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Old 12-16-2014, 05:58 PM
Matt Wiser Matt Wiser is offline
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Location: Auberry, CA
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And the next one, in two parts. It's more T2K-ish:

Out of the Mountains



1420 Hours Mountain Time: 8 May 1986; The San Isabel National Forest, Northwest of Walsenberg, Colorado:



It wasn't much to look at, but to the camp's occupants, it was home. Sort of, anyway. Several parachutes had been converted into tents, and others had made shelters out of pine boughs and branches, just like what the survival school instructors had taught. For the camp's military and guerrilla occupants, it had been enough, though higher up in altitude was a camp that was more secure. At that camp were wounded guerillas, families who had fled the Soviet-bloc invasion, and even some hikers who'd been up in the high country, and had been shocked to find that the worst had happened, and the Russians had come.

To the military personnel there, though they had helped the guerillas the best they could, all were anxious to get to the other side of the Rockies as soon as the weather and melting snow permitted. Of the camp's fourteen military personnel, a dozen were downed aircrew members from all four services, and the other two were escaped POWs. The rumor mill had said that there were Army troops somewhere to the northwest, along U.S. Highway 50, and all were hoping to get there, find friendly troops, and somehow, get back to their squadrons and back in the air.

For Air Force Lieutenants Matt Wiser and Tony Carpenter, five months with the Resistance was more than enough. They had been shot down in their F-4 near Walsenberg, to the southeast, back in January, and had been lucky enough to find a rural church, where the preacher was willing to hide them in a tornado shelter. Then they'd been passed along to the Sheppard Ranch, west of Walsenberg proper, where the family had sheltered them for a few days, until their eldest daughter Lori could take them into the mountains. They had been in the mountains all of two days when Lori came back, tears running down her face. After they'd left, the Soviets had come to the ranch. Someone, somewhere, had either been caught and broken, or the escape line had been betrayed. Lori had ridden down from the Mountains to find the ranch house and barn burned to the ground, the animals taken away, and in the driveway, the bodies of her parents, younger brother, and younger sister. All had been shot in the back of the head, and both her mother and sister had been.....used, so to speak, by the Russians before they had been killed. She had buried her family, and ridden back into the hills, and bringing with her a desire for revenge.

Over the past few months, the guerillas had made themselves known to the Russians and their Cuban and Nicaraguan lackeys, ambushing convoys, raiding outposts, cutting phone lines, and so on. Not only had they lived off the land, but also off of the enemy, taking whatever they could find, whether it was food, weapons, ammo, medical supplies, or whatever. But now, with the spring melt, Lori knew that she needed to do two things: first, get the downed pilots over the Rockies to friendly lines, and second, see if the rumors were true, and that there were Special Forces teams helping guerrilla bands with supplies, advisors, and so much else. For up in the high country there was a family camp, with refugees who'd fled into the hills, some family members of guerrillas, some escapees from labor or “re-education” camps, people who really needed to be on the other side.

Lori gathered the downed pilots around a campfire. All were dirty, grubby, and showed the effects of living in the wilderness. But all had taken part in raids against the invaders, even if the two Marines and the single Army aviator had any kind of infantry training. They had gotten to be good at it, the hard way. “OK, good news. Mike Jensen just rode down from the Family Camp. They say the snow melt's made a trip over the pass a lot easier. So we're leaving today.”

“About time, Lori,” Major Mark Adams said. He was one of the two Marines there: an A-6 driver who'd gone down the same time as the two F-4 crewers. He'd been in unofficial command, though he deferred to Lori, as she was the leader of the band. But he was the senior ranking military officer there.
He, like the other military evadees, had his flight suit, but worn over that was a Soviet airborne camo outfit, and then on top of that was a Soviet winter camo suit. And given how cold it got at night this high up, everyone was glad to have the multiple layers of clothing.

“I'll second that,” Capt. Bill Andrews quipped. A former member of the Thunderbirds, he had been shot down the previous December, and had escaped from the Cubans after a week in their custody. Given what he saw during his brief captivity, he had no qualms about killing Russians or Cubans, period.

“How far to friendlies?” Lieutenant Wiser asked.

“Good question,” Adams said. “Best guess it that it'll take a week or so. On foot the whole way.”

“Lovely,” Tony Carpenter said. “At least we'll get out of here and back to our units. If I wanted to be SF, I would've joined the Army.”

Adams nodded. He knew the feeling. Even though he'd been trained as an infantry officer before going to flight school, being a grunt was the last thing he expected. “Any other questions?” There weren't any. “That's it, then. Grab your weapons, get your gear, and we're gone.”

The two AF Lieutenants went to their tent. Though they had buried their chutes after bailout, they had found chutes belonging to downed pilots who hadn't survived: a parachute landing in the forest was a dicey proposition, and several airmen had died in their landings. The two gathered up their tent, and picked up their rifles. Both had AKMs, but Wiser also had an AK-74 that he'd picked up off a dead Soviet recon trooper, and wanted to keep it as a souvenir. Tony Carpenter also had a war trophy he wanted to keep: an SVD sniper rifle that he'd killed a Cuban to get. Like the others, they had made homemade packs from parachute harnesses, just like they'd been taught in SERE.

The party made their last-minute checks. For food, they had home-made deer or elk jerky, and some civilian canned goods that they had found when cleaning up a supply convoy they had ambushed. However much they had, it would have to last a week.

It wouldn't just be the evadees going out: Lori was coming with them. Not only as a guide, but she wanted to find out for herself if the rumors were true, and there were SF operating in the area. Not only did she want an SF Team to come into the area, with weapons, ammo, food, and above all, medical supplies, but to evacuate the family camp. That place had been an old logging camp in the 1920s, and though the civilians and others hiding there had food and shelter, they really needed to be evacuated. Not to mention that their doctor, who prewar had been a dermatologist from Denver, was really in over his head for the most part. He'd been on a hiking trip when the invasion happened, and the only medical supplies he had were what had been “acquired” after an ambush. If a helicopter pickup to get the civilians out could be arranged, she was all for it, and was eager to get going. She not only had an AKMS rifle, but she also had a Winchester Model 70, and that .270 slug could take down just about anything: and they had seen just how good a shot Lori was. Not only had she shot some deer or elk, but in raids, she used that rifle as a sniper rifle, and Lori had killed her fair share of Russians and Cubans with the weapon.

The evadees and a few guerrillas who'd be coming along were all set to go, and a few minutes later, Lori and Major Adams came up. “Everybody set?” Lori asked. Though Adams was the senior military officer, she ran the guerrillas, and was in charge. “OK, let's go.”


Somewhere in the Rockies: 10 May 1986: 0730 Mountain Time

The first day and night had passed quietly for the most part, though most of the evadees were too keyed up to sleep. The prospect of freedom, and being able to climb back into a cockpit, meant that hardly anyone got more than four hours' sleep. As for breakfast, some Elk jerky and a raw pop tart, along with a canteen of water, had to do.

“Another week of this,” Tony Carpenter grumbled. “And I'm an outdoors type.”

Lieutenant Wiser looked at his WSO. “Where?”

“Oregon. Some little town between Salem and the Cascades. Got an appointment to the Academy, which kept me from being a logger, and look where I am now.”

“Let me guess: a lot of hunting and fishing?” Wiser asked.

“Yep. Never thought all of that would come back.” Carpenter said.

“You must've breezed through the field portion of SERE.”

“I did. And the instructors didn't like that at all.”

Major Adams came up. “All right, people, fill your canteens from the spring, and let's get going. If anyone gets winded, call out. We're getting into higher elevation today.”

There was the usual grumbling, but everyone got ready, and moved out. Lori wanted to bypass the family camp, and Adams had agreed wholeheartedly. If anyone was following them, best to stay away.

Five hours later, there was a break. As they got higher up, there was still snow on the ground, though it was patchy. Some places still had several inches of snow on the ground, while others, more exposed to the sun, had spring plants in full bloom. But there was one thing everyone was noticing: the lack of forest sounds. It was quiet. Lori, for all her time in the woods prewar, had never experienced anything like this, and neither had Tony Carpenter, or the other guerrillas. “I don't like this, Major,” she said.

“Neither do I.” Adams agreed. He motioned to Army WO Kyle Lewis. “Drop back about a hundred yards, and bring up the rear. See if anyone's following us. Take one of the guerrillas with you.”

“Gotcha, Major,” the UH-1 pilot said. He'd been an enlisted solider for five years before going to Fort Rucker and getting his wings as a Warrant Officer. Not to mention that he was Ranger qualified, and that experience had come in very handy, not just in teaching ground tactics to the guerrillas and most of the airmen, but in combat.
Adams then turned to his B/N, First Lieutenant Neal Brandon. “Neil, take point.”

He nodded, and headed on out. After he'd gone about fifty yards, the rest of the group followed.

A couple hours later, Lori called a halt. Neal had found nothing up ahead, but he couldn't shake a feeling that they were being watched. Major Adams felt the same way, along with Lori, and for that matter, everyone else. Someone was watching them, but who? If it was Spetsnatz, they might be following them until they made camp, then attack. “Two hours of daylight left.” Adams said. “We'd better find a spot to make camp.”

After a half-hour of searching, the party found a nice campsite, only a hundred yards or so from a small lake. After getting a fire going, and boiling some drinking water, everyone sat down to eat. The canned goods that the ComBloc had looted came in handy, for canned beef stew, pork and beans, or raviolis had to make do. But as the party ate, everyone still had the sinking feeling that someone was watching them.

“Major, I think we'd better have a patrol-just to look around,” Lori said to Major Adams.

“I think you're right,” Adams agreed. “Guru, Neal, Tony.”

Wiser's head shot up. Guru was his call sign. “Major?”

“You three, have a look around. No further than a thousand yards. Check around the lake, and down the trail. If you find anyone, fire a few shots into the air, and try and hold 'em. We'll be there ASAP.”

“Will do, Major,” Guru said. Brandon was the Marine, so he led the little patrol. They checked out the lake, and went back down the trail. They found nothing, but still.....the hair stood up on the backs of all three. Something was in the forest, off the trail somewhere, and watching them. They saw nothing, and returned to camp just as twilight was coming.

“What'd you find?” Lori asked. Major Adams was with her.

“Nothing,” Neal Brandon said. “We checked around the lake, no tracks, other than animals. They were old, by the way.” He went on, “And we went down the trail a ways. Didn't see anything, but....”

“But what, Lieutenant?” Adams asked.

“But, Major,” Guru said. “Something's there, because we all felt like we were being watched. And my hair stood up on the back of my neck.” And the other two nodded affirmatively.

“Mountain Lion, maybe?” Adams wondered aloud.

“Could be, and the other animals know there's a predator around, so that's why they're quiet,” Lori commented. “Major,if there is a big cat nearby, we'd better have two or three on watch, instead of one.”

“Agreed. Two on watch at all times. I'll take the first, with Neal.”


That night, everyone went to sleep-or tried to, anyway. The possibility of a mountain lion or a bobcat coming into camp had everyone nervous. Spetsnatz or other Soviets, they could deal with. But a big cat coming in and trying to drag one of them off? That was something else entirely. Even if one was sleeping in a parachute tent or just spread the chute on the ground, no one went to sleep without weapons close at hand. There being a full moon didn't help one's nerves any, for a shadow in the moonlight could be an enemy-or a big cat looking for a meal.

Guru had taken the 10-to-12 watch, along with Tony, and they had turned things over to Capt. Mark Bailey, an AF F-16 pilot from the 388th at Hill, and Joel Wambach, one of the guerrillas. The two F-4 crewmen then went into their tent, and after checking for snakes, went to sleep.

It was just after 0300 when it happened. The two on watch, one of the ex-POWs and a guerrilla, were sitting by the fire, trying to stay warm in the cold night air, when one of them heard something. They were footsteps-big ones. The two decided not to wake anyone, and simply waited by the fire for the intruder-whoever or whatever it was, to go away.

In their tent, Guru and Tony were sleeping when Tony suddenly woke up. He shook his pilot awake. “Guru, wake up!” Carpenter hissed.

“Huh,? What?” Guru said, “Tony, what the...”

“Something's out there,” he said. “Smell that?”

“I don't...wait. Now I do. Rotten-egg smell?”

“Yeah.”

Then the two felt footsteps on the ground. Big ones. “What the hell...” Guru said. He poked his head out the tent, and saw the two on watch huddled around the fire, looking very afraid. Then they got up and slipped behind the tent Major Andrews and Neal Brandon shared. Then he-and Tony-saw it.

In the moonlight, and the firelight, a large shape came walking into the camp. In the moonlight, they couldn't see much, but the creature, whatever it was, was at least eight feet tall. It strode into camp, and started looking around. It found Lori's tent-a prewar dome-style camping tent, and seemed to be looking inside. Then a tent flap opened, and two of their fellow airmen looked out. And Guru heard safeties being clicked off. “Oh, shit!'” He whispered to Tony, reaching for his own AKM.

Before anyone could shoot, Lori woke up and saw the huge shadow looming over her tent. She didn't make a sound, but reached for the first weapon she could-her Winchester rifle, and took the safety off. Then all hell broke loose as Neal Brandon came out of his tent and saw the creature looming over Lori's tent. “The hell is that?” Then the shooting started.

Nobody remembered who started firing, but once someone started to fire, everyone did. The creature turned and ran off towards the lake, waving its arms as if to repel a swarm of bees, as shots flew all around it. Even after the creature was out of sight, there was still shooting. “CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!” Adams yelled.

“What the hell was that?” Several people asked at once.

Tony Carpenter knew, or thought he did. “If we were in the Pacific Northwest, I'd say that was a Bigfoot.”

“Well, we aren't in the Pacific Northwest,” Lori Sheppard quipped. “And that sure as hell looked like a Bigfoot.”

Mike Jensen, one of the guerrillas, nodded. “They call it the Snowbeast. At least that's what I heard before the war. He's our Bigfoot. And he's a lot bigger and meaner than the one in the Northwest.”

“Snowbeast or Bigfoot, or whatever that...thing was,” Adams said, “Soon as we can after first light, we're getting the hell out of here. No telling who heard all that shooting.”

The party had passed a sleepless rest of the night. As dawn broke, two of them went to the lake with a couple of buckets to get water to boil to fill their canteens with, while everyone else was busy breaking camp. The two returned with the water, but were shaken. They had found tracks by the shoreline-big ones. Eighteen inches long, they thought, and very deep. “I'll take your word for it,” Andrews said. “Let's get that water boiled, and eat. Then we're getting out of here.”



14 May 1986: 1400 Mountain Time:



Three days had passed since the encounter with, whatever that beast had been, and everyone had settled down. They had to stop more often, as the party was getting higher and higher, then they had passed the treeline into open ground, which didn't make anyone comfortable. Anyone on high ground could be watching them, and there wasn't a thing they could do about it. But the pass was just ahead.

“Finally!” Guru said. He'd been on point with Neal Brandon.

“Oh, yeah,” Brandon agreed. “Cross that, and it's all downhill.”

“I'll stay here, Neal.” Guru said. “Go get the Major and Lori.”

Brandon nodded, and went back. A few minutes later, the party was with him. Adams was checking his map-an old U.S. Forest Service map that Lori had loaned him. “That the pass?”

“That's it, Major,” Lori said. “Another three or four days, then maybe we can find some civilization.”

“Not today: we've only three hours or so of daylight. Let's get back to the treeline, and make camp. We'll cross in the morning.”


The next morning, the party was fed, rested, and ready to go. As they approached the pass, everyone was keyed up. If there was going to be an ambush, this would be a good spot to spring one: the group out in the open, and whatever attackers would have high ground and concealment among the rocks.

The party approached the pass, and Navy Lt. Lyle Branson, an A-7 pilot, glanced to the right. “I'd swear there was something up there.”

“Still jumpy after that...thing, Lyle?” Neal Brandon kidded.

He shook his head. “No, but I thought I saw sunlight reflecting off of something.”

“If somebody was up there, they would've opened fire by now.” Lori said. “I would, if I were up there.”

“Don't worry about it, Lyle,” Adams said. “Let's get to the other side of the pass, then we're in the homestretch.”

As the party approached the pass, and crossed it, they were being watched. Unknown to them, a Spetsnatz team was watching the pass. They were under orders to observe and report, and one of the Soviets, the team's second-in-command, had a 35-mm camera with a telephoto lens. He was snapping pictures of the party as they moved to the pass. He was certain that he got faces, but would have to wait until the photos were developed to make sure. The team commander knew he could have set an ambush here, and wiped out the guerrillas, but those were not his orders. The Front intelligence directorate wanted to know who was using the mountain passes and how often, to determine guerrilla supply lines, as well as to identify particular individuals. He'd been told to stay hidden, observe, take photographs, and report. And to give a detailed report to the local commander upon extraction.

On the other side, it was level for a bit, then it was downhill, just as had been hoped. They camped for the night about three miles from the pass, and for the first time since setting out, everyone was relieved.


17 May 1986: 0930 Mountain Time:

It had been a relatively easy two days since crossing the pass, and Lori's map showed several hiking trails that led down the west side of the mountains. Though the trails were obvious, and if one wanted to set ambushes, there would be no better place to set some, it beat using game trails or just plain going through the woods. Not to mention the fact that after nearly a week on the trail, people were getting tired. Breaks were more frequent, much to Major Andrews' displeasure-and Lori's for that matter, but there was no getting around it.

The party had stopped for a break, having been on the trail for two hours, when the point element, Neal Brandon and Mike Jensen, went on ahead. They thought they'd seen something, and went to investigate. They came running back, breathless. “Major, Lori, you'd never guess what we just found.”

“What?” Lori asked.

“There's a Forest Service station. Nobody's there, but there's a garage, and what looks like an office.”

Lori checked her map, and Andrews did too. There was a dirt road nearby, and they had been hoping to get to that road and follow it. It would be a lot easier to just follow the road, even if it exposed them to ambush. But there had been no sign of enemy-or friendlies for that matter. “Major, if there's a garage, there might be a truck or two there. If it hasn't been looted, there's probably gas there, too.”

“And just drive on out of here?” Adams asked. “We'd be easy targets.”

“Got a better idea?” Lori shot back. “At this rate, we'll be out of food before we can walk out.”

The Major knew she was right, and simply nodded. The group headed on to the station. And both were surprised: the station wasn't on their map. Lori checked the date of issue on the map: 1974. “Great. How many other surprises are there?”

“Let's check this out first,” Adams said. “Guru, Neal, Tony: Check this place out. Give a wave if it's clear.”

“Right,” Guru said. He collected the other two, and the trio headed to the station. The station looked deserted, but the doors were locked, and the windows shut. “Guru, I don't like this.” Neal Brandon said.

“Think it's a trap?”

“Yeah, I do. But whose?” The Marine asked.

“Let's check it out. Go on ahead, Neal. Tony, cover the both of us. I'll be right behind Neal.”

Both nodded, then the Marine went in, and Guru, his AKM at the ready, was right behind him. Neal went around the building, checking for any booby traps or mines, and finding nothing obvious. Still suspicious, he decided the best way to get in was to break a window. “Guru, I think we can get in by a window.”

“Break a window?” Guru asked. “Still think there's a reception committee around?”

“Don't think so now, but if there's something rigged on the doors.....”

“Say no more.” Guru nodded. “Do it.”

Neal took his AKM and broke one of the rear windows, and Guru helped him in. Neal looked around, and found the place musty, damp, and abandoned. He tried flipping a light switch, but nothing came one. “No power.”

“This far back?” Guru asked. “They probably have a generator. Anything on the doors?”

Neal went to the back door, and checked it. Nothing. He opened it, and waved to Guru. “Clear back.”

Guru went on in, and headed straight for the front door. Nothing. He opened it, and waved to Tony. Then he went into the garage, while Neal checked the office. Inside the garage, he found two Ford King Cab pickups, and then went into one of the trucks. There was a two-way radio, and he looked around for the keys. Sure enough, tucked in the driver's side sun visor, the keys came out. Then he went to the other truck, and found the other set of keys. He went back into the office, and found Neal waiting for him. “What'd you find?”

“There's a break room, but the refrigerator's empty, and the vending machines look OK.” Brandon said.

“All right. This place is clear,” Guru said. He went and waved Tony over. “Tony, wave the others in.”

“Gotcha.”

Carpenter walked into the road and waved the party in. Lori and the Major were surprised to see the two trucks. “These two have gas?” Adams asked.

“There's a gas tank in the back, but I haven't started the trucks,” Guru said, handing Major Andrews the keys. “We'll have to open the garage doors.”

Nodding, Adams told two of the other evadees to open the garage doors, which could be done without power. Then he started one of the trucks. It turned over easily, and the same went for the other.
“The tanks are full. Now I wouldn't mind riding out of here.”

Lori was inside the office, checking the desks. The calendar said September 5, 1985. The day after the invasion had begun. “Someone was here. They must've just closed up shop and left in some other vehicle,” she observed.

“Any supplies? Food, or whatever?” Adams asked.

“Nothing, Major.” Guru said. “They cleaned the place out before turning off the generator.”

Adams nodded. “See if there's any empty gas cans here. Check the big tank, see if it's got gas. If it does, fill those gas cans, then we're taking these trucks.”

Guru nodded, then collected a couple of the others, and sure enough, there was gas in the big tank behind the station. After filling the cans, he asked, “What about this place?”

“Leave it,” Lori said. “There might be someone else who can use this, even if it's just for shelter.”

“Check the desks,” Adams ordered. “See if there's a better map.”

A search of the three desks and their drawers found nothing useful. Though a search of a storage shed found several tarps, along with some tools: axes, shovels, Pondersosas (a combination of ax and scraper-used by woodland fire-fighting teams), and so on. Andrews ordered the gear brought along, just in case, then he had the gas tank behind the garage punctured. “No sense in leaving that gas for Ivan if he comes this way.”

After that had been taken care of, the group piled into the two trucks and pulled out of the station. In the lead truck, Neal Brandon was driving, with Lori beside him, two guerrillas in the back seats, and half of the party in the bed of the truck. “Follow the road, Neal. There's another forest road about five miles away, then we take that. Then that should lead us to a county road, then that takes us to State Highway 69.”

“Just hope Ivan doesn't have any Su-25s doing armed recon on the roads.”

After two hours of driving, and two roads later, they came to Colorado Highway 69. The sign at the intersection said “Westcliffe 20”, and Neal knew to take the right. Turning left only took them back towards enemy territory.

In the second truck, Guru was driving, with the Major beside him. Tony Carpenter and Mike Jensen were in the back seats, and the others were in the bed of the truck. “Ever think we'd be driving out of here, Major?” Guru asked.
“No, but right now, I'm not complaining. We just covered in three hours what would've taken a day on foot.”

Guru nodded. “Major, neither am I.”

Thirty minutes later, they rolled into Westcliffe. Or what had been Westcliffe. The town had been hit from the air, apparently, and there was nothing but burned-out buildings, wrecked cars and pickup trucks, and rubble. They stopped at the intersection of Highway 69 and State Route 96. A sign was still standing: it said, “Hillside 14; Texas Creek/Jct. U.S. 50 25”. The party got out to search the nearby buildings. Nothing was salvageable, and there were remains of bodies all over. The town still smelled of death, even though they had no idea of when the town had been attacked. “No sign of anything military around: no wrecked vehicles, nothing,” Tony Carpenter noted when he came back to the Major. “What'd they hit?”

“Want to bet there was a guerrilla band out of here, and Ivan decided to hit the town in reprisal?” Adams said.

“No takers,” Lori said. “This place is giving me the creeps.”

“You're not the only one,” Mike Jensen said. “I say we get the hell out of here.”

Adams nodded. “Okay, people! Mount up and let's go.”


Twenty minutes of driving, and they came to Hillside. That town, too, had been hit, and there was nothing standing. Lori and the Major talked over the truck radios, and decided not to stop, but keep going. A few miles down the road, they came to a local road. The sign there said, “Cotopaxi 6; TO Jct U.S. 50 West.”

They stopped, and everyone got out to stretch their legs. It had been so long since anyone had been in a car or truck, and they were unuused to being in a vehicle. Lori was checking her map. “That's a dirt road, and want to bet it hasn't seen a repair crew in ages?”

Most everyone nodded, but one of the guerrillas, Sean Weston, who'd been a Colorado Department of Transportation road engineer prewar, went over to the road. He could tell someone had been working on the road. “Somebody's been here. There's dozer tracks, and they're about a week old. And the road looks like it's been worked on.”

“Got to be friendlies,” Brandon said. “Has to be.”

“Yeah, but that road likely doesn't have bridges: there's a couple of creeks on the map, and that road crosses them,” Lori said, pointing at the map.

“If someone's been working on the road, they've probably taken care of that,” Adams said. “All right: let's take the short cut.”
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Treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, but always have a plan to kill them.

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