Xu Guan to the River
Xu Guan felt the recoil of the shotgun as he peered through the smoke at the end of the barrel. His enemy was down; nearly half of his head was missing. The last of the squad was still gurgling, choking on his own blood, a few feet away. Xu Guan turned and centered the old shotgun’s bead sight just below the man’s chin.
Seconds later, the gurgling had stopped.
Xu Guan broke open the action of the shotgun and reloaded. This time, like the previous time, he pulled two translucent white shells from his pocket and slipped them into the dual chambers of the gun. With the action closed, Xu Guan reached into his pocket again to take inventory of his ammunition.
Three red shells and four more of the translucent white shells.
Each of the four men had a long gun and a pistol. Xu Guan recognized the long guns immediately. He had seen many like them since his arrival on the western coast of the United States several months ago. They were somewhat similar to the rifle that he had carried over all those miles from San Francisco to … this location.
Xu Guan realized that he didn’t even know the name of the closest city. By his reckoning, he was somewhere near the middle of the country, but he was unsure of the exact location or the name of the region. Xu Guan recognized that he needed to get his bearings.
After he stripped the dead men of their weapons, Xu Guan gathered up their packs. Each pack held several packets labeled MEAL, READY-TO-EAT, INDIVIDUAL. Xu Guan couldn’t read the words but he recognized the packages. They held food!
In addition to the food, Xu Guan found several rounds of ammunition for each man’s rifle and pistol. There were several spare magazines for each rifle and pistol, each loaded with ammunition, as well as several more rounds for each weapon packed in vacuum-sealed packets. Xu Guan marveled at the vacuum-sealed ammunition. There was no way moisture could get into the packages to corrode the ammunition.
Why had his own commanders not thought of this? Xu Guan was incredulous.
After a quick inventory of the men’s backpacks, Xu Guan decided it would be best to vacate the area. In his mind, there would likely be more men on the heels of the recently dead when they didn’t return. Killing four men had not been easy. Xu Guan had no desire to attempt to take on more. Any men who followed the ones now lying on the ground would be more alert and less likely to suffer from the same overconfidence that had ultimately been the undoing of these four men.
Xu Guan quickly dumped the contents of the backpacks into a pile. He then began loading the largest of the four packs with all of the food and other necessary items. Many of the items were duplicated among the four packs.
“What a waste,” Xu Guan shook his head, “Why would they carry duplicate items when only one is needed for a squad?”
These Americans were alternately brilliant and stupid, Xu Guan decided as he selected a rifle and pistol from the collection. Noticing that all of the rifles were chambered in the same caliber, Xu Guan quickly hefted each one and chose the lightest of the four. All of the ammunition and spare magazines went into his new pack.
All of the pistols were semi-automatic, Xu Guan knew this much. However, he was unfamiliar with any of the specific makes or models. He tried each action, dry firing a few times. Ultimately, he selected a relatively lightweight model with the numbers 17 and 9X19 and the words “ock” and Austria on the slide. The word “ock” was inside of a symbol that Xu Guan did not recognize. Nevertheless, the pistol was lightweight, held seventeen rounds of 9mm ammunition, which Xu Guan was familiar with, and did not require the use of a manual safety. Xu Guan liked all three of these features.
Two of the three remaining pistols were virtually identical. They were much heavier than the one that Xu Guan had selected and only carried a handful of .45 caliber rounds in each magazine. Xu Guan paused for a moment, thinking that he would have spare parts if he selected one of these pistols, and then tossed them in the creek as he decided the lighter weight and higher round capacity was worth not having spare parts.
The fourth pistol, Xu Guan discovered, was also chambered in 9mm. It was much heavier than the first pistol, however, and the magazines only held fifteen rounds. It had the words Pietro Beretta on the slide. Xu Guan hefted it in his hand a couple times and then tossed it in the creek with the two .45 caliber pistols.
Conversely, with the rifles, Xu Guan used tools that he found in the maintenance shed to tear each one down as far as he could and harvested all of the smaller parts for spares. Xu Guan had plenty of experience with rifles that broke down in the field. Spare parts were worth their weight in gold.
There were two other items in the men’s packs that were worth their weight in gold in Xu Guan’s opinion – a well-worn topographical map of the area and a military-grade compass. Xu Guan briefly reviewed the map and discovered that he was in an area called Bellevue. There were several small creeks nearby and a river, called the Missouri, a few miles to the east.
With his pack assembled, his bearings established, the pistol on his pack’s hip belt and the rifle slung under his arm with a single-point sling, Xu Guan retrieved a floppy boonie hat from the man that he’d shot in the torso and headed east for the river. The hat was a little large but it would provide protection from the sun.
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