Survivor
Chapter 05

Copyright© 2016 by Ernest Bywater

Senior High School

When Pat moves from Grade School to Junior High School he’s a bit surprised by the change in the student culture. However, soon after he starts the 10th Grade in Senior High School the differences in the student culture to his previous schools is a shock to him! In the first few weeks he learns how important the student social standing is to the majority of the students now, and how it can make school easier or a lot harder than it needs to be. The real shock for him is how so many minor things contribute to how the students evaluate the social standing. As a general rule how well you do in your studies is almost irrelevant to the social standing, except in a negative manner for the more serious students.

The students in Pat’s year aren’t immediately affected by the culture of the Senior High School, but within a few weeks most are indoctrinated into it and are allowing the social standing culture to affect how they relate to the other students. Pat finds it amusing and he ignores the whole issue. Of course this attitude lowers his student social standing. But his refusal to let it get to him angers the older students who feel they must control these things, especially the status conscious seniors and juniors.

Pat decides to play baseball in Senior High School because the times of their practices and games is more suited to his other activities than the other sports. An odd reason to choose a sport, but a good one when he has no real preference for any of the sports offered by the school. At home Sarge and Gunny rate Pat as an expert with all of the handguns and rifles they have, as well as being very good at unarmed combat.

The biggest shock to Pat is how so many of the students change the way they react to students of the opposite sex in their grade. Until now all of the relationships between genders were on the basis of ‘keep away’ or as ‘good friends.’ While now the pressure from the older students is pushing many students into ‘girlfriend / boyfriend’ relationships simply because that’s how the older students are, so not being in a similar type of relationship is bad for your school social standing.

Another shock is how the choice of sport affects your social standing because some are seen as more important sports by those who decree the student social standing values. Being on the bench for the Junior Varsity American Football team has more value than being a starter on the Varsity Soccer team. However, being on any sports team in any way is far better than not being on any team at all.

School social events like dances are now much more important than they were before. Previously it didn’t matter if you went or didn’t, now it’s very important you go to the dances and it’s critical you have a date for the dance. Valentine’s Day cards for classmates were a minor item, but now they’re a major issue. Pat does a little checking with some of the older students and he learns having a steady girlfriend is another item in the near future that’s decreed by the student social standing gods. A part of having a steady girlfriend is going on regular dates with them.

When Pat talks about the social standing issues the adults in his life think it’s funny and talk about such events in their time in high school. Pat sees no need to change his attitudes or behaviours, so he doesn’t. In doing so he learns a very valuable lesson: by stepping aside from all of the fancy dancing decreed by the older students he moves outside of their ability to affect him through it. Sure, some of the other students modify their behaviour to him due to the edicts of the student powers, but most who’ve known him for some time soon drop back into their old patterns. It doesn’t take long for many in Pat’s grade to realise he’s one of those who marches to the beat of a different drummer: his own beat.

Another social aspect is the way groups form at lunch and how the students at the tables hardly varies after the first several weeks. Most of them shake down into groups they stay in while some will also move between tables for a lunch or two to see someone and then back again.

Lunch Meeting

A couple of months into the new school year a new student arrives at the Senior High School. All can tell she’s not happy due to the sad look on her face all the time. After she’s there about two weeks Pat notices she still sits by herself at one of the shorter tables so he decides to talk to her.

Pat is usually one of the first into the cafeteria for meals so this day he sits at his regular table but he doesn’t immediately open his lunch box. When the new girl sits at her table Pat stands, goes over to her table, and asks her, “Mind if I join you for lunch today?” She shrugs her shoulders and continues to eat her lunch. Pat sits down, gets his lunch out, and starts to eat the rice with mixed vegetables he has today.

He’s halfway through the large container when the girl asks, “That smells like it’s still hot. Is it?”

Looking up from his meal Pat says, “Not exactly hot, but still very warm. The container is well insulated and it has a small battery powered heating element in it to keep the food fairly warm. I’m Pat Nolan.”

“Sorry, I’m Laura Meeks. How come you have special food?”

“I’m on a strict diet set by my doctor and her nutritionist. I bring my own food in each day. I’m not sure if it’s allowed or not, but no one’s complained about it. Each year I bring in an approval note, just in case they need one to let me do this. I do have to take a school meal because the rules say I have to. However, some of my friends enjoy the extra food they get by eating my school food. How come you’re always so sad?”

“My parents are in the military and we’d just got settled into a new house and school when they both got an urgent posting. So now I live with my grandparents and I’ve another school to get used to. I’d only just started getting settled in there and I get shunted here. I know my parents aren’t close to the fighting over there, but I worry about them.”

“If they’re near any combat you’ve grounds to be concerned. But there’s nothing you can do about it so you shouldn’t worry so much.”

“I know, but I can’t help it. I’ve got so much time with nothing to do except worry about them.”

Slowly shaking his head Pat says, between mouthfuls of food, “Then you need to get involved with other activities for you to think about.”

“I was down to start an advanced first aid course but they’re not doing one here. Dad also had me down to learn self defence but I can’t find a suitable class here I like.”

Pat grins, gets out his cell phone, turns it on, scrolls through to his contacts list, turns it around to show the number to Laura, and says, “Enter this name and number into your phone.” She half frowns, but she does get her phone out, turns it on, and enters the information into her phone. Pat moves to another name and holds it for her to enter those details as well. When she finishes entering the information they both turn their phones off again. He adds, “You now have the numbers of two medically retired service personnel who live in Eagle Pass. The first is a Navy Corpsman who can teach you more than just first aid. The other is a Marine who can teach you unarmed combat. Give them both a call and tell them I gave you their phone numbers.”

“How do you know them?”

“They used to live and work on my grandfather’s ranch but when they got married they moved into Eagle Pass to live with their spouses. I know they can teach those subjects well because they taught them to me. The training started while we all lived on the ranch and it finished last year. But we still get together to go over everything to stay current.”

Their conversation moves onto other after school things Laura can do to keep busy, then they go their separate ways at the end of lunch. Over the following weeks Laura does become involved with Gunny and Erin as well as other after school activities available in the area. It all helps to keep her mind off her parents and she stops looking so sad all of the time. Laura and Pat stay good acquaintances in Senior High School, but they don’t become close friends. The only times they see each other are at lunch, some after school activities, and around the town.

The Rest of Senior High School

Pat does well in all of his classes due to hard work. He’s smart and is good at working things out, but he has to study and apply himself to a few subjects just to stay in the top ten percent of the year in all subjects. But not in the top five percent in any of them. Due to being so far out of town his opportunities for dating are limited until he can get a driver’s license. However, Pat does attend each of the major school dances each year with a date, but with a different girl for each dance.

A year or so after Pat joined the crew at the ranch Bubba obtained a 1941 Buick Century Series 60 sedan that had been a staff car during World War 2. The body was in good condition but it needed a new coat of paint and the engine needed a major rebuild. Over the years he and the others worked on it in their spare time. There were many delays while getting needed parts found and purchased or, in some cases, machined. It took a few years to get the car looking and working like new, including some hidden extras of more seat padding plus improved air-conditioning and heating. The finished car is painted in Army Olive Drab with the code numbers and badges of a staff car used by the 82nd Airborne during the war. The car’s first public outing is Pat’s first Homecoming Dance in high school, where it gets a lot of attention when Bubba drives up to drop Pat and his date at the drop-off point in front of the school auditorium. Sarge gets out of the front passenger seat to let Pat and his date out. Of course both Sarge and Bubba have to wear their full dress uniforms for the task. After that the car is often used in local parades as well as for taking Pat to the various school dances. Often his dates for the school dances are the daughters of the families working the ranch’s farmland outside the main fence because they already know each other and it makes sense for them to travel in together.

There’s only three matters worth mentioning about the rest of Pat’s time in Senior High School because most of it went smoothly with little of note. The first is when Pat tries out for the school baseball team, the second is when he has a talk with Sarge, Bubba, Gunny, Erin, and Dave about his future, and the last is just before the end of his Junior Year - a month before Pat’s seventeenth birthday.

Baseball

During his first year in Senior High School Pat tries out for the school baseball teams. He’s not played organised baseball before, but he does learn the basics from Sarge and Bubba. He also plays in scratch games on some of the days while he’s in town with spare time. Thus he knows the rules, he has the basic skills, and he has been taught the tactics of playing while watching games on the television with Bubba and Sarge.

Pat knows there was no point trying out for the varsity team because he’s an inexperienced player. So he joins the smaller group because he’s not out to impress the coach of the Varsity Team. Two teachers helping out as junior coaches take the group Pat is part of to the school’s baseball field to test their skills while the head coach has the rest on the football field to test their overall fitness as a way of culling the group down.

At the baseball diamond the coach tells the boys to form into groups by fielding positions. He points at one spot and says, “Infielders to my left,” at another, “Pitchers to my right,” a third spot, “Catchers behind me, and you Outfielders stay where you are.” Pat watches two thirds of the boys go to the ‘Infielder’ spot so he decides to stay where he is to be an ‘Outfielder’ because he knows he’s not a good Pitcher or Catcher.

After everyone joins a group the coach counts the boys, and sighs. He needs two teams and the best will be on the Junior Varsity Team. For each team they try to have two or three Catchers, four to six Pitchers, eight Infielders, and five Outfielders. He knows he’ll get more boys due to the cutting of the Varsity team, but he has only two Catchers, six Outfielders, fifteen Pitchers, and twenty Infielders. He says, “Year Ten students stand two paces to the left of your group,” and watches how many split out. He watches when both Catchers move left, eight Pitchers move left, along with all six Outfielders, and ten Infielders. The coach thinks, Well, it looks like we’ll have a full First Year Team. He hands the rest to the other coach and they start to organise a practice game between the two groups so they can evaluate the players’ skills. He puts the First Year Team in the field first. He asks players the positions they play, notes them down on a sheet, and then picks some to go field while the others take turns batting. Because Pat has no experience at all he’s listed as the last to go out.

When Pat does get into the field he’s put in Right Field. The coach soon notices Pat is fast to cover the ground and he usually makes the catch when he can get to it, but he’s much faster than the others at getting the ball back into Second or Home, as required. After trying everyone in the different positions for their group the coach has many notes. One note is on the need to teach Pat how to play the outfield properly, but he does notes Pat can do well in all three outfield positions.

Later the coach is rotating all of the players through the field positions again when another coach brings a group of varsity rejects over to be tested for the other teams. He stops to watch for a while, and he’s very surprised at the speed and power Pat is putting into returning the balls from near the fence. After watching a few plays he goes back to the varsity squad to steal a couple of players. On the way to the diamond he briefs them on what he wants done. He talks with the lead coach of the junior squads then he sets up for a few plays.

The fielders are in their usual positions when the Pitcher puts a ball on the first base side of the plate in the middle of the zone. The batter from the Varsity Team hits it good, right into the corner of the field just fair of the line. When the ball is hit the coach starts a stopwatch in his left hand, when Pat picks the ball up from the corner the coach starts the stopwatch in his right hand. He stops both when the ball reaches the Catcher, which is where Pat is told to throw it to. The times on both are noted then the other player with the coach replaces Pat in the field to do the same play. Pat wonders why they’re doing it, but he doesn’t say anything about it. Once the play is over the coach has Pat and the other player go to different places on the field to return balls to the Catcher while the coach times them. After the coach has all of the figures listed on the sheet of paper he smiles and leaves with the two players he brought from the other squad.

They’re nearing the end of the practice when the coach of the Junior Varsity Team says to Pat, “You’ve got a strong arm. The timed testing shows you can get a ball back to the Catcher a lot faster than our best senior Outfielder. I expect you’ll be on the Varsity Team very soon. I’ve got to teach you how to play the positions and then we need to see how you play under pressure in a few games, but I think you’ll be moved up as soon as you can prove you can perform during a game.”

Over the following weeks Pat does a lot of studying on how best to play the three outfield positions. He improves with each day of training they have, and the coach’s smile grows with each improvement.

When the season starts Pat doesn’t play in the First Year Team’s first game because he’s been put on the Junior Varsity Team. During the first Junior Varsity game a few people note how all of the fly balls to Right Field usually end up in Pat’s glove for an out because he’s so fast in covering the ground to make the catch. However, it’s not until the top of the seventh inning a batter hits a ball up into the right corner close to the foul line. The ball hits the fence in fair territory and drops to the ground. Pat’s team is up by one run, there’s two out, with a runner on First who takes off when the ball is pitched. The instructions given to Pat at the start of the game included, ‘If a runner is on his way Home and you think you can get the ball there in time, do it.’ So Pat scoops up the ball with his glove, spins while grabbing the ball out of his glove with his right hand, takes a step toward Home, and he lets fly with all he has. The ball only rises a little in its flight to Home. The Catcher is watching the ball because his job is to know where it is, so he can see the ball is heading straight for him. He flicks a glance over his shoulder at the runner coming around Third, then he shouts, “Let it go, Jim.” The ball flies by the head of Jim, the fielder at First. The Catcher takes the incoming ball, turns, leans up the line toward Third, and he tags the runner out. The spectators go wild because the out retires the side for a home team win. The opposition coach turns to his assistant and says, “I saw him throw it to the Catcher, but I still don’t believe he got it there in time. He must have a hell of an arm to do that.” The assistant coach agrees with him.

The next week Pat is playing Right Field on the school’s Varsity Team. He does very well in the position for all three years of Senior High School. He’s awarded ‘All State’ honours as the best Right Fielder in high school in the state for all of the three years he’s on the team, despite his team not going very far in the state play-offs.

Employment Discussion

During the first semester of Pat’s Junior Year he sits down with Erin, Sarge, Bubba, Gunny, and Dave to talk about what he should study at college, which requires a talk about long term employment goals. Due to a wish to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather Pat asks about joining the military and he asks for advice on what service to join.

All of the others take a moment to glance at each other before Gunny says, “Pat, you shouldn’t join the military at all. You may wish to think about it after you finish college, but not before. Do the right courses at college and you could sign up as an officer. However, there’s no way you should consider signing up as an ‘enlisted man!’ No way at all.”

Pat frowns and is about to speak when Bubba says, “Pat, you can pass the final tests for basic training right now. In many areas you’re a long way beyond what they teach in basic. Having to do basic will bore you to tears and you’ll get angry at having to be kept back to be taught what you already know. If you could be sure of getting into West Point or a similar officer cadet course then you should consider it. But you’re smart enough to be an officer, yet not in the IQ bracket where they’ll be sure to put you in for officer training. Even then you’ll have problems because you’re already well enough trained to be a good senior officer, but you won’t do well in the positions they stick green junior officers in.”

All of the others support the view so the talk ranges wider. In the end it’s agreed Pat should look at college courses he’d like to do and to also consider a college with an ROTC unit so he can see what they’re like. If he really wants a military career he can consider joining the ROTC after his first year at college or to transfer to a military college later, even if it means more time in college.

Pat is stunned they consider him to be too well trained to join any of the military services as a basic recruit as the difference between his level of training and the others would lead to problems. For now the decision is to go to a college for a teaching degree and some business management courses.

Alone Again, Almost

During April of Pat’s Junior Year Sarge and Pat are out on a night exercise as part of Pat’s ongoing honing of the skills they taught him when they come across ten armed men with a line of twenty-five mules carrying large bundles on their pack-frames. Although it’s not the full moon there’s enough moonlight for them to see well and to see what the men are doing. Sarge calls the ranch to let Bubba know what they’ve found while he signals for Pat to move off to the side so they can have the smugglers in a crossfire if there’s any trouble.

Pat moves off to the side of the men so he’s looking down their left side when he kneels behind a rock with some scrub just in front of it. He has his .22 calibre version of the M1 carbine ready with one of the long magazines in it as well as a round in the breech. On his radio Pat listens to the conversation between Sarge and Bubba while the men walk a bit closer to the waiting duo.

Sarge sets up in a similar position to Pat on the right side of the approaching column. He sets up with his .30 calibre M1 carbine with a long magazine and a round in the breech. Where Sarge is set different to Pat is he has his torch in his left hand holding it on the top of the rock he’s behind.

When the men reach a suitable point Sarge turns his torch on while he shouts out in Spanish, “You’re under arrest, put your guns down.” The men immediately drop to the ground while they bring their guns up to shoot at Sarge. Both Pat and Sarge return fire by picking off targets at the back of the group first. The firefight is both fierce and short. Only two minutes after the first shot is fired Pat and Sarge are making sure all of the enemies are dead with check shots into them. Sarge says, into the radio, “Pat, cover me,” before he leaves his place to go check each of the enemy is dead. Both of them change magazines.

Once Sarge confirms they’re dead Pat stands, turns his torch on, and he starts looking for the casings of the rounds he fired. It takes him several minutes, but he has them all in his pocket about the same time as Sarge finishes collecting his casings.

They’re checking the mules over when Bubba arrives in one of their pickup trucks. Pat is busy removing the loads from the mules to stack them in the truck while Bubba and Sarge load the dead into body-bags after checking their pockets. Once Pat has all of the bundles of drugs in the pickup he collects and unloads the guns of the dead while Bubba and Sarge load the body-bags on top of the drugs. The load is tied down and Sarge says, “Pat, take the mules to the ranch while we dispose of the rubbish.” Pat nods yes, goes to the first mule, takes the lead rope, and he walks toward the ranch house. All of the mules have their leads attached to the pack-frame of the mule in front, so they naturally follow him.

Half an hour later Pat has the mules in their small stables. He had to take the frames off them while outside because the mules fill the stables by themselves. He gives them another check in the better light, sets out some buckets of water and grain along the walls, and he closes the door.

While Pat is busy with the mules Bubba and Sarge drive the pickup to the river, park above the drop to the crossing, dump the dead and the bundles of drugs down the rise, then they start the task of carrying it all back across the river and up the other side. When they’ve all of the drugs across they bring over two five gallon cans of petrol they pour over the drugs. Next is to carry the dead across to stack them in a pile to the side by dumping them out of the body-bags. The last task is to toss two lit flares in the drugs to burn them and to return across the river while they brush out the tracks they made.

The next day Sarge reports hearing gunfire from near the river, so the Sheriff comes out to check on it. When they reach the river he can see the dead and the remains of the burnt drugs, but it’s in Mexico so he phones his Mexican counterpart to tell him of the find and he leaves it at that. The Sheriff is sure Sarge and Bubba are involved but he has no evidence they were, and, anyway, it’s only the destruction of drugs.

When he leaves the property the Sheriff smiles and stops to talk to Pat who’s standing beside the road with a bunch of mules. He asks, “What are you up to with all those mules, Pat?”

Pat grins as he replies, “Waiting for their owners to come and collect them. We had them here grazing and now we’re sending them home.”

The Sheriff glances at the nearby stack of pack frames, slowly nods his head, and he’s about to speak again when two local small farmers pull up in their trucks towing stock trailers. Both men of Mexican heritage get out while thanking Pat for looking after their mules. They let down the trailer ramps and lead the mules into the trailers while they call them by name. One man loads two mules while the other loads three. They grab a pack frame for each mule too. They’re just pulling out when three more local farmers pull up with stock trailers. Shaking his head the Sheriff thinks, Oh well, better to have the locals benefiting from the events than having the drugs loose. But I’d rather have the men and drugs locked up. He sits down to chat with Pat while a stream of small farmers in pickup trucks arrive to collect ‘their’ mules and take them home.

The next Monday Sarge drops Pat at school before he visits Q to sell him a bunch of guns he no longer needs. Naturally Q pays less than what he’ll sell them for, but it’s still ‘found money’ for Sarge. He keeps ten percent to pay for the ammunition expended and he gives the rest of the money to local charities who help the poorer people in the county.

Reaction

Two weeks later Pat is still waiting outside the school when the last of the school buses leave. Since he’s normally picked up while the first bus is being loaded he knows something’s wrong, so he phones Bubba and says, “Bubba, Pat, was there a delay in Sarge leaving to collect me?”

Bubba replies, “No, Pat. In fact, he left early and he should’ve been out the front waiting for you. Why?”

“He’s not here yet.”

“I’ll lock up and go looking for him.”

“No. Secure the ranch house and wait there. Check the cameras. I’ll call Gunny and we’ll go look for him.”

“OK, I’ll do that.”

Pat calls Gunny, explains the situation, and waits for Gunny to come get him so they’ll have two people in the car. While he’s waiting Pat phones the Sheriff’s Office to ask if there’s been any problems reported on the road into town from the ranch. He’s told nothing’s been reported.

Gunny arrives, Pat gets in, and they head south. They’re almost to the ranch when they find Sarge’s pickup on the side of the road shot full of holes. They stop, get out, and check on Sarge. He’s dead. The two are quick to remove all of the weapons and gear from Sarge’s truck to the truck they’re in, except for the Beretta M9 in Sarge’s hand.

Both Pat and Gunny put on their body armour and they have their rifles in hand when Pat phones the Sheriff’s Office to report finding Sarge while Gunny starts to circle the area looking for information about the attack. Before the Sheriff’s Deputies arrive Gunny finds four dead men, blood from some others, and a place where a truck was parked on the side of the road for a while. He also finds several other firing positions identified by the footprints and the casings on the ground. Once he’s sure there’s no attackers still around Gunny and Pat put their guns and body armour away again.

When the Sheriff’s Deputies arrive Pat and Gunny give statements and continue to the ranch. The attack is the main topic of conversation and it ends with Pat saying, “I’m certain this was organised by the people behind the last drug shipment. Can you find out who that is, please?” Gunny simply nods his agreement to see what he can find out.

The Saturday of the following week is Sarge’s funeral, which is very similar to the funerals for Digger and Hard Ball. One difference is the large number of locals of Mexican descent who attend the funeral. They knew Sarge well and most of them also know Pat well.

After the funeral Pat is surrounded by a group of people offering their condolences when a person behind him pushes an envelope into his hand while softly saying, “Don’t let anyone see you have this.” Pat slips the envelope into his pocket as he pretends like he heard nothing. It’s another twenty minutes before Pat can leave the graveside to go to the VFW Hall where they’re having a wake for Sarge.

Once seated in the hall Pat slips the envelope to Bubba under the table while saying, “Someone with a Mexican accent gave me this at the funeral. I didn’t see who it was, but they told me not to show I had it.”

Bubba slips the envelope into his pocket while saying, “I’ll read it a bit later when I’m sure no one is watching me.”

Pat nods agreement, turns to Dave, and asks, “Dave, how did you keep the state child welfare people out of my hair?”

Dave grins as he replies, “The Sheriff forgot to tell them you’re an orphan. He knows you can look after yourself and you’ve Bubba to help you. I also told him I’m filing for an Emancipation Order for you so you can be a legal adult at seventeen. I expect it’ll be approved.”

Pat smiles, looks up, and waves for Billy and Erin to join them. When they sit down Pat asks, “Billy, when is the Sheriff organising another of the fund raising events for injured deputies and their families?”

“We’re in the middle of planning one for the middle of June, why?”

“Send someone out with a stock trailer so you can take two steers as a donation for it. The down side of that is they also have to catch the steers because we let them roam free.”

Bubba joins in with, “Ask Juan to bring his big stock trailer and take four steers. Two for the fund raiser plus two for the church to butcher and distribute to the poor. That way he’ll be sure to bring enough men to catch them for you.” Both Pat and Billy nod their agreement.

Plans

The next afternoon Pat, Gunny, and Bubba are sitting at the dinner table of the ranch discussing Sarge’s murder. Bubba says, “The letter Pat was given yesterday has the details of who killed Sarge. A lot of the local Mexican community aren’t happy about them killing Sarge. It also warns they’re after Pat and me too. There’s a lot of information on the people behind the attack and their main location. It checks with, and confirms, what I’ve found out from other sources.”

Gunny says, “The best defence is a good offence.”

Pat thinks for a moment, then says, “We need to find out a lot more about their HQ and their movements so we can take them out.”

Bubba grins, “I don’t know how they know, but the map in the plans they gave you is very detailed. The sensors and guard posts are marked as well as the buildings and their contents. The only way we’ll get into it is with a company level assault. Every inch within five hundred yards is covered with cameras and sensors. The place is a fortress.”

“Where is it?” is Pat’s next question.

“That’s the other thing. The compound is about thirty miles into Mexico. The farmers between there and here are too scared to interfere with the drug dealers in any way. I’ve looked at the terrain maps of the area and the compound is on a slight rise with flat land all around it for over a thousand yards.” He slides some printouts of terrain maps of the area across the table while adding, “The only place you can look into the place from is this knoll here that’s eighteen hundred yards away,” and he taps a small slightly higher rise on the map.

They all study the map for a few minutes before Pat says, “Gunny, I need a Barrett M Eighty-two A Two with an extra shoulder pad, carry case, a hundred rounds of Mark Two One One and M One Oh Two Two cartridges as well as a hundred rounds of standard ball for practice.”

Gunny turns to stare at Pat while asking, “How do you know about those fancy rounds?”

“I read a story about a sniper using the special sniper rounds and the high-explosive armour-piercing rounds. What I do need to do is get in a lot of practice to handle the recoil on them. The fifty has the range if I can be accurate enough with it.”

Bubba says, “I’m told the effective range with the explosive rounds is about a hundred yards less than the sniper rounds. You best get more of both for training.”

Gunny says, “I should be taking this job on, not you, Pat.”

“My family, my duty, I’ll handle it! You do your duty to your friend by getting me what I need to do my duty with,” is Pat’s reply.

Time Moves On

Pat concentrates on his studies and he does well in his final exams. The school ends for the year. Memorial Day comes and is celebrated by many people remembering absent friends who’re gone but not forgotten. Information is collected. Gunny obtains the rifle and ammunition. Then Pat spends many hours out at the range firing a lot of ammunition until all three of them are happy with his accuracy with the rifle at the long range expected. Also, the local judge approves Pat’s emancipation.

Response

Just before dusk on a Friday in late June, the weekend after the fund raiser is held by the Sheriff, Pat straddles his electric motorcycle and rides off toward the river crossing while Bubba views the cameras. Pat stops just before the final ridge, gets off, and he takes care walking up to the ridge until he can look at the ground on the other side. He takes a very long time giving it a good examination with the monocular he has while listening to the report Bubba is giving him over the radio. Fifteen minutes later it’s full dark when Pat gives the area a scan with the infra-red and he sees nothing on the screen larger than a rabbit.

Back at the bike Pat picks it up to carry it over the ridge, down to the river, across the river, and up the bank on the other side. This way there’s no risk of the tyre marks being left at the scene of the crossing. When he’s a hundred yards into Mexico Pat reports to Bubba over the radio while he sets the bike down and he gets ready to continue his journey.

The target is only thirty miles away, but it takes Pat five hours to go the fifty miles he’s taking to get there by going far to the west before he turns back to come up to his destination from the south-west with the knoll between him and the compound. It takes time due to having to lift the bike over some fences and to check the ground for the last mile.

On reaching the knoll Pat stops, gets off, and he uses some detectors to check the knoll over. He smiles when he detects a few pressure sensors on the top of the knoll, but none elsewhere. He was right, they did take precautions against someone using the knoll. However, they made the mistake of assuming everyone would use the top of the knoll. There’s a nice large clump of bushes on the north side of the knoll so Pat plans to hide in them in the section closest to the top of the knoll.

A few minutes work with his trenching tool is all Pat needs to make a good spot for him on the side and just down from the very top of the knoll. He sets out a plastic frame to cover where he’ll lie down, spreads a thermal blanket over it, then a camouflage net over that, takes the Barrett out of its case to lay it in his hide, along with his carbine, erects a frame over the bike, puts a thermal blanket and a camouflage net over the bike, backs the bike into the rear of his hide so the bike is hidden amongst the bushes, sets cameras to watch around him, puts out a folding solar panel that looks like dirt, hooks it to the bike to recharge it, climbs into his hide, and he settles down for now. His last act for the night is to send a coded phone signal to let Bubba know he’s there, set up, and safe.

The several cameras watching the approaches to Pat’s hideout feed into an Asus netbook he has with a program to compare recent frames to note any changes and it then alert him via an earplug if there are changes for two consecutive sets of frames. This enables him to feel secure while he has naps during the day. He snacks and sips on drinks while awake. At the times he needs to dispose of biological wastes he leaves the hide to use his trenching tool to lift up an area of ground under a bush to put the waste in then he covers it up so it looks undisturbed.

For two days and nights Pat stays in his hideout responding to alerts from the cameras, but no one comes near his hideout. While he’s awake he watches the compound to track what’s happening in it. He’s able to identify what goes on in some buildings, confirms the large barn has a helicopter in it, another barn is full of four-wheel drive pickup trucks, and a warehouse looking building has bundles of what looks like drugs in it. The good thing here is the tanks of petrol and propane are beside the warehouse with the building between them and the main housing.

On the third day Pat watches several vehicles arrive during the day. People get out of the cars to enter the main building, while some cars have women and children as well as men he identifies as senior members of the group. At no point does he see his main target, so he does nothing. Pat is starting to wonder if the man is there. Late in the afternoon an official looking car with a large man Pat doesn’t know arrives and, for a brief moment, the main target is visible when he leaves the house to greet this important guest. The target is moving the whole time so Pat takes no action. When he strikes he wants to be sure of his target.

During the evening it’s obvious some partying and meetings are taking place inside the house. However, Pat waits for his targets to be out in the open where he has a clear shot at them. With the primary and all of the secondary targets here he wants to take out as many as he can.

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