Perhaps the shit-storm would not have happened if Squad One had not been given a gift of two pounds of bacon.
Or perhaps it would not have happened if the wind had not been the gentlest of zephyrs from the south.
Trying to make sense of the attack, Chernovsky concluded that the hostile force was one of the less skilled who had survived by adopting the tactic of staying off the roads and staying out of the way of the more aggressive and more competent gangs.
That was Squad One’s undoing.
|Binoculars depict location of observation posts.|
The notable thing about Squad One is that they had been tasked with observing a piss-ant gravel road that meandered in a southerly direction in the most indirect and leisurely of ways. They also observed Vermontville Highway, a paved road that ran east-west and connected with the freeway some five miles to the west of the observation post.
Neither road saw much traffic and perhaps that served to lull the fire-teams in Squad One into a complacency that proved fatal.
Six fighters of the ten squad members were in camp shortly after breakfast had been eaten. Two fighters were in the Vermontville Highway observation post that was a quarter mile southwest of the camp and nestled into the gravel pit that overlooked the road. Two more fighters were in the other observation post that was a quarter mile to the east of the camp.
Unlike the camps of Squad Two and Squad Three, Squad One’s camp was west of the north-south road so the camp was equidistant from, and could support both observation posts with equal ease.
Chernovsky concluded that the group of hostiles had been picking their way overland when they smelled the frying bacon. Nothing improves a person’s sense of smell more than deep hunger and nothing throws a scent farther than frying bacon as each exploding sputter launches hundreds of microscopic globules of fat aloft to be buoyed and carried by the breeze.
Had the wind been stronger the turbulence would have baffled and mixed the smell of the bacon. Had it been weaker the scent would have settled to the ground.
It was just one of those things.
The six fighters in the camp were completely unprepared to have twelve hostiles burst into camp from the north.
None of the fighters had handguns. They were deemed to be little more than dead weight and nobody carried them anymore.
Terry Lake, John Gault’s team-leader had his hands deep in hot, sudsy wash water.
John Gault was closest to the tents. His instincts were good. He secured his personal weapon, inserted a magazine, cycled the bolt and shouldered his weapon.
But then he froze. Almost half of the hostiles were young women.
Terry threw the tub of hot water into the face of the first hostile. The steam prevented him from seeing one of the women rushing at him with a knife.
Gault saw it from a different angle. He could see the woman carrying the butcher knife. He saw it happen but could not process the presence of the knife + woman quickly enough to do Terry any good. The woman jammed the knife into Terry’s gut, angling upward until it had been run in all the way to the hilt.
The other four fighters were throwing off the lighter hostiles and trying to work their way to their weapons.
Finally, the screaming of one of them drilled into Gault’s consciousness “Shoot them. Shoot them.”
Belatedly, something clicked in Gault’s brain and he began servicing targets. The targets were so close that their heads were fuzzy in his scope. No matter, at this range he could not miss.
The last one he shot had dreadlocks. The hostile was twenty yards out and fleeing. Gault was numb. He did not care if it was a man or a woman. He shot "dreadlocks" in the back of his head.
Gault never figured out who called Chernovsky.
In addition to Terry, the other Team-Lead was a casualty. Although not fatal, the deep slice from one of the attacker’s knives had severed several of the tendons in the TL’s right forearm. He would not be able to function as a fighter.
Squad One did not have a functioning Team-Lead
After listening to the stories of the surviving fighters and getting the OK from Salazar and Tomanica, Chernovsky moved Donnie from Team-Leader of Squad Two to be the sole Team-leader of Squad One and left Quinn as the sole Team-Leader of Squad Two. Chernovsky needed Salazar's buy-in because Squad Two still had eight days left on their forty day quarantine.
Chernovsky cycled Gault, the guy who froze from Squad One to Squad Two.
Chernovsky also had Squad One move their camp from west of the N-S road to east of the road so prevailing winds would be less likely to carry smells and sounds to the road. He left the observation posts where they were. "Ease of servicing" suddenly became a very, very low priority.
“I shouldn’t be a fighter any more.” Gault said as a shell-shocked Gault and Chernovsky walked back to Squad Two's camp.
Chernovsky’s response was short and direct. “Bullshit.”
“I failed.” Gault said. “You should send me home.”
Counseling was not Chernovsky’s strong suit. Never-the-less, that is what he had to do.
“I already lost two fighters. I cannot afford to lose another.” Chernovsky said.
“I screwed up.” Gault said.
“Did I ever tell you about Matty Norton?” Chernovsky said as they walked east toward Squad Two.
“Who was Matty Norton?” Gault asked, in spite of himself.
“Matty was a football player in my home town.” Chernovsky said. “The thing is that he was way better than I was. I went to college on a football scholarship and he never went to college. Do you know why?”
“No.” Gault said. Of course he did not know why.
“Because every time he would miss a tackle or not sack the quarterback he would put on this big show about how mad he was.” Chernovsky said.
“It was as if he expected the crowd to applaud his high standards rather than his football ability.” Chernovsky said. “I would miss tackles, too. But I put the past behind me. I learned from my mistakes...but I did not let it poison me. Matty couldn’t do that.”
“Who is going to trust me after the story gets out?” Gault asked, voice heavy with misery.
“Stop being Matty. Lose the cry-baby voice.” Chernovsky commanded.
“I trust you. I bunk with Squad Two. If I thought you were a loser I would send you home.” Chernovsky said. “Lose the pity. Stuff it in a box. Do whatever you have to do but keep putting one foot in front of the other.”
Gault never did find out that Chernovsky had never played football with, or against a player named Matty Norton. But that did not matter. Matty was a composite of all the cry-babies Chernovsky ever met.