Fifteen year old Danny Edmonds was sitting at his desk hunched over his computer keyboard typing furiously when his father walked into his bedroom. "Danny, do you know what time it is?"
"Uh, hi Dad, let's see--zero one hundred hours."
"Affirmative. Time for lights out son."
"But Dad, it's Saturday night!"
"So what's the battle tonight?"
"Which side are you?"
"I'm Russian this time."
"So what time zone is Field Marshall Von Paulus in? Maybe it's not one AM in his command bunker."
"Actually, his bio says he's an Army major at Fort Campbell, so it would be midnight his time. But I'm still kicking his butt clear back to the Ukraine."
"An Army major huh? Well, one more hour then, until two AM, and that's it. Tell the Field Marshal that General Zhukov's father ordered him to go to bed by then."
"Oh Dad, give me a break, he doesn't know I'm a kid." Danny's voice cracked, halfway between boyhood and manliness.
"So you're whipping an active duty Army major in military tactics?"
"Strategy Dad, strategy. It's corps level warfare."
"Right. Pardon me. And you still want to enlist in the Marines in three years?"
"Not three years Dad, two years."
"You know I won't sign for you at seventeen, we've been through this... Three years and you'll be eighteen, and free to make your own mistakes."
"Dad, I'll still become an officer eventually, but a mustang officer! The greatest Marine officers are mustangs, prior enlisted."
It was an ongoing battle between them. Burgess Edmonds could get Danny an appointment to Annapolis or West Point with two or three phone calls, but at fifteen Danny was determined to enlist in the Marines, "ASAP" as he put it, and get into the action as a "mud Marine" in the ongoing war.
Danny's room told the story. Where other fifteen year old boys had posters on their walls depicting rock groups and basketball stars, Danny seemingly had every Marine Corps recruiting poster ever made. He wore tan suede USMC combat boots to school, he had a camouflage poncho liner for a bed spread, and sitting at his desk he was wearing bright red USMC sweats, with the gold "eagle, globe and anchor" on the front.
Danny was already fifteen, and Burgess had no complaints about him, not really. He was carrying a 3.7 GPA at Saint Paul's while lettering in wrestling and lacrosse, and he could have his choice of colleges. He just hoped that his son would come around and see the benefits of accepting an appointment to a service academy after high school, instead of enlisting straight away in the Marines.
Danny was afraid that the war would be over before he could get into it if he waited for four more years after he finished high school to join the military. Burgess Edmonds did not share his son's belief that the war would be over any time soon, and after what he had been through in Viet Nam, he had no wish for his son to experience combat. Still, he knew better than to push the issue with the headstrong and determined fifteen year old. Danny and 21 year old Valerie were his second family, and this time he was not going to blow it like he had the first time around. Maybe he'd mellowed, or maybe he'd just learned from bitter experience not to push them too hard.
"Okay Danny, whenever and however you do get your commission, you'll be the greatest officer the Marines ever had. Two AM, all right bud?"
"All right Dad."
Burgess Edmonds turned to the hallway before Danny could see the tears welling up in his eyes. Then he slipped down the hall to Valerie's room, Valerie who was spending the weekend down from college, his little girl Valerie who had so quickly grown up to become a woman. Her door was slightly ajar, so he looked in and watched her sleeping under her quilted comforter, her golden hair spilling across her face and pillow. Where had his little girl gone, the little girl he had tucked in among teddy bears what seemed like only last week?
He quietly went back downstairs. His wife Glennis, his second wife, was already long asleep in their bedroom, at the other end of the second floor hallway from the kids' rooms.
George Hammet was in the shotgun seat of the lead vehicle in the Special Training Unit raiding convoy, a black Chevy Suburban SUV with heavily tinted windows. It was parked on the shoulder of a dead-end county service road under a covering of oak trees a mile from the Edmonds's driveway. Next to him in the driver's seat was the Blue Team leader Tim Jaeger. Behind them in the back of the truck six more STU Team members were sitting on the carpeted cargo deck. Both the middle and rear bench seats had been removed for the operation to give them more room and allow faster exiting. Nearly all of them had prior service overseas with military specops units, and the stripped-out Suburban was just a "low flying helo" taking them to their latest battle zone, as far as they were concerned. They were all wearing black tactical gear, with black kevlar helmets, black balaclava face masks, black gloves, black boots, and even black Heckler and Koch MP-5 sub-machineguns.
Three more black Suburbans were lined up behind them. Tonight the STU Blue Team was the lead element and was taking down the house, and the Gold Team was providing the snipers, the recon team, and the perimeter security. STU Team on-site commander Bob Bullard, in the trailing Suburban, was not masked or helmeted and was remaining as the "blocker" at the bottom of the driveway. He would badge any local law enforcement which might arrive unexpectedly with his fake FBI credentials. Nothing about the STU Team tonight would connect them with ATF.
They all sat silent as death, watching the subdued lighting of the various screens in the front between the leaders, straining to hear their radio earphones which were turned down to a barely audible hiss. The snipers and the recon team had gone out hours before the raiding party had arrived at the forward staging area, dropped off by the STU's blue Dodge conversion van and the phony Virginia Power van, which was now hidden nearby serving as a commo relay and electronic support unit. Their bogus power company van was already monitoring the house's telephones and electrical usage, and would cut off the Edmonds's ADT alarm system connection just before the raid.
Cutting the complete electrical power to an up-scale home in advance of a raid came with a risk, because such homes typically had emergency backup lights and alarms which would activate and alert the residents if the power was cut. In this case the STU Team decided to leave the electrical power on, and rely on their speed to get themselves in before the Edmonds could react. Once inside, they would then be able to use the house lights to assist them in safely clearing it.
Unknown to the sleeping family, three of their cell phones had been covertly switched on, providing the STU with interior audio listening devices paid for and put in position by the Edmonds themselves. To the STU Team members, what civilians didn't know about their own cell phones was simply mind boggling.
The two man sniper teams and the recon team carried advanced 3rd generation night vision rifle scopes, thermal imagers, electronic "big ears," and electronic field detectors. If the Edmonds had infrared or microwave or other alarm systems on their property, then recon team Romeo would find and neutralize or bypass them before the raiding convoy arrived. The sniper teams with their night scopes and thermal imagers were in position to cover the flanks of the Edmonds's 100 acre property, as well as the rear of the house towards the bluffs and the river.
The radio crackled in Hammet's ear; all 24 STU Team operators heard the report at the same time. "Blue Leader, Romeo. All clear. Condition status: zebra zebra, hush puppy times two."
"Zebra zebra" was a STU brevity code slang for "Z's," meaning a sleeping house. The ATF and other federal law enforcement special response teams preferred to raid in the early hours when people were most deeply asleep. This was safest for everyone, providing the maximum shock for their "speed, surprise, and violence of action." This caused people to quit before they even had the first idea of resisting.
"Hush puppy times two" meant that the recon team had taken care of the Edmonds's two watch dogs, with sound-suppressed weapons.
Blue Team Leader Jaeger then checked the sniper teams, code named "Daniel Boone" and "Davy Crockett."
"Delta Bravo, Blue leader: sitrep."
"Blue Leader, Delta Bravo ready."
"Blue Leader, Delta Charlie ready."
"Blue Two ready?"
"Ready" came from the Suburban behind Hammet and Jaeger. Gold Leader and Gold Two reported in immediately after.
Blue Leader Tim Jaeger flipped his helmet-mounted night vision goggles down over his eyes. All four vehicles' engines were switched on. Jaeger punched the gas pedal and all four blacked-out vehicles ran up the service road to the county road in tight formation, fast but silent with their custom mufflers. They'd all studied aerial photos of the Edmonds's estate taken earlier that day from Malvone's borrowed helicopter. They knew exactly where the snipers and the recon team were hidden, they knew exactly where to park and the order in which they would jump out, they knew the locations of the doors and windows and who was assigned to each.
It was 2:45 am, and the STU Team was conducting its first "real world" operation. They were primed, cocked, and coursing with adrenaline and testosterone. Payback for the Stadium Massacre, and the Reston Virginia ambush of the FBI team, and the assassination of Senator Randolph and Attorney General Sanderson was starting in one minute. They had all been briefed that Burgess Edmonds was the leader and financial kingpin of a shadowy right wing terrorist organization loosely hidden behind the cover of a hunting club in southeastern Virginia, an organization which was primarily responsible for the past weeks' acts of domestic terrorism. And they all believed it: all except for George Hammet in the lead Suburban, and Wally Malvone, the founder of the Special Training Unit, orbiting high above in the helicopter.
Burgess Edmonds was still awake, down in his windowless basement "gun room." He sat at his workbench, wearing magnifying eyeglasses while using a tiny gunsmith's screwdriver to carefully remove a $4,000 US Optics 8X44 scope from one of Joe Bardiwell's custom hunting rifles, a 7mm Ultra Mag built up from a Winchester Model 70. There were already a half dozen long black scopes lined up neatly on the table. It broke his heart; every rifle had been meticulously crafted and matched with the best possible scope for each caliber and use. Looking around his gun room, he could remember when and how and with which rifle he had taken each of the mounted trophies on his walls, back when he was interested in collecting game trophies. But by far his greatest trophy, his crowning achievement, had been his second wife Glennis, the beautiful blond South African whom he had found and married when she was only twenty-three ...
Each rifle and scope combination was a work of art worth nearly ten thousand dollars, and sometimes more. It was a crying shame, but it was all over; it was the end of an era. As he looked around at his mounted Eland and Elk and Cape Buffalo and the many others, Edmonds reflected that the riflemen would be missed most of all in Africa: entire villages, whole regions, depended on the hard currency brought in by the safari trade. He'd personally dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars into African hands over the past 25 years. It was a shame, but he knew that nothing lasts forever... Sure, there'd be some big game hunting in America over iron sights, and some Americans would go over to Africa on safari to hunt with rented scoped rifles, but not very many. It was just not as appealing as building up your own scoped hunting rifles and hand loaded cartridges; that was half of the fun of the sport. Maybe more than half.
Anyway, none of his serious hunting rifles had iron sights mounted on them, and with his 59 year old eyes, Burgess Edmonds wasn't going to put them on now. He reflected once again how Joe Bardiwell, his gunsmith, his custom gun maker and his friend had been killed just last week, and buried only days before. Truly it was the end of an era, in so many ways.
Suddenly the red warning light flashed on the wall over the door leading to the steps, and the alarm buzzed in rapid-fire succession an awful lot of times! Each buzz was a pair of tires crossing a pressure pad buried an inch under his driveway down by the county road. It was old fashioned, but 100% reliable, and not subject to outages or false alarms like the fancy new infrared and ultrasonic stuff.
Damn! This was at least three or four cars, really moving fast up his driveway! His brain scrambled to make sense of it. Why weren't his two Dobies Pluto and Blackie barking? They should be going crazy! Then in a clear flash of insight he guessed: it was the BATF. It was after midnight Saturday, and he still had scopes on some of his rifles! Damn the ATF to hell, they'd killed Vicki Weaver and her boy over a "sawed-off shotgun" that was one-half inch shorter than legal, and now here they were, just a few hours after midnight, the night the new scope law went into effect!
Edmonds didn't want them smashing down his front door: he'd meet them and open it instead. He was reasonably sure the new sniper rifle law, or "Presidential Decree" or whatever it was, only covered the transportation of scoped rifles, and not their private possession on your own property, at least not yet.
Thank God he'd gotten rid of his semi-automatic rifles last week before the ban on them went into effect! Semi-autos were never his thing, ultra accurate bolt-actions were, but he had still collected two AR-10s and a National Match M1A over the years, and an FAL he'd picked up as a souvenir in Zimbabwe, back when it was still Rhodesia. But he'd gotten rid of them all in time before the ban went into effect last Tuesday, even Danny's semi-auto .30 caliber M1 carbine and his little Ruger 10-22. He wasn't going to risk losing everything he'd built over 40 years to hold onto an illegal semi-auto rifle, no sir! He didn't need that headache, and that wasn't his style of shooting anyway.
He hurried up the cellar steps to meet them at the front door. He felt fairly certain he could reason with them, show them around his gun room, and convince them he had no semi-auto rifles. Anyway, here he was at this very hour, this minute, taking off all of his scopes, in full compliance with the new emergency Presidential Decree. They'd listen to him, they'd understand! At least, he sure hoped they'd understand...