The sound of a tank engine roared in the distance. "Keep yer nerve, men! Remember yer training!" James pointed his machete towards a large nearby field. "At the double-time, march!" The Robertson column raced toward the field. The battle was about to begin. As the men ran through the trees and scrub, they checked their weapons. Soon, the Randalls were in sight. James adjusted the strap on his tan helmet and fired a shot with his revolver. "Fire at will!"
The men's various weapons, primarily M-14's, blazed away. The Randalls were shocked by the powerful show of force. The Randall leaders, mounted on ill-bred, scrawny horses, soon shouted to pull back.
The Robertson Old Guard ran forward, shooting the retreating Randalls with powerful shotgun blasts. Several horses went down, foaming at the mouth and neighing in pain. The Robertson infantry advanced, with their flag going on before.
Then the Stuart arrived.
The tank crushed a wounded Robertson man underneath its decades-old treads. With a loud boom, the tank fired. Several Robertsons were killed in the explosion, one was crushed by a falling tree.
James fired several Garand rounds. "Keep firing, men! Onward! Robertson!"
"Robertson!" With that war-cry, the men advanced again, downing more Shenandoah Randalls.
The tank fired again, this time with its machine gun.
"Take cover, men!" cried Gunner, hugging the ground. The men's battle line dispersed as the Randalls counter-attacked. "Where's Carl with the bazooka? We need him now!"
A soldier in one of the ratty tan uniforms crawled up through the grass beside him. "Sir! PFC Jethro Robertson reporting! Carl done took a shot in the leg a couple minutes ago. Last I saw, General Harry grabbed the 'zooka. Oh, look, there he is!"
Harry was sprinting across the field, pumping his fist. "Say 'ello to my little friend, Randalls!" He stuck a rocket in the back, aimed it, and blew the tread off the tank. A sharp, metallic, grinding noise followed, followed by clanking noises as the gears and wheels fell off. A small explosion then occurred, which started a large fire. As the screaming, wounded pilots opened the hatch and prepared to jump off, the Volkswagen came crashing through the nearby trees, with Billy-Joe blasting away with the M1919. Bloody holes appeared in the tankers' homespun "uniforms" as bullets slammed into them. Moaning, they fell off.
Almost as soon as they hit the ground, the Robertsons went on the offensive again, chanting "Harry! Harry! Harry! Harry!" Harry was obviously going for showmanship, as he pulled out his machete and advanced into the line of fire. As the Randall "horde" clashed with the Robertsons in hand-to-hand combat, Harry hacked the opponents to death with supernatural strength, even lopping off the arm of a Randall clan boss. With their tank smoldering and "lunatics with machetes" hacking and shooting them, the Randalls knew they were in trouble. Even worse was when the Old Guard advanced and downed several more with buckshot. Some of the Shenandoahites dropped their weapons and fled in terror. They had had a tank before, now they had nothing and advancing, enraged enemies who possessed several armored cars coming at them.
James led a small group, including Will, around the side of the Randall force, moving through the woods. One family member hid beneath a log with a scoped rifle to pick off retreaters. James and the others kept moving, until they were completely behind the Randall soldiers. They opened fire. Before, worried, but now crushed and demoralized, the Randalls broke.
Boarding one of the cars, the T-Bird, Gunner used a revolver in the manner of African safari hunters shooting at a herd of water buffalo. Drive alongside, pick off the biggest and strongest ones, then pull back to pick another target. Men in the other two cars did likewise.
The Randalls were exterminated by sundown. Gathering back at the main Robertson stronghold, the men expected a long night of partying and celebration. What greeted them was something entirely different. Dead Robertson guards were slung over the porch railing, others laid in pools of their own blood next to the broken-down front door. Gunner went up first, rifle ready to shoot a hole in whoever might have done it.
James and Will checked their weapons, ready for another fight. Sweat dripped down their faces as they waited for a signal. Suddenly, two shots rang out and someone raced out the backdoor, limping and holding their leg.
"Shoot 'im! Shoot 'im!" Gunner cried out as he tried to pursue out the backdoor, but staggered and fell onto the ground. The Robertsons immediately put a hole in the assassin's forehead. Racing up to Gunner, they asked what had happened. Gunner shook his head, "Found the dastard hiding in the kitchen. We both fired and I went down. Shot me in the thigh. I'm alright. Wish I could say the same for yer Granpaw. The bloody rat shot him in cold blood."
A shudder went through the men. Granpa Rick might not have been energetic or jovial, but he was loved and admired as the father-figure he was. Many men held back tears, others let them flow freely.
Except for Harry. He just looked angry. He slowly walked up to the corpse of the assassin and drew his machete. In a bloody display, he hacked the body to bits. When it was done, he went inside to the living room, muttering to himself.
Gunner watched the spectacle. "He next in line?"
James shook his head. "No, we don't have next in lines. The family picks the clan leader by vote."
The next day...
Gunner tallied up the election results after the funeral service.
James, wearing a dusty suit made some time in the 50's, entered the living room. It was common for families to lock up old suits for special occasions. Suits were impossible to afford anymore. "Well? Who won?"
Gunner looked up from the stack of voting slips. "Between you and Harry, the only candidates who have a prayer, Harry gets 20 votes. Most of the reasons the men wrote down were because of his bravery yesterday taking down that tank and all."
James raised an eyebrow. "Me?"
Gunner sighed and put his boots up on the table. "18 votes. Sorry, pal. The next candidate, Joseph Robertson, another cousin of yours, received 5 votes. The others went to people who only got two or three votes. Harry's the new clan leader."
James slumped down on the ugly, striped sofa. "Oh... no. No, no, no, no. This is just between you and me, but one time I listened in on a private conversation between Pop and Granpa Rick. They said Harry's a little screwy. He's had... problems... since he was a toddler. Pop, Granpa, and Harry's now-deceased parents agreed to not bring it up in public."
Gunner nodded gravely and took his feet off the table. "Really? Do you think he's gotten better with time?"
"No," said James flatly and quietly. "No, he hasn't. Look at what he did with that machete yesterday. It was like some kind of maniac in one of those German horror films. It was insane.
it. If he's leader, he could make Hitler look like Howdy Doody. If one little thing sets him off, watch out. You saw how he acted when you gave the men training. He gets really angry over everything and it's almost impossible to get him to treat you normally again. Plus, he may have problems, but he's smart.
Smart in an evil way. He gave his parents fits. He leads the men into battle like a sepuku dagger-wielding Japanese Imperial. Mark my words, there's gonna be problems. Now that he has absolute power over the clan, he'll get worse. He'll finally be able to settle rivalries. I heard him once talk about how he wanted Granpa to exile Carl to the Jersey Pine Barrens." Gunner's eyes widened and he stammered. "I know!" James continued. "The Pine Barrens!
With those... Jersey Devil mutants... It's scary."
Gunner waved his hand. 'No, no. I wasn't shocked about the Pine Barrens, I just put something together."
"Carl was shot in the leg yesterday, preventing him from using the bazooka."
"You don't mean..."
"Yeah, I mean it. 'Suddenly,' Harry has the bazooka and hogs the glory while Carl lies bleeding on the ground. I bet my hat that Harry shot him in the leg, Carl was shot from behind, took the bazooka, and used it to get elected... Oh, no. No! It can't be!"
James was speechless for a moment. "And that means... he might have been behind Granpa's murder! The Randalls might be our arch enemy, but I thought it was unbelievable that they would go after an elderly leader. It's one o' the unwritten rules of the book. We don't kill old people or women and children. I don't think they would have done it without some incentive of some kind. It ain't natural."
"Exactly. I bet you anything he went over to the Randalls for help after Rick booted him from the position of field marshal."
James looked sick. "What a Judas! Darn it! What should we do?"
Gunner looked a little green, too. "I don't know... I think we're heading for problems. And me an' Liz will be his first targets..."
Ooh, like the finale of a detective show.