Mike rose early Sunday morning which was mildly irritating. He had come to think of Sunday as his day of rest. But Jake and Pete had told him to meet
them at the VFW Post at 8:00 am. After a quick shower and getting dressed, he poured a cup of coffee and let Tasha out to do her business. “Go
pooper-doo Tasha.” The dog bounded straight to the tree and started going in circles snuffling about looking for the perfect spot. Mike chuckled to
himself; he found it amusing that after 30 years in the service, he talked to dogs as if they were little kids much of the time.
He sat down and turned on the laptop and started to scan the headlines. As usual, it was filled with what he called Doom Porn (a phrase he had seen
elsewhere that took his fancy.) More fiscal problems, the Stock Market going all over the place the past week, shootings and politicians saying
idiotic things trying to stir the pot further. The opinion pages weren’t any better so he went to his favorites and read the funnies. He even read
his horoscope, which he always found amusing. “Hold your cards close to the vest in the upcoming months as you are entering a grey area in your
life.” He chuckled again, “Ya think?” he asked out loud.
He heard a soft bark at the door and let Tasha back into the house. He bent over to scratch her ear, “I gotta go Tasha, but I should be back soon,
now be a good girl and watch over the castle.” She proceeded to moan and head butt him in the legs, a habit she had picked up this past week. Mike
looked at her and a thought crossed his mind. “She’s worried, maybe I should be too. They say that dogs have an intuitive nature when it comes to
danger. Hell, I am worried to the verge of paranoia since that meeting at the IceHouse.” He exited and locked the house, hopped in the truck and
pulled out into the street. For the millionth time that week he thought, “This can’t be good.”
As he pulled into the VFW parking lot a half hour later he noticed that it was almost full. He recognized some of the vehicles so he knew that what
had had been told to him was true, to an extent. As he entered the Post bar, Paul, the Post Commander greeted him and pointed him to the hall in the
back. He locked the door behind him as the Post was technically still closed until noon. “Fashionably late I see.” he said smiling.
“Late? I’m fifteen minutes early!”
“Whateva, come on, the guys are all here. Oh, and leave your cell with me. Don’t worry, lock it, you’ll get it back.”
Mike locked the phone and handed it over. As he entered the hall, he saw quite a few familiar faces. People that he had served with who had left the
Reserves and a couple who were still in, there were also former and current National Guard members attending. Some of them were also LEO’s, EMT’s,
Firefighters and still even more that he did not recognize. He figured that there had to be at least 40 people gathered. He noticed that a laptop
connected to a one –eye projector was pointed at the stage upon which a screen was mounted. Tables and chairs were arranged facing the podium. He
only had a minute or two reacquainting himself with a few of the people when Pete Goodman took the stage with Jake following.
Goodman scanned the crowd. “Hell, everyone is here”, he said with a smile, “I wish I could say the same about my unit during Battle Assembly.”
That remark drew a soft chuckle from the crowd. Battle Assembly, or Drills as they were still commonly called, always had absences, usually the same
individuals. “Please, everybody take a seat and Jake will you fire up the one-eye?”
As Jake turned on the equipment, Goodman addressed the audience. “I have to start off here with stating that what we are about to discuss here could
very well land you and me in some seriously hot water. Each of you have all been vouched for by no fewer than five others here in this room, so trust
is at stake here. So, before I begin, if anyone has any issue with what I just stated I would ask that you leave now.”
A hand raised in the front row. Goodman pointed at her. “Please stand, identify yourself for the rest of us and state your question.”
The woman stood, “I’m Beth Crabbe, and a current member of the Reserves, what exactly do you mean by “Hot Water, Sir?”
Mike’s paranoia ratcheted up a notch. Beth was also Goodman’s Unit Administrator; he had watched her progress from a Private First Class to Staff
Sergeant during his stint. He had also heard that she was soon to be promoted to Sergeant First Class. He knew her to be smart, savvy and no nonsense
when the situation required. “If this isn’t scripted, God take me now.” he thought.
Goodman stared at her for a second. “Thank you SGT Crabbe, I will answer your question, but that will be the last one until after the brief.” He
looked over the crowd. “What I am about to talk about could be construed as possibly sedition or even treason. The majority of you know what the
punishments for those types of charges are. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Just by being here, everyone in this room is at risk.”
A low murmur rumbled through the hall.
“All right, settle down people,” Goodman patted his hands in a downward fashion. “Take a ten minute break and discuss it amongst yourselves and
then we will proceed.”
Mike sought out Jake, he grabbed him the arm and said as nonchalantly as possible, “Smoky Treat?”
Jake looked up from the laptop, “Yea, sure, everything is good to go here; I just have to plug in the thumb drive. What’s up?” He got up and
followed Mike to the door.
Mike lit up a smoke, and exhaled sharply. “What the hell does he mean by being vouched for? No one asked me any questions about any others.”
“Dude, relax. You were in this from the git-go even though you didn’t know it. There are a few others probably asking the same question.”
“Why do I feel like I’m being thrown into the fire Jake? Why do I feel like I have been signed onto something I never signed onto in the first
place?” Mike breathed deeply to keep his anger in check. “I’m retired fer Christ’s sake! I have a life now, and I’m too old to be runnin’
and gunnin’, if what I am hearing is correct.”
Jake shrugged and looked at Mike, “I don’t think you’ll want to miss this, and if I know you, you’ll regret it if you do.”
“What’s Goodman up to?” Mike asked. “All this is sounding pretty sneaky to me. I don’t fancy a prison term…or worse.”
“You’ll see if you’re in. But you have to make a choice now man.” Jake smiled. “It’ll be exciting, maybe even fun…c’mon, it’s time.
You in or are you out?”
“Curiosity killed the cat,” Mike thought as he followed Jake back into the hall. He looked around and saw that he wasn’t alone in his curiosity
as nobody had left. “And we will aaalllll go dooown together,” went through his head remembering the Billy Joel song. He took his seat and once
again thought, “This ain’t good.” He directed his attention to the podium on the stage as Maj Goodman walked back out and Jake took a seat
behind the laptop.
“Gentlemen, Ladies…I wish I could say that what is said here today cannot leave this room, but since a good chunk of you are now civilians, I
can’t.” Goodman threw up his hands in exasperation. “And truth be told, what I am about to tell you does need to be talked about with others,
but not immediately, all I ask is that you use your own discretion.”
edit on 2-3-2013 by TDawgRex because: typical edit. Bad grammer