The red lights of the HMMWV glowed as the two five-ton military trucks followed in its dusty wake. Gravel road disappeared in the dark a few yards ahead of the Hummer while the dust cloud all but obscured the two larger vehicles.
“Either they didn’t get the rain up here that we did down south or these roads dry out exceptionally fast,” Tanner remembered thinking later.
The three-vehicle convoy crested a rise to find a half-circle of vehicles blocking the road and the ditches on either side. Tanner’s wheel man attempted an evasive maneuver but more vehicles topped the two small hills on either side of the caravan. The only exit was at the convoy’s six o’clock. The larger trucks simply could not execute the tricky maneuver to escape. They were trapped unless they attempted to drive straight ahead at the two Deuce-and-a-half’s parked in a V shape.
Had one of the five-ton trucks been in the lead, Tanner might have given it a try. As it was, the HMMWV had little chance of crashing the barricade. Whomever had set it knew what they were doing.
“Hold up, but remain ready,” Tanner ordered.
“Ready for what?” an unfamiliar voice crackled through the team’s radios.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Tanner shot back.
“My name really doesn’t matter,” the male voice responded. “What I want is all of your vehicles, weapons and supplies.”
Tanner paused to consider his options. His team was effectively surrounded. They were definitely outnumbered. Although, they had the .50 caliber gun on the HMMWV, it was unmanned at the moment and, while he couldn’t see for sure in the dark, it appeared to Tanner that the two Deuces might have heavy machine guns mounted in their beds.
The situation was sticky at best. Tanner’s guys were good, but, Tanner reasoned, this was probably not the best time to find out exactly how good. Casualties were all but guaranteed – perhaps the entire team would be lost.
Time to back down, Tanner decided.
“We’re going to step out of our vehicles,” Tanner responded to the disembodied voice. “We’ll leave our rifles in the rigs and slowly put down our side arms one-by-one when we’re clear of the trucks.”
“Affirmative,” the voice replied.
Tanner left his rifle in the rack and stepped out of the passenger side of the HMMWV with his hands raised. When he was clear of the vehicle, he slowly reached down with his left hand and removed his SIG from its holster. He carefully laid the SIG on the hood of the HMMWV.
“All right, guys,” Tanner instructed his men over the radio, “follow suit.”
After a few tense minutes, Tanner’s entire team stood disarmed as a man of medium height and medium build stepped out from behind the Deuces.
“Team Two, retrieve their weapons,” the man issued the command like he was used to people responding quickly when he told them to do something.
As Lanigan approached the freshly unarmed team of men facing his roadblock, the big guy naturally caught his eye. When he got within spitting distance, Lanigan was sure he recognized the man.
“I think he was on one of my flights in Iraq,” Lanigan thought to himself. “I’m pretty sure he was a Marine Lieutenant at the time.”
Lanigan gave no sign that he recognized Tanner.
“Well, fellas,” Lanigan kept his tone light, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re in need of a couple big trucks and a Hummer with a mounted .50.”
Tanner and his men remained silent.
“You have two choices,” Lanigan continued in his conversational tone. “You can hump it out of here on foot or you can come with us. Of course, if you come with us, we’ll have to take a few security precautions until we’re sure you mean us no harm.”
The FMC team still didn’t respond.
“We could use a few good men,” Lanigan offered.
“Sound like you need quite a bit,” Tanner was gruff.
“Always need more,” Lanigan kept his voice light but he squinted in the dark trying to make sure that this guy was the giant from Iraq.
Lanigan recalled dropping the big guy off in a pretty hot zone. One of the other choppers was hit by an RPG shortly after Lanigan had dropped off the Marines in his Blackhawk. Flying parts from that helicopter nicked a hydraulic line on Lanigan’s own bird. He’d had to limp his way back home and was lucky to make it. Lanigan decided that if this was the same guy, he was not a man to be trifled with.
“Look, big guy,” Lanigan remained conciliatory, “you’re right. We are in need. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t. But, we’re in better shape than a lot of the folks out there.”
“Especially those you steal from,” Tanner gritted his teeth. He wanted to smash the guy’s face with his fists.
“Well, yeah …” Lanigan’s voice trailed off for a moment. “I don’t like it like this, but it’s a whole new world since the crash. It’s dog-eat-dog.”
“If you’re a dog,” Tanner’s quip was tinged with anger.
Lanigan gave up on the nice guy act, “Look, buddy, like I said … you got two choices. If you’re going to try to make trouble, I’ll offer you a third choice. We’ll march you and your men over against that cut bank and put you out of your misery.”
Tanner silently counted to ten. “We’ll hoof it from here,”
“Suit yourself,” Lanigan laughed mirthlessly. “Mount up, everyone!”
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