General Richards had no professional respect for General Patrick or General Rife. In fact, he had very active animosity toward them. For one thing, they had thwarted his plans to set the stage for a military coup, a coup that would put him in charge of Livingston County.
They had not knowingly cock-blocked him. Rather, they had somehow convinced “Rainman” Torvaldsen to NOT allocate Richards the majority of the military troops in Livingston County.
It was unlikely that Richards could engineer Torvaldsen’s overthrow when two-thirds of the military were not under his control.
He was about to fix that problem.
For weeks Richards had been sending Torvaldsen emails outlining the deficiencies of the troops...and leadership...tasked with defending Livingston County.
Tonight, Richards was going to demonstrate those deficiencies to Torvaldsen.
Richards was going to demonstrate to Torvaldsen exactly how incompetently led the defensive forces were. Richards, Torvaldsen and General Rife (who didn’t know it yet) were going to observe Richards’ commandos staging a raid on the food warehouse shortly after midnight.
It wasn’t going to be a training exercise. The defenders were not going to be warned. The only concession Richards was making was to have his commandos carry paint-ball guns. Not that Richards cared if the defenders were killed. For that matter, Richards knew that Torvaldsen wouldn't be bothered by a few deaths, either. Rather, it was because Richards did not want to risk the embarrassment of having blue-on-blue casualties.
Richards, Torvaldsen and Rife were standing on the crest of a berm a couple of hundred yards southeast of the food warehouse. It was 1:15 in the morning. Richards had reinforced himself with caffeine. Torvaldsen was a night-owl. Rife was struggling to stay awake.
Torvaldsen had called Rife into HQ a little after midnight with no explanation.
Torvaldsen told Rife to turn in all of his comms gear. Rife did so without comment.
Then the three men went to the point Richards chose to observe the night’s festivities.
Richards chose the food warehouse because his Lieutenants told him that guard duty at the warehouse was the “trash can” for Livingston County military. If somebody didn’t fit in, or was physically a wreck, then they were “scraped off” on the warehouse duty.
Richards didn’t want to just beat a defensive unit. He wanted to annihilate it and completely humiliate Rife and Patrick. Only then could he make a compelling case to be head of all the military.
The evening was cool and there was a slight breeze. There were no mosquitoes.
Surreptitiously looking at his wristwatch for the fifth time in seven minutes, Richards said “Three units left cover there, there and there” pointing at darker blobs where bushes grew.
There was a tiny sliver of moon peeking out between the ragged clouds. Just enough to make out shapes flitting toward the south end of the warehouse where the “hooch” was set up.
The units leapfrogged. One group bounded forward while the other covered.
While the units could have covered the distance in less than a couple of minutes, Richards wanted the theatrics of the situation to ripen. He told any unit that covered the distance in less than ten minutes would be flogged.
“I don’t see why we are here.” Rife said. Ironically for such a large man, his voice was a high, clear tenor and not the rumbly baritone one would normally expect.
“Quiet” Richards said. “We are observing a field test of your unit to assess their preparedness.”
Rife didn’t like it but he couldn’t say anything since Torvaldsen seemed to be read-in and didn’t object.
Rife had no illusions about the quality of men guarding the warehouse.
The warehouse was deep within Livingston County. It was understood that a few infiltrators did not pose much of a risk to the food. Bagged grain does not burn quickly.
It was also understood that larger forces would be seen as they crossed the frontier and would be challenged. The gunfire and subsequent communications should be enough to alert the soldiers guarding the warehouse.
...should be enough… That appeared to be a slender reed at this point.
Rife knew that Richards was ambitious. He also knew that Richards had a tendency to cut corners and blame subordinates. Extrapolating WHY Richards was setting him up for embarrassment was not difficult. Rife did not relish the prospect of working for Richards.
Richards spoke into the microphone of his radio “Hold at fifty yards.”
The dark blobs stopped flitting.
In Rife’s professional judgment, the attackers had formed a circular firing squad. Two-thirds of the fighters were within the cone-of-destruction from other fighters.
Richards stopped the advance so he could pontificate. His script was interrupted when the end of a cold, steel barrel jammed into the base of his skull hard enough to tip the tip of his chin to his chest.
“The only reason you aren’t already dead is because I heard General Rife’s voice” Richards, Torvaldsen and Rife heard in a stage whisper.
“General Rife, are you being held hostage?” the voice asked.
“No, I am here of my own free will.” Rife responded.
“Do you want me to kill him anyway?” the voice asked.
Rife contemplated the advantages for half a second. “No, not this time” he responded. His voice sounded regretful. Richards was not the only one versed in the value of a bit of drama.
During the half-second Rife was contemplating Richards' fate, Richards had the chilling realization that Torvaldsen would feel no remorse over his demise.
The gentle sound of plastic “shucking” was heard as Spackle depressed the side of the microphone clipped to his left lapel. Spackle left the barrel of the gun firmly pressed into the base of Richards’ skull. “Gentlemen, illuminate your targets.”
Laser dots appeared between the shoulder blades of Richards’ elite commandos. Not every commando was illuminated. Nor was every laser dot rock-steady. But it didn’t take much imagination to foresee that half of the commandos would be dealt fatal wounds in the first volley.
The slight breeze dissipated any mist or fog. There was no way to conveniently follow the lasers back to their sources.
Rife could barely contain his glee as he shared the night’s events with General Patrick.
Torvaldsen refused to transport Richards back to HQ because Richards had shit his pants after he figured out he had a GUN pressed to the back of his skull. Or, on second thought, maybe it was when he saw the enormous dog poised to bite his junk.
Rife said he stuck around to congratulate the NCO. “I asked him if there was anything I could do to help him complete his mission”
“What did he ask for?” Patrick asked, expecting a request for vehicles.
“He asked for live ammo.” Rife said.
Patrick frowned. “So his offering to kill Richards was a bluff?”
“I asked about that.” Rife admitted. “This kid is the one they call Corn Dog; he said he didn’t need ammo to kill somebody...but that it was mighty convenient to have, sometimes.”