Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chapter 14


People drifted into the meadow throughout the afternoon. By six o'clock, when the 22nd of the 401st arrived, several hundred of them were sitting peacefully in the grass by the road, waiting for a concert to happen. Captain Limerick gave them a sorrowful look and turned to Mayor Tallmadge, who was riding in the back of his Humvee.

"Shit! We're not even deployed, and we have a crowd."

"What the hell did you expect? You can't do crowd control without a crowd."

"What I expected was time to deploy. These things take time you know."

"Well," the mayor said, "just pretend they aren't there until you have your people set up. And remember, no violence! I don't want a Kent State fiasco here. I have to run for office again this fall."

"Don't worry about that. We don't have any bullets."


"Just what I said. We don't carry ammunition for domestic disturbances."

"Then what the hell are you doing with the rifles?"

"It's real simple. When we go to camp each year, we issue every man his weapon. He's responsible for it until we check them back in at the armory. We can't just leave them lying around, and we don't have an armory here to check them into. So, we carry them. Now let me get this thing organized."

When he wasn't a commanding officer, Limerick was a manager in the shoe department at K-Mart. His college degree, liberal arts, with an emphasis on modern poetry, qualified him as officer material when he enlisted. But, it was his obsession with keeping shoeboxes perfectly stacked in orderly rows that he found most useful in the guard.

"Let's dismount men! I want to see a neat formation. Gunnery Sergeant, fall these people in."

The crowd smiled, and looked on in placid amazement as the two hundred guardsmen ambled into position. Most of the crowd was much more interested in the clear blue of the sky, or the fifteen discernable shades of green vibrating in the small valley. Several of the young women had stripped off their clothing to take in the sun. These were of particular interest to the guardsmen; much more interesting than standing in a line. Topless girls beat platoon sergeants every time. Most of the men were staring at the sunbathers when the crop duster flew over trailing a sticky fog.

Captain Limerick looked up after the retreating chopper. "What the hell was that?" He asked the mayor.

The mayor tried to spit, but was obviously some years out of practice. "I'm not sure, but I suppose we're about to grow some, or die. It tastes like shit though. I can tell you that."


On the hillside high above the concertgoers and the guardsmen, Doc sat in his trailer watching the proceedings on his monitors. He was dressed in a surplus hazardous waste cleanup suit made from white material with a clear plastic visor. An air purification unit purred at his side blowing a fresh breeze against his face. Around him, M and the others stood in similar garb. They watched as the guardsmen milled around their formation and the crop duster disappeared in the distance.

Meyer was agitated and uncomfortable. "M. Aren't you worried that those boys will suffer flashbacks or other ill effects?"

"Not really Meyer. It isn't exactly like it is portrayed in the government propaganda films."

"Hey," Doc said. "Did you see Reefer Madness? It was a damn classic."

"No," Meyer said. "I didn't. I'm just worried about those boys. They haven't done anything to deserve this."

Angel put her arm over Meyer's shoulder and gave him a hug. "Don't worry. They'll be fine. If you want something to worry about, you might try worrying about those girls down there. It looks to me like some of the guys are feeling a bit amorous."

"Yup!" Doc said with a smile. "And, it wouldn't surprise me if the army's 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy became a casualty tonight. Some of those soldiers are looking awfully friendly."

"What do you see at the main lodge?"

Doc turned back to his monitors. "Well, my infrared can't make it through those log walls, or I could tell you exactly who was were. But, from what I can see through their window slits, and from the parabolic mikes, they won't be much of a threat. One of the women is hallucinating about a mustache that seems to be growing out of her palm. And the head honcho is trying to figure out how his logs could turn colors and melt. Other than that, things are pretty quiet, except for Berg. He's trying to sweet-talk the dog."

By the time the sun had gone down and night folded over the little valley, things had deteriorated badly. The guardsmen were no longer interested in following any kind of orders. That didn't really mater, because the Captain wasn't in any shape to give them. In fact, he was pursuing a budding romance with one of the naked girls.

Everyone from the main lodge had finally joined the crowd in the meadow. Berg and the mayor were sitting together staring at the stars in the clear night sky. Doc had turned the bomb off long enough for the two waking guards to crawl away. His speakers were now blasting out Dead songs. Jerry Garcia was making his way through "Ripple."

"Ripple in still water,
when there is no pebble tossed,
nor wind to

"Bout time for the main event bro." Doc said turning to M. "I can hear them coming up the valley."

"Ok. Give Luke Skywalker a call."

A few minutes later, the sound system faded from thought. Over the ridge on the far side of the valley, a huge flying saucer came into view. Colored panels on the side of the UFO blasted down in synch with atonal organ chords. A strong wind blew at the crowd, and Doc's speakers roared like a windstorm from hell. As the saucer came to a halt over the crowd below, a blinding light shot down from above. Torrents of light assaulted the crowd from the sides of the meadow. And, as they stood in awe, beings in pressurized suits moved forward into the crowd.

There was no resistance as the alien forms strapped small silver boxes on the skinheads in the crowd, and led them away. As they reached the bright lights, the boxes made a small sound, and the skinheads fell to the ground. The alien beings took them behind the blinding lights, where they disappeared.

Angel watched the scene from high on the hillside. She was speechless. As quickly as it had come, the UFO slipped back over the far ridgeline and disappeared into the distance. For a moment, the ground shook, and then there was silence. After a moment, Doc's speakers cut softly through the night with a soft ballad. The crowd below wasn't at all sure what had just happened.

M stepped to Angel's side and looked back at the trailer. "Time to move Will."

When Will joined them, carrying a long pair of bolt cutters, they helped Angel move carefully down the hill. Not that the hillside was that steep, but as they walked, the heavens opened above them creating one hell of a distraction. God had finally returned to earth. With the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing hosannas in the background, an angry deity spoke from above; Doc's animated laser light show was now playing.

"I am the light..
Behold! I am the way..
Follow not the path of
Each head will bow..
Know ye that I have come!"

There were no guards left at the bunker. Getting inside was the easy part. What they found inside was the hard part. There was no room for him to sit up in the tiger cage. They found him on his side in the fetal position. He was bruised, dirty, scabbed, bearded, and thin as a rail. He recoiled from the flashlight, covering his eyes. The gently placed him on a stretcher, and carried him back up the hill.