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Dear Diary, It’s Me, Jessica: Part 11

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Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

I only have a few minutes.  Jack sent me back at a run to bring every able body to the market for the fight.  Every able body included all of the militia, like my Mom and Dad.  

And, I was to check in on Samson, let him out, feed and water him of course.  He was glad to see me but looked sad to see me go.

The people of the market made their choice clear to fight the gang.  

It is the right choice.  But at the same time, knowing what I saw and what Jack said, I know more than a few of the market people are going to die or get seriously wounded.  It could even be my parents or me.

Diary, that gives me ‘oubts.  Could there be a way to avoid the conflict?  From what I have seen, it seems unlikely.  

More later.

If there is a later.

Entry two

Dear Diary,

It’s me, Jessica.

After I told Mom and Dad what was going on, we spread the word. Within the hour, the whole militia formed up, all armed, and set out on a fast march for the market. It was strange as those who had been in the military made jokes about what was about to happen, making fun of each other as they did. Dad said it was ‘gallows’ humor—to make comedy in the face of a possible violent death.  

Diary, I am not going to lie, but I did not understand it.  But for some weird reason, they did.  And it even seemed to lift their spirits.  It seemed morbid to me.

By the time we arrived, it was in the late afternoon.  Nearly everyone was on the north side of Old River Road.  Even though they did not have any running trucks, tractors, or other gas-powered means, through sheer brute force of many people, they pushed, pulled, and swore those vehicles to form a defensive barrier line from the one side of Old River Road to the east, all the way to the cliffs overlooking the river to the West. 

They were tearing down all the stalls on the North side, reusing the nails, and making two to three-foot forms in front of the vehicles from about the ground to the top of the doors. 

Others dug a three-foot-wide by two-foot-deep trench fifty yards in front of the defensive line. Another group used any container they could to fill the forms with dirt from the trench. Another group cleared the areas in front of the barrier and trench to deny the gang cover as much as they could.  

Once our militia arrived, work on the defensive positions and clearing went even faster.  Four groups of two men with axes working at a coordinated rhythm felled several trees while one man was sharpening two spare axes to rotate in when the working axes became too dull to be of use.  He would then sharpen those axes.  They stripped the tree limbs into a single log.  They would then use a six-foot-long, two-man manual saw to cut the log into more manageable lengths.  Two pairs of men stood and watched as the other two worked the saw quickly.  When they began to tire, one of the other pair of men would take over.  The three groups rotating in and out could go through a log in five to ten minutes, depending on the size of the log.  When ready to move, they and a group of men digging the trench would stop digging and then use ropes, straps, and even linked leather belts, roll the log over them, and, in unison, lift the log and carry it, laying it in front of the defensive barrier.  Someone had the foresight to leave a three-foot wide bit of ground undisturbed in the middle of the trench for them to use as a bridge and not have to step down into the trench itself. The logs were big enough to provide cover for someone at a ‘low’ crawl.

Someone thought ahead to start preparing dinner for the entire market.  A group of women and young children were pealing, roasting, boiling, seasoning, and cooking everything from chickens, rabbits, lamb, deer, root vegetables, and bread to feed all those working on the defenses.  

Sean called for everyone to gather around the Four Corners at six for dinner and to hear what was the plan.  Jack’s plan. 

Most sat on the plain ground with whatever plate, bowl, or container they had for their meal, using utensils from forks and knives to chopsticks.  I brought a collapsible camp bowl and a spork. We were all hot, sweaty, and tired.  But we ate the meals with appreciation.  With all the running I did that day, I was famished.  I had a bowl of what I think was a thick, rich venison stew with potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and herbs.  The woman dishing out the stew, I think, gave me too much, and I said as much.  She gave me a warm smile and said, “You earned it, Jessica.”

Jack stood on Sean’s log to address us as we ate.  

His plan was an ambush. 

When Jack and I were jogging back from our ‘recon’ of the gang’s base, the pace was slower as Jack was assessing the terrain for the most ideal place for an ambush.  Jack organized the militia and those in the marketplace with the most combat experience or training into three teams:  Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie.  There was one section of Old River Road to the North where Jack could mount a frontal ambush with Team Alpha.  Most of them would be from the militia.  A slightly wooded riverside to the West flanking would be the location of the support team, Team Bravo.  And a precision rifle team, Charlie, would be on a hill top over looking the ambush site to the East.  

If the gang were to press forward to fight past the ambush, the Alpha Team would retreat to a fallback position.  Bravo Team would fall back behind the gang.  Having a force not only in front of them but behind the gang would make them stop and make them reconsider their attack while having Charlie shooting from the hilltop to their Eastern side.

If Alpha Team were forced from the secondary fallback position to the market’s defensive line, then Bravo and Charlie would link up and mount an attack on the gang’s rear.  Alpha Team would hold the defensive line to box them in.

Jack noted that this was the worst-case scenario, forcing Alpha back to the market defensive line with Bravo and Charlie attempting an attack from the gang’s rear.  

The best-case scenario was that at first contact, the gang would be in disarray and immediately retreat. Alpha and Bravo would press their attack. Charlie was to keep to the hills and woodlands, heading northward to the gang’s base. It would take longer, but once they reached the same hill Jack and I reconnoitered from, they were to give precision support fire from there.

The gang had no defensive fortifications and the homes were frame and stick construction.  Depending on how many were still alive, it could be over in minutes, or they might have to burn them out.  

Jack left it at that as an awkward silence fell across the Four Corners at the idea of burning them out.

It was at that moment when Jack’s worst-case scenario was no longer the worst-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario was when the gang arrived to join us for dinner.  

Armed to the teeth.

Entry three

Most of us had finished our dinner, listening to Jack’s plan, when from the defensive line came the sound of three high-pitched shriek of an orange emergency whistle.  Then, the sounds of gunfire.

“Move!” Jack shouted, hopping down from the log, grabbing his rifle, and sprinting Northward.  

Everyone dropped their dinner bowls and utensils, grabbed their weapons, and ran after Jack.  

Once at the defensive line, we found a small group of men and women who had continued to work on the line while we ate.  They saw the gang arrive.  One of them sounded the alarm with the orange emergency whistle.  The others began firing.  

The good news was that the gang arrived to find the clearing, the trench, and the defensive line and were clearly confused by the new situation. The militia had marched straight to the defensive line and we had left our gear there. My backpack ‘kit’ was not as extensive as Jack’s, but I had extra ammunition, water, a first aid kit, and some snacks.

The bad news was not only did they have military-grade weapons, but they were also wearing body armor, helmets, and funny things on their ears.  We later learned they were ear protection with built-in walkie-talkies.  

We faced off against them at about 100 yards when the shooting started for real.  It was absolute chaos.’ 

I took up position next to Jack on one side and Rae on the other side in a minivan in the middle of the barrier line.    

They had several machine guns spraying the defensive line.  The dirt-filled forms we’d made in front stopped most of the bullets, but some who did not duck behind the forms in time took shots to the head or upper chest.  

Under the cover of machine gun fire, the rest of the gang ran as fast as they could to the trench, but the weight of the body armor slowed them down.  Once they made it to the trench, they provided cover fire for the machine gunners to advance to the trench.  

At first I thought the three foot wide and two foot deep trench was a ‘bad’ idea, it gave them cover.  But then I realized it was just shallow enough, they had to lay completely down for cover at a completely awkward position as the three foot wide would not let them lay in with their heads toward the defensive line and feet away toward the direction they just came.  They had to lay parallel to the defensive line, making it difficult to bring their weapons to bear.  And the two feet they would have to climb out was just enough with their weapons and body armor to leave them exposed if they tried to advance or retreat.  In a sense, they were trapped.

Jack tried to give orders, but it was hard to hear over all the gunfire and the screaming. When there was a pause from the machine gun fire, I was about to pop up to return fire as others were doing when Jack grabbed me by the arm and shouted into my ear,

“Pass the word! Make groin shots or the upper legs! Anywhere the body armor doesn’t cover! Go!” he yelled, pointing to the East of the defensive line. He said the same to Rae and sent her West.

I nodded, jumped out of the minivan, and ran to the next vehicle to pass the word.  

Diary, I was scared.  The sound and smell of gunfire, people screaming, some crying.  Those who could not fight were dragging the dead and wounded out of vehicles, taking them away from the defensive line for medical attention or lined up to be buried later.

Some of the vehicles had spaces between them that I had to cross.  I had to drop down to a low crawl with the logs as cover.  I knew the logs were there, but I still felt completely exposed as bullets whizzed by.  I made my way down the line, as fast as I could crawl or at a crouching run, passing the word to the others.  I was on my way back when things went from bad to worse.’ 

The gang used the grenade launchers.  At the same time, they all sat up on their knees to face the defensive line providing covering fire while the guys with the grenade launchers did the same, launching the grenades.  

The explosions were deafening, even more so than the gunfire.  I was low-crawling behind a log when I felt the concussion from the explosion sweep over me, from my hair to my toes in my boots.  I even felt it in my teeth and in my gut.

There were four explosions.  The first one to the far West.  The second seemed just behind me.  The last two fired into the middle of the barrier line.  

I looked up in time to see the one vehicle take a direct hit.  

The second grenade exploded at the base of mini-van Jack was in where the log was.  The explosion lifted the mini-van twelve feet into the air and twenty feet backward, rolling as it flew, landing on its roof, collapsing it to become even with the hood.  

Watching the mini-van airborne and come to rest in a heap, Diary, it was then like everything went into slow motion.  Even sound.  I did not think.  I just did.  I stood up from behind the log, mounted my rifle to my shoulder, and just like in snap shooting training, I took the shot at the first gang member I saw.  At fifty yards, it was an easy shot to the head.  As Jack told me not to stand around to admire my handiwork, I worked the lever action hard and fast to reload, looking for my next target as I did.  That target was a gang member working the grenade part of his rifle when he took the shot to the face.  I was working the lever action again, my next target saw his grenade launcher friend go down, had turned toward me and was raising the machine gun in my direction.  Diary, I then had a very strange but calm thought,

“He is going to beat me to the shot.”  

At that moment, something slammed into me from my left, sending me flying behind the vehicle when everything returned to normal speed and sound.  I struggled to get up to find what had hit me was Jack.  He had tackled me out of the space where machine gun bullets ripped through the air where I just stood a moment before.  Jack looked down at me and shouted,

“What the heck were you doing?  Are you out of your dang mind?  I trained you better than that!” 

He then slowly gave me a grin.  

Diary, I then understood what Dad meant by gallows humor.  I gave Jack a short laugh and grinned back.  He pulled me up into a sitting position behind the vehicle as more bullets peppered the dirt forms and the vehicle.  Jack looked over his shoulder to a man and woman, both carrying precision rifles with ‘big’ scopes on them.  I did not know either of them.  He shouted for them to follow and said to me,

“Come on!”  

At a crouching run, we made our way to the East end of the defensive line.  From there, we low-crawled up a gentle slope into the woods and Northward.  My arms and legs were on fire from the effort.  My elbows, arms, knees, and legs would be bruised for days.  We continued until we were overlooking the trench from a slightly elevated position.  There was not a lot of cover.  From behind an old fallen dead tree, we could see the whole trench from East to West and all the gang in it.  I also felt that any one of them could just look up and see us.  Jack motioned for us to duck back down behind the tree.  He said we would only have time for two, maybe three shots at best before they would know we were there and return fire.  We were to divide the trench into quarters.  Carlos was to take the furthest, westward quarter.  Anna, the next quarter to the middle of the trench.  Jack from the middle of the trench to the next quarter.  I would take the last and closest quarter.  

“Grenadiers and machine gunners are priority targets, in that order.  Anything after that is a bonus.  When I give the order to run, run flat out for the defensive line.  Got it?”

Carlos and Anna both said, “Yes, sir!”

I said, “I’m in!”

We lined up behind the log and got ready.  

Diary, I took three deep breaths and focused on what needed to be done. On what Jack and Rae had trained into me.

“On three.  One . . . two . . . three!” 

It was as if we all shot at once.  

I know I got a machine gunner in the back of his hip, his butt, really.  I was looking for my next target when Jack yelled for us to run after only one shot.  One of the grenadiers had been looking in our ‘general’ direction, saw what happened, and was aiming his grenade launcher at us.  

We had just cleared the log when the grenade exploded.  

To Be Continued…

About 1stMarineJarHead

1stMarineJarHead is not only a former Marine, but also a former EMT-B, Wilderness EMT (courtesy of NOLS), and volunteer firefighter.

He currently resides in the great white (i.e. snowy) Northeast with his wife and dogs. He raises chickens, rabbits, goats, occasionally hogs, cows and sometimes ducks. He grows various veggies and has a weird fondness for rutabagas. He enjoys reading, writing, cooking from scratch, making charcuterie, target shooting, and is currently expanding his woodworking skills.

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