over and asked, "Do you have a map?"

The colonel showed the farmer his military map, "These are a little more complicated than your standard road map, but..."

"It's alright colonel, I was in the Army as a young man. I learned how to read maps there."

The farmer looked at the map, then pointed, "There, that's my farm. You can see the gully out back, it's on your map. This road goes up into the mountains and peters out about five miles in."

The colonel cocked an eyebrow, "Peters out?"

"Ah, it's a local expression, means that the road vanishes eventually. Turns into a path, then it just ends."

"Ah, I see. Well, I thank you..."

"Would you and your men like some coffee colonel? It's fresh." The woman interrupted the colonel before he could announce their departure.

"No, thank you ma'am. We need to be on our way. We're looking for 'persons of interest' who carried out a terrorist attack on some of my men this morning. Have you seen anyone around who doesn't belong here?"

"Oh dear, that's simply awful." Turning to the man she said, "Honey wasn't there a truck that went up the trail this morning? It didn't look familiar, did it?" The colonel thought that the woman had to be the farmer's wife.

The farmer looked thoughtful for a moment, "Hhmm, yes, I remember. I don't know if it means anything colonel, we do get a lot of truck traffic through here, it's getting close to the harvest, but there was a truck that went through late in the morning. I didn't recognize it as belonging to anyone I know from around here."

"Up the trail?"

"Yes, that's what we call that dirt road that starts further up."

"Did you notice anything unusual about the truck?" the colonel probed.

"Not really, oh, wait a minute, yes, its license plates didn't look right, like they weren't from this area. Ours are white, these plates were blue, a pale blue I think. Does that mean anything?" The farmer was trying to be helpful, or at least appear to be helpful.

"It might mean something, thank you. Ah, the rain is slowing down, we'll be on our way now I think. Thank you."

With those words the colonel turned and led his men back down the drive.

"This isn't good, is it dear?" the woman turned to her husband.

"No love, it isn't. But I guess they had to figure out where we probably went some time. I mean, they're aren't many people to the east, least not for some distance." The chief sipped his coffee, he was thinking real hard at the moment. Finally he spoke...

"I'll give those soldiers a while to move on, then I'm going to drive over to Theo's."

"Won't that look suspicious?" The wife was somewhat unnerved after the soldiers' visit.

"Not really, I actually needed to go over there anyway, I have a part he needs for his tractor. Found it out back in the shed, didn't know I had it. If we can get his tractor up and running, and we can find fuel for it, that will make the harvest a lot easier."

"If the damned government people don't confiscate all of it."

"I know dear, I know. Don't fret now, a lot of people are starting to feel the same way. But for now we can't do much, the occasional pinprick, that's it."

The patrol returned to the compound well after sunset. The captain had been on pins and needles, expecting an ambush around every corner. He breathed a sigh of relief when they were all back inside the wire.

"Sergeant major, have most of the men go to bed, we'll worry about the vehicles in the morning. Just fuel them tonight. If anyone has a problem with that, refer them to me."

"Yes Sir."

The sergeant major was worried about his captain, the man was starting to get nervous. He couldn't blame the man, he had spent time in the Middle East under fire, and not that long ago. No man had an unending well of courage. Though things here had been quiet, up until this morning anyway, he could sense that the locals were starting to resent the peacekeepers' presence. But hey, their own government had requested that they be brought in after the last election had gone horribly wrong.

The sergeant major shook his head, it was about time these people learned to obey their masters. He'd learned that in his own country, they would learn it here.

Or they would suffer.

Thursday, September 23, 2021


The lieutenant saw the three bodies in the road and sighed. He had expected something like this, especially after his lead vehicle had hit a mine as the QRF had been moving at speed up the road towards where gunfire had been heard.

"Pull over," he ordered as he touched his driver's arm. Looking to the rear of the vehicle he nodded at his sergeant, the squad aboard his armored scout car began deploying almost before the car had rolled to a stop.

The lieutenant stepped out, his machine pistol at the ready. He crouched next to the car as the squad deployed to cover the area. When his sergeant signaled that the covering team was in place, the lieutenant moved over to the dead men.

At a glance he could picture what had happened, obviously the corporal had been hit first. The position of the sergeant indicated that he had tried to pull the corporal into cover and had been wounded while doing so.

He shook his head as he looked over at the dead private, the man's head was blown apart. He was both angry and sad, the young soldier had showed a great deal of promise. Now he was dead, and for what?

The lieutenant tended to turn a blind eye to the excursions his men made from the compound. Their rations were meager and boring, their pay was worse. So when there was possible loot to be had, he looked the other way.

However, pickings had grown slim over the past month, the government was trying to reconcile the locals to the new way of doing things, so randomly robbing households was frowned upon. The empty farms within ten miles had all been picked over many times. In reality, there was nothing left to be had. His men were getting restless.

Just the other day he had had to discipline one of his corporals for beating a civilian that he felt had not shown him the deference due a soldier. Things weren't good, this ambush so near the compound was just one sign of a growing restlessness among the locals.

As he looked at the bodies he had a sudden realization, the sergeant had been sitting in the road, his weapon was still slung. He had been executed, shot in the face at point blank range. A chill ran up his spine as he realized that not only was this the first incident of violence against his men, it looked as though the terrorists were resolved to take no prisoners.

This was something he would need to discuss with the district commander.

The chief was getting awfully tired of beef jerky and dehydrated vegetables. But as he had no desire to die just yet, they couldn't build any fires. Though they were way up in the hills, the helicopter he could see flying up the valley reminded him that the enemy had most of the advantages.

After the ambush they had headed towards the enemy compound, he had figured that they would search near the ambush scene and then outwards. After all, who in their right mind would run towards the enemy rather than away?

Well, he would, for one. He knew this land like the back of his hand, a phrase which his son often kidded him about, but which was nevertheless true. The enemy were not from around here, they relied on maps. But then again, a helicopter could cover a lot of ground.

His next door neighbor had flown choppers, as he called them, when he'd done his Army service in the old days, before things had gone to Hell in a handbasket.

"If you hear a chopper, never look up, your pale face looking up to the sky will give you away every time," the neighbor had told them all, more than once.

"Even mine?" One of the men had grinned, he was originally from Senegal and very dark.

"Well, you might get away with it," the pilot had chuckled. But the men saw his point.

He'd also cautioned them about moving, movement was easy to spot. "Just hold still until he flies past, keep your head down, and pray, pray real hard that the chopper pilot is near the end of a long patrol."

Just one of the many survival skills some of the men, and women he had to remind himself, had brought to the group.

The pilot moved the cyclic to his left as he eased back on the collective, slowing the helicopter as he turned it to a new heading. The trees here were much thicker and he felt that they had little chance of spotting anyone on the ground in this area. The valley was empty, the terrorists were probably long gone.

"The bastards know this area better than we do." His co-pilot muttered over the intercom.

"Yup, we'll need to send ground patrols up here. Poor bastards will probably have to dismount and walk most of the way. That's pretty rugged ground down there. Let's RTB¹, I think we've done all we can."

The pilot shook his head as he gained altitude and increased his speed, the bosses back at the compound weren't going to like what he had to report.

Go along to get along, that had always been his mantra. Up until now he had managed to climb the ladder in local politics by telling people what they wanted to hear. Now he was on his way to the district commander's office in the old town hall. The man was not happy, nor should he be.

The ambush on the old road out of town was the latest in an increasing series of troubles. The few farmers left in the area weren't sending their crops to town to be distributed by the committee. They claimed it had been a bad harvest, the politician felt that they were probably holding back, keeping the products of their labors for themselves.

Now there were three dead soldiers, the district commander would no doubt want to know what the politician planned on doing about it. For the first time in his life, the politician didn't know what to tell the man. He was a figurehead, he had no real say in the running of things in the district.

Of course he would suggest a new committee to "investigate" the problem, he might be able to spin that out for a week or so and hope no further incidents occurred. It wasn't really important that he fix anything, simply appearing to be concerned had always been enough to get by in the past.

At least he hoped that that hadn't changed.

The district commander ran both hands over his balding pate, it hadn't been that long ago that his hair had been full and thick, back when he had been a fighting soldier, not a jumped up bureaucrat. He heard a soft tap on the door to his office, he despaired of ever teaching his aide to knock on the door with authority.

"What?" he snapped.

The door opened to reveal his aide, a stoop shouldered man who appeared ready to blend into the woodwork, he was that non-descript. "Commander, the local administrator is here, along with the garrison commander."

"Tell the politician to come back tomorrow, tell the colonel to come in."

As the colonel came in, the district commander heard a protest from the waiting room, "I've set aside my entire day to help the commander address this latest outrage and..."

The commander burst from his office, practically shoving the garrison commander aside as he did so. "You've set aside your entire f**king day have you? I have three dead soldiers to bury, three grieving families to console. I don't care about your damned day you sniveling idiot. Be here tomorrow morning at 0600, wear comfortable shoes, I'm sending you out with the morning patrol. Now GO!"

The politician turned as white as a sheet when the district commander had barked at him. "But Sir, I..."

When the district commander had moved towards him, fists clenched, the politician fled.

"Whatever am I supposed to do now?" he whined to himself. He hoped his wife hadn't thrown away his old hiking clothes. He hoped that they still fit!

"Sit," the district commander said curtly to the colonel of infantry, pointing to a chair facing the desk.

"You have a full battalion here, correct Colonel?"

"Yes Sir, fully motorized and..."

"I don't need the f**king details. I want you personally to lead an entire company to the western hills tomorrow morning, take that sniveling ass of a politician with you. He can help liaise with the locals. They might talk to him, they might not. Track down those damned terrorists, bring some of them back alive. A public trial and execution might be just what this district needs. We need to show a firm front, now go, get things moving."

The colonel didn't bother to say a word, he knew it would be pointless. As he went down the stairs, he wished he had never been given this assignment. There was no honor in fighting civilians.

He summoned his aide, "Drive me down to the barracks of the Sixth Company."

As the car drove off he thought it would be appropriate to use the company which had lost the men killed that morning. At least their captain was somewhat competent.

¹ Return to base

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

It Begins...


He'd been watching the road since shortly after moonrise, nothing had moved out there the entire time. No doubt an entire army could have been hidden in the shadows of the hills, the places where the pallid light of the moon didn't reach. But he knew, somehow, that he would have heard an entire army.

But just a few men? Sure, it was possible, but his position was in a very small copse of trees in the middle of open farmland. Nothing could have approached his position without him either seeing or hearing it. He had watched a small herd of deer moving in the light of the moon, they had passed by him without noticing him, but he had seen them from the moment they had left the trees.

Now the sun was coming up and there were people out on the road. Locals? Perhaps a patrol from the nearby compound? But they were coming from an odd direction, he had no way of knowing, his superiors had left him here, in this copse, to watch and observe. He had no radio, no way of communicating with his superiors. They told him to watch, so watch he did. They would return for him when they were ready.

He had food and water for two days or so, not that he'd be in this place for that long, but "just in case" they had told him. Things could happen which might make his stay in this lonely post longer, but he didn't care. He was used to being alone, there were days he preferred that, rather than be around others.

He watched the people approaching, three of them, two in front, one lagging behind. Perhaps they weren't together, but then he saw one of the two in front gesture to the laggard, who waved back as if to say not to wait for him. But the two in front eventually stopped and turned to the one behind.

He pulled out his field glasses, taking the chance that they wouldn't notice any glint from the glasses while they played out their own drama on the road.

They were soldiers, enemy soldiers.

He watched as one of the two who had been in front begin to berate the slow one as he joined up. Perhaps these men were out on their own, maybe looking for loot. They had come past the farm up on the ridge top, though he hadn't heard anything, that didn't really mean much. He knew the people who lived in that farm, they had left weeks ago.

He noted the time as he put his field glasses away, then checked his weapon once more, not that he planned to need it, but as his Pa used to say, "Better safe than sorry."

He again wondered why the foreign soldiers had come, though he didn't hate them, he had no real reason to, he did dislike the fact that they were here, in his homeland. Why?

The sergeant watched as his assistant squad leader berated the private. The man seemed to think they had all day to return to the compound. The sergeant was getting anxious as the sun got higher in the sky, they needed to get back and soon. Their trip outside the compound was unauthorized and while the platoon leader taking the roll would notice their absence, he wouldn't actually report them until the mid-day meal. After all, the platoon leader expected his cut of whatever they managed to scrounge.

Which, to tell the truth, hadn't been much. A few jars of preserved fruit which would go far to supplement their boring government rations, but nothing valuable enough to justify their absence should a more senior officer notice. There would definitely be Hell to pay if the political officer got wind of their little expedition outside the wire.

"Enough Corporal, we need to return to the compound, the lieutenant can't cover us the entire day."

The corporal still looked angry but the private seemed suitably chastised so the three men continued on. According to the sergeant's map this road would get them home quicker than the way they'd gone out. Rather slim pickings for such a long hike, the sergeant was happy that this area had been pacified for a while. There shouldn't be any partisans in the area.

The watcher stirred, there was movement to his right, not far from where the road turned to the east. He looked towards the soldiers, none of them seemed to have noticed. He pulled out his field glasses again.

"It's my group..." he muttered under his breath, "...what the Hell are they doing?"

He saw the light machine gun being set up, it looked as though an ambush was being set, he wondered if the men knew that the enemy was nearby.

They knew.

The chief had been watching the road from his own perch up on the hill. Partly to see if there was anything worth killing on the road, but also to watch the new kid, see how well he obeyed orders. The kid was good, the chief had only spotted him once, and that was purely by accident. He sent his machine gun team down to the bend in the road knowing that they had time to get set up.

This was what he liked to call an "opportunity kill." Three of the enemy out on a looting expedition, no supports, no vehicle, the clowns didn't even have a radio! When they had stopped to let the hindmost man catch up, that's when he'd sent the team down to cover the road. It was about time that the enemy learned that the resistance in this area wasn't finished, just dormant.

Until now.

The private saw something near the side of the road, just around the corner from where it turned east. Something didn't look quite right, he thought to say something but decided, f**k it, if the noncoms didn't notice it, then it probably wasn't worth noticing. Besides which, the corporal was a pompous ass, why give him more grist for his mill? The man was constantly on his ass, just because they were from the same village. As for the sergeant, he...

The first burst hit the corporal directly in the chest. Though his body armor appeared to stop most of the rounds, he grunted and fell backward, stunned at the very least as far as the sergeant could tell.

"Private, return fire, I'll get the corporal!" the sergeant bellowed as he bent down and grabbed the corporal by the straps of his load-bearing equipment. As he began to drag the man to safety, multiple rounds from the machine gun ricocheted from the road and up into his legs. He collapsed in great pain.

The watcher had the feeling that things were starting to go wrong as the machine gun had stopped firing. He looked in that direction, he could see that the men on the gun were trying to clear a jam. So he made a quick decision.

His rifle came up to his shoulder in one smooth motion. He acquired his target almost immediately. The laggard had unslung his weapon and was starting to maneuver to the eastern side of the road. If he got into the standing corn, the gun team would be in danger.

He let out his breath slowly, then squeezed the trigger.

The sergeant was in a lot of pain, he knew that he'd have to check his legs soon, depending on where he was hit, a tourniquet might be necessary. Just as he thought that, he saw the private's head jerk to one side. He'd been hit, but not by the machine gun, this sounded more like a hunting rifle, a big one. As the private dropped to the ground, the sergeant noticed that there was a fine pink mist in the air where the private's head had been.

The sergeant waited a few moments more, as there were no more incoming rounds he sat up. He checked the corporal, thinking that perhaps the hits on his vest had just stunned him. But the man had no pulse, that's when he noticed that one round had gone in near the corporal's left armpit. The corporal was dead, as was the private.

He assumed that the terrorists had left the area once they'd seen their enemies all go down. After all, the sound of gunfire would be heard back at the compound, the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) should be rolling soon.

As he reached for his first aid kit, the sergeant heard a footstep in the loose gravel on the shoulder of the road. The sergeant looked up to see an older man pointing an ancient military pistol at his head. The sergeant opened his mouth to speak just as the weapon fired.

The chief watched as the soldier's head snapped back, spraying blood and brain matter all over the pavement behind him.

"You should have stayed at home, asshole."

Shaking his head, he sent a man to collect the watcher, they needed to get out of the area as soon as possible. Though the mines they had set on the road to the enemy compound should slow the QRF down, they'd still be on scene very quickly.

As the watcher joined them on the road the chief heard an explosion in the distance.

"Let's go people, sounds like the QRF hit our mines."

The men stripped the bodies of weapons and ammunition, then made for the forest. They had vanished into the woods long before the QRF arrived.

The war was far from over.