Chapter 8-Words of the Patriots
Victoria watched as Gregory removed his black outer cassock in the same elegant fashion as he removed his cloak and hung it on a low hanging branch revealing the closely fitted inner cassock and a leather shoulder holster sheltering his beloved M1911 pistol. A gun toting priest…fitting. She followed him to a small clearing wear the commanders from Washington and Oregon were. They were sitting around chatting quietly amongst themselves when they sensed his presence. For a while now Victoria knew that the Upir didn't require an introduction to be noticed, his aura was enough.
The blue eyes scanned the small groups. Some gathered by geography, others by a common skill, and still others by culture. He also sensed another, deeper divide, a sense of animosity between two groups. They had gathered into two groups and when he saw Commanders Cochise and White in the smaller group he knew how much work he had ahead of him. It looks as though I'll have to caulk this hull before we set sail. Stopping between both groups, he quietly calculated the odds of a coup being conducted by the larger group, "Good evening Commanders, I am General Gregory Richardson, the new Commander of all Northwestern forces."
"We know who the hell you are you Russian Priest!" A hotheaded woman shouted. Victoria, who had placed herself some distance behind Gregory, found herself moving closer to Cody, her hand curling around the slide of the shotgun.
Lifting his head to lock eyes with the taller woman, who had at least a good three inches of height on him, and said in his standard, somber tone, "That is good, then I can dispense with introductions Commander Hale," His eyes held the Woman's for another brief second, no challenge or fire, just authority. Then, as if she had not interrupted him, he walked past her, "As such, I am in charge of Oregon and Washington. This action of removing General Black and moving me into his position was personally done by President Isabella Angelina Stone," Coolly, he shifted his gaze from face to face, "That is the President of the United States, she holds ultimate authority."
Victoria suppressed a grin, knowing what he was attempting to do and thought it rather brilliant. He was invoking the name of the Heroine of the First Invasion. They may challenge him on the grounds of loyalty to General Black, but they wouldn't dare challenge one of the fighting pair of New York. It was then she saw the blond from the funeral stand up and stride to Gregory, "Then the question is Vlad, why would our beloved President decide that course of action?"
Maybe they will challenge her as well. Victoria groaned. Gregory looked into the blond man's eyes and quickly she noticed how much taller his opposition was and gulped. Her eyes fell on him and marveled at how cool he was, "You will not talk of the President like that, not in my presence Commander Dillon," Tundra laced the words, causing chills to run up spines, "And her purpose for choosing me was to choose the most capable Commander in the area, that responsibility fell to me."
"Weren't you just a simple rifleman?" Commander Jessica Hale scoffed. How dare an upstart like this take command?
Gregory was suddenly very tired, "I was known as the Christopher Stone of the West. My command responsibility was over the Los Angeles," Slowly he lifted his head, "An area extremely valuable to the Soviets and suffered much like New York. Under my guide we went from losing the city to driving the Soviets out," The eyes of the Upir locked with Blond who was now very aware of the consequences of his question, "I am American, I've spilt enough of their blood," His finger shot in the direction of Forks, "And mine to prove it."
As the hand fell Victoria saw it clench into his fist, "Anyone else have any problems?" His eyebrow was raised slightly. No one had seen him angry, not until now. Victoria picked up on the subtle signs having become a sort of an expert on his emotions, "Anyone?" He took three long strides towards the group, "Does anyone else want to bring up my ancestry? Who else wants to claim that I am unfit to lead?" His fist slowly opened and calmed his voice, "How many of you believe that my Father's family being from Russia and my Mother's family being from Ukraine makes me untrustworthy?"
The member's of the smaller group all felt a pang of sadness and distress when they saw the large group almost unanimously raise their hands. Victoria ran to his side in time to catch him whispering, "Like damned Los Angeles," Lifting his head high and licking his lips, she sensed an angered frustration from him she had never sensed before, "My Great-grandfather was a cavalry man with the White Russians during the original revolution fighting against the Communists long before any of you were born. He was driven out of his homeland and came to America," The sound of crunching snow was the only sound heard as he moved deeper into the group, "My Grandmother's family was starved when the Red Army blockaded Ukraine, killing millions. She joined a partisan movement not unlike us to retrieve food and to run an ultimately failed resistance movement before she too escaped to these shores. My family has been fighting the Soviets ever since they came into being, before anyone of your families even knew what a Soviet was," Stopping, he stared out into the forest, "Next time you leak my past in an effort to turn people against me, I suggest you think about how to avoid making yourself look like a fool as well."
The former General growled a retort, "And what makes you think I leaked the information?"
"It is because you are too much of a cowardly politician to say it straight to my face Commander Black," The Upir's voice was now calm and even, "You'd rather have your real attack dogs do the dirty work," Looking over his shoulder, not even giving the deposed General a second look, his eyes fell on the pair, "The real strength behind your leadership. Let them destroy me then convince all of the commanders that I cannot be trusted," He turned back to the smaller group, "Cowards like you make me sick. You'd rather lose the war than lose your rank."
"I am NO COWARD!!!" Jason Black stood up quickly and Gregory could see Commander Cochise's assault rifle level, which in turn brought the muzzles of Hale and Dillon's rifles in sharp response. The racking of two shotguns rang through the forest as Victoria and Edward leveled their weapons.
Gregory could feel the tensions rising in that small patch of forest and strongly resisted the urge to draw his Colt. He didn't want to add to this Mexican Standoff. Without turning around, knowing he'd be staring down the barrel of a pistol, he responded, "No Mister Black, you are no patriot that is what you aren't. You would rather throw this unproductive coup than serve your country,"
Victoria's hands were shaking. She never thought she would have to fight fellow Americans, but there she was aiming her shotgun at one. The two cohorts of Commander Black seemed cool, too cool, with the fact they were about to gun down other commanders. This is madness. She thought, chancing a glance at Gregory who stood there resolutely and without fear. This steeled her resolve.
He wasn't as resolute as Victoria thought, but he had to act it, "Commanders of the Northwestern Resistance. You have a choice to make. You can join Commanders Black, Hale, and Dillon's coup and weaken our efforts, lose even more than we already have, and compromise the security of the United States of America!" He added emphasis to the last word, "Or you can follow the orders of your President, join me, and we repel the Soviets and free our homeland. We free it for us, for our children, for our grandchildren. We will make sure that our nation will always enjoy freedom, the freedom we were founded upon," Quickly Gregory turned around, grabbed Jason's wrist and twisted it hard, bringing the man to his knees, the pistol he had held landed with an unceremonious plop in the snow, "A freedom that Commander Black here is willing to sacrifice."
A grimace of pain crossed Jason's face. Commander Dillon's rifle now pointed at Gregory's back, "We can't win this war, we need to surrender. We don't have the men or the materials to beat them."
"No," The Professor instructed, twisting the wrist a little more, "What we lacked was a commander with the wisdom and the balls to do what was right, to actually attack," Gregory let go and crouched down, picking up the pistol that sunk into the snow. Standing up, he turned around, "We won during the first invasion not by sitting on our asses, not by having superior numbers or equipment, but by going on the attack. Making the Soviets pay for every bit of land they occupied, every life they took."
Victoria, and for that matter most of the commanders, was stunned that Commander Black had been so desperate to be a Hero that he'd become a Benedict Arnold for the Soviets. What stunned them the most though was when Gregory walked up to the blond pointing the AK at his chest, "Commander, arrest Mister Black for treason," Gregory's voice was calm and nonthreatening but the words carried the weight they needed to.
Commander Carl Dillon held the rifle up and attempted to look defiantly in Gregory's eyes, but found he could not beat the Russian. Slowly he lowered his rifle, "Yes General," Running to his former boss thoughts raced through his mind. Maybe this Russian won't be as bad as I thought. He knew though that wasn't the reason he relented, he feared the Upir. Although having a reputation as a tough fighter himself, the Upir was well known and something of a nightmarish legend by the Soviets.
"Put the gun down Commander Hale," A whisper, barely audible, escaped Gregory as he lowered the muzzle of her weapon. Jessica watched as his hand went for the butt of the Colt even as she dropped the rifle. Rumors of his near superhuman reflexes flashed through her mind, "That goes for you three as well."
Shakily Victoria lowered her shotgun and watched Gregory's hand lower at the same time, dropping back calmly to his side. With calm steps the man from New York walked once more to stand between the groups, "We should execute him!" A man from the back of 'loyal' group shouted. Victoria saw Gregory shoot a look at who she assumed was the yeller.
"No, we will not turn into them," Gregory attempted to mask his disgust as he pointed in the distance, obviously referring to the Soviet Union, "They hold show trials, they execute men at the mere whim of their commanders," He tapped his chest, "We hold trials for our citizens, we have our Constitution," His hand motions punctuated his point near perfectly, leading Victoria to wonder how many impassioned speeches he had made in his younger days. It seemed to her that he had made similar arguments in the past, during the first invasion, maybe even before that, "That is what we must defend, otherwise we end up like them."
A slow roll of applause echoed through the small forest, "Today will be marked as the day we stopped merely surviving the Soviets, today will be the day that our children and grandchildren will know as the turning point when we began taking the fight back to the enemy, when we drove them from our nation, our Shining City on a Hill, Bastion of Freedom!" The cheering grew louder with even Commander's Dillon and Hale applauding.
Regaining his composure, giving Victoria a grin and a nod before going completely somber, Gregory motioned for the applause to die down, "Now then, onto business…"