After the Apocalypse
Chapter 104: Candy's Dandy

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

"What do you mean no?"

"I mean no. No liquor. We're on an important mission in hostile territory and that means no drinking."

"That's my point. If we're going to die, I'd just as soon go out with the taste of whiskey in my mouth 'stead of hospital food."

"Put down the bottle and get your mind back on the mission. If things go well, the bottle will still be here when we're done and you can drink the whole thing."

This last seemed to mollify Peterson somewhat and he put down the bottle. Charlie couldn't help thinking to himself that the trouble wasn't over. He had an uneasy sensation of being watched and he didn't like it. Their approach into the enemy stronghold was going too well. Sure, they'd been cautious, but the only way they hadn't been detected by now was if the enemy was completely unprepared. And if they were unprepared, maybe they weren't enemies at all, just Boy Scouts. Of course, unprepared Boy Scouts was an oxymoron. He was sure they were being watched.

"Okay, I need you to get weapons issued to about 20 guys. If there are five of them, we're going to need some firepower and a show of force. Lou, you stay here and watch our prisoner."

"Check. Are we going to tell anyone else? "

"Not yet. We've still got radios if we need to make contact. Mark, you man the radio. See if you can figure out if they're broadcasting too. If they're talking to someone I want to know who it is and what they're saying. The rest of us are going to split into two teams. One team will approach from the Lockwood side, the other from Trout Lake. Harig's watching them, so if they try anything we should know what's going on. Anything else?"

"Are we going to shoot them?" asked a concerned Jerry Reid. "I mean I don't have a problem if it's kill or be killed, but I don't think I can squeeze the trigger in cold blood."

Everyone looked at John, who looked at the other elders for a moment before answering, "A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing. If they do something threatening, we shoot. They have to know we're willing. If you aren't sure, then stay back - don't let them see your lack of confidence. They'll probably take it as weakness and that's definitely a bad thing."

"One more thing," said Ron, "it's possible these guys are just here on a recon like us. Let's not be too eager. Give them the benefit of the doubt."

"John, this is Steve, they're on the move." Everyone could hear the panic in Steve's voice.

"Roger Alpha, which way are they headed?" asked John, hoping that the discipline of proper radio etiquette would calm him.

"Towards me, they're coming over the bridge. What should I do?"

"Take cover, stay low and don't make a sound, we're on our way."

John paused for a moment. "New plan. They're coming up faster than expected. Depending on speed we're going to meet them somewhere near the old corral. Jeff, take 5 others and get behind them on that road so they won't know you're there. The rest of us will take positions in the woods around the clearing. Everybody move."

The group moved out quickly, quietly and without hesitation even though more than a few of them could feel the cold knot of fear deep in their gut.

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