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Authors: Glen Tate

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BOOK: 299 Days IX: The Restoration
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Grant put up his second finger and continued as if he knew what he was talking about, “The message to the civilians is that we are here to feed them and treat their medical needs. We will establish order and protect them from the gangs. Enemy military and law enforcement will get fair treatment; gangs won’t. They’re criminals and the civilians need to see that we’re not a gang and won’t tolerate it.”

The major nodded. In his mind, Lima military and police got fair treatment because they were uniformed enemy. Gangs weren’t. They were just criminals.

Grant continued, “So we get those two messages out to the troops and then we start to get the messages out to the civilians who are coming here. Every soldier should have the spiel down. The civilians will take the messages they receive back to their neighbors. The good news that we’re treating people fairly will spread like wildfire. Then we try to get a radio station and broadcast. I’d love to print up pamphlets but, let me guess, we don’t have printing capabilities.”

“There was a copy center on the way in here,” the major said. Of course. Grant had forgotten about the copy center two blocks away. If their copy machines hadn’t been stolen and they had paper and electricity, then they were in business. It was pamphlet time.

“Great,” Grant said. “I’ll put one of my men on making pamphlets.” By “one of my men,” Grant meant … he’d hand write them himself.

“Go at it … what’s your name again?” the major asked.

“Lt. Matson,” Grant said. “I’m in command of the 17th Irregulars.” He knew his credibility would go down with his lowly rank of lieutenant and the fact that he was in a mere irregular unit. So he smiled and added, “We’re the guys who brought this fine brewery to you.”

“An irregular unit did this?” the major asked and looked around at the humming observation center up on the fourth floor.

“Solid,” the major said. “Very solid, Lieutenant.” Then he thought about it: a good chunk of the Patriot forces were irregular units. He shouldn’t have been that surprised.

Grant started on the pamphlet. He got a runner to go to the copy center, break in, and check out the equipment. He asked him to return with a ream of paper and any pens they could find. The runner saluted and took off.

Some new people came up to the fourth floor. One of them was a lieutenant colonel.

“Who’s in command here?” the Lieutenant Colonel asked.

“I am, sir,” Grant said and walked up to him. “Lt. Matson, 17th Irregulars.”

“I’m Lt. Col. Brussels, 3rd Battalion CO,” he said. “I’m in command now.”

“Yes, sir,” Grant said. Okay, that was that. Grant could now focus on civil affairs and taking care of his people in the 17th. What a relief.

“What’s the status here?” Brussels asked.

Grant briefed Brussels on everything.

“How did you end up in command of this?” Brussels asked.

“We took the brewery,” Grant said. “Everything just flowed from that. This is the perfect facility in the perfect location. Everyone just started using it as a headquarters, and I was running things until someone came to relieve me.”

Brussels nodded. “Thank you, Lt. Matson. Go back to your unit and have them support the mop up.”

“Yes, sir,” Grant said.

Mop up. That meant this wasn’t over yet. Grant had mentally considered the Limas' surrender to be the end of hostilities. Wishful thinking. The remaining Limas out there were diehards. “Diehard” as in they will die … hard. These Limas, and especially gangs, had committed so many crimes and hurt so many people that they knew no one could just forgive and forget. If the Patriots didn’t kill them, they figured the civilians would. They had nowhere to go, so they might as well go down with a fight. Better to die than be captured by the teabaggers.

Twenty four hours of euphoria over what seemed like a quick victory came crashing down. For the first time since he arrived at the brewery, Grant realized that this was going to be a long, hard slog.

 

Chapter 302

Watershed Park

(January 2)

 

 

Grant looked around as he walked out of the fourth floor observation point to go back to his unit. He remembered walking into this room just a few hours ago. It was dark, cold, dangerous, and empty, totally empty. Now, just a few hours later, it was packed full of people and radio equipment. Grant looked at all the hustle and bustle on the empty brewery floor and smiled. He was proud of what he’d got up and going. It was kind of like when he left Pierce Point.

Now Grant got to do what he really wanted: get the civil affairs mission going. More importantly, he could be back with his guys, the 17th Irregulars.

It was 4:15 a.m. and pitch black. The lights were on now so Grant could see the place outside where he had watched the Team leave in Mark’s truck just a few hours earlier. There they were, without him, sitting in the back of the truck with their kit and ARs, grinning for the whole world. They were in heaven, doing what they loved. Going out to hunt some Limas and gangbangers.

“You guys are locals, right?” Capt. Edwards asked the Team as they were waiting to head out.

“Yes, sir,” Pow said, pointing at Scotty, Bobby, and Wes.

“So you guys know the area then?” Capt. Edwards asked.

“Yes, sir,” Pow said. “Very well. We drive these streets all the time.”

“If you were retreating, desperate Limas, where would you go?” Capt. Edwards asked. Might as well get the thoughts of the people who knew the area.

“I’d get away from the capitol,” Pow answered, pointing north, “where all the Patriot forces are. I’d go south and try to rally at the airport,” he said, pointing in the opposite direction. Edwards recalled from the briefings that Olympia had a small regional airport about five miles to the south.

“I hear we are holding I-5,” Pow continued, “so they can’t get back up to Seattle, their stronghold, and I guess we landed some people at the port so they can’t leave by sea, so the airport is it.”

“Well, too bad,” Edwards said, despite thinking that Pow had a great idea. “That’s where I would go to, but we have orders to go straight toward the capitol, to a place called ‘Watershed Park.’ You guys know where that is?”

Pow had the strongest urge to tell the Captain that they needed to go to the airport. He started to speak up but hesitated. He didn’t want to sound like he, an UCG, knew better than battalion or whoever had decided to send Bravo Company to Watershed Park.

He had this overwhelming urge to say something, but he just couldn’t.

“Over there,” Scotty said, pointing roughly north. “It’s a huge park over the area around the waterfalls. That’s where the city gets its water.”

“I can get you there,” said Bobby, who was in the driver’s seat of Mark’s truck.

“Watershed Park?” Wes said. “Are you sure, Captain? That place is hairy.”

“Whatcha mean?” Capt. Edwards asked.

“It’s thick woods in there,” Wes said in his southern accent. “I mean thick, sir. Thicker than the North Carolina pines I come from. It’s dark, too. There are acres of steep terrain and extremely thick foliage, right in the middle of the city, if you can believe that. It’s basically Ambush City, sir.”

“Yeah,” Bobby said, “it’s not a ‘park’ like with swing sets. It’s more like a big nature preserve in the middle of the city. Super steep terrain, too.”

Edwards pulled out a map that he’d received from gray men inside the city right before the invasion. He spotted Watershed Park on the map.

Crap. It was a huge wooded area about a mile from the capitol. It would be a natural Lima magnet. Anyone with an ounce of sense trying to get away from the Patriot forces would go there, and could set up ambushes there and kill Patriots for days or even weeks. Edwards hoped other Patriot units had sealed off the route from the capitol to that park.

Pow had another urge to suggest they go to the airport, but he didn’t want to look like a coward, so he didn’t say anything.

“Orders are to go Watershed Park and clean it out,” Edwards said. “Anyone got a problem with that?” Edwards asked. He wasn’t being a dick. He wanted to see if these irregulars, who weren’t used to military discipline, would participate in the operation. If they wouldn’t, Edwards could get some regular troops who would.

“No, sir!” Ryan said. He was a Marine and knew how to take an order.

“No, sir,” Bobby and Scotty said more slowly.

Wes shook his head and said, “No problem, sir.”

Pow was silent.

“Okay, show me on the map how you’re going to get us there,” Edwards said. “Remember, we’re walking behind you so you’ll need to just idle it.”

“You got any scouts?” Ryan asked.

“Nope,” Edwards said. “You guys, my locals, are my scouts.” Edwards pointed to the map again. He didn’t want a conversation to start with these irregulars about how dangerous the mission was or how they didn’t have any scouts. It was time to get going. He wouldn’t even be wasting his time with the contractor-looking guys if they weren’t the locals he needed to get the company to the objective.

The Team showed Capt. Edwards where the park was and how to get there.

“Only about two miles,” Capt. Edwards said. “A short walk for my men.” He was proud of the fact that his company was a regular unit used to walking several miles in full gear.

“Okay, let’s go,” Edwards said. The Team did a press check and checked their magazines. Just like the last time they did that, they had a round in the chamber and a full load out of topped off magazines.

The sun wouldn’t come up for almost four hours. It was still drizzling and cold. Darkness and nasty weather for the dark and nasty things that lay ahead.

The Team got into Mark’s truck. Everyone expected Pow to say, “This never gets old.” But he didn’t. They didn’t feel like they were kings of the world like when they patrolled around Pierce Point. Things felt different.

No one talked much during the slow drive to Watershed Park. They kept their eyes peeled for threats. Ryan and Wes stood in the back of the truck without the tarp. They could be out in the open now. No use hiding it. In fact, they wanted the civilians to see them. Help had arrived.

As they traveled down the Olympia streets toward Watershed Park, they were struck by how downhill the city had gone. They hadn’t really been noticing it when they went with Bravo Company toward the capitol right before the surrender. They had been expecting a full-on fight with regular forces, so they weren’t noticing little things.

Now they were. There was garbage blowing everywhere. Most businesses were boarded up. Graffiti was everywhere; mostly gang graffiti, but an occasional Patriot message in yellow paint. “I miss America” was everywhere.

There were a few civilians out. Ryan and Wes would cover them from the back of the truck, using the top of the cab as a platform to hold their rifles steady. The civilians were harmless, especially when they saw about a hundred regular troops behind the pickup. Regular troops with uniforms and high-tech weapons.

At one point, some civilians came up to the truck at an intersection. They were not afraid of Ryan and Wes pointing rifles at them.

“Do you have food?” a middle aged woman desperately asked. She looked like hell, so thin. “Please. Food. For my children.”

“Stand back, ma’am,” Ryan said.

“There is a limited amount of food at the brewery,” Wes said. “Do not bring any weapons. You will be searched.”

“Thank you!” she said. “Thank you,” she repeated as she started to walk toward the brewery and Bravo Company.

“Whoa!” Ryan yelled. “Don’t move, ma’am. Wait here with your hands up until the troops behind us get past you. Okay?”

She nodded and put her hands up. She kept looking toward the brewery like it contained the solutions to all her problems. Because it did. They had food there.

Scotty radioed to the troops behind him that the woman there was going to the brewery for food and would keep her hands up while they passed by.

“Roger that,” the Bravo radioman replied.

Mark’s black truck crept down the streets for another twenty minutes. The idling of the diesel engine was loud, but soothing. It meant they had transportation when no one else seemed to have any.

The Team and Bravo Company came to the intersection where they needed to turn left. Scotty called into the company what direction they’d be taking.

“Trouble!” Ryan yelled. Wes swung around to the direction Ryan was pointing. There were four men with what looked like hunting rifles or shotguns. They started to run.

“Can’t identify,” Wes yelled. Scotty was calling it in.

“Don’t shoot unless you can identify as enemy,” the radio said after the men had disappeared.

Not shooting unless you could identify the enemy made sense. It wouldn’t have made sense if they were invading a foreign country and everyone with a gun was a bad guy, but they were in America. As reassuring as it would have been to shoot anything with a gun, this was a city full of Americans. Who knew if they were civilians protecting their neighborhood from the gangs, were gray men out to whack Lima neighbors, or were plainclothes Limas. There was no way to tell. The Team didn’t mind rules of engagement that spared unnecessary civilian deaths when the civilians were their neighbors. Rules of engagement to make politicians happy or to prevent bad footage on CNN were another thing entirely.

BOOK: 299 Days IX: The Restoration
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