Chapter One Peacekeepers
Disclaimer: "The Character of Zorro is copyrighted to the Disney Corporation. No infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author."
WARNING: Rough language ahead. Realistic soldier speak, sex and violence. If you're easily shocked, please skip this thread. I'm going to try not to make it gratuitous sex and violence, but if that's where the story goes – these are modern soldiers, and when they stub a toe, they don't say "My Goodness Gracious!", ok?
I have toned it down to make it a T rating – but there are some comments that still are understandable.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED
Also – dialog set off with quote marks, like this "English" is English. Dialog set of with horizontal arrows Espanol is translated from Spanish. Just a convention I picked up, please tell me if that is too confusing.Chapter One Peacekeepers
Pope AFB, North Carolina 2010
"Sarge, this is one screwed up mission statement." Said Specialist Roberto Acosta.
"Shaddup, Roberto." Said Sergeant Caquan Palmer, his fire team leader. "Why'ncha take it up with the Prez, next time you see him?"
They shuffled up the tail ramp of the cavernous C-17 Globemaster, found their seats, buckled in and settled down.
"Oh my aching butt." Said PFC Anthony Guardino. "Twelve freakin' hours on these goddam plastic seats and I'm gonna WANT to kill somebody."
"Shaddup, Guardino!" chorused Palmer and Acosta.
"Frakin'' 101st Airborne." Mumbled Acosta. "Goddamn Firemen of Democracy." He said. "Freakin' speed bumps is what we are."
"Look," said Palmer. "The new government of Libya has ousted Gaddaffi, and they requested our help. The French are sending the 3rd REP of La Legion Etrangere, the Brits are sending the Royal Paras, and Obama is sending the 101st Airmobile. So shaddup and enjoy your place in history."
"Frak history." Said Acosta. "I was supposed to be home in da Bronx, and I got this little Latin Rose Petal waiting for me tonight, and instead I got dis crap."
Up on the Flight Deck, Colonel Lance Kaplan, Mission Commander, looked at the senior pilot, Major Bob Rowe. "Bob, How's it looking?"
"Clean and Green." Was the reply.
MSgt George McGlaughlin came up the ladder from the flight deck and flashed a thumbs up. "Ready to go, Colonel. The doggies are all strapped in tight."
"Roger that, Mac." Said Lance. "Bob, signal the tower, ready for engine start."
The big C-17, call sign Chevy 1-1, headed up over the sparkling Atlantic. There were 12 C-17s taking the first battalion of the 508th Infantry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st to Tripoli today. The plan was for them to fly separately, staggered out, so the tankers out of NAS Rota could refuel them in a stream.
They had reached cruising altitude, 39,000 feet. Lance had leaned back in his seat and scratched under the left shoulder strap. "OK, guys, we're clean and green for the next four hours, until we hit the first tanker rendezvous."
"Should I tell the passengers to unstrap yet?" asked Bob.
"Nah," said Lance. "They should be good for a little."
Bob looked down at the radar plot. A large circular red blot formed on the screen. "What the f_?"
There was a flash of light. Luckily, both pilots were looking down at the radar, and instinctively closed their eyes at the beginning of the flash.
The second pilot, Captain Maurice Morris, was not so lucky. He was looking forward, through the windscreen, at the massive black orb in front of them, when it flashed bright white. He screamed from the pain of his optic nerve being overloaded.
The third pilot, Captain Rebecca Shaw, was dozing in the other crew seat. She reached over and grabbed Morris, to keep him from flailing about the cabin.
Kaplan and Rowe had other things to worry about.
The huge aircraft suddenly became quieter as the engines and every electrical component died.
"Flame out on all engines" reported Bob.
"Keine scheisse, Sherlock?" queried Lance, as he tried to control the suddenly unresponsive aircraft. He tried to report the problem. "Charleston Center, Charleston Center, this is Chevy 1-1, I am declaring an IFE, repeat Chevy 1-1 is declaring an IFE, total electrical failure, total engine failure, attempting a restart at this time, over."
The radio stayed silent, but Lance was too busy to notice.
Airman Richie Rivera was controlling the Chevy 1 cell. Normally, this would be a civilian controller, but with the overload of traffic for the Libyan crisis, he was detailed down here. That wasn't a problem. His hitch was up next year, and Civilian Air Traffic Controller was exactly where he wanted to be.
The blip for Chevy 1-1 suddenly vanished from the screen. "Chevy 1-1, report your position."
"Chevy 1-1, this is Charleston Center. Report your position."
Suddenly, he heard another voice. "Holy Mother of – Charleston Center, Charleston Center, this is Chevy 2-1, Mother puss buckets, something just happened out here, big bright flash, massive turbulence, sweet mother of god…"
"So we don't know what happened?" asked the President.
"No, sir, we don't." answered General Norman Schwartz, The Air Force Chief of Staff. "At first we thought it was a nuke, but there's no sign of radiation." He shrugged. "the VELA satellites reported a bright flash, but again, no radiation."
"And the C-17 is missing, along with her crew and the paratroopers?" said President Obama, steepelling his fingers.
"Yes, Mr. President" said the General. "Navy is searching for wreckage and possible survivors – but there's nothing, not even a seat cushion or a life vest, not even an oil slick of military grade fuel to indicate where she went down. It just – " he snapped his fingers – "vanished"
"I really don't believe in the Bermuda Triangle stuff." Said the President. "But this sure as hell looks like one."
April 10, 1806
"MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is Chevy 1-1 reporting IFE at this time, C-17 with 1-2-6 souls on board, repeat 126 souls on board, four engine flame out, attempting engine restart at this time. FL 3-9-0, repeat, FL 390, descending for windmill start." As he spoke, he was pointing the nose of the big airplane at the ocean. He couldn't spare time to look at his backup "Whiskey compass" for a bearing, he could just hope that any air traffic in his way would clear out.
There was no time to restart the APU, he had to go for a windmill start, trading altitude for speed, hoping to get the compressors turning fast enough to get the engines lit again.
Normal procedure was to start #3 first. The emergency power came up and the glass cockpit began to come back to life. Bob was watching the compressor speeds. Lance was watching the airspeed and altimeter.
"N1 is at 40%-45%-50%" he said. "Initiating fuel flow. 60% Initiating ignition – now!" and with a whine, the big Pratt and Whitney turbofan ignited and started to spool up. "#3 engine is back in business!" he exclaimed.
"Not out of the woods yet" cautioned Lance. "Descending through FL 300, airspeed 250."
"N1 on #2 is 40%-50%- I have bleed air from #3 now – igniting – YES!" he exclaimed as #2 engine caught and took hold.
Lance allowed himself to ease up on the yoke. With two engines lit, the massive cargo plane could fly.
Not well, but it could fly. Bleed air from the two engines could be used to start the other two engines.
"Well, Frak." He said. "We need to get this pig somewhere and land it. Where the Frak are we, Bob?" he keyed his microphone. "Charleston Center, Charleston Center, this is Chevy 1-1, aircraft has two engines started, we need a vector steer to the nearest field."
Lance Kaplan was an experienced pilot, with 23 years of flying for the Air Force. The flameout and recovery was, admittedly, one of the scariest experiences of his entire flying career, but this was worse.
The radio was silent.
No chatter, no other aircraft talking to ATC or each other. He had turned the squelch down, and there was the background hiss, to tell him the radio was working, but -.
Col Kaplan looked at his instrument panel, and looked at the other members of the crew.
About that time, he began to register the noise in the cargo compartment. "AT EASE, SHUT THE FRAK UP!" he heard. He smiled. Trust an airborne NCO to be able to shout loud enough to carry over the engine noise.
MSgt McLaughlin was at the top of the stairs. "You guys get done with that roller coaster shit yet?" he demanded. "I'm glad you decided to do it with airborne, a bunch of legs would be pukin' all over the cargo compartment right now. A few of them do need to change their drawers, I can smell it."
Mac was up on the flight deck now, and looking at Captain Morris. Captain Shaw was putting a bandage over his eyes as he moaned in pain. The assistant loadmaster, SSgt Mary Friedrich, was standing at the top of the ladder.
"Mac" said Lance, "I don't know what the Frak just happened. I think – I REPEAT, THINK, that somebody just set a nuke off."
Mac looked at him. Lance stared back at him levelly. "Well," said Mac, "that would explain the bright flash and the loss of engine power."
In most military units, it might seem strange for an NCO, even a senior NCO, to be discussing things with a Colonel. But Msgt McLaughlin was a member of the 514th Airlift Wing, the Reserve Associate Wing of the 305th Airlift Wing, to which the rated officers belonged. MSgt McLaughlin had been on flight status for 26 years of his 30 years in the military.
"I got nothing on Navaids, colonel." Reported Bob. "GPS, LORAN, SHORAN, TACAN, nothing. Nothing but static on the radios, not even on Guard. Can't raise NMCC, nothing…and the static isn't that loud, either, which is strange."
"How's that?" said Mary.
Mo groaned. "NUCDET should leave the airwaves dirty. Even if somebody was transmitting, getting through all the crap ought to be impossible for a couple of hours."
"How's the eyes, Mo?" asked the colonel.
"Hurts like a mother, Colonel." Said Mo. "Got the king hell bastard of a headache, though."
"Keep the dressing on for awhile." Advised the colonel. "Hopefully, it's just paralysis of the optic nerve."
"Well, unless it's been vaporized," said Lance, "I'm aiming this pig at Charleston AFB." He shrugged. "Seems as good a choice as any."
Lance was glad he was carrying an elite unit, like the Airborne today. Nobody knew what was going on, but the NCOs were ferociously enforcing discipline in the cargo compartment. Not that there was much to enforce – these were soldiers used to dealing with insane situations. Most of the men were staring at him, as he went to the comfort pallet and took a much needed piss. He could see the questions on their faces – questions he probably didn't have answers for.
A trooper came up to him, and he recognized the dual blue bars of a Captain. The soldier stuck out his hand, "Colonel, I'm Captain Joe Buckley, Charlie Company Commander. What the Frak's going on?" he screamed over the jet noise.
"C'mon up to the flight deck, Captain." Said Lance. "I'll get you on headset, Then we won't have to yell so much."
Half an hour later, they gaped at Charleston Harbor.
"What the Fraking hell?" asked Lance.
The crew stared at the harbor. "We've been ISOTted." Said Rebecca.
"What the Frak is an eye-sot?" asked Lance.
"I-S-O-T." said Rebecca, "In the Sea of Time – theoretical concept in the Science Fiction World. Basically, a person or group winds up getting grabbed out of their own time and thrown somewhere else."
"That's crazy talk," said Lance. "You're nuts, Captain."
Rebecca nodded grimly and pointed out the window at the sailing ships in the harbor. There was a lazy haze over the city, and there were puffs of smoke from a few ships, as if cannons were being fired. "Who's crazy, Colonel?" she said, "Me? For suggesting we're back in time? Or you, for disbelieving your eyes?"
She traced the shape of the harbor. "That's Charleston Harbor down there," she said, "but where the base ought to be is nothing but swamp and trees. The Navy Yard is gone, and that's been there since Colonial days. So you tell me what happened."
"Shit." Said Lance, rubbing his balding head.
"Naw, there's the Navy Yard over there." Said Joe. "I grew up in Charleston. You're thinking of the new one, that's the one they built after the Yankee Navy blew up the old one."
"So this is pre-Civil War?" said Lance.
"Gotta be." Said Joe.
Bob looked at Lance. "So what do we do, Colonel?" he said.
Lance moved back his headset and scratched his head again. "First off, we need a safe place to land this thing. Ain't too many runways prior to the Civil War."
"Christ." Said Mo. "The only places I'd even want to try would be Muroc Dry Lake or Bonneville Salt Flats."
"Good Point" said Bob.
"Bonneville Salt Flats – that's in Utah." Said Joe. "We got enough fuel for that?"
"I'd rather go to Muroc." Said Lance. "If we're pre-Civil War, Bonneville is a long way from anywhere." He said. "Muroc is –what?-60 miles from Los Angeles?"
"Is Los Angeles even there yet?" said Mac.
"Puebla Los Angeles was founded in 1781." Put in Rebecca. "I had to learn that in California State History in the eighth grade."
Joe, Rebecca and Mary were looking at photographs of Charleston Harbor on Rebecca's laptop. She enlarged the view of a ship. "Colonel, it looks like the Navy Yard is flying the Stars and Stripes, not the Union Jack. Looks like we're somewhere between 1791 and the Civil War."
"How many stars?" said Bob.
"Shit, Major, this is real life, not some movie. You think I can afford the kind of camera to give me that kind of resolution from 10,000 feet?"
"No steamers." Put in Joe. "So we have to be prior to, say, 1830 or so."
"Well, that narrows it down to 40 years or so." Said Lance.
"You know colonel, we are causing a bit of commotion down there." Observed Joe.
"Well, screw them" said Lance. "This ain't Star Trek, and I am more interested in surviving than worrying about the Prime Directive."
Bob looked up from his maps. "Look's like we need a bearing of approximately 270 from here, Colonel"
"OK, I thought the idea of going to Libya to back up the Libyan Government was Fraked up. And you tell me we're WHERE?"said Roberto.
"Shaddup, Acosta." Said Sergeant Palmer. The word was moving slowly through the compartment. There was a lot of confusion, as the paratroopers tried to absorb the news.
"So why exactly are we going to California?" said Acosta.
"Dat one's easy." Said Guardino. "Even I get that."
Palmer and Acosta looked at Guardino as if he'd grown an extra head. Guardino ignored their stares. "Dere ain't no runways in the early 1800s. So we gotta land on a flat field somewhere. But even a gopher hole can Frak us up." He said. " and if we suck in a tree branch or a small rock, it can blow up the engine." He shrugged. "But dem dry lakes, all dey are is dried salt. Every year, when it rains, all the heavy Crud sinks, so it pretty much stays flat."
Palmer looked at Guardino with a look of surprised respect. "Holy cow, Tony. That's really smart."
"Well, duh Colonel needs to run out the fuel. We wuz fueled up to jump the Atlantic, so he needs to burn off the fuel anyway. Might aw well fly out dere and get us the best chance we can."
Acosta looked at Guardino with a lot of surprise. "Shit, Tony, when did you turn into a Frakin' brainiac? Who are you and what did you do with Tony Guardino?"
Tony shrugged. "Shit, I like dis Air Force shit. Duh Army sucks snot."
"So why did you join the Army instead of the Air Force?" Said Palmer.
"No waiting." Said Tony.
"What?" asked both men.
"No waiting." Said Tony, "I needed to get outta town real fast. Duh Air Force was gonna put me on a waiting list. Duh Army could ship me to basic duh next morning. And I pissed off Jimmy the H, and if I didn't make myself scarce real quick..." he shrugged. "I figured Iraq was a whole lot safer than staying in Brooklyn. Healthier, ya know?"
"OK," said First Sergeant Erasmus Chang as he sorted out what Captain Buckley was telling him. "So why don't we just fly back through the what-ever-it was- dimensional rift thingy and go back home?"
Buckley sighed. "This ain't Star Trek, First Sergeant. And the Colonel did circle back and take a look. Wasn't nothing where we came out. The hole opened, ate us up, and shit us out here. We're stuck."
"Well" said SFC Chang. "I'm stuck back in the 1800s. You know, Cap'n, they're going to declare us dead up in the 21st Century" he smiled. "Wow, we're dead. I was going to divorce the bitch anyway." He started to smile. "I wonder what she's going to say when she finds out I changed my beneficiaries back to my kids from my first marriage."
Buckley grinned slowly. His ex-wife had left him for a supply pogue. No kids, and his beneficiaries were his parents.
He had been wondering how the men would react to losing their families, but as he thought over the histories of the men of India Company, he realized that almost all of them were either young and unmarried, or divorced and happy about it. Airborne is a job for the guy that is not terribly worried about the future. You either get out of Airborne or give up the family…and if you do have family, you learn quick to make sure they're taken care of, because you never know when you won't be coming home from a mission.
As he thought about it, he realized that the idea of landing in California in the 1800s was not really scaring him. Paratroopers, by their very nature, are light infantry optimists. It's the other guy that is going to get messed up. And they were prepared to land in the Sahara, so the Mojave was not all that different. Each man had a basic load of 400 rounds, and they had another four days of ammunition for everything. Four days of rations for everybody. The short round, he decided, was going to be water. Getting the hell out of Muroc dry lake and over to an oasis was going to have to be the first priority.
"So what do we do when we land, Colonel?" asked Bob.
"I guess, I haven't thought that out much." Said Lance.
Mac was up on the flight deck. "I'd say we go to Los Angeles. Closest City – well, settlement."
"If it's before 1824," said Becky, "we're still in the Spanish Empire." she thought a second, "and if it's before 1846, we're still in Mexico.
"Yeah," said Lance, "but if we're between 1790-something and 1830-something or so, the US is still pretty much East of the Mississippi. If it's after 1804, there's the Louisiana territories, but that's not necessarily a done deal yet…and do we want to go to the US?"
Mo jumped as if prodded, "We did swear an oath to the United States, to protect the Constitution and to obey the orders of the President." He said slowly.
"Who?" asked Lance. "I swore my first oath of enlistment to Ronald Reagan, not Thomas Jefferson." He said with warming vehemence. "Shit, they take one look at those guys back there," he said, jerking his thumb to the crew compartment, "They're going to want to arrest half of them as fugitive slaves."
He looked at his fellow flight crew. "Just look at us up here. A Jew, a mulatto, two woman, a Cherokee – only one Caucasian male among the six of us…and this plane ain't flying again for a good long time, if ever, once we land it." He said. "The guns are going to run out sometime, no matter how careful we are," he blinked, "so it behooves us to be real cautious about what we do, folks."
"Holy crap" said Lance, "will you look at that"
Rebecca had replaced Bob in the right seat. She looked down at the brown splotch on thr ground, and realized what she was looking at.
Thousands of bison.
The herd was dense, and it took them almost three minutes to move across it. They were cruising at max endurance -360 knots air speed. She realized that they were moving at six miles per minute.
That herd was 18 miles across or so.