Castle Roland


Escape & Evasion

by Roland

Completed
Chapters:

Chapter 3

Published: 3 Jul 17

Escape and Evasion

Copyright © 2017 by Roland and the
Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved


Escapr and Evasion Logo"Hey there… Want some company?"

"Umm… sure." Sheldon said as he slid across the log he was sitting on and let the man sit down next to him. He was on watch, even though no one else had yet to go to bed. It had become a habit, he was given first watch, even though everyone else was still available to take it. It did give him some time to think, which he found himself doing a lot lately.

"I was talking to your brother today. He said that I should talk to you."

Sheldon looked over, a bit of worry on his face. He knew exactly why Pat would have said that. This man, Michael Turner, or Mic as he told everyone to call him, was gay. That much was obvious, since, when he met up with the group, he referred to the other man with him as his husband, and the two kids, as theirs. The fact that he was a cop, in SWAT gear, with a submachine gun in his hands, and a shotgun strapped across his back, meant he wasn't too worried about anything.

"He didn't say why." Mic continued, "But I can kinda guess."

Sheldon, wide-eyed, finally nodded his head slightly.

"Hey man!" Mic laughed softly. "It ain't that big a deal. Yeah the jackass in the White House might have other thoughts, but you know what? Fuck him." Mic's laughter was infectious, and Sheldon couldn't help but laugh along with him.

"So let me guess." Mic finally said. "You're worried about how people will react. You're worried that they will treat you different, and finally you're worried that by talking about it, somehow it'll make it even more real?"

"How'd…" Sheldon stuttered out in shock.

"Easy kid… been there, done that! Got the T-shirt, and burned the damned thing… twice." Again Sheldon couldn't help but laugh along with the man, as he relaxed. For the rest of Sheldon's two hour watch, they talked, they laughed, but most importantly, Sheldon cried on the man's shoulder.


"You know, we gotta be getting close." Terry said the next day as they walked down a road. Three Rangers, including Pat, were scouting ahead of them. The roads were a mile apart in this section, with fields in between. The Rangers would move ahead to the next cross road, then the rest of the group would speed up to them. Then the group would wait while the Rangers pushed ahead again.

"Huh?" Sheldon asked, not really sure what his friend meant.

"To the Mississippi." Was Terry's response, which caused Sheldon to nod.

"I sure hope so. Honestly, I'm getting fed up with all the walking."

"You could ride. There's always a few extra spots, even if it's on the front rack of your dad's four-wheeler."

"Nah." Sheldon shook his head. "You know me, I like walking, but there are limits. Besides, I can walk without a problem, some of the others can't. You realize we got like thirty people with us?"

"Thirty-three, counting the two of us." Terry grinned and slightly pushed Sheldon on the shoulder. "I figured you would know, since you normally know everything going on."

"Oh shut up!" Sheldon retorted, playfully shoving Terry back. "I've had other things on my mind."

"Like what?" Terry asked, suddenly serious. Sheldon sighed, and looked forward, trying to decide what to say and what not to. Was this really a conversation he wanted to have with the way things were… was there a good reason not to, especially due to the current situation.

"Heads up!" Sheldon heard through the radio, and immediately his hand went up with a closed fist, just like he'd been taught recently, as he squatted down some, bringing his rifle around, and to the ready. Terry reacted immediately as well, crouching down, his eyes scanning the area around them.

"Vehicle and people down a side road, vehicle looks damaged." He heard Pat say over the radio, and Sheldon softly repeated everything to Terry.

"Friendly?" Sarge asked.

"Unknown; they are civilians, women and children among them." Pat paused, then spoke up again. "I count fourteen, only three men though, two obviously armed with civilian weapons."

"Copy that." Sarge said, then went quiet for almost a minute. When he came back, his words made Sheldon start to sweat. "Sheldon… you and Terry drop your packs, and move forward to backup your brother and the others. You're rear guard, just watch their backs. Okay?"

"Yes sir." Sheldon said, keying the mic. He handed his rifle to Terry, and dropped his pack, while relaying their orders. Over the last few days, Terry had taken to carrying a hunting rifle, after Pat Sr. and Sarge had okayed it. Of course, he'd never even fired it yet, and from the look on his face after Sheldon relayed the orders, he was praying that this wouldn't be the first time.

Within moments, they were jogging down the road, catching up to his brother and the others, about a mile ahead of them. Once they got into sight of Pat, and the other two Rangers, he signaled that he was ready, and the three Rangers moved forward, towards the vehicle that Sheldon and Terry could barely see.

What seemed like an eternity passed where neither Sheldon nor Terry could see the three Rangers, as they moved through the wooded area between the fields and the road. Finally though, Sheldon watched as two of the Rangers, neither one being his brother, seemed to materialize out of the woods, one on each side of the group. They had their weapons ready, but weren't pointing them at anyone. Although the men that had rifles from the other group, they made absolutely no move to grab their rifles after seeing the Rangers. Things seemed tense for several minutes, as Sheldon and Terry watched as they talked, though they had no idea what was being said.

After almost five minutes, Sheldon's radio came to life. "All clear." one of the rangers called out. "Sarge, El-tee, we need you up here."

"Roger that, stand down everyone." Sarge said through the radio, causing both Sheldon and Terry to visibly relax. They waited and watched, until the vehicles came up to them. They both jumped on the last Humvee as it turned down the side road. As always, a few of the Rangers stayed back to guard the rear.

When the vehicles stopped, they watched as Sarge and Lieutenant Davis jumped down out of the back of the lead vehicle, and started walking towards the group. Sheldon looked over at Terry who just shrugged, already knowing what Sheldon was thinking.

"You guys did good." Pat Sr. said as they all walked towards the group that was looking inside the back of a pickup truck. They were close enough to hear as the Rangers told their superiors what was going on.

"They got wounded." The one Ranger said. "Two kids, neither one looking good."

"We were trying to get to my dad's ranch." One of the women said with tears in her eyes. "He's only about five miles away, but we can't move the boys."

"Why your father's?" Davis asked softly, as he looked over the side of the truck, seeing the two teens in the back.

"He's a vet." She said slowly. "I don't know no one else that can help… not with the way things be."

Davis slowly nodded his head, while she continued explaining. "We ran out of gas about an hour ago. A couple of the others went to try and get there, and see if my father could come back. We can't risk moving them."

"You said your father's place is only about five miles away?" Davis asked.

"Yes sir." The woman answered, while several of the others nodded. Sheldon couldn't help his curiosity, so he moved up and peaked into the back of the truck. He almost wished he hadn't, as he saw two boys, probably younger than he was, lying there. They both looked pale, and Sheldon wasn't sure they were still alive, except for the fact that their chests slowly rose and fell. He couldn't tell where they'd been hit, since they were both wrapped up in blankets.

Sheldon was brought back to the present when he heard through his radio, "Bring the vehicles up." He looked over just in time to see Davis take the woman off, and start to talk to her slowly. Moments later, she sagged in relief, and started to cry. The fact that she crushed Davis in a hug, told Sheldon all he needed to know. They were going to make sure this group got to her father's ranch.


"Well at least we can see everything." Pat said as Sheldon sat down next to him in the top of the barn. Sheldon was trying hard not to have flashbacks of that first night. He was doing good so far, but honestly, he was still having nightmares, no matter how many people he talked to.

"If you'd rather not be up here…" Pat said, showing just how well he knew his brother.

"Nah…" Sheldon let out a long sigh, as he shook his head. "I'm okay."

Pat reached over and patted his brother's leg, then squeezed it. "I know this has been rough on you. But you're doing damn good at handling it."

"Yeah right." The sarcasm in Sheldon's tone was deep and dripping. "I've cried like a baby almost every night since… since we left. I almost puked that night in the barn, and I can't even sleep right now unless I'm holding on to this damned rifle."

Pat sighed, but was silent for a moment. When he did start speaking, his voice was so soft that Sheldon almost couldn't hear it. "You remember when you were in fifth grade, and you got into your first fight… what was his name?"

"Sam… Sam Decker." Sheldon said, matching Pat's quiet tone.

"You remember what Mom and Dad said?"

It was Sheldon's turn to stay quiet for several moments. "Mom was upset, but Dad wanted to know what happened, and why. When I explained that Sam had been beating up on a third grader, he slapped me on the shoulder, and told me 'well done'."

"What did Mom say?" Pat's voice was choked with emotion as he spoke. Neither one of them could really think of their mother without feeling her death strongly.

"She… she sat me down after Dad left. She told me that… that she hated fighting, but there were times when you needed to. She said that… that she was proud of me… for … for standing up to a bully." Sheldon had tears streaming from his eyes, but a sad smile on his face, as things began to fall into place in his mind. "She said that no matter what happened, she would always be proud of a son of hers standing up for what was right."

"That's what we're doing here." Pat said, looking out at the area in front of them. "All of us… all the Rangers, have already agreed. Once we get you guys across the Mississippi, and to safety… we're gonna find a way to come back and help take our home back from these assholes."

Sheldon was silent for a very long time. Finally he put his hand on Pat's shoulder, causing his older brother to look at him, and meet his eyes. After taking a deep breath, Sheldon, his voice steady as a rock, and hard as steel, spoke. "I'm coming with."

Pat searched his little brother's eyes for several moments, before he simply nodded.


Both were content to simply keep watch, and think about what had happened.

Neither Pat nor Sheldon spoke for almost an hour, after Pat had agreed to let Sheldon come back with them.

"Sheldon!" Terry said, out of breath, as he came into the room they were using to keep watch. "Your father needs you!"

"What's going on?" Pat asked sharply.

"Don't know." Terry panted out. "Your dad just told me to run and get Sheldon as quick as I could."

Sheldon jumped to his feet, shouldered his rifle, and followed Terry out of the room, down the stairs, and out the door. They both stopped and looked around before they sprinted across the yard that separated the barn from the main house.

Pat Sr. was standing on the front porch when the boys ran up. "Thanks Terry." The man said as he clapped the boy on the shoulder. "Can you go inside and see what Lieutenant Davis needs help with?"

"Sure thing." The boy said, then was gone inside. Pat Sr. shifted his gaze to his son, and put both hands on his son's shoulder, forcing Sheldon to meet his gaze.

"Sheldon. Remember last summer, when we saw that accident?"

"Yeah… It happened right in front of us."

"Yes it did. Obviously we stopped, since I'm an EMT. But, you helped out a bunch before the ambulances got there." Sheldon just nodded remembering the accident well. "Good, cause we're gonna need your help with the two boys."

"What about the Rangers, don't they have a medic?" Sheldon asked nervously.

Pat Sr. just shook his head. "They had one in their team, but they left the man behind since they didn't know if he was trustworthy enough. Remember, they all disobeyed orders, and went AWOL to help us."

Sheldon shuddered as he remembered the blood he saw in the accident. But then he also remembered how it felt when he found out that everyone survived, and one of them, he was told, only survived, because he had done exactly what his father had told him to do. He was scared then, he was scared now, but… well he was always scared these days… "What do you need me to do?"

Pat Sr.'s face lit up with a grin. "That's my boy." He turned and slipped one of his arms over Sheldon's shoulder. "Let's go. Doctor Brighton is getting everything ready for us."


Nov 23

I think I'm broken. Something inside me must be broken but I don't know what. I watched a boy die today. He was only thirteen. His name was Darren. Dr. Brighton dad and I worked on him for over three hours but in the end he died. And I don't feel anything. I mean sure I'm sad he died, but with everything else going on I just can't help but wonder if maybe he's better off.

I know that's not really a PC thing to say, but hell I don't know. I want to be angry. Maybe sad hell maybe I should be out raging at someone or something. But I'm just numb. Hell I don't even think numb is the right word. I don't feel anything.

After Darren died we then had to move onto the other boy. He's thirteen too but he survived. Although I heard dad talking to Dr. Brighton he's not sure if the kid will ever walk again.

You know what I really want to know Why? Why is all this shit happening. Is it really just cause some douchebag wants to stay president? Are all these people like Darren and my mom, dying all because someone wants to stay president? WHAT THE FUCK!

Pat told me that he and the other Rangers are coming back after we get to safety. I told him I wanted to come too. I know dad's gonna say no but I have to. I really do. How could I continue living knowing what's going on here and not do something? It felt like a lifetime ago that I killed for the first time. I remember crying about it and I still do. But now. Now I WON'T cry. I won't feel bad, and I won't hesitate. These people came here hurting and killing my family and people just like me. Not anymore. Not if I can help it.


"Sheriff?" Sheldon and his father turned around to see the vet walking up to them.

"What can I do for you Doc?" Pat asked as he reached out to shake the man's hand.

"Well, I talked to the Army guys, and they said I needed to check with you."

"Okay?" Sheldon's father drew out.

"Well two things really, the first is, well I got some people here, family, and close friends. They're on the lists…." The doc let the last part of that hang in the air, until Pat nodded, signalling that he understood what the man meant. Sheldon did too, since he had found out he was on one of Ashwood's lists as well. "I was wondering if they could go with." The doctor finished.

Pat sighed as he thought it over. "It really depends on how many. I mean we got the six Humvees, and the five four-wheelers, two of which have trailers, but we really don't have a lot of extra space."

"Well that's the second part." The veterinarian said with a grin. "See, I've got three pickup trucks, that really I have no use for. However, the four-wheelers would be more useful around here. What would you think about a swap?"

Pat thought it over for a brief moment, then started to smile. "If you're willing, then I can't think of a good reason not to."

"Good. One of my son's is a mechanic, and he's checking them over now. I know you don't have that far to go, but they need to be able to go and go quick if needed." Pat nodded and shook the man's hand again.

"Thank you very much Doc. That's mighty kind of you."

"You're helpin' out my kin… That's all the thanks I need."


"Let's load up!" Davis called, and Sheldon walked out of the barn, rifle in his hands, and pack over his shoulder. They'd been at the ranch for three days, now though, it was time to move on. Sheldon moved over, and leaned up against the lead Humvee, staying out of the way, and waiting for where Sarge wanted him to be.

Ever since Darren died, Sheldon had been keeping to himself. He wasn't pushing people away, but he wasn't going out of his way to be sociable either. "Hey." Pat said as he stepped up next to his brother. "You okay?"

"I really hate to do this." Doctor Brighton said to Lieutenant Davis, causing both brothers to look over where the large man was walking up to the group.

"Don't worry about it. We get it, and agree." Davis said as he reached out his hand for the man to shake. "You're a lot safer without us here."

"Still." The man said shaking his head. "With everything you've done for us, takin my family and all, I feel terrible about asking you to leave."

"Don't… please. Once we get across, I'll try to get some help for you here." Davis said sincerely.

"We'll be fine for a while here. You look after the others. The people in the cities are going to be needing your help a lot more than us country folk."

Sheldon tuned out the rest, and turned to look at his brother, only to see Pat looking at him, "I'm fine." Sheldon stated.

Pat continued to look at him, and after only a few seconds, Sheldon was forced to look away. "No you're not." Pat said softly. "I get it. Believe me I do. Once we get the hell outta here, you'll need to talk to a doctor… the Army's got…"

"I don't need a doctor," Sheldon said through clenched teeth, "I'm fine!"

"Bullshit!" Pat sat as he took his brother by the shoulder, and moved him off to the side. When they were about fifty feet from everyone else, Pat turned Sheldon around and forced the teen to meet his gaze. "You've been walking around, numb to what's going on, almost like a zombie. I know you're hurting… you're confused… you can't make sense outta what the fuck's going on, and yet you're still trying to keep up with us. You're also pissed as hell, and ain't got nowhere to vent that anger. And the fact that you can't is making things even worse."

As Pat was talking, Sheldon's eyes got wider and wider, yet Pat never let up. "You're still blaming yourself for Mom dying, and hell deep down inside you're blaming yourself for Darren dying. Part of you knows that's bullshit, but another part of you keeps telling you it's the truth. You're all fucked up in the head right now, and we all know it!"

"How…" Sheldon asked in a small voice.

Pat shook his head, and forced Sheldon's eyes to stay locked on his. "Cause we're all feelin it too! You ain't the only one that's got lots of shit runnin round your head. You're just the only one here, that's been in the thick of shit, that didn't know it was comin. We've all had years of training to deal with it. Dad got the same shit, but you don't. That's why when we get to some place safe, Lieutenant Davis has already said that he's gonna do whatever it takes to make sure you get the help you need."

"But…"

"Don't worry, All the guys have said they're cool with you coming with us. It'll be a bit before we're ready to get back to the grind after this. Don't worry about that. What you need to worry about is Terry."

"What about him?" Sheldon asked as he quickly looked around, finally spotting Terry near the back of the line of vehicles, watching what was going on between him and Pat closely.

"He's scared…. scared of losing you." Pat said softly. "We all get it, he gets it. With everything going on, you haven't wanted to really talk to him yet. But dammit, you need to. We all see it, so far you're the only one who won't see it. And that's just fucked up. With everything going on, you need something to make you happy, and that boy is back there, just waiting for you to let him."

Sheldon's eyes were moist, but finally he nodded. "Good." Pat said with a grin. "Now, let's saddle up, and get the hell outta Dodge before we bring the bad guys down on these fine folk."


It was starting to get close to sunset when Pat's hushed voice came over the radio. "Contact!" He whispered urgently, immediately, every engine was shut off. "One squad. Looks like mixed American, and foreign. They look to be setting up an ambush."

"For us?"

"Doesn't look to be… they're setting up facing south."

"Stand by." Davis' voice came through quickly, and Sheldon could imagine them looking over maps, and discussing what to do. He was glad that he wasn't the one making the decisions, not with this many lives depending on what they were thinking. Sheldon joined as everyone else exited the vehicles, and stood there, looking towards the lead vehicle.

"Are there any civilians?" Davis' voice came back after several moments.

"Negative, all look to be military."

"Roger that." Davis replied, then a moment later followed up. "Assessment?"

"Eight soldiers, well armed." Pat said, then a moment later he continued, and Sheldon could hear the grin on his brother's face. "They ain't Rangers… want us to take them?"

"Stand by." This time it was the sergeant who spoke. "We're moving up some help."

Sheldon watched as the sergeant, and the rest of the Rangers moved up the road. At the same time, Pat Sr. started to position everyone around the convoy of vehicles. The one thing that really shocked Sheldon was when he saw Pastor Mary pick up one of the military rifles, and make sure it was ready to go. Someone must have shown her how to do it.

She looked over and saw Sheldon looking at her with wide eyes and smiled softly. "Mother Teresa once said, 'I know God will never give me more than I can handle. There are times though that I wish he did not trust me so much.' This is one of those times. We do what we must."

Sheldon knew exactly what she meant and simply nodded. The next hour was tense, as they waited, nothing being said over the radio, and nothing heard in the air, save for birds.

Sheldon wasn't the only one to jump when they heard, one, then two, then three quick gun shots, then it was silent again. "Clear!" They heard over the radio, and seconds later, Pat's voice came over. "Sheldon, you copy?"

"Affirmative." Sheldon responded, thankful for the classes on radio work that he'd been getting.

"You still take Spanish?"

"Yeah…" He said, realizing too late that 'yeah' wasn't an approved word. "Terry and I both take it, although he's better than I am." He was really worried about why they would be asking. In his mind he was picturing them having a prisoner, and needing him to interpret while they 'interrogated'.

It wasn't Pat that spoke next, which really worried Sheldon. "Sheldon, we need you and Terry to get up here ASAP." It was Lieutenant Davis speaking that time. Sheldon glanced over at Terry and saw his face drain of color, clearly his friend was thinking the same thing he was.

"Copy that." Sheldon couldn't help the hitch that came through his voice, but shaking it off, he quickly shouldered the rifle, and ran up to the lead vehicle. His father was already in the driver's seat, waiting for them to climb in. Knowing his father was going to be with him made Sheldon feel much better, and judging by the look on Terry's face he felt the same way.

No one said a word as they drove quickly down the road. Looking back, Sheldon saw the others were loading up, so they wouldn't be far behind. It took them less than two minutes before they saw Pat on the road, standing next to Lieutenant Davis. Pat Sr. brought the vehicle to a stop, but before he got out he turned and looked at both boys. "No matter what happens, I will be right next to you." That did make both boys feel better, especially with how serious Pat Sr.'s face was.

Pat Jr. opened the door to Sheldon's side before the boy even reached for the handle. "Sheldon… this radio has been transmitting messages in Spanish, I know enough to know that something's going on, but we need you and Terry to translate as much as you can."

Sheldon and Terry both got out of the vehicle, visibly relieved that what they thought was going on, wasn't. They then moved to the front of the vehicle. Before they could say anything, the radio in Pat Jr.'s hand came to life, and the Ranger almost shoved it into Sheldon's hand.

Sheldon and Terry both leaned in close to hear what was being said. After two minutes of back and forth, Terry spoke up first. "They're chasing three people, I think they said pilots."

The radio came back to life, and Sheldon quickly grabbed a pen out of his pocket, and started to write on his hand. "They're calling in more people for the ambush. Shel's writing down the coordinates." Terry said softly.

Lieutenant Davis reached into one of his thigh pockets, and pulled out a map and spread it out on the hood. Sheldon stayed silent as he held out his hand so Pat and the lieutenant could see what he wrote down.

The two men looked at the map for a few minutes, then looked at each other…. "Shit…" Pat said softly.

"What?" Pat Sr. said softly, as the radio was transmitting again, and Terry and Sheldon were listening closely.

"The ambush is happening here." Davis said just as softly. At the same time, the other vehicles pulled up.

"We got about twenty minutes…." Terry said, his voice rising as he spoke.

"FUCK!"


"I can't believe I'm doing this…" Terry said softly as he lay in the tree line next to Sheldon. On both sides of the two boys were two of the Rangers, both with heavier guns. Sheldon had the rifle his father gave him, and Terry had the rifle he'd been carrying.

The last fifteen minutes had been spent scurrying around setting up a counter ambush. All the non combatants, as well as Lieutenant Davis moved up the road to a highway dept. garage that was there. The plan was to rescue the pilots, and then hightail it to the garage and wait till the morning.

They had put Sheldon where he was, since he was the second best shot. Pat was on the other side of the field, at almost the same place. "Just remember not to shoot till we're told." Sheldon said to Terry, once again shifting to try and get comfortable.

"Shit…." Terry's soft curse echoed what was going through Sheldon's mind as they started to hear gun fire in the distance. The soldiers were almost there.

"Easy…" the Ranger next to Terry said softly, as the gunshots got louder, and louder.

"Here they come!" Sheldon's comment was as excited as it was quiet. He watched with everyone else as three figures came running out of the woods. The middle one being supported by the other two, as they ran. The three stopped for a second to look over the field in front of them, but the gunfire behind them escalated. One of them pointed almost directly to where Sheldon lay, and they started to run again.

"Hold…" came over the radio, almost thirty seconds later when troops started to come out of the wood line behind the three. It took everything in Sheldon not to stand up and call out to the soldiers. Not that it would have made a difference, if they didn't change course, they would probably run over either Sheldon or Terry.

They were no less than fifteen yards away from the wood line when Sheldon saw it happen. It was like in the movies, when, in slow motion someone gets shot. As Sheldon watched, a bullet tore through the man on the right. Through his left shoulder. The man fell, causing the other two to go down on top of him.

"GO!" Sheldon heard through his radio, and he quickly found a target and pulled the trigger.

Just as his first shot was in the air, three engines roared to life, and started crashing through the thin treeline. As soon as the lead vehicle was clear of the trees, Sheldon heard a thumping noise. He was about to look to see what it was, when the wood line the enemy was coming out of was awash in explosions.

Sheldon was about to fire his second shot when the loudest noise he'd ever heard assaulted him. He didn't have to look to know what it was. He never thought that any gun, even a .50 cal machine gun could be that loud. He steadied himself, and fired, watching another enemy soldier fall. At the same time, Sheldon saw one of the pilot's jump up and start firing at the enemy.

"COVER ME!" Sheldon heard the Ranger next to him yell, as the man jumped to his feet, starting to run towards the pilots. Sheldon had looked away from his scope when he heard the man shout, and was just looking back through it when he saw the Ranger suddenly stumble and fall.

Sheldon pulled back from the scope and looked quickly around. Terry was concentrating on his shots, and the other Ranger was rapidly firing, trying to keep the enemy from being able to hit them. He looked back and saw the Ranger that fell get up slowly and limp back to the tree line, a hand covering a bloody spot on his pants.

Sheldon was on his feet and running before he even realised it, though a part of his mind was screaming for him to not go. By this point, two of the pilots were on their feet, the third was still on the ground, but he was firing a gun as well.

"FRIENDLY!" Sheldon screamed as he got close, remembering a story his brother had told one night about making sure you identify yourself.

One of the pilots glanced over his shoulder for a moment, then nodded down to the pilot on the ground. Sheldon did a perfect baseball slide, stopping next to the downed pilot. "Can you walk?" He asked.

"Not well." The pilot responded, causing Sheldon to nod to himself. He quickly sized the man up, seeing he wasn't as tall as Pat, and didn't look to be any better built. Sheldon put his feet underneath him, getting up into a squat. He grabbed the man by the neck of his flight suit, and then started to drag. A small part of Sheldon's mind realized that he shouldn't really be able to drag someone this size, this quickly. Adrenaline was a wonderful thing, he would later conclude. He did have to force his mind away from the sounds of pain that the young man made as Sheldon dragged him along.

He glanced behind seeing both other pilots backing up, as Sheldon pulled the third towards the woods. By this point, the gunfire was dying down to the point the pilots weren't actually firing, and the big guns on the vehicles were blessedly silent.

"CEASE FIRE!" Sheldon heard over the radio, and the last few rifle shots quieted down. "Get back to the vehicles, we gotta go."

Sheldon just got the pilot into the woods, when he stopped, reached down, and helped the young man to his feet. "Here… lean on me." Sheldon said, and the man did.

"Thanks." he said. Sheldon looked over as Terry walked up to them, his friend having picked up Sheldon's rifle. He went to the other side of the pilot and got under his arm, to help support him. A little ways away, the other Ranger was helping the one who got shot move back to the vehicles. The other two pilots bringing up the rear.

When they got to where the vehicles were waiting, Sheldon made a beeline to the closest one. When he got close to the back door, he heard one of the pilots say, "He's got bad back injuries. He needs to lay in the back, on his stomach."

"Got it." Sheldon said, having already changed course to go to the back. As he and Terry were helping the pilot into the back, Sarge came up and addressed the pilots. "I'm Sergeant Heath Slager. 1st BAT 75th Rangers, we heard they were chasing you, so we set up the ambush."

"We're glad you did." The shorter of the two pilots said. "I'm Captain Noah Downs, 160th Special Ops Aviation. This is Captain Gavins, and Lieutenant Tevel. Thanks for saving our asses.

"Our pleasure." Sergeant Slager said as he shook hands with the pilot. They continued to talk, but Sheldon's attention was drawn away as he exited out from the back of the vehicle.

"SHELDON!" He heard Terry gasp out in shock. He looked over, and saw Terry was staring at his arm. Sheldon looked down, and felt his blood run cold. On his right arm, just above the elbow, was a tear in his shirt, and blood running down his sleeve.

Suddenly his father was next to him, tearing open his shirt sleeve, and looking it over. Sheldon didn't want to look, but couldn't stop. There on his arm was a red bleeding tear in the skin. His father pulled open his pack, and pulled out a bandage. "It'll need stitches, but for now, just hold this on there, tight. You just got grazed."

"Grazed?" Terry said, his voice raising in octaves. "You mean he was shot?"

"WE GOTTA MOVE!" Pat Jr. called out before anyone else could reply. Sheldon got shoved into the vehicle that held the pilot in the back, while his father got in next to him. Terry ran off to another, and the two mobile pilots, moved to the lead vehicle with Sarge.

"It doesn't even hurt." Sheldon said in an amazed voice as he looked down at the bandage he was holding, seeing that it was already soaking through.

"Adrenaline." Pat Sr. said simply. After a moment he added. "It'll hurt like hell soon enough."

He was right. By the time they drove the seven miles to the DPW garage that was the meeting point, Sheldon was really starting to feel it. They pulled the vehicles into the open bays, and got out. Sheldon's legs were a bit shaky by this point, so his father helped him move over to a table that had a few chairs around it. "Sit here… I'll be back in a bit."

The next hour went by in a flash as Sheldon watched the Rangers and several of the others rushing around. The pilots, at least the two mobile ones, were at a workbench pouring over maps with Lieutenant Davis and Sarge. He didn't even feel his father next to him, at least until he poured something on the wound, causing Sheldon to cry out. "Sorry son, but we gotta clean it out."

Sheldon couldn't find any words, so he just nodded. He sat there watching as his father used small bandages to close up the wound. It almost felt like he was watching someone else getting patched up. He wondered why he didn't feel anything, but didn't feel like asking. Somehow it just didn't seem important anymore. Nothing really did at this point.

"Okay everyone!" Sheldon looked up when Lieutenant Davis stood up on a chair, and started talking to everyone. "Listen up."

All noise stopped, and everyone moved closer. "As you all know, we just rescued three pilots that the foreign guys were hunting. Just because we stopped this group, doesn't mean they're gonna stop looking. With that in mind, we gotta move, and move quick. We're gonna drive straight through. It should take about five to six hours to get to a bridge that they didn't destroy." He took a deep breath then continued. "I'm gonna be honest with you, the bridge is guarded, heavily." He pointed to one of the men that came with them from Doctor Brighton's farm. "Clarence has volunteered to drive one of the big plows in front of us, and, umm, clear the way, should we need it."

That got a few nervous chuckles out of people, before Davis continued. "We're gonna have to fight our way through. They'll be hunting for us, and even if they don't find us, we'll still have to deal with the troops at the bridge. On the plus side, we should be able to reach the friendly troops on the other side about five miles from the bridge. We may be able to get some help that way. We'll see. Either way, we're not gonna stop till we get to the other side." He paused as he looked around at the over forty people in the room. "The plow will lead the way, with one of the .50 cal mounted Humvees behind it, behind that will be the one with the grenade launcher. Then I want the other vehicles in the middle, with the other .50 bringing up the rear. Since none of you have training on night vision, we'll have to run with the marker lights on, but no headlights. This is gonna be, probably, the most scary thing we've done yet, but if you can keep up, and follow the rest of us, we'll make it. I made a promise to all of you that we'll get you out of here and to friendly troops and I intend to keep that promise." He paused looking around again. "Any questions?"

There were a few but Sheldon really didn't pay attention. He just couldn't get the sounds, and even the smells of the battle out of his mind. It just kept replaying, even the Ranger that got shot next to him, it was like he saw it over and over again. "Shel…" Pat's voice brought him out of his memories, and he looked up into the concerned eyes of his brother. "We gotta go."

Sheldon nodded and stood up. He looked around for his rifle, wondering where he put it, when Pat spoke up, pointing to one of the pickups. "It's already in the truck you're riding in. Hopefully you won't have to use it."

"Yeah, thanks." Sheldon said, then walked over to the truck. Seeing the front was full, he jumped into the back, and sat against the back window. When they pulled out, Sheldon realized that they were the last vehicle, save for the Humvee that was bringing up the rear.

Sheldon had no idea how long they had been driving when, in the starlight, he saw something that made his blood run cold. Behind them, and in the air, coming up fast was a light. Seconds later he could hear the rotor of a helicopter. He felt the truck he was in accelerate, and the Ranger that was manning the gun in the Humvee, turned around, and started firing at the helicopter. Sheldon was sure he was about to die, there's just no way a machine gun could take out a helicopter! At least that's what he thought. The ground next to the Humvee exploded as the helicopter fired a rocket at them, but then the gunner must have found his mark because suddenly the helicopter jerked upwards, then actually exploded in midair. Sheldon had to turn his face away because the brilliant light blinded him.

Next thing he knew, they turned sharply, and the road got a lot more bumpy, as they flew down a side road. Seconds later a huge fireball rose into the air from where the helicopter crashed. "TAKE THAT YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!" Sheldon heard someone cheering loudly, then realized it was him.

Some time later, he felt them turn again, and the ride smoothed out. He could tell they were on a four lane highway, and wondered exactly where they were. Not that it really mattered, all he really cared about was getting somewhere safe, so he and his brother could come back in here, and he could… well he wasn't sure exactly what they would do, but they'd do something. Something to make all the bad guys pay for what they'd done. Make them pay for his mom, for the little girl that they rescued the first time Sheldon was forced to kill, for the boy at the ranch, for all the people that were going through hell because of this fucking war. He looked down and realized he was clutching his rifle to his chest like it was a protective blanket. Somehow, though, the cold steel did make him feel better.

Sheldon must have dozed because he suddenly woke to a huge explosion in front of him. Next thing he knew, the pickup had slammed on it's brakes, and veered to the side. He felt like he might still have been dreaming as the pickup slowly lifted to one side. The next thing he knew, he was flying through the air. He didn't even have time to scream before he hit the ground. Pain exploded through his right foot, as he tumbled through the grass, the wind leaving his lungs before he came to a stop.

It took him a while before he could breathe enough to look up. It was still dark out, except for a huge fire up by the road. He struggled to his feet, stifling a scream as he put weight on his right foot. He looked down, but didn't see anything wrong with it. He tried to take a few steps, and found that as long as he didn't put too much weight on it, he could walk. What really surprised him was that he still was clutching his rifle.

Slowly he moved towards the fire, thankful that he hadn't heard any gunshots. He had to crawl up the embankment to get to the road. He was almost all the way up when he felt someone grab him by the neck of his jacket. "Sheldon! You okay?" He looked up and met his brother's concerned eyes, as he pulled Sheldon the rest of the way up, and onto his feet.

"I… I think I broke my foot." Sheldon stammered out, still in shock.

"Sorry bro, you'll have to deal with it for a bit. We're only a couple miles away from the bridge." Pat was helping Sheldon over to the vehicles while he explained. "It must have been a roadside bomb, The plow's gone, and the enemy must have heard it. Get ready to fight." He leaned Sheldon up against the lead Humvee, then turned. "I gotta look for the others."

"THIS IS LIEUTENANT FRANKLIN DAVIS, 101st AIRBORNE, WE NEED IMMEDIATE EXTRACTION, OVER!" Sheldon heard the man scream into a radio.

"Negative." Sheldon heard over the man's radio. "We don't have any assets to spare. You'll need to move across the river for pick up."

Before Davis could respond, Captain Gavins held out his hand for the radio. "Here, let me." Davis hesitated only a moment, before handing the radio over.

"This is an emergency extraction request, codename Hightower. I say again, this is an emergency extraction request, codename Hightower."

"Stand by, verifying." The radio operator said a moment later.

"We got company." Sheldon heard, followed by the sound of the .50 cal machine gun opening up on the area in front of them. Sheldon couldn't see anything, but he quickly checked his rifle, making sure his mag was in place and that he had extras. He didn't trust that he could move, so he stayed where he was, but did took a knee to make himself less of a target.

"Hightower, Hightower. How do you copy?" The radio blared to life, almost being drowned out through by gunfire.

"Loud and clear." The pilot said even as he fired his rifle.

"Extraction request granted. Stand by for Tiger Flight Commander."

"Hightower, this is Tiger Flight Lead. We're inbound on your location, please pop smoke."

"Copy! Be advised, this is a hot LZ!" the pilot said.

At the same time Davis screamed out, "Someone throw smoke!"

Sheldon didn't really know what they were talking about until he saw a small explosion behind them, and bright green smoke was quickly billowing in the air. He didn't have time to watch what else happened as he saw movement in the trees, aimed and fired. By now it was just automatic, he didn't think about it, didn't feel anything, just moved his rifle slightly, sighted down on another target, and pulled the trigger.

"I have green smoke, Hightower."

"Roger, smoke is green. I say again, green smoke popped."

"Put your heads down Hightower, We're about to clear everything around you."

"HIT THE GROUND!" The pilot screamed out, and then threw himself to the ground. Sheldon looked up and saw two small planes in the distance, suddenly everything around them was exploding as the two planes started to fire.

"GOD DAMN I LOVE WARTHOGS!" He heard someone cry out.

It seemed like several minutes passed, but it was only seconds, until the firing stopped, and the planes roared overhead, turning sharply before they opened fire again. This time though their targets were further up the road.

"Hightower…" The radio came to life again. "Be advised, helicopters inbound, 90 seconds out."

"Copy that, we'll be ready. Be advised, we have injured."

"Hightower, this is Tiger Flight Rescue, get the injured ready to load on my approach."

"Roger, Rescue."

Sheldon didn't hear the rest as the .50 once again fired, but he didn't need to. Seconds later, he heard the planes make another pass, followed by the sounds of helicopters coming in to land. "HERE!" Sheldon heard, and saw Terry next to him, offering him a hand up. Sheldon took it, and Terry threw an arm under his shoulder to help him walk. The two ran as fast as they could to the closest helicopter. The man who was standing in the doorway reached down and picked Sheldon up bodily, and pushed him in, while Terry climbed up behind him. It only took thirty seconds before the helicopter was loaded, and it was taking off.

Sheldon was looking around at the faces of those he had been with for the past three weeks, and saw most of them were crying in relief. He felt like he should be too, but no tears came. He looked out the window, and saw the river under them. Suddenly he felt all the tension drain out of him. They made it. Now the tears came, and he made no effort to stop them.

He was safe...


Epilogue

"You okay Sheldon?" Sheldon shook his head and looked across the helicopter and saw Mic looking at him. He tried to smile, but then saw the man had a bloody bandage on his shoulder. The fact that his young son was in his lap, and looking at the door, was not lost on Sheldon either.

"I'm fine… how are you?"

"I'll survive." The man looked down at his shoulder, then at his son. Sheldon got the message right away and nodded.

Looking around some more, his eyes fell on the grey-eyed pilot, Lieutenant Tevel. The man was in obvious pain, but still took a moment to give Sheldon a wide smile. "You made it. Always keep that in mind."

Sheldon could only nod, then turned and watched as they came in for a landing to a well lit grassy field. Just before they touched down, Sheldon realized that they were actually landing at a high school football field.

Once they were on the ground, the helicopter man looked around and spoke loud enough to be heard over the rotors that were winding down. "Everyone with a weapon, please clear it, making sure it's unloaded, and leave it on the helicopter. Once you're identities are verified, your weapons will be returned."

Sheldon panicked. He felt himself clutch the rifle tighter to his chest. This rifle had been the thing that saved him several times. It had been a constant companion to him. Something that helped him save others. He couldn't leave it. His eyes were wide as he looked around... maybe looking for a way to escape without having to give it up.

All he could think about was not giving up the rifle. Nothing was as important in his life as the thing that helped him stay safe. The war raged in him, so much going through his mind that he didn't see everyone else clear their weapons, and leave them on the floor as they got out.

Part of him, the rational side, was saying that it would be okay. It was only a rifle, nothing that he couldn't get again. Hell his father had several, and he'd been shooting them all his life. But the other side, the bigger and scarier side told him he couldn't let it go. What would happen if he didn't have it. Who would protect his sister, Terry, Mic's young sons. If those people showed up again, how would he stop them. They were everywhere.

His wild eyes started to dart around, he wouldn't let them take it, he couldn't.

"It's okay Shel." Sheldon looked up into the eyes of Mic. The man slowly reached out and put his hand on the rifle, but didn't try to pull it away. "You're safe here. I promise." The two continued to stare into each other's eyes, a war playing out in Sheldon's. Mic never moved, nor did he blink, he just pushed as much understanding and compassion into his eyes as he could.

Could Sheldon trust him, trust his words? Trust that they were really safe. After what seemed like a lifetime of fighting, could he let it go? It seemed so long ago that he was a carefree boy. When he didn't have to worry about this shit. But that was then, this was a different 'now'. He was different now, different in his core, different in his thinking. He knew something was broken inside... but... could he... get it fixed? He didn't know. He didn't know if he wanted it to be.

"Come on Sheldon, trust me… please."

Trust…. Could he trust that he was safe. He glanced over to the side, and saw Terry standing there, holding Mic's young son. His eyes first took in the tears-streaked face of the boy. But he also saw a smile.

He looked into Terry's eyes, his friend must have known what was going on in Sheldon's mind. Slowly Terry nodded, and smiled. That smile, the unspoken words there. 'It will be okay… You will be fine…' That's what that simple smile told Sheldon.

Looking back to Mic, Sheldon slowly nodded, and almost painfully released his hold on the rifle. Mic slowly took a step back, then cleared the weapon, and put it down. "Come on Shel… let's get outta here." When Sheldon moved to exit the helicopter, the helicopter guy nodded. As Sheldon's feet hit the ground, the man softly spoke, only allowing Sheldon and Mic to hear his words. "You did good son. I'd be damned proud to serve with you one day."

Sheldon didn't know what to say, so he only nodded and allowed Mic to help him to where the other injured were being treated. Mic leaned him up against a vehicle, and then stood next to him, his husband and children soon finding their way over to him. Looking around, Sheldon realized that all the non military people were gathered around where he was. The only exceptions were the injured helicopter pilot, and two of the Rangers that were too injured to stand. The rest of the military guys were all huddled in a group a small distance away. Except for Captain Gavins, who was a ways off talking to someone Sheldon didn't know. He watched the two men talk, then the other guy started talking on a radio.

"Where's my dad?" Sheldon suddenly asked. He started frantically looking around but couldn't find him. "Where's Dad?!" He asked a little louder. However before anyone could answer, he screamed, "DAD?"

He felt his world start to collapse on him, his mind raced back over the last few minutes of battle, and then the flight here. He didn't remember seeing his dad anywhere. Was he still there, did they forget him… did he…

"I'm right here." Sheldon heard, and saw his father and brother, moving quickly from the group of Rangers, to where he was standing. Broken foot, ankle, whatever, he didn't care, he took a few halting steps, and fell into his father's arms.

"I.. I thought." He heard his voice crack, but couldn't find it in himself to care.

"It's okay." He heard his father say, and then felt another pair of strong arms wrap themselves around him, and knew it was his brother.

"We really made it." He heard another voice say, and it actually took him a moment to place it, but when he did, he opened his arms up, and Alisa came into the family hug.

"Yes we did." Pat Sr. said, his voice cracking with emotion. "There has never been a moment in my life where I was prouder of the children I have." He pushed back and looked from Pat to Alisa, then to Sheldon. "We've been through hell, but we made it. And we made it together. Right now, nothing else matters."

"Excuse me everyone." The family hug broke apart, and they all saw Captain Gavins standing there, the rest of the Rangers around him, and several new military people surrounding him like they were protecting him.

"Please… help me up." Sheldon looked down and saw Lieutenant Tevel struggling to get up. Without a thought for his foot, and with Pat Jr. also helping, they helped the severely injured pilot to his feet. They steadied him for several moments while they watched the pain flashing across his face. Finally he opened his eyes, sighing. "Thanks." He then looked at Captain Gavins and nodded. "Sorry, but I needed to be standing for this."

"I understand." The man said, then took a deep breath before addressing the group.

"Ladies and Gentleman, first off, I want to say thank you. I know the last several weeks have been anything but pleasant. Yet even though you were all worried about getting to safety, you took the time to rescue us. You will always have my deepest gratitude. However, I must admit to not being completely honest with you."

Sheldon tensed up, wondering what the man could have been talking about. He saw several of the others also start to look angry and unbelieving. "Please, let me finish. First off, my name is not Captain Gavins, I am Lieutenant Commander Albert Buchinski, Commander, SEAL Team 4."

"Holy Shit." Pat said, then looked to his dad. "Those are the guys I was telling you about in Florida."

"I just wanted to let you know who I was, before I head back to the Reagan. I also wanted to let you know that I told Lieutenant Baker here." He motioned to the man next to him, "To take care of you guys, and do whatever it takes to make you comfortable. I'm not sure yet where you'll be heading…"

Next to Sheldon Lieutenant Tevel spoke up. "They're all coming with me Bucky."

Everyone turned and looked at the young man, all of them wondering what was going on. "You sure?" Bucky asked softly.

"Yes. They need us, and we will need them."

"Okay." He then turned and looked at everyone else. "The very existence of General Adam Casey..." he pointed to the young man, and Sheldon's eyes went wide, "is beyond Top Secret. If he has asked for you all to join him, then there is a reason, and it's a reason that won't be given out till you're at the base he and his team are staying at. Please understand I trust Adam with my life, and I know that he will make sure you are all taken care of." He then looked right at the man who they now knew was some type of Top Secret General. "Adam, I found out your team is running a F.O.B. out of Offutt Air Base in Omaha. I'll have them get a plane for you immediately."

Adam shook his head and sighed. "No. These guys need to get fixed up before we go. I'll be fine for a few more hours."

"You sure?"

"Absolutely."

"Okay." Bucky looked around one more time. "Again, thank you all, and if you need anything, anything at all, ask Adam, or get a message to me on the USS Ronald Reagan."


Editors Note: We know that many of you wondered whether or not Roland had actually killed Adam. We kinda hoped that we had hidden his survival well enough, that it actually came as a surprise that Adam and Bucky were alive.

Either way, let Roland know if you liked this little side story: Roland

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