by Mike Vanderboegh
(Another chapter of "Absolved", an upcoming novella)
"You know, even when we were killing them, we felt sorry for the gun cops. I mean it really was self defense for us but they were somebody's son, or husband or father. . . they were, they had been, Americans. (pause) So they never did seem like the real enemy, not really, not like the politicians who sent them. But the mercenaries? Those Brightfire monsters? It was a pleasure killing those bastards. They were far worse than the Feds. Hell, they didn't even believe in what the administration was doing, they were just in it for the money, for what they got paid or what they could steal, or the rape, or the sheer sadistic cruelty of it. Some of the stuff they did to our wounded, or to our families and friends . . . terrible things, techniques they'd learned in Iraq or Afghanistan . . . (Long silence.) No, it was God's own justice what we did to those bastards. Half of them were foreigners anyway, hired by Americans to come kill other Americans. (pause) Because of what they did to us, we'd only take them prisoner if we needed some information, and then we'd shoot them afterward. (pause) I'm not proud of it, and God will probably tell me I did wrong when I face Him, but it was a pleasure killing those monsters. And it was simple justice. (pause) May God forgive us." -- Interview transcript, 12 Nov 2024, SGT Timothy M. Murphy, sapper and team leader, Firelands Rangers militia, from Ohio State Historical Society Oral History Collection, The Restoration War, A6745, Disc #32
"It was inevitable that the administration would turn to what they called 'private contractors' after the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and subordinate military commanders informed the President that the Army and Marines would be unreliable to carry out Operation Clean Sweep. Even the wholesale replacement of senior officers in the Pentagon could not induce the majority of U.S. soldiers to enforce the draconian laws passed after the Battle of Sipsey Street. The administration came to realize that the most they could count on was that the military would stay on the sidelines and not turn on THEM as "domestic enemies" of the Constitution. . . . Using 'contractors' however had other benefits. They could (and would) be used by the administration for the 'plausible deniability' of some actions against the rebels and their families which were not even covered by the new laws. In addition, from a bureaucratic point of view, the means of their procurement was familiar and time-tested. Finally, using 'contractors' enabled the administration to hire men who were, frankly, criminals -- men who could never have passed the background checks required for the military or federal law enforcement. Absent the Army and Marines, the administration desperately needed bodies to carry out Operation Clean Sweep. The 'contractors' made that possible, or so it was thought." -- Dr. Herbert Matthews, Restoration or Rebellion?, LSU Press, 2029, p. 56.
Stealing the plane had been the easy part. It wasn't even stolen, really, just borrowed from a friend. Not that Joe Cornyn expected to be able to return it back to Charlie Carter in one piece. He had been lucky, he knew, for C.C.'s misfortune. Well, it was an ill wind that blew no one any good and Joe had been the beneficiary of C.C.'s bankruptcy. Fuel costs had become prohibitive. No farmer could afford to pay what C.C. had to charge for cropdusting nowadays. So Charlie had shuttered his office and hanger, laid off his employees and sold off all of his company assets, save this plane, his best.
Even the hanger had been Joe's for the using while he modified the crop duster for the job. But even that hadn't been the tough part, although his hands, unused to metal fabrication and machine work, looked like it was. No, the tough part had been working out the details of the weapon he intended to deploy. He read crop dusting manuals (which we written with all the clear meaning and exciting prose of Chinese VCR instructions) until the data ran out his ears.
"Remember the speed of the aircraft changes the droplet spectrum. The optimum droplet spectrum can generally be developed by selecting the appropriate setup configuration. Remember turbine powered, faster aircraft, generally have more uniform patterns. And the droplet spectrum may be the most important aspect of these applications and should be carefully adjusted with nozzle selection, operating pressure and mounting configuration. . . Remember small changes in droplet diameter make big changes in droplet volume! (Example: It takes (1.6) 300µ droplets to equal 1 350µ droplet and 2.4 300µ droplets to equal 1 400µ. . . . Remember there are excellent aerial models available to help determine the expected droplet spectrum. . . Remember . . . Remember . . ."
Remember? Joe remembered that crap in in his sleep. He wouldn't likely forget it this side of the grave.
Which, he reflected, might not be that long from now anyway.
"The AT-802/802A is the world's largest single engine aircraft, and its popularity reflects the industry's trend to larger, high-production turbine equipment. With a payload of 9,500 lbs, the AT-802A provides more working capacity than any other single-engine ag plane. Its power, speed and payload delivers large operation efficiencies and opens up new income opportunities." -- from the Air Tractor sales brochure.
Leland Snow sure knew how to build an airplane. The Air Tractor 802A that vibrated under Joe Cornyn's finger tips was BIG. Its Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65AG turbine engine generated 1,295 horsepower at 1,700 RPM and the five bladed prop just clawed the heavy plane through the sky effortlessly. With a span of almost 60 feet, it's big rectangular wings had an area of 401 square feet.
Of course, it had to be for the payload it was designed to carry. This was no Piper Cub. As a matter of fact, taking off in a fully loaded cropduster was like trying to get a wallowing B-17F loaded with 500 pound bombs off the ground. Anybody who jumped into a tanked-up Air Tractor expecting it to perform like any other single-engine light plane would end up as the main course in a combination barbeque and celestial dirt nap at the end of the runway. Someone once compared it to the difference between handling a nimble sports car versus a fully loaded Peterbilt semi. Pilots of crop dusters are required to have a one-year apprenticeship to learn how to operate and fly the aircraft safely.
Fortunately for Joe, Charlie had given him some familiarization time in the Air Tractor back when Cornyn had toyed with the idea of getting his crop duster certificate. He'd never followed it up, but he wasn't at a loss to fly the single-engine bomber -- which was what the Air Tractor was now -- as he headed east to the target which lay ahead in the gathering dawn.
"Come out, you Black and Tans"
And as he flew nap of the earth, Joe Cornyn began to sing a song his grandda had taught him long before:
I was born on a Dublin street where the Loyal drums did beat
And the loving English feet walked all over us,
And every single night when me father'd come home tight
He'd invite the neighbors outside with this chorus:
Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man
Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders
Tell them how the IRA made you run like hell away,
From the green and lovely lanes in Killeshandra.
Come tell us how you slew
Them ol' Arabs two by two
Like the Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows,
How you bravely faced each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them damn natives to their marrow.
Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man . . .
Joe laughed loud enough to be heard over the Pratt and Whitney, although it was a single-seater and no one but God heard him. His grandda would understand what he was about to do this day, for little Michael Florence Cornyn had been there when, with his father off fighting with the IRA Volunteers, the Tans had beaten his older brother half to death and attempted the rape of his mother.
Young Michael Cornyn, all of twelve years old, had fetched the Webley revolver from its hiding place and killed his mother's attacker. And when the would-be rapist's two friends ran up the stairs to see what had happened, Michael Cornyn shot them too. His marksmanship could have been better, though, for his twin sister Mary had to finish one of them off with the butcher knife from the kitchen.
Eventually, the Cornyns made their way to America, and they raised their children with an Irishman's memories of the courageous Volunteers and the vicious Black and Tans taught through the songs of Irish freedom.
He hadn't even had to lie to Carter about what he was going to do. Charlie had gone and got himself busted by the Feds for violating the new "contempt of authority" statute while protesting the disappearance of his son Jim into the maw of the new tyranny. C.C. was even now spending 90 days in the federal lockup in Richmond. At least Charlie would have an alibi for what was about to happen.
Not that it would matter. If Joe hurt Brightfire one tenth of what he hoped to, he was sure his friend's life would be forfeit too. He had removed every ID number and casting or stamping code from the aircraft he could find, but he was sure federal forensics would still find something that could use to tie the plane to Charlie. And once identified, Brightfire would make him very slowly, very painfully, dead.
If the devil was abroad in the land, and Joe Cornyn knew that he was, then the mercenaries of Brightfire were Beelzebub's familiar demons and imps. And Joseph Michael Collins Cornyn intended to introduce as many of them as he could to their master this day. Joe sang lustily,
The day is coming fast
And the time is here at last,
When each yeoman will be cast aside before us,
And if there be a need
Sure my kids will sing, "Godspeed!"
With a bar or two of Stephen Behan's chorus
Oh, come out you black and tans,
Come out and fight me like a man . . .
Brightfire International -- Founded in 1985, this private security company specializing in "security, stability and peace-keeping operations" became a multi-billion dollar enterprise by providing "private contractors" to the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq after 11 September 2001. The largest single employer in southeast Virginia by the time of the withdrawal of American troops from those conflicts, Brightfire began to utilized for domestic security operations, especially intelligence gathering, in the period immediately preceding the civil conflict which began with the Battle of Sipsey Street. (See also Phillip Gordon, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Operation Clean Sweep, Restoration War, Mercenaries, and War Crimes Trials, United States). Although Brightfire was not the only private security company to provide "mercenaries" to Operation Clean Sweep, they were the largest, the best known, and it must be said, the most ruthless of such companies employed by the U.S. government in the attempt to disarm its own people.
From its base on 10,000 acres in rural southeastern Virginia, at the height of its operations early in the Restoration War, Brightfire trained tens of thousands of its own "contract operators" as well as federal police recruits at the world's largest privately owned weapons training facility. Through its Executive Air subsidiary, Brightfire provided cargo and tactical pilots and aircraft to the federal effort, eventually acquiring its own tactical air force to provide close air support to Operation Clean Sweep when the US Air Force proved unwilling to do so. -- "Chillicothe, Ohio: The American Guernica," George Wilson, Journal of American Military History, Vol. 66, No.1, 2027.
Brightfire also produced its own remotely piloted vehicles, fixed wing and blimp, as well as armored vehicles. Ironically, the Democrat party politicians who were so loud in denouncing Brightfire when it was supporting American military operations overseas, overnight became the company's greatest defenders when it was used within the continental United States in Operation Clean Sweep. -- Encyclopedia Americana, Random House, New York, 2030.
The personal last straw for Joe had been Chillicothe.
The Black and Tans . . . Joe caught himself. No, the Brightfire thugs.
Anyway, whatever you called them, or they called themselves, the murdering bastards had tried to take down an "illegal" political meeting in the southern Ohio town. The local cops had a security detail there, just to keep order. Nobody expected a Brightfire attack. They got one, though, and the Chillicothe police made the mistake of trying to talk them out of it. In the wink of an eye, there were six dead cops on the ground and Brightfire was shooting in all directions, killing men, women and kids, just like Bloody Sunday. The county sheriff stepped in, and with his deputies, what was left of the Chillicothe police and reinforced by several local militias, counterattacked and hemmed the Brightfire murderers into a warehouse on the river.
Trapped, Brightstar called down destruction on the town from above. When it was over half of downtown was a burnt-out shell. The Feds suppressed the number of civilian casualties, but best estimates said it was over a thousand dead. The government had a firm censor's grip on the media and the Internet now, so no one knew for sure, but that's what the Resistance Radio Network reported when it wasn't being jammed and they were known for being more accurate than the government mouthpieces of the "mainstream media."
Joe didn't have any relatives that he knew of in Chillicothe. His family had not been victimized by the Feds yet. The only friend he had who'd run afoul of them was C.C. and was a 90 day jail term worth avenging by the mass slaughter he intended to inflict on Brightstar this morning?
But Chillicothe was.
Chillicothe offended him as only a free man can be offended when he sees innocents slaughtered. He wasn't a spectator in this war. He was an American citizen. And his Irish blood wouldn't let him sit still while others died. The Sassenach, as his old grandda called them, needed to be paid back.
And Joe Cornyn knew how.
"For vapor cloud explosion there is a minimum ratio of fuel vapor to air below which ignition will not occur. Alternately, there is also a maximum ratio of fuel vapor to air, at which ignition will not occur. These limits are termed the lower and upper explosive limits. For gasoline vapor, the explosive range is from 1.3 to 6.0% vapor to air, and for methane this range is 5 to 15%. Many parameters contribute to the potential damage from a vapor cloud explosion, including the mass and type of material released, the strength of ignition source, the nature of the release event (e.g., turbulent jet release), and turbulence induced in the cloud (e.g., from ambient obstructions). . . The blast effects from vapor cloud explosions are determined not only by the amount of fuel, but more importantly by the combustion mode of the cloud. Significant overpressures can be generated by both detonations and deflagrations. Most vapor cloud explosions are deflagrations, not detonations. Flame speed of a deflagration is subsonic, with flame speed increasing in restricted areas and decreasing in open areas. Significantly, a detonation is supersonic, and will proceed through almost all of the available flammable vapor at the detonation reaction rate. This creates far more severe peak over-pressures and much higher amounts of blast energy. The speed of the flame front movement is directly proportional to the amount of blast over-pressure. A wide spectrum of flame speeds may result from flame acceleration under various conditions. High flame front speeds and resulting high blast over pressures are seen in accidental vapor cloud explosions where there is a significant amount of confinement and congestion that limits flame front expansion and increases flame turbulence. These conditions are evidently more difficult to achieve in the unconfined environment in which military fuel-air explosives are intended to operate. . . The peak overpressure and duration are used to calculate the impulse from shock waves. Even some advanced explosion models ignore the effects of blast wave reflection off structures, which can produce misleading results over- or under-estimating the vulnerability of a structure. Sophisticated software used to produce three-dimensional models of the effects of vapor cloud explosions allows the evaluation of damage experienced by each structure within a facility as a result of a primary explosion and any accompanying secondary explosions produced by vapor clouds." -- "Fuel - Air Explosives"
Years before, when Joe had been in Army aviation flying fixed wing aircraft, he had seen a GBU-43/B tested. They called it the "Mother of All Bombs" for a reason.
Cornyn had been awestruck. It was like a nuke without the radiation. And everything beneath it was broken or turned inside out.
Fuel-air weapons work by initially detonating a scattering charge within a bomb, rocket or grenade warhead. The warhead contents, which are composed of either volatile gases, liquids or finely powdered explosives, form an aerosol cloud. This cloud is then ignited and the subsequent fireball sears the surrounding area while consuming the oxygen in this area. The lack of oxygen creates an enormous overpressure. This overpressure, or blast wave, is the primary casualty-producing force. In several dozen microseconds, the pressure at the center of the explosion can reach 30 kilograms per square centimeter (427 pounds per square inch) – normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is 14.7 pounds per square inch with a temperature between 2,500-3,000 degrees Centigrade [4,532-5,432 degrees Fahrenheit]. This is 1.5 to 2 times greater than the overpressure caused by conventional explosives. Personnel under the cloud are literally crushed to death. Outside the cloud area, the blast wave travels at some 3,000 meters per second [9843 feet per second]. The resultant vacuum pulls in loose objects to fill the void. As a result, a fuel-air explosive can have the effect of a tactical nuclear weapon without residual radiation. Since a fuel-air mixture flows easily into any cavities, neither natural terrain features nor non-hermetically sealed field fortifications (emplacements, covered slit trenches, bunkers) protect against the effects of fuel-air explosives. -- Lester Grau & Timothy Smith, "A 'Crushing' Victory: Fuel-Air Explosives and Grozny 2000," Marine Corps Gazette, August, 2000.
Now Joe didn't have a C-130, or a bomb casing the size of a pickup truck, or military grade RDX explosive as a burster to distribute the fuel.
What Joe had was a big-ass crop duster and 800 gallons of high-test gasoline in the spray tank. In military terms, he had a huge flying molotov cocktail. Whether it detonated or merely rained fire down on those mercenary assholes would be a tricky question at best, dependent upon weather, if he had guessed right about the micron size of the nozzles dispensing the fuel, whether the computer models he had used were right, and if (and he was afraid it was a big "if") his improvised ignition system would work.
He knew he'd have to have a day with little or no wind, and if the forecasters were right (were they ever?), this was it. It had better be. He'd waited two weeks for it. He had debated about doing this at night, under a full moon or a maybe a "smuggler's moon." Finally he chose dawn, first because knew he had to see the cloud as he dispensed it and second because he had another bright idea in which, if it were to work, the plane had to be visible from the ground.
To increase the confusion, he'd painted the aircraft solid black, as the Brightfire planes were, and put company logos on the tail and wings. He was flying on the deck, using every bit of ground clutter he could to confuse the military radars that were always working to protect the many defense assets on the east coast. He had pulled the radio. There was no point in talking to anybody, and he needed every bit of weight savings he could find. He wouldn't fool them if challenged by a flight controller and he would be flying in off-limits airspace.
What would he say to them anyway, just before he struck? The old battle cry of the Irish Volunteers - "Up the Republic!"? He could only hope that if they scrambled fighters to shoot him down short of his target that the Brightfire colors would confuse them long enough for him to do the job.
"Sir, we have an unidentified aircraft flying at low altitude headed east near the Virginia-North Carolina line. It's not on any authorized flight list and it doesn't answer to repeated radio calls."
The Air Force sergeant paused. The Colonel sat up a little straighter and looked at the NCO intently.
"Show me on the display," he ordered.
The Colonel grunted softly and asked, "Do you have a guess on where it's headed? Norfolk, maybe?"
The NCO shook his head. "No sir, allowing for it flying around hills, it seems to always return to a bee-line for Brightfire, Virginia."
The NCO wasn't sure but he thought the Colonel faintly smiled.
"Shall I scramble fighters to intercept, sir?"
"Brightfire, huh? Any chance its one of theirs?"
"It's not on any of their flight plans, sir, and they know how picky we are about that."
The Colonel snorted. Last month, a Brightfire attack helicopter chased what they claimed was a militia pickup truck onto the Fort Huachuca military reservation. When it failed to answer challenges from the base defense force on the ground demanding that it back off, the Army had put it in the dirt, killing four Brightfire employees. The pickup truck, if it had ever existed, got clean away. Brightfire had been a lot more respectful of the chain of command since then.
"How far out from Brightfire is it, Sergeant?"
"Sir, I'd guess about ten minutes."
"And how long will it take for an F-16 to intercept?"
"Sir, about 10 to 12 minutes."
"Well, Sergeant, it seems like a moot point then, doesn't it?"
"Yes, sir," the sergeant hesitated. "Shall I give Brightfire a call, sir?"
The Colonel hestitated. He and the sergeant had been together for a while, but could he trust him with the truth? The Colonel decided he could.
"No, sergeant, let's just sit back and enjoy the show."
With a broad grin, the sergeant said, "Yes, sir!" and went back to his screen.
The Colonel leaned back in his chair and prayed silently, "Lord, please let this be what I think it is."
Bill Duryea was known for his ability to remain motionless longer than seemed humanly possible. His nickname among the members of his militia reconnaissance team was "Stone," and not just for his ability to be deathly still for long periods of time. Even so, he'd had just about enough of this hide he'd shared with Willie Crawford for the past week. The place stank of body odor, and even the buried urine and feces could be detected by Bill's sensitive nose. A patrol dog would have no trouble pointing them out if one of the random sweeps that came through this area got downwind of them. Still, the hide was just about perfect.
A natural hole in the earth formed when the root ball of a huge old pine pulled out of the ground as the tree fell during a hurricane years back, it had been relatively easy to improve it into a sleeping area in the back and a masked observation slit in front, worked craftily into the rotting tree remnants which not only shielded them from observation, but made a dandy bullet barrier too. If need be, they could plug up the slit with natural colored burlap sandbags they'd prepared, but of course they'd be trapped. There was no back exit to this place. Although one could perhaps be dug in time, now was NOT the time. The recon team was there to sneak and peak and their ability to do that was about spent.
They'd have to leave tonight in any case. Bill had just replaced the batteries in the surveillance camera and the AN-PVS-14 night vision devices with their last set. They couldn't use the flexible solar panel to recharge here - it would be a dead giveaway. In addition to the battery shortage, they had only one more full disc to store images on.
But, oh what they had gathered so far! It was the mother lode of practical intel. With what they had, you could plan a raid that had a reasonable chance of success. Now all they had to do was wrap up today, wait for nightfall and exfil out.
The hide was on the military crest of a low ridge right outside the Brightfire compound's main inner gate. It overlooked corporate headquarters, the computer data center and the reception/conference building. On the backside of the headquarters was the company airport with the main hangers about a quarter mile down the runway to the east. Just past the tree line on the other side of the runway, the first roofs of the training barracks were visible through the pines, perhaps a half mile off.
"Stone" Duryea smiled. Nothing like putting all your eggs in one small basket. Everything near and dear to Peter King, CEO of Brightfire, was right here within a half-mile. Oh, if we just had a suitcase nuke, thought Bill.
Of course the compound's buildings were constructed in another age, back before the Second American Civil War (or Third, if you counted the Revolution). It was a monument to the ego of the man who wanted to be able to walk right off his corporate jet (or helicopter) and into the back door of his corporate offices. Who would have thought that a business, even a security business, might one day have to be militarily defended?
Well, Peter King was an ex-CIA spook, and he should have thought of it. Unfortunately the militia didn't have an air force like Brightfire, so there probably was little Peter King had worry about from the air. And this was the inner sanctum of a 10,000 acre fortress, scattered with wire, sensors and even minefields, not mention dogs and beaucoup armed mercenaries. It had taken a half a year of unsuccessful probing of Brightfire's defenses before the unit had worked out a chink in its armor, and even then it had taken all of Duryea's considerable skills to get them this far undetected. This could only be done once, so it had to be done right. They had tip-toed along the razor's edge to get here, and they would likely have to sprint along it back the way they came.
A diversion had been arranged with radio clicks by a prearranged code last night.
Perhaps it would be enough.
Something moved noiselessly beside him, and Duryea turned to look into the broad, black face of Willie Crawford. "Shift change," Willie whispered and "Stone" Duryea nodded. He loved Willie like the brother he never had. You couldn't do this kind of insane stuff and not. If you didn't, one of them would kill the other, or do something to get them both killed. Bill Duryea swore there were times that the could read each other's minds. A question formed in Willie's eyes. Yeah, Duryea nodded silently, he heard it too.
A deep-throated buzzing, growing louder, behind them, coming in from the west. They both moved toward the slit.
"Up the Republic!"
Even before the AT802A cleared the tallest trees on the last major hill before Brightfire, he knew he was dead-on target from the navigational markers he had jotted on his clipboard. He knew he would see the buildings at the front gate, but he also knew he wanted a body count in retribution for Chillicothe. So instead of aiming for the corporate headquarters and surrounding buildings he made straight across the runway for the training barracks.
Huge long low buildings, row upon row, they were said to be able to hold 10,000 men while they trained away at being bloodthirsty killers of American citizens. But as he buzzed the headquarters and the airfield he threw one, then another, little box with a small parachute attached. They had no sooner left his hand when they began a warbling wail that every American soldier knew was the signature sound of a chemical-biological attack sensor. The few folks who were out and about froze, then ran to get inside.
As he gained altitude over the barracks, he tossed out more with the same result. He was low enough still to see mens' mouths working soundlessly, "Gas! Gas!"
OK, now you've seen me, watch this, Cornyn thought. He had done a lot of gaming for this moment.
How fast? How high to start with the bottom layer? How many passes to get rid of 800 gallons? What droplet size? Would he live?
Don't think! his mind screamed at him. Do!
The buildings were actually longer and wider than he had planned, so he made his initial run higher than he thought he might. Out came the fuel, brilliant purple in the dawn's sunlight. He'd put inert dye in to enable him to spot the cloud. Of course, this made it more visible to the mercenaries on the ground, too.
And between the sight of the purple cloud, the cropduster and the gas alarms, they drew the immediate wrong conclusion: this was a chemical or biological attack. Their only hope was to get inside and tape up those barracks. No way would Brightfire have issued 10,000 MOPP suits to their trainees. So as much as the scurrying men below wanted more protection, they just knew that to run without a mask and suit was death.
And they did what Joe Cornyn wanted them to do.
They ran inside their thin-walled barracks.
One pass, then another. The propwash disturbed the cloud in some places, mended it in others. It was drifting lower, lower. Joe became aware he was singing another song his grandda had taught him, the battle hymn of the Irish Republican Army, and he was singing it in Gaelic:
Amhrán na bhFiann
Seo dhibh a cháirde duan Óglaigh,
Cathréimeach briomhar ceolmhar,
Ár dtinte cnamh go buacach táid,
'S an spéir go min réaltogach
Is fonnmhar faobhrach sinn chun gleo
'S go tiúnmhar glé roimh thíocht do'n ló
Fa ciúnas chaomh na hoiche ar seol:
Seo libh canaídh
Amhrán na bhFiann
We'll sing a song, a soldier's song,
With cheering rousing chorus,
As round our blazing fires we throng,
The starry heavens o'er us;
Impatient for the coming fight,
And as we wait the morning's light,
Here in the silence of the night,
We'll chant a soldier's song.
And then the tank was empty. 800 gallons gone that fast!?!
Joe pulled back on the stick, turbine and prop screaming, clawing for altitude above the cloud.
Sinne Fiánna Fáil
Atá fé gheall ag Éirinn,
Buidhean dár sluagh tar túinn do ráinig chughainn,
Fámhóidh bheith saor.
Sean-tír ár sinnsir feasta
Ní fhágfar fé'n tiorán ná fé'n tráil
Anocht a theigeamh sa bhearna bhaoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil chun báis nó saoil
Le guna sgréach fé lámhach na bpiléar
Seo libh canaídh Amhrán na bhFiann.
Soldiers are we whose lives are pledged to Ireland;
Some have come from a land beyond the wave.
Sworn to be free, No more our ancient sire land
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the gap of danger
In Erin's cause,
come woe or weal
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song.
Joe's intention had been to get high enough above the cloud, fire the star cluster rockets he had attached to the wings, and keep on going, presenting his tail to the blast and hope he had enough altitude to trade if he stalled out.
He saw now that it would be impossible to do that and to make sure of the detonation. The purple drifted lower, faster.
No second chance.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph and all the saints be with me," Joe breathed a prayer, and pulled the trigger on the star clusters.
When the gas alarms started going off, "Stone" Duryea leaped to the rear of the hide and broke out the M-40 gas masks for the both of them. They always carried them and two CS grenades apiece in case they needed to break contact with a pursuing foe who was unlikely to be carrying such protection themselves. For the same reason, they also carried two M49A1 trip flares each to use as hand grenades to throw behind as they didi'ed away at night, blinding any pursuers. They were careful men, which was why they were still alive.
But of the two scouts, Willie Crawford had the greater presence of mind this day. He pushed the surveillance camera to the front of the slit, set it on continuous wide-angle and only then did he put his mask on. Below them, no one was now visible outside the buildings. When they saw the purple cloud growing over the barracks, drifting down, they snugged their masks a little tighter.
Duryea spoke through the voicemitter on his mask, "We're upwind, I think."
Crawford just grunted. He hadn't noticed any breeze.
But when "Stone" Duryea and Willie Crawford saw the star clusters fall toward the cloud, they instantly knew what was about to happen. No time to retrieve the camera at the front of the slit, they packed sandbags in behind it as fast as they could.
Willie shouted "Cover your ears and open your mouth."
Duryea did, and then the world came apart.
Joseph Michael Collins Cornyn had wanted to survive this attack if he could.
He also wanted a detonation and not a deflagration of the fuel air cloud.
In that, he got what he wanted. And in the getting, he paid the Black and Tans back for Chillicothe almost ten times over. He not only got all the barracks, smashing them flat to kindling with blood jam running out the splintered cracks, but he also wrecked the airfield, the corporate headquarters and the computer center and secondary explosions of fuel pumps and utilities finished the job.
In all 9, 248 mercenaries were killed outright. And every one was a combatant, there was no "collateral damage" of innocent civilians.
732 were wounded, but many of them died subsequently. It is difficult for the doctors to put you back together once you have been turned inside out by concussion. It was the greatest single blow struck by the resistance against the forces of the administration, and it made government recruiting dwindle to almost nothing. The war would now be decided by the forces in the field, unless the military decided to jump in on the government's side or, it increasingly seemed possible, perhaps on the side of the resistance.
Indeed, the blow to the government's morale was so great, that they might have tried to hide the butcher's bill if it hadn't been for Willie Crawford's camera. Of course the camera didn't survive the blast, but the disc did. And so did Willie and "Stone" Duryea, who had no trouble exfiltrating out of the Brightfire compound's shredded defenses with the greatest piece of combat footage of the entire Restoration War. And it was a good thing that they could read each other's mind, because after that they were both very hard of hearing.
The government never did figure out who had carried out the FAE strike on Brightfire. Joe Cornyn and his plane were blown into so many pieces over such a large area of Virginia peat bog that reconstructing the forensic evidence was impossible.
Charlie Carter was released at the end of 90 days from the detention block in Richmond and came home to an empty airplane hangar and a cryptic goodbye note from Joe Cornyn.
It ended with his signature and below it, a P.S:
"Up the Republic!"