The Little Army

 

 

Chapter 10

 

 

In shock, Crane simply stared at the doctor, or whoever he was, for a few seconds and then his hands balled into fists.  The man sighed.  “Captain, if you will give me a few minutes before you try to fight or bluff your way out of here, I think you’ll be glad you did.  Sit down, please.”  He smiled as Lee sat gingerly on the edge of the bed.  “Good.  I also need to examine your wound.”  He motioned for Stefan to sit down as well.  Lee nodded when Stefan looked at him questioningly.

Lee had a million questions, but didn’t know where to begin first.  The doctor obliged him fairly quickly. 

“I am Doctor Peiter Rallos.  I have sympathies to the recently overthrown government and to the underground organization.  I knew who you were by a picture that someone you know as Tiny Tim showed me,” the doctor said with a slight smile.  “Although I had to look closely.  The only photograph shown to me was of someone clean shaven.”

Crane started and then composed himself.  “How did you know I was here?” he asked.

“Ah,” Rallos said with a chuckle.  “You do have a voice.  But then, your benefactors here kind of figured you were a foreigner for all that you have the look of one of my countrymen.”

“How did they guess?” he asked, chagrined.

“You talked a little while you were unconscious and they couldn’t understand any of it.”

Lee cursed under his breath.  “But what brought you here?” he insisted.

“These people are also sorry that President Brakas was overthrown and knew that I had connections with members of the underground.”  He laughed softly.  “I guess I must also have a trustworthy face.  I even have a friend in the local people’s guard.  The underground likes that, as you can imagine.  Plus, there is the fact that I am the nearest doctor.” 

Lee said nothing, but winced as the doctor applied some kind of solution to his head wound. 

“I would give you a thorough examination, but time is short.  As it is, you need a couple of stitches.  I have used a topical numbing solution, but you will still feel it.  I will talk as I work.  You simply hold still,” Rallos explained.  “My contact in the kradiz office has made me privy to some interesting information.  They think that there is a small army hiding in these hills, led by a man whom they believe to be a spy.  They also know that one of this army is wounded.  They found blood at the site of their last hiding place.”  The doctor paused.  “Checking your wound shows me that it isn’t you.  You have a member of your group who is wounded?”

Chip! With a sigh, Lee nodded.  “My executive officer was shot the second night we were on the run.  He got a bullet in the leg.  I’m worried about him.”  He grimaced as Rallos began working, but the man was deft and his solution numbed most of the doctor’s needlework.

“There was also a government work force truck missing, as well.  One that was supposed to transport a group of orphans to a work camp.  The three guards were ambushed, one killed and the others left tied up.  It was said that the two who did this ‘foul’ deed were Americans.  Niros very much wants these Americans captured and tried.”  He pulled off his exam gloves and tossed them into a garbage can.  “By any chance would this so-called army be composed of orphans, starting with that one sitting next to you?  I am surprised that the government has not put two and two together, although you look scruffy enough to be a different person.”

Lee smiled softly.  “Yes.  The guard shot and killed the priest when he tried to stop them.  I shot the guard who wounded Chip.  Before he died, Father Vincente made me promise to take charge of the children and get them to safety.”

“That safety being raids on police stations and night time excursions through hostile countryside toward the coast?” Rallos said caustically.  “And what were you going to do when you got to the coast.  Drop them off somewhere?”

Lee bristled.  “I plan on doing what I promised the priest and that’s take them all the way.”

“Do you think that is fair to them, Captain?  What will they do in a foreign country without even a knowledge of the language.  You aren’t a family man.  You do not have a clue as to what these children need.”

“What will they do here, Doctor?  Slave in a work camp, or be farmed out to someone to become his or her personal slave?  Will they get proper medical attention, education, a real family?  Love?”

“Love?” Rallos asked in surprise.  “How do you know they will get that if they leave Tirea?”

Stefan jumped up and began to berate the doctor in his own language.  After a few minutes, Lee interjected, “Enough, Stefan.  The doctor has a point and is welcome to make it, whether he’s right or wrong.”

“So you understood what I was saying?” Rallos asked the boy.

Stefan nodded.  “I go America with Skipper.”

“Doctor, to be completely fair, I will ask the children again what they want to do.  Some of them may have changed their minds,” Lee said. 

“And what about the ones that are too young to know what’s going on either way?” 

Lee smiled softly.  “You said that I am leading what is being called a small army?”

“The Little Army,” Rallos said.  “Despite the fact that the powers in charge think they are dealing with two different groups, the consensus among some government workers as well as many people, is that it’s a group of underground men and their wives and children.”

“Well, then, this army will decide what is in their own best interest.  The ones who are too young are in the care of the older ones anyway, they will remain that way, whether the older children decide to leave or stay,” Lee said decisively. 

“Fair enough, Captain.  But let me warn you, the idea of an army in the hills excites the regular citizens and shows them there is action that can be taken.  However, it also makes it dangerous for your little group, because the government is going to stop at nothing to capture you.” He paused to let that sink in.  “Now, what about your executive officer?  Commander Charles Morton, am I not correct?”

“Yes, I was going to ask if you could come and help him.”

“I wish I could, but there are those who think I am not as reliable as my friend in the government thinks I am and my actions are fairly closely watched,” the doctor said.  “I am here to take care of an injured farm hand and that is what the report will say.  I can leave medicines as I usually do and you can give them to your friend.  Tell me exactly what his condition is.”

Lee described the wound, and Chip’s condition.  Stefan added what he knew. 

“I am worried about him,” Rallos said, rubbing his chin.  “To have a bullet in that long is not good.  Three days.  It is no wonder that he has a fever.”  He dug some things out of his bag.  There was a large bottle of antibiotics, as well as several cleaning agents.  “I wish the bullet could be taken out, but this should help.”

“Thanks, Doctor,” Lee said, only partially relieved.  “If the government thinks that an army is on the move, do you know what they are doing near the coast?”

“Glad you asked, Captain.  I have a map from the underground.  It not only shows details of the land between here and the coast, but also where they have hidden rafts for fugitives to use so they can be picked up by friendly foreign ships.”  The doctor pointed out various landmarks.  Stefan leaned over and studied the map with the two men.  Rallos glanced at him, slightly annoyed. 

“Stefan is our Information Specialist.  It’s his duty to check out these kinds of things,” Lee informed him. 

Rallos’ eyes opened wide in wonder.  “What?”  Then he shook his head.  “Do not answer that.  The less I know, the better.”  They bent over the map again.  “You are not that far from the coast, perhaps twenty miles but the government has probably stepped up patrols along the coast.  It would only be natural, especially since they know of the ships that are patrolling outside the three mile limit.”

“Of course,” Lee murmured, studying the map. 

“It will be better if you wait a few hours to leave.  Then it will be almost totally dark and you can make it back to wherever your group is hiding without being seen,” Rallos said.  “I do not know how you are going to transport your man, but he should not walk on that leg if at all possible.”

Lee nodded.  He held out his hand.  “Thanks, Doc.  If you see Tiny Tim, give my regards.”

Rallos nodded and closed his bag.  He took Crane’s outstretched hand and shook it.  “Good luck.  All of you.”  He left.  Shortly thereafter, the woman brought in a tray with bread and more stew, motioning for them to eat.  Unable to do anything else, the man and boy did just that.

 

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Chip woke to the cool touch of a damp cloth on his forehead.  He felt pain radiating from his thigh up and down his leg.  He winced as he tried to sit up.  Leela pushed him back down.  He didn’t argue.  “Lee?”

“Not here yet,” Meeka answered.  “Stefan went out to look.”

“How long ago?”

Meeka bit a hangnail in her agitation. 

“What time is it?” Chip asked, anxiety warring with the fever and pain.

“Maybe three hours before sunset,” Meeka finally answered.

“And the skipper and Stefan are both missing?”

“Yes, Commander Chip.”

He scowled.  “Anyone else?”

“No, I would not let anyone else leave.”

“Good, Meeka.   We’ll wait until dark and then organize a search.”

“You are too sick, Leela says,” Meeka reminded him. 

Chip almost ground his teeth in frustration.  Despite Leela’s fussing, he sat up and almost immediately regretted it.  A wash of dizziness passed over him, but he sat quietly until it passed.  Then he gazed at the small group around him.  He realized that he had been asleep since mid-morning and felt guilty.  Could the erstwhile CMO have given him some kind of drug?  Gazing into her concerned face, he didn’t doubt it.  “Okay, give me a report of all activities since this morning,” he ordered the COB. 

Meeka complied, although it didn’t take long.  The only forays had been about fifty feet into the forest to pick berries that were ripe.  Gunnar was cooking the last of the supplies for supper and the babies and younger children had been kept under very tight surveillance the entire day. 

He looked at Leela, but spoke to Meeka.  “I want the CMO’s report.  If the skipper and Stefan don’t show up by dark then I will have to go out and try to find out what happened.”

When Meeka had translated, Leela shook her head vehemently.  She spoke to Meeka.  “Leela says no.  You cannot walk.  Leg not good.  You have fever.”  Leela was still speaking rapidly.  It was obvious that Meeka was having difficulty translating fast enough.   “She says she will have Dasha, Birnok and Gunnar sit on you if you try.”

Chip blinked in surprise.  Leela was no better than Doc on the Seaview.  Unfortunately, he was afraid that the children would win, just as the CMO on the boat usually did.  He didn’t think he had enough strength to enforce his will in that decision, so he decided to drop it.  Still something would have to be done, especially if Lee and Stefan didn’t come soon, and especially if they had been captured.  Even as he was wondering what they would be able to do in the event that the government had Lee and the boy, he contemplated what could have happened.  He thought about the designations that Lee had given each of the children.  “I need Dasha to report to me,” he said wearily.

Soon the boy was standing before him.  Meeka stood next to him.  “Dasha,” Chip began.  “I need to know what weapons we have.  I also need to know what skills each member of the crew has, even if it’s just with a sling shot.”  He waited, shifting his stiff body, while Meeka translated, got the needed information and then relayed it to him in English. 

“We have two big guns, two pistols, three knives.  Skipper had other pistol.  Several of us throw well.  Dasha will ask each crewmember what they can do then report again.”

Chip nodded.  “Good.  We might need to fight and we have to be ready.  I will keep the guns and pistols until we need them.”

Dasha nodded.  Meeka laid the weapons next to him.  Chip checked each one.  The machine guns had about a half clip each.  One of the pistols had a full clip and the other one was almost full.  Good.  Of course, he didn’t think any of the children knew how to fire them, nor was he comfortable letting them do so.  In a pinch, though, he might have to let Leela, Meeka, Dasha or Birnok use a gun.  He knew that Meeka was twelve, Leela and Dasha ten or eleven, Birnok couldn’t be more than nine.  Am I nuts even considering putting a machine gun in the hands of these kids?  But then, this whole mission was nuts!  

It wasn’t long before Dasha reported to him again.  Most of the older children were good with a sling.  They were now busy making themselves the local version of slingshots and gathering appropriate sized stones with which to practice.  Dasha, an owner of one of the knives, was skilled and accurate throwing one.  The boy reported that he was also good with a bow and arrow as were Gunnar and Triska.  Gunnar was busy making crude bows while supper cooked and Triska was sharpening sticks to be used as arrows.  Chip smiled, even as the pain in his leg increased.  “Good.  Don’t spend too much time on bows and arrows, as we may not have that much time,” Chip instructed through Meeka.   “Make sure everyone who can handle a sling practices in the next two hours.”  Then he gazed directly at Meeka, his countenance serious.  “We don’t know if the skipper and Stefan have been captured or not.  We have to be prepared to leave after dark, but more importantly, we have to be able to defend ourselves if any of the government patrols come for us….”  Then he looked around at the babies playing in the little clearing.  “Meeka, I think we need to discuss something else.” 

She gazed at the XO.  Her look told him that she was pretty much aware of his thoughts.  “We will not go back to orphanage.  We will not go work camps.  We will not give up.”

“Meeka, Dasha, please call Birnok, Leela, Rika and Gunnar to this meeting,” he said, not wanting to acknowledge her words at this time.

Dasha ran off to get the others and when they had gathered, Chip addressed them.  “You are the crew chiefs.  I am the executive officer and until the skipper returns, I am in charge.”  He waited for Meeka to translate.  “I am hurt and not able to fight.   If a large government force comes against us, I will not let you children be hurt.”  Meeka and the others began talking and he stopped them with an upraised hand.  “Those are my orders.  I have heard the COB’s feelings.  I understand them, and respect them.  But I have to think of the very small children like Shonna, Arion, and Ranos.  If the enemy is too large, we will surrender.”

“Commander Chip,” Meeka began after a long pause.  “You are XO.  I understand.  You care about us.  I understand that.  You do not know us.  Do not know our hearts.  Do not know what life is here.  We will not surrender . . . sir.”   The others nodded.  “Children we hide, have Jillia take to farm nearby.  Better for them than surrender.”

Chip sighed and felt emotion making his heart skip a beat and his eyes prickle.  These kids had more courage than many men he knew.  They also didn’t totally understand the horrors of war.  But then, maybe they did understand some of the horror.  “Chief Meeka, I respect your feelings.  We will decide what to do with the little ones now in case there is a fight, then we will be prepared.”  He looked at each one of them and smiled.  “You all have great courage.  I am proud for you to be a part of my crew.”  And he meant it. 

 

 

Chapter Eleven
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