The Price of Freedom: The Path of Freedom
by, 06-30-2014 at 10:56 AM (930 Views)
Monday, June 23, 2014
(After playing The Price of Freedom introductory Scenario “The Path of Freedom” with Nissa Campbell, Bo Lewis, James Brown, Logan Scott, and John Forney Sunday, June 22, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
A gutless President had been elected.
America had signed international agreements prohibiting “Star Wars” defense.
The Soviet Union had developed a shield against nuclear attack.
The Soviet Premier demanded American surrender.
The President Complied.
Soviet troops were landing in America.
In this, its darkest hour, America needed heroes.
Was anyone willing to pay … THE PRICE OF FREEDOM?
In 1980, the United States and the USSR signed START II which prohibited orbital defenses. Aid to the Contras was not renewed that year and Communist governments took power in South Africa. NASA’s budget was cut. In 1982, Panama fell to Communist insurgency, West Germany called for closer ties with Eastern Europe, a democratic government was established in South Korea, and America signed a treaty which effectively abolished private property rights in space or on the high seas. In 1985, allegations that the Soviets were violating START II agreements were dismissed by an American government determined to pursue good relations with the USSR. The press began to decry those who pressed the allegations as “right-wing lunatics.” The Honduras, Guatemala, and Columbia all fell to Communist insurgency. France pursued a military build-up, labor government took power in Britain, and NASA’s budget was cut.
In 1987, Britain withdrew from NATO and all American bases were closed, leading to unilateral disarmament. A civil war broke out in Mexico and Japan established close ties with China. NASA’s budget was cut. In 1988, Ed Murphy was elected President of the United States in a close contest; his inauguration speech called for a “new sensitivity at home and aboard.” Berkeley elected a Communist as mayor and NASA’s budget was cut. In 1989, a Labor Party conference adopted the Militant Tendency platform virtually unanimously. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Italy all withdrew from NATO. France continued to build up its military while Japan, China, and both Koreas signed mutual defense pacts. NASA’s budget was cut.
In early 1990, Mexico City fell to Communist insurgents. Then the Soviet Union announced completion of its illegal orbital defense network. On March 15, the Soviet Premier demanded American surrender. On March 21, an American nuclear missile test-launched from a silo in Nevada was destroyed by the Soviet’s orbital defense shield. On March 31, President Murphy surrendered the United States.
It was April 1, 1990. Soviet troops had begun to arrive in Washington, New York, San Diego, and Newport News. There were news reports of several sharp naval battles destroying the bulk of the American fleet, though nuclear submarines remained at large.
Getting to West 30th Street had been hell. There were bands of looters in the streets and broken glass was everywhere. No one was obeying the stop signs or traffic laws. Not many people were out, but those who were looked either scared or determined. Phone service had broken down. According to the last radio report, there was heavy traffic out of New York City and Soviet transports were landing at airports all over the New York area. The airwaves had been silent for some hours since.
The police weren’t bothering with the niceties anymore: looters were being shot.
But a few people managed to get there.
Jordan Hamilton’s apartment was on West 30th Street in Manhattan. Each of the five people gathered there knew at least one other person in the room, one person who they’d trust with their life. They were each going to have to learn the trust the others, too, because what they were all contemplating would surely be grounds for execution by the Soviets when they arrived.
Amelia Higgins, known only as “Ace” by her friends, was a tall blonde woman who worked as a bouncer in a local bar. She had a manly strut and was a tomboy. An agnostic who didn’t really follow politics, she had a community college education and four older brothers. She was 20 years old, had grown up in New York City, and counted Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Annie Oakley as her personal heroes. She had come to the apartment building on her motorcycle and carried the baseball bat she used to deal with drunks sometimes. She had pulled her motorcycle right into the foyer of the building before heading to Hamilton’s apartment.
She and Robert O’Sullivan both worked at the bar together. Everyone called him “Chico,” as he was from Texas and spoke Spanish. He was a tall, solid man of 23 with red hair and an Irish upbringing. He had a large, bushy mustache and worked as a bartender, though he was also in the National Guard with the 171st Infantry, 42nd Division. Though he’d grown up on the Mexican border, he had lived in New York for some years and carried brass knuckles to defend himself with. He had a degree in History and admired, more than anyone, Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. He lived for bar fights and was still wearing the bowler that he always wore. He’d bicycled over to the apartment through the ruined streets.
Jordan Hamilton was tall, athletic, and blonde. He was always smiling and always wore a gray fedora. A police officer with the vice squad by trade, rumor had it that he was a bit of a sadist who was always chasing skirts. A conservative moderate and a Presbyterian, he had a degree in communication studies and originally came from North Carolina. He was about 29 years old and had lived in the city for years. His own personal hero was Dirty Harry. He knew Chico and Ace from the bar.
Thundercloud was what the Native American man there went by, now that America had fallen. Before that, he’d been called Ned. He was uninterested in politics and not a Christian, believing instead in spiritualism and animism. He had been working as a day laborer, cleaning up the parkway mostly and doing manual labor. He had a college degree though. He had a shock of black, beaded hair and dark brown eyes. He was 27 years old and wore a leather tunic with copper plating upon it which he claimed was part of his heritage. He was slim and tall and knew the rest from the bar. He had also biked to the apartment, his compound bow thrown over his shoulder. He knew Chico as the two sometimes camped together.
Harry Schmidt was thin and pale. He and his parents had moved over from West Germany to Albany, N.Y., when he was about 10, some 15 years before. He was blonde and of average height, and had taken a few college courses before he had tired of it, dropped out, and got a job in the private security sector. He was somewhat sickly, a socialist-capitalist, and agnostic. He was not from the city but had been there for work when everything had gone to hell. He had snagged his Colt .45 pistol before he’d taken to the streets to get to Hamilton’s apartment in his red 1984 Honda Civic station wagon. He’d learned that Ace was heading there and thought it was a good idea to work as a group so had agreed to meet her there before the phones went out.
They discussed what to do with Hamilton suggesting they find weapons and a place to hole up. Chico noted that he knew where the National Guard armory was in the city.
“Let’s go to the armory, guys,” he said.
“Is the National Guard fighting back?” Hamilton asked.
“No,” Chico said.
“We could get explosives and blow up the airport,” Hamilton said.
“Are we going to be some kind of freedom fighters like that movie I saw a couple of years ago?” Schmidt asked. “What was it … Red Dawn?”
Chico told them that the National Guard armory was on 14th Street, only a dozen or so blocks away.
“Somebody’s got to start the resistance,” Chico said.
“We can’t let them take this land,” Thundercloud agreed.
The armory sounded good to all of them. Hamilton figured that it would have everything that the police station had and more.
“Everyone’s going to be running there,” Ace said.
“We can get in though,” Chico replied. “We need lots of grenades and the biggest vehicle we can find.”
Hamilton told them that his 1986 Ford Taurus was in the little parking garage under the building.
“I’m currently in the National Guard,” Chico said. “Like, right now.”
“Then what are you doing here?” Ace asked him.
“We should head to the armory!” Hamilton said.
Ace asked what they were going to do after that, noting that they needed an exit strategy. Schmidt said they were planning on being patriots or terrorists with plans to blow things up. Hamilton was all for that idea. Schmidt wanted it settled that they were all going to fight the Soviets as guerilla or terrorist fighters. They were pretty much all agreed on that.
They left Hamilton’s apartment. As Hamilton locked the door, Ace noted that some people should act as lookouts and others act as bruisers while others got the supplies they needed at the armory
As they walked away from the apartment, they all heard a woman crying in the apartment next door. Hamilton knew that old Mrs. Cherzinski lived there. A widow and an invalid, she had fled her homeland of Poland after her activist husband was killed in the Police labor uprisings of the ‘80s. He figured she wouldn’t last too long once the Soviets found out who she was. He knew she was confined to a wheelchair by arthritis and that she lived with her niece, Margaret, who took care of her.
Hamilton walked a little faster, heading for the end of the hall and the elevator. Ace stopped at the door and gestured at it. She looked uncomfortable.
“Okay guys, we didn’t talk about this yet,” she said. “I do have a key to a safe house outside of city limits. If there’s a possibility that we can take people with us, we probably should. Someone … it sounds like someone’s terrified.”
Hamilton had stopped walking.
“Do you know this lady?” she asked him.
“Ah … yes,” he said hesitantly. “I have extra room in my car. Just get her!”
“You know her,” Ace said. “Why don’t you talk to her?”
Hamilton knocked on her door.
“Who is it?” Mrs. Cherzinski called.
“Oh, uh, it’s Mr. Hamilton,” he said.
“Oh, come in,” she replied.
He opened the unlocked door and found Mrs. Cherzinski sitting alone in her living room in her wheelchair facing them. An ancient German Mauser pistol was clasped in her hands.
“Oh, Mr. Hamilton, it is so nice that you have come,” she said.
“We need to get you out of here!” he said.
“No. No. No. No. I’ve sent my niece, Margaret, to some relatives in upstate New York, but I know that, under Soviet rule, I will not last very long. I will sit right here until the first soldier comes to arrest me and then I will shoot him and then I will shoot myself.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“I’m too old and sick to live through all this again. At least this way I will strike one blow for freedom before I go to join my husband.”
“I commend you for your efforts. Good shooting.”
“You be safe,” she said. She waved to the others looking in through the door. “Hello. Go.”
“Come with us!” Ace said.
“Oh, I can’t go through all this again,” she said again.
“Can we have some food?” Ace asked.
“Well, there’s not much in the apartment,” Mrs. Cherzinski replied. “Margaret hadn’t gone shopping all week.”
“We need to get to the armory!” Hamilton said.
“Good luck,” Mrs. Cherzinski said. “Oh, wait!”
She took a pendant from around her neck, pulled out a tiny photograph, which she kissed gently. She put the photograph in her lap and held out the pendant. It looked like it was gold.
“Take that with my blessing,” she said. “Farewell.”
She dropped it into Hamilton’s hand. He gave her a hug.
“You are the bravest woman I’ve ever met,” Ace said.
“No,” she replied. “I’m just old. There are many braver than me. Those braver than me will fight and live to fight another day.”
“Speaking of, we need to get to the armory,” Hamilton said again.
As they walked, Ace told them they needed to get to her bank as well. She thought they should go to the armory and then her bank, which was only a few blocks from the armory, because she didn’t want to be robbed. She noted that she had some stuff there that would help them out.
“What do you have in the bank?” Hamilton asked as they approached the stairs.
“I have a lockbox,” she replied.
“And what is in that lockbox?”
“She’s being mysterious,” Schmidt said.
“How important is it to the cause?” Hamilton asked.
“It is the sole factor to determine whether or not we live through this,” she replied.
“Oh,” he said. “Okay.”
They headed down the stairs though Schmidt rode the elevator down. He actually beat them to the foyer, where Ace’s motorcycle stood unmolested. Schmidt’s station wagon was out front and they put Chico’s and Thundercloud’s bicycles into the back of the vehicle. By the time they had them in, Hamilton arrived on the street in his orange sedan. Ace asked what they were going to do once they got to the armory and who was going in, figuring that obviously Chico would be going in. Hamilton said he could go in with them. She said that the others could keep lookout on the street and she would be the muscle if there was a problem.
They could hear sirens in the distance. There was an awful lot of broken glass in the street.
Chico got into Hamilton’s sedan and the man pulled out onto Seventh Avenue, heading south, followed by Schmidt in his station wagon with Thundercloud riding shotgun. Ace was riding on her motorcycle.
Once they were underway, Thundercloud introduced himself to Schmidt, whom he didn’t know very well.
On the way, they were confronted by a roadblock. Down the avenue, about a block away, were burned-out cars, overturned trash barrels, and garbage completely blocking the street. In front of the roadblock lay a body in a pool of blood. A battered Cadillac drove out of a side street behind them and halted. A rifle protruded from its window.
Behind the barricade, three or four young men dressed in bizarre punk outfits were brutally beating a 12- or 13-year-old boy. Seeing the small group, they kicked the boy away and crouched behind the roadblock. Off in the distance, an alarm bell rang on and on.
“Do what we tell ya and nobody gets hoit!” someone shouted from the roadblock.
“Hey kid, go inside!” Ace yelled at the kid lying in the street.
“Hey, you folks wanna pass?” the man behind the barricade yelled. “Guess what? There’s a toll! Just give us everything you’ve got and you can go!”
It looked like the men were armed; they aimed their handguns at the two vehicles. The rifle barrel protruding from the Cadillac also pointed at them.
Hamilton recognized the young man. He was a petty theft little jerk who called himself Deadhead, though his real name was Martin Ferguson. Hamilton considered shooting at the man right through the windshield of his car. Then he opened his car door and stepped out, using the car door as a shield.
“Don’t forget there’s a gun back there!” Chico said.
“Open the back door!” Ace said.
Hamilton reached back into the car to open the back driver’s-side door, allowing him a little protection both front and back.
“Hey, Martin!” Hamilton called. “Get out of the way, you little shit! Unless you want to get shot!”
Martin looked pissed when Hamilton said his name, and then terrified when he obviously recognized Hamilton. Hamilton held up his magnum and the man looked panicked. He ducked down and Hamilton could hear him talking to the other guys behind the barricade.
“Shit! Shit! That’s Officer Hamilton!” he said. “That guy’s a ****ing sadist! You know what he did to Jimmy No-Toes? It’s why he ain’t got no toes no more!”
“Tell Thundercloud to get ready to shoot at that car behind us,” Chico hissed at Ace.
She rolled her motorcycle back and whispered to the man to be ready.
Deadhead stood back up.
“Okay,” he called. “Okay. Let’s … yeah. Yeah - move that shit over there. Hurry up!”
The punks started to clear away the stuff from the sidewalk on one side. Meanwhile, Ace walked over to the unconscious kid and picked him up. She carried him back to Hamilton’s sedan and put him in the back of the car.
By then the punks had cleared the debris from the sidewalk to the left wide enough for the two cars to get through. Deadhead and his boys backed to the other side of the street. They kept their handguns aimed at the two vehicles as they passed the barricade, but they didn’t fire.
The group continued down 7th Avenue to 14th Street where they found another roadblock. Police barricades and a two-ton truck with camouflage markings blocked the street. A man in olive drab fatigues stood in front of it with an automatic rifle. There were other men with guns on the tops of nearby buildings. The man in the fatigues motioned for them to stop. He was a short, evil-looking Hispanic brute with sergeant’s stripes on his arm. Inset eyes squinted at them contemptuously from a pig-like face. They could swear that the man was enjoying himself.
“State your business,” he said.
“I’ll let you have this one, Chico,” Hamilton said.
Chico slid out of the car and walked up to the sergeant.
“Lieutenant Robert O’Sullivan, 171st Infantry, 42nd Division,” he said.
“Yeah?” the sergeant said. “And I’m the Queen of Sheba.”
Chico put his hands into his back pockets. He pulled out his wallet with his right, and slipped the military ID out of it. He tucked his left into the pocket with the brass knuckles in it.
“Look, I got my orders,” the sergeant said. “No one who ain’t in the 71st Infantry gets past here, and that don’t look like you.”
The fat little sergeant smiled.
“So, just why don’t you just turn yourself around and get outta here,” he said.
“This is a direct order from a superior officer: stand down,” Chico said.
“You’re not my superior officer,” the sergeant said.
Chico issued the same order to all of the other National Guardsmen within earshot. He noticed some of the snipers looked nervous but the sergeant kept grinning. An officer crossed the street behind where the sergeant was still telling Chico to move on. The man turned and walked their way and Chico saw that he had captain’s bars.
“Morales!” he said. “What’s going on?”
“Well, he says he’s in the National Guard but he’s not!” Sergeant Morales said.
Chico held up his National Guard identification card.
“Who are you?” the captain said.
Chico introduced himself once again.
“Morales, you dumb mother****er!” the captain said. “Let ‘em through! Move the barricade!”
Morales gave Chico a glare and then moved the barricade aside. The captain chewed him out as they pulled their cars into the armory building. Then he ordered another soldier to take them into the armory.
The 14th Street Armory took up most of the block; it was a big, corrugated concrete building that looked like a fortress − which it was. Its few windows were narrow; its few entrances were heavily barred. The soldier led them in through a big steel door, large enough to admit vehicles. He told them to park their cars and follow him.
“Do y’all have an infirmary?” Ace asked.
The soldier shouted for a corpsman and another National Guardsman came over. She pointed out the young boy in the back of Hamilton’s sedan.
“Is this your kid, ma’am?” he asked.
“He was being beaten up,” she said.
“We found him on the street,” Thundercloud said.
A couple of men got a stretcher and took the boy away.
“Hey, take care of him,” she called after the soldiers.
“Why are you talking to him like that?” Chico said. “I’m the officer.”
“As far as I’m concerned, that kid is my responsibility,” she replied. “You have something to say about that?”
“You don’t outrank a private here,” he said.
“No, I’m just saying take care of him,” she said. “It’s a personal statement.”
Inside, dozens of men in fatigues were loading vehicles with weapons and supplies. Rows of pick-ups, cars, and jeeps, some still painted with military camouflage, others hastily repainted to resemble civilian vehicles, were being jammed with all of the equipment they could hold. A soldier was working feverishly to replace the National Guard license plates with normal New York plates. They wondered idly where he got them from.
At the other end of the Armory was a huge, ragged hole in the floor; bulldozers were laboring around it. The soldier marched them up to a colonel. His nametag read “Echmenedy.” He was shouting orders but turned to them.
“Who are these fellows?” he said.
“They claim they’re from Wysynzowski’s company,” the soldier said. “They tried to get through the 14th Street roadblock.”
“Okay,” Colonel Echmenedy said. He turned to them. “We’re evacuating. Do you want to help out?”
“Yeah,” Ace said.
“Totally,” Schmidt said.
“Sho enough,” Thundercloud said.
“Yeah,” Chico said. “We’ve got some extra vehicles and lots of hands.”
“We’re going down through the PATH−” Colonel Echmenedy started to say.
“Sir!” a soldier said as he ran up. “The Skyway’s blown − but Finkelstein and Murphy didn’t get off!” The soldier swallowed. “They’re dead sir!”
“Did they get all of the bridges?” Colonel Echmenedy said.
“No sir,” the soldier replied. “They got Route 1, the railroad bridge, and the Pulaski Skyway. The Communipaw bridge is still up, sir.”
The soldier looked like he was about to cry.
Colonel Echmenedy closed his eyes and stood absolutely still for a moment. Then he opened them once again, clapped the soldier on the shoulder, and said “Good work, Smitty. Go and help Reese with the cars, please.”
The soldier ran off. Colonel Echmenedy looked at them.
“Any of you men know anything about demolitions?” he asked.
Ace cleared her throat.
Sexist, she thought.
When Chico told him that he knew demolitions, Colonel Echmenedy nodded.
“Look, I want you to accompany the troops until we’ve cleared Manhattan,” he said. “We’re evacuating through the PATH tunnels. If everything goes right, we should get out thirty to sixty minutes before the Reds can stop us − civilian traffic will slow ‘em down some, too. But I really need a demolitions expert in case of trouble. Will you help?”
They all found themselves nodding.
“Jorgesen! Jorgesen!” Colonel Echmenedy called.
Another lieutenant came over. He was blonde but balding and probably in his early 20s. He held an automatic rifle and had a pistol on his belt.
“Brief ‘em, outfit ‘em,” Colonel Echmenedy said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He left them. Jorgesen motioned for them to follow him.
“Okay, we’ve got Spetsnaz troops coming into all the major airports, so we’re going through the PATH tunnels,” he said as they hurriedly walked. “The PATH tunnels go underneath the regular subway tunnels and loads out into New Jersey, so that’ll leave us in New Jersey where we’re hoping to just head out. We’re going to break up into small bands; we’re going to try to fight a guerilla war, try to get these God-damned Reds gone from our country.”
He led them to a storeroom, pointing out a jeep with a trailer and a pickup truck, the latter army issue hastily covered with a coat of blue paint. He told them they’d take those two and helped them start to load crates of weapons and ammunition into both. He pulled one of the crates open and handed out automatic rifles as well as magazines of ammunition. When Hamilton asked for pistol ammunition, the man said they had that as well.
“I prefer my bow,” Thundercloud said. “Thank you very much.”
“Take one anyway, in case you need it,” Jorgesen said.
“All right,” Thundercloud said, reluctantly taking an automatic rifle and ammunition.
Ace asked for grenades and Jorgesen was happy to comply with both fragmentation grenades and some smoke grenades. Jorgesen told them they’d be in charge of the vehicles.
“The Soviets are landing at the metropolitan area airports, and we’re going to try to get the men out into the countryside where all of the National Guardsmen can act as guerillas,” Jorgesen said again. “We’re taking the PATH … I think I’ve got a map.”
He pulled out a map showing New York City and the PATH tunnels underneath. He pointed out that the tubes went out into New Jersey. When Hamilton asked if they had claymores or mines, Jorgesen said that they did not have any available.
“I need to get to the bank first,” Ace said.
“You need to get to the what?” Lt. Jorgesen said.
“You need to get to the bank?”
“Yeah … uh … I wouldn’t go out there right now. There’s looters everywhere. The cops are shooting anybody. It’s crazy out there. If you wanna go, you can go, but we’re leaving here in the next 20 minutes.”
“All right. Who wants to come with me to get $25,000 worth of gold?”
“Ma’am, I wouldn’t advise it. There’s some crazy stuff and we don’t know when the Soviets are gonna hit. You can go if you want, but I can’t guarantee we’re going to be here when you get back.”
She thought on it for a moment.
“It’d be easier with me, since I’m a cop,” Hamilton said.
“One motorcycle would be a lot quicker than three cars,” Schmidt said.
“Exactly,” Ace said.
“These weapons are worth more than gold,” Chico said. “I gotta take care of this.”
Schmidt remembered that when his family had lived in Germany, gold had been very important. He decided to help out. He noted that if they ran into a lot of trouble, they would have to flee. She told him she had a lot of grenades in her new, military backpack and she knew how to throw them.
They discussed going and she told them that the bank was not too far. When Hamilton learned where the bank was he was all for it. They decided that they would all go together. Ace asked Chico if he could ask them to give them more time but he refused, saying they would have to do what they could in the time they had. They decided to take their own vehicles: Ace’s motorcycle, the bicycles, and Schmidt’s station wagon. Hamilton told Ace he could ride with her. She asked about the kid and Chico noted that he would be evacuated with the others.
“No groping!” Ace said before they left. “Let’s go.”
That order was ignored by the lecherous Hamilton, who kept apologizing for grabbing certain parts of her, but then kept doing it. He also kept rubbing against her. She ignored it. She was wearing a lot of thick leather. She finally flung her head back and cracked it into his.
“As soon as we’re in a safe place, I’m removing your balls!” she said.
“Uh …” he replied. “Yeah.”
They drove the three blocks to the bank. It took them longer than they would have liked. When they arrived, the doors proved to be closed and there didn’t appear to be anyone inside. Ace realized that the gold was in one of the safe deposit boxes, which required two keys to open. She had one but knew that someone in the bank had the other. She was unsure where that other key might be. Schmidt noted that the vault might be closed as well.
Ace tried to break the glass in the front door with her baseball bat without luck. Hamilton fired a bullet into the lock but the door remained closed. Then he fired several bullets into the glass of the door and Ace used her baseball bat to smash out the rest. A loud bell started to ring in the building.
The bank proved to be empty and clean. No one had been in the building since everything went to hell, it seemed.
They found the vault. It was closed and had some kind of button combination lock. They looked around the bank offices but no one was apparently in the place. They discussed how to possibly get into the vault but finally realized they had no easy way to break in.
They got back onto and into their vehicles. When Hamilton approached the motorcycle, Ace kicked him in the stomach and glared at him. He stumbled back to Schmidt’s station wagon and they headed back. They were relieved to find that the National Guard had not yet completely evacuated. They were able to get their jeep and truck as vehicles revved up and started moving in orderly lines towards the hole in the floor. They jostled down the crude ramp the bulldozers build and into the tunnel beyond. Lt. Jorgesen motioned for them to join the parade. Ace eased her motorcycle into the line as well.
Their vehicles continued down the L-train tunnel and then took a sharp right through a ragged, dynamited hole into the PATH tube. The tunnels were very dark as they moved fairly slowly. They passed dark, silent stations marked 9th Street and then Christopher, and after a while Pavonia, Exchange Place, and Grove Street, as they moved through the narrow tunnels barely big enough to encompass their trucks. The tunnel rumbled with loud reverberations from the close-in walls. The heavy exhaust fumes were almost overpowering.
Suddenly, after what felt like forever, there was a tremendous crash from up ahead. Everyone braked and their own front vehicle came to rest with its bumper just touching the one in front of it. They couldn’t see what was going on but an order came down the line: “Douse your engines.” They realized the tunnel’s ventilation system was off with the electricity, and the air was becoming thick with exhaust.
They sat there. And sat. Finally, the word came back: there’d been an accident up ahead; the convoy would all have to halt until the wrecked vehicles were moved out of the way.
Ace started to head up the tunnel on foot but soldiers asked her who she was.
“I’m here to help,” she said.
“What?” one soldier said. “What? Hold on, ma’am.”
There was some confusion until she told them she was with Lt. O’Sullivan. They were confused about that as well.
“He’s with the 171st,” she said.
“Is he with you down here?” the man asked.
“Show me. Take me.”
“He’s in the back.”
“Just take me to him.”
The man escorted her back to the others and then checked with Chico who she was and in the end, they suggested that she stay with her squad. They noticed that no one else was moving up or down the tunnel either.
“Why don’t we go help them so we can get out of here?” she asked.
“Because they can do it themselves,” Chico said. “The more people they have, the more trouble it will be.”
Hamilton got out of the jeep and lit a cigarette. He took a drag.
“You’re smoking in a restricted area!” Ace said. “Put that shit out! You don’t know how much gas there might be. There might be a gas leak in here! ****ing idiot! Put that out!”
He looked at her, amazed. Then he flicked the cigarette away.
“What are you doing!?!” she shrieked. “Stop it!”
She shook her head.
“Trying to get us killed you stupid …” she muttered.
Nothing happened for what felt like a long time, except for the sound of men cursing and an occasional screech of metal from up the line. Then they heard a vehicle in the distance speed down the tunnel towards the convoy. Ace flashed her motorcycle lights down the tunnel towards the sound. There was a tense moment when everyone picked up a weapon. Then a horse “At ease” from Colonel Echmenedy came and everyone relaxed.
Nothing happened for a few minutes. Then Echmenedy came marching down the tunnel towards them, flanked by aides. He stopped by their group.
“Looks like it’s time you earn your pay, O’Sullivan,” he said. “I have a job for you. Has Jorgesen briefed you?”
“Good,” Echmenedy said. “As you know, this tunnel ends in Jersey City, just short of Journal Square. Intelligence indicates Soviet troops have massed at Newark airport and are beginning to move out. It’ll take us at least 20 minutes to clear the God-damned accident ahead; we’re afraid the Reds will get to Jersey City before we do. They have to be delayed.”
He produced a map.
“Captain Finkelstein blew up the Route 1 bridge here,” he said, pointing to the map, “the railroad bridge here, and the Pulaski Skyway here. But, as you heard, he died before he could destroy the Communipaw Bridge − here. I thought we still had enough time to beat the Soviets to Jersey City, but the accident is gonna make it too close.
“O’Sullivan, the Communipaw bridge must be destroyed. If it is, the Soviets will be delayed and we’ll be able to complete our evacuation. If it isn’t, we may be ambushed in Jersey City. You’re our only hope.
“The problem is there’s only two vehicles on the far side of the accident, a jeep and a pickup. No others can get past the blockage until it’s cleared. They can carry eight people. I’m sending Jorgesen with you. I need you to pick out who else you want to go. Your friends here can go with you if they want.”
Ace volunteered to take the motorcycle but he told her she’d never get it by the wreckage. In the end, they all volunteered to go and were escorted forward past the wreck. Someone had turned a truck at the wrong time and it turned over on its side. They had to climb over the wreck to get by.
They had two vehicles and two crates full of C-4 explosives, detonators, blasting caps, and wire.
“Perfect,” Chico said.
“You’ve been certified in demolitions?” Colonel Echmenedy asked.
“You’ll know where to put these then,” Colonel Echmenedy said. “Do it. Good luck. Blow up the bridge and once it’s blown up, try to meet us back at Journal Square. Don’t fail us. Good luck.”
He saluted the man.
They mounted up in the two vehicles and headed down the tunnel. It felt like they were in the tunnel for a long time. They finally saw daylight ahead and the tracks came out into a narrow ravine flanked on both sides by cliffs, to the Journal Square Station. The station was a large, modern concrete building which sat directly atop the tracks. The ravine opened out into low hills on either side. Chain-link fences with barbed wire topped the hills. They were easily able to rip out a section of fence with tow chain the truck was equipped with. In moments, they were over the hills and heading down Kennedy Boulevard for Communipaw Avenue.
The streets were clogged with traffic. While there was less outright chaos than there had been in Manhattan, they still witnessed scattered incidents of fighting and looting. Once again, traffic laws were being ignored, collisions clogged the intersections, and car horns blared incessantly. They had to drive the vehicles over sidewalks, through front lawns, and down side streets as they moved towards the bridge.
The Communipaw bridge was gridlocked. Since the other bridges had been blown, it was the only connection from Jersey City to the main New Jersey highways. Both sides of the bridge were packed with cars, trucks, and busses trying to reach the Turnpike across the river.
“We need to tell them to evacuate the bridge and abandon their vehicles unless they want to die,” Ace said.
The bridge was blocked with unmoving cars. People were ineffectually blowing their horns. A couple of tractor trailers were sitting on the bridge as well. The vehicles were filled with people trying to get out of New York.
Thundercloud and Ace headed onto the bridge to start trying to get people out of their vehicles. Meanwhile, Chico and Lt. Jorgesen went to set up the nearer charge, while Hamilton and Schmidt went to set up the charge further along the bridge, closer to the New York side.
Ace went from car to car, telling people to get out of their cars or they would be blown up. Thundercloud, likewise, told the people to run to New Jersey and leave their cars. They only had some success. Many of the stubborn New Yorkers and New Jerseyans refused to exit their vehicles, despite threats from Ace that the bridge was going to be blown up.
“Screw you!” one man said.
“The bridge is going to blow!” she replied.
“You ain’t blowing the bridge, you *****!” he replied.
She reached into the car and slapped him and then moved on. He climbed out of the car and she brandished her bat.
“Sir, move!” she said.
She kept moving to tell other people as the man got into his trunk.
Some people got out of their cars while others told her off. She didn’t care. She figured she’d tried her best.
“Who the Hell are you? A cop?” one man said.
“The Russians are coming!” she said.
“Yeah, I know!” another man said. “That’s why I’m trying to get home!”
“This is a military operation!” she said.
“You don’t look like military,” the man said.
Thundercloud ran into the same problem. Though he had donned some fatigues, as had Ace, neither of them had a gun.
“Who the hell are you people?” one guy asked.
“If you don’t leave now, you’re family’s gonna die,” Ace told one guy before moving on.
“The commies are on the other side of this bridge,” Thundercloud told one guy. “If you don’t leave, you’re gonna get blown up.”
“You need to get to Jersey!” Ace yelled at one car.
“We’re going to Jersey!” a man replied.
“Go by foot!” she said.
Some people were abandoning their autos and heading across the bridge on foot.
One little old lady got out of her car and pulled out a gigantic suitcase. She picked it up and moved it, then took three steps. Then she picked up the suitcase and moved it again, only a few feet.
“Go,” Ace said. “I’ll carry your suitcase.”
She was amazed at the weight of the suitcase and guessed it weighed at least 50 pounds. She opened it up and saw that it was full of gold bars. She closed it again.
“Can I have one of these and I’ll carry everything for you?” she asked the little old lady.
“Okay,” the little old lady said.
Ace started to drag the suitcase towards the New Jersey side of the bridge, taking out of the gold bars for herself. The little old lady was still very slow so Ace said she’d return and went to warn more people that they were going to blow the bridge.
* * *
The two pairs with the explosives had gotten to the edge of the bridge near where they had to place the charges. Unfortunately, both Chico and Hamilton, with their demolitions experience, knew that the charges would have to be placed on the underside of the bridge. The two little groups started to make their way underneath the bridge with the heavy explosive packs. It felt like it took a long time to place the charges and then start to string the wire back the way they’d come.
* * *
Thundercloud passed a tractor trailer.
“This is a military operation,” he told the man. “There are communists on the other side of the bridge. We’re going to try to blow the bridge so you best get out of this vehicle and head to Jersey.”
The driver was a big fat trucker. He leaned out of the window.
“What?” he said. “You with the National Guard, boy?”
“I’m under Colonel Echmenedy,” Thundercloud said.
“So, you guys fightin’ the Reds?”
“Yeah, we are.”
“You wanna join us?”
“Yeah, what can I do to help?”
“You can get as many people off this bridge as you can!”
“All right! I’ll get people off the bridge.”
He climbed out of the truck and drew a knife. He started slashing tires.
“Guess your car ain’t movin’, you better get going!” he yelled.
“You’re a true patriot sir,” Thundercloud said to him.
“How do I hook up with these … is it just you five?” the trucker said.
“No!” Ace yelled at him from the other lane, having heard the conversation. “We’ve got a whole military operation behind us. We’re clearing it out for them!”
“Where do I sign up?” the trucker yelled.
“Just follow us!” she replied.
“All righty!” he said, slashing more tires.
People were screaming at him for disabling their vehicles. Other people helped out, trying to get off the bridge or getting others off the bridge. Some resisted leaving their cars or families.
Thundercloud approached a little blue sedan and as he tried to warn the man to get off the bridge, the frightened driver just rolled up the window. He looked very scared and ignored Thundercloud. There was a little girl in the car with the man, as well as a dog.
“Daddy, someone wants to talk to you,” she said.
“You must get out of this car!” Thundercloud said.
The man just looked straight ahead, hands on the wheel, and didn’t move. Thundercloud tried the door but found it locked.
“You have to get out!” Thundercloud shouted. “You are in more trouble here than out of the car!”
Ace was slashing tires as well.
A man with a Mohawk and wearing a lot of leather also started helping Ace, Thundercloud, and the trucker clear the bridge.
When Ace had first approached him, he’d grinned at her.
“Hey baby,” he’d said. “We fightin’ the Reds? **** yeah!”
When she told him they were blowing the bridge, he let out a whoop.
He had a tire iron and punctured tires with the flat end or smashing windows out of cars and screaming for people. It was frighteningly effective.
“Get out of your ****ing car or I’ll kill you!” he’d screamed at one family.
He broke out the windows and then started jumping up and down on the rear bumper.
“I’ll flip it!” he screamed. “I’ll ****ing flip it!”
The family fled in terror.
They recruited more help as well from people who didn’t want to just roll over and capitulate.
* * *
As Chico and Lt. Jorgesen climbed back onto the bridge still laying wire, two vehicles roared up on the New York side of the river. One was an Avis car and the other was a Port Authority airport shuttle bus. They pulled up as close to the bridge as they could.
“Hey guys … mwah!” Ace said. “Airport! Russians! Are those the Russians?”
A Soviet officer stepped out of the Avis rental car. Meanwhile, Chico and Lt. Jorgesen moved along the bridge, as quickly as possible, laying wire. Schmidt and Hamilton climbed back onto the bridge, the wire trailing behind them.
“We got some Russkies that way!” Schmidt shouted.
Ace drew a grenade and flung it at the Avis rental car. The explosive hit the ground and rolled under the vehicle. It exploded and the car shook and smoked. The officer fell to the ground.
Chico ordered Jorgesen to finish laying the wire. Hamilton also headed down the bridge, laying wire. Chico ran towards the New York side of the bridge, keeping under cover as best he could, aiming at the bus and the rental car.
Ace started yelling at people to go and the civilians complied, fleeing from the Soviets. Jorgesen and Hamilton continued to lay wire as Thundercloud backed up to the car with the family who wouldn’t move before He saw it was empty. Ace turned and ran towards the other side of the bridge, looking for the little old lady and her suitcase filled with gold. Schmidt watched for targets.
Jorgesen reached the truck and started working on connecting the wire to the detonator.
The Soviet officer got up and started yelling orders. Four Soviet soldiers climbed out of the bus and another Soviet soldier got out of the car. Chico and Schmidt fired at the Soviets without hitting them. Thundercloud shot an arrow at the officer but the projectile simply lodged in the hood of the car.
“I want everybody off the bridge!” Chico yelled.
Ace reached the old lady and saw she hadn’t continued fleeing along the bridge but was waiting by her suitcase. She yelled at Chico, who was nearby, asking if he could take her backpack so she could carry the luggage.
“How important is your pack?” Chico asked.
“It’s got everything in it,” she replied.
“Just go!” Chico said. “Just go!”
He looked back at the Soviets, firing at the officer but missing. Thundercloud shot an arrow at the officer but missed as well. Schmidt fired at the Soviet soldiers, some of whom were panicking under fire. He didn’t see his bullet hit anyone.
The officer fled behind the Avis car and shouted orders in Russian. Ace, who could understand the language, realized he was shouting for his men to take the bridge and find the shooters.
“They’re gonna take the bridge!” Ace yelled. “They’re looking for the shooters! Fall back!”
Hamilton leapt into the back of the pickup truck and started working connecting the wire to the detonators. Meanwhile, Ace was escorting the very slow old woman towards the edge of the bridge.
“Grab the suitcase!” she yelled.
She hustled the old lady towards the edge of the bridge
Chico’s fire missed but Schmidt shot one of the Soviets. Thundercloud’s arrow fell in their midst but didn’t seem to hit anyone. More Soviets came out of the bus.
Jorgesen hustled back onto the bridge while Ace continued to try to help the old lady.
“Get off the bridge!” Chico yelled again.
They all started pulling back. The Soviets returned fire and a bullet struck Schmidt, grazing his head. He fell to the ground. Chico was trying to lug the heavy suitcase off the bridge as Ace escorted the little old lady off. She looked back and saw that Schmidt was lying in a puddle of his own blood. She turned to go back and help him. Jorgesen ran off the bridge.
“My gold!” the old lady said. “It’s all I have in the world!”
More Soviet soldiers got off the bus. The officer had stopped shouting orders but began to shout again.
“The second you see a Red on the bridge, just blow it!” Chico shouted to Hamilton.
He dropped the suitcase and turned to head back towards Schmidt, who stood up and started stumbling towards the others, dragging his rifle by its strap. Ace flung a smoke grenade and smoke started filling the eastbound lane leading back to New York.
Chico reached Schmidt and moved both of them back towards the New Jersey side of the bridge.
“The suitcase!” Ace cried. “No!”
Jorgesen leapt into the jeep and started it.
While Jorgesen backed the jeep off the bridge, Chico moved to Hamilton, who had his hand on each detonator. The Soviets ran forward, moving up in both lanes of the bridge as the smoke spread. Those in the left lane saw the wires and stopped. Those in the right lane continued their advance.
“Bye bye Russkies!” Ace yelled in Russian at them.
Thundercloud, safe behind the vehicles, started dancing in anticipation of the explosions. Some of the Soviets yelled in Russian that the bridge was wired to explode.
“Go go go!” Ace yelled at the two men at the detonators. “They know! They know! They know!”
The Soviets fired at them but then Chico and Hamilton pressed the plungers to set off the explosives. The further charge, closer to the New York side, exploded and the bridge leaned and sagged but did not collapse.
The nearer explosive charge had not gone off!
It looked like a few of the Soviets had been injured by the explosives, but not as many of them as they hoped as the charges were set under the bridge. Only a few of the men went down and all but two of them got up almost immediately.
Chico looked along the wire that led to the charge that had not gone off. He saw that the large, heavy suitcase that Ace insisted on getting off the bridge was sitting right on the wire and he guessed that it had cut it through. He knew if he could re-attach the wire, the explosives could be set off.
“I want cover fire and smoke grenades!” he said. “I’m going!”
Hamilton and Ace flung smoke grenades which started to fill the center of the bridge with more smoke as Chico ran for the broken wire, followed closely by Thundercloud. Some of the Soviets on the westbound lane returned fire.
I bet all those people who called me a ***** wish they hadn’t, Ace thought.
Once Chico reached the broken wire, he knocked aside the suitcase and started to repair it. Hamilton fired at the approaching Soviets while ready to set off the explosives as soon as he could. Jorgesen shot one of the approaching Soviets. The return fire struck around Jorgesen but he was not hit.
Soviets came out of the smoke and Thundercloud shot at one with an arrow, which missed.
Ace flung another grenade into the smoke where it exploded with a crash. Chico shot one of the nearby Soviets, cutting him down. Hamilton shot his magnum pistol at the same Soviet while Thundercloud stepped back and watched the billowing smoke. Jorgesen fired at the Soviets still coming up the other lane, but missed. As another Soviet came out of the smoke, Thundercloud shot at him with his bow but the arrow went wide.
The Soviets lit Jorgesen up and he fell to the ground.
Schmidt stumbled out of the truck and tried to get his rifle around as Chico and Thundercloud fell back.
“Blow it! Blow it! Blow it!” Chico yelled.
As Chico fired his automatic rifle and Thundercloud fired arrows, they backed off the bridge. Then Hamilton set off the nearer charge. There was a tremendous explosion and the bridge collapsed with a rending crash, Chico being injured by debris. He and Thundercloud managed to get off the bridge as it fell.
“Is anyone a doctor?” Ace called to the few people who were still clustered on their side.
No one admitted to being a doctor so they quickly tended to Jorgesen and Schmidt before shoving them into vehicles and driving back to the Journal Square Station where they found Colonel Echmenedy supervising operations. He was pleased to see them and willing to give them just about any equipment they wanted. He told them that he was breaking up the men into small groups and sending them out in the country to act as guerillas.
The five friends decided to do the same with the weapons and gear that Echmenedy had given them. They would try to strike a blow for freedom with as many of the other civilians from the bridge who wanted to join them.