On the Nose
Wind rushed through the open cargo area of the Blackhawk as Manny accelerated away from the airstrip.
Pitcher attempted to shout over the noise, “We need to finish these guys off!”
Manny looked back over his shoulder, shook his head and tapped his ear.
Pitcher made a circling motion with his right hand, mimed a two-handed firing position in the general direction of his M240 and then pointed toward the cabin and mimicked the motion of firing rockets from the pilot and co-pilot controls.
Manny’s face lit up as he picked up on Pitcher’s pantomime. He turned back to the controls leaving Pitcher with a brief thumbs-up. The helicopter banked to the left as Manny circled back around toward the buildings along the northeast edge of the airfield. Chinese troops were pouring out of one of the low, round-topped hangers, rifles in hand.
Pitcher and his fellow M240 gunner strafed the crowd of U.N. sponsored soldiers with textbook six to nine round bursts of 7.62 mm projectiles. The clustered men were quickly decimated. Those who survived the initial attack turned and ran for the relative safety of the hanger. Manny followed them with a pair of Hellfire missiles. The initial explosions of the missiles were followed by much larger secondary explosions.
The man next to Pitcher looked over wide-eyed and mouthed the words, “There must have been some fuel stored in there!”
Pitcher nodded as it dawned on him that they most likely had enough fuel to make it to the rendezvous point in the Chattahoochee, but no place nearby to refuel. Unfamiliar with the northern Georgia area, Pitcher couldn’t think of a single military aircraft refueling point within miles.
Maybe Pappy has some up his sleeve, Pitcher thought. He usually does. It was entirely possible that Pappy had stashed aircraft fuel somewhere in the forest.
Pitcher chuckled to himself and settled back as Manny and his co-pilot steadied the bird. They were getting the hang of flying her fairly quickly.
Just south of the Chattahoochee National Forest, Pappy and the rest of his crew were approaching the rendezvous point. They had picked up three vehicles at a farm northeast of Homerville, GA and then made their way toward the Chattahoochee keeping to the back roads.
Normally, Interstate 75 through Atlanta would have been the quickest way from the Okefenokee to the Chattahoochee, but, after the crash, major highways and interstates had quickly become the very dangerous stomping grounds of all sorts of thugs. Many of them were clogged with abandoned or disabled vehicles. Maneuvering around the vehicles slowed travelers to a pace that made them easy targets for thieves set up along side of the roads.
As with most major metropolitan areas, Atlanta had been reduced to a smoldering heap. In the days immediately following the crash, police and National Guard troops had to decide whether to fire on their friends, neighbors and families or turn tail and allow the city to be overrun by desperate survivors.
On the heels of the desperate survivors came looters. They took everything they could carry and burned that which they could not. Lawlessness and violence ruled the day driving the inhabitants of the city into the surrounding countryside.
Now, several months later, Atlanta was a virtual ghost town inhabited only by the most desperate of individuals. Most of the individuals had formed groups in the hopes that they would find safety and survival in numbers. Increasingly, the groups of survivors resorted to behaviors that no longer resembled those of civilized human beings. They roved the city in packs like rabid dogs striking at anything within eyesight. Cannibalism was not uncommon. Rape and murder were often merely precursors to a meal of human flesh.
Smart travelers steered far wide of former metropolitan areas. Pappy and his crew gave Atlanta a wide berth.
Even on the back roads, the recent residents of the Okefenokee encountered a number of thieves and attempted ambushes. Well armed and traveling with several former Army Rangers, the skirmishes were typically short and very one-sided. Nevertheless, as they pulled their bullet-ridden vehicles to a stop in the shade of the outer edges of the Chattahoochee Forest, there were injuries that needed attention.
Pappy began to give directions as people scurried about.
Suddenly, Pappy stopped, held up his right hand and cocked his head. The unmistakable thump of helicopter rotors greeted his ears. Everyone turned to scan the skyline to the south. Trees blocked the line of sight, but there was no question that a helicopter was inbound.
“That’s a Blackhawk,” one of the Rangers spoke as he held pressure on a bullet wound to his calf.
“I think you’re right, son,” Pappy grinned. “Looks like we’re gonna have us a whirlybird.”
Several members of the group walked toward the edge of the trees while the injured and those caring for them stayed behind. Within seconds, a single Blackhawk helicopter appeared on the horizon. It approached the clearing in which Pappy stood and began to descend. As the helicopter began to settle toward the field of native grasses, it quickly became obvious that the pilot was having trouble controlling the landing.
The bird pitched forward and suddenly dropped at an alarming rate. Several members of the small crowd gasped and stepped back instinctively.
Inside the helicopter, Manny and his co-pilot were struggling to control their descent. It seemed that each tiny movement inside the cockpit caused near-catastrophic movements to the entire bird.
“Strap in!” Manny yelled. “We’re going in hard.”
The four Rangers in the cargo hold tightened the straps on their troop seats and tucked their chins to their chests.
Manny and his co-pilot fought the controls as the helicopter pitched into a near-vertical drop and plunged nose-first into the soft ground of the small meadow. As the chopper’s nose hit the ground, the tail rotor support crumpled sending the tail rotor blades crashing downward into the main rotor. The two sets of rotors clashed and shattered sending pieces and parts flying as the helicopter dropped onto its belly and bounced.
Please participate in The Journal’s Glenn Beck E-mail Campaign