Jack Dauderman watched as Andy Blacklock slowly led the mixed group of prison guards, Cherokee, and nineteenth-century federal soldiers into position. They were preparing to assault the prison which had been taken over by that nutcase, Adrian Luff.
Jack remembered that night well. He had been one of the guards taken prisoner by Luff's goons, only to be rescued by Marie Keehn and Casey Fisher. After that he and the other guards had been forced to flee, many of them like him, barefoot and in their skivvies.
He wasn't joining the assault to retake the prison, though. That was the task for Andy and his group. No, he had been given another task, one that he was uniquely suited to do; a task that he was possibly the only person in this prehistoric world that had any real, practical experience in performing. He shook his head in wonder. Who would have thought that launching pumpkins across a field as a kid would have prepared him to assault a prison?
Glancing back over his shoulder, he could see his team had loaded the trebuchet they had built. On Andy's signal, they would start bombarding the gate area with smoke bombs, providing cover for Andy's assault.
He moved back to join his team. "Are we ready?"
Kevin Johnson, one of the Cherokee, looked over the catapult and then nodded. "Ready and waiting, Jack."
"Good; when Andy gives the signal, we'll start the bombardment."
Jack turned back to watch for Andy's signal. He could feel his heart beating quickly in anticipation. He wondered if this was how soldiers felt before a battle.
There; Andy was waving his hat in the air; that was the signal! "Fire!"
His team released the catapult and it flung the glass jar into the air. Jack watched as the projectile arched through its flight and saw it shatter against the ground, erupting in a cloud of chemically-induced smoke.
The bomb had landed about twenty feet short of the gate, good enough for an initial shot, but not really where they needed to hit. "Twenty feet forward and fire again!"
His team hustled to move the war machine up to the new location and reset the weapon. Soon a second bomb flew through the air, this time shattering just inside the gate.
Jack smiled. The few test rounds they had been able to fire before moving to the prison had been enough to get a general idea of the range of the catapult. It had only taken two shots to get their range today. He quickly moved back to assist his team in any way he could. "Right on target. Now let's get those bombs fired as quickly as we can!"
Soon they had fired more than a dozen of the bombs and smoke covered the area around the gate. Jack nodded in satisfaction. "Good job, guys. Now it's Andy's turn."
A few months later, Jack hid himself as well as he could in the undergrowth around the trees. He and several other guards were to stand ready to help Rod Hulbert if things went wrong.
He had to give Rod credit. Rod had volunteered to act as the bait in their plan to rid themselves of the large dinosaur that had been stalking the community recently, forcing everyone to retreat behind the safety of the prison walls. They had not always been fast enough, though. One of the people of the pre-mounds villagers had been caught by surprise and became the creature's lunch.
Rod had already gone up the hill to get the dinosaur's attention and lead it into the trap. It wasn't long before Rod's voice could be heard calling out. "Hey, you overgrown gecko, over here!"
They could all hear the allosaurus let out a loud bellow and they knew that the bait had been taken. Rod would have to be careful. There was no way he could outrun the beast and he would have to outmaneuver it.
It wasn't long until Jack heard the sounds of several muskets being fired and he knew the dinosaur had been led into the first part of the trap, Kershner's squad.
Sergeant James Kershner and his squad of nineteenth-century federal soldiers had become the official animal control force for the local settlements. One volley from their.69 caliber muskets was enough to take down most of the smaller predators, but this had been their first trial against one of the big dinosaurs.
Jack forced himself to exhale when he realized he was holding his breath. Did it work?
He got his answer after a few moments when he again heard Rod's voice. "What's the matter, Barney; have you got a booboo?"
Within seconds, Rod came rushing down the hill, with an angry allosaur not far behind. Just as he neared the trap, Rod threw himself out of the path of the charging creature, narrowly avoiding its sharp teeth. He rolled back to his feet and looked in the creature's direction.
The dinosaur lay at the bottom of the pit, its bones broken from the fall. It thrashed in agony as its life slowly drained away.
But the creature's screams of agony were another problem. Rod looked up and called out. "Frank!"
Jack moved from his position along with the other guards as Frank Nickerson rushed over to Rod. "Yeah, I'm on it, Rod," he heard Frank say. "Those screams are going to draw in every predator and scavenger in the area, looking for an easy meal. I'll pass the word for everyone to be on guard."
As Frank ran to pass on the warning, Rod turned to the other man who was approaching. "You heard?"
Sergeant James Kershner nodded. "Yes, Rod. My squad will be ready."
When Kershner moved off to rejoin his squad, Rod turned to Jack. "What do you think, Jack?"
Jack shook his head and smiled. "It looks like we're going to be eating dinosaur steaks for a while."
The next morning, Jack put his foot into the stirrup of the crossbow and pulled on the string to cock the weapon. He reached over, picked up a practice bolt, and loaded it into the weapon. The practice bolt was a simple wooden bolt he had fashioned so that he didn't have to practice with the metal tipped bolts they had acquired during the attack on the Spaniards.
Kevin Johnson, the young Cherokee practicing with him, gestured. "They're almost ready."
Jack looked down the length of the practice range he had set up to where the village children were setting up the large plant bulb. The bulb was about the size of a man's head and fairly soft, perfect for a target. Additionally, the few people who had tried to eat it had become sick and it was no longer a potential food item, so he was free to use as many as he wanted for targets.
The kids finished balancing the bulb on the large rock and Jack waved them away. When they were clear, he slowly raised the crossbow and took aim. Very little wind was blowing, so he didn't need to adjust much for that. He knew this weapon fired slightly to the right, so he adjusted a bit to the left. He exhaled to steady his aim and squeezed the lever on the bottom, firing the weapon.
The string flung the bolt through the air and the bolt struck the target, burying itself deep in the flesh of the bulb. The village children cheered noisily at his marksmanship and he smiled as he lowered the weapon.
The sound of several people clapping drew their attention and they turned to look at its source, a group of six young Cherokee women.
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff