After receiving an intelligence report from a long-range patrol into Randolph, the Gilead Defense Council last night, June 9, authorized a diplomatic mission into Randolph as an effort to secure the Gilead’s northern border from potential raids, and to establish trade relations, if possible. The meeting, however, had the flavor of a war council planning an incursion, as the intelligence report did not give cause for optimism, and the fear that Randolph has become a Raider settlement was foremost in everyone’s minds.
“We have some information, but it isn’t enough for us to come to a solid conclusion one way or the other,” said Joe Tobiason, GDC Chairman. “We have no idea what to expect, so unfortunately we have to assume the worst and prepare for it.”
What little the GDC does know is disconcerting. On the night of June 8, GDC Security Coordinator Rich Bennington and Stanley Lyon went on a long-range patrol into Randolph to assess the type of reception a diplomatic mission from Gilead might receive. The two set out early on June 8, so as to arrive in Randolph soon after nightfall, and be able to make their way back by the next dawn.
“We were disturbed by what we saw,” said Lyon. “On Main Street in front of Belmain’s were three dead bodies nailed to the asphalt with railroad spikes.”
Each body, Lyon noted, was decorated with a small flag, two of which read, “Thief,” and the third read, “Traitor.” Each flag was hanging from a thin pole that had been inserted into the victim’s head through the eye socket.
“That was enough to tell us that there’s some pretty rough justice going on there,” said Bennington, “but what we didn’t see was actually worse – other than three people walking around side-streets slowly with rifles, there was not a soul out and about. Main Street was completely deserted. To me, it looked like martial law with a curfew being enforced by these patrols.”
Bennington and Lyon’s full report to the GDC Chair indicated that although they saw lights in some houses on Summer Street, and quite a few lit windows along Main Street, there were no signs of life outside of the buildings other than the few patrols. Avoiding those patrols by keeping to the shadows and side-streets, Bennington and Lyon made their way to the Cumberland Farms gas station where 12-A splits from Main Street. There they saw two more armed guards manning the intersection.
Bennington and Lyon had entered Randolph by traversing the forest north of Tatro Hill Road, coming out on Weston Street and entering Randolph from the west. The return trip, however, was designed to find out what the Gilead mission’s approach to Randolph might encounter “We came back to Gilead following highway 12, but keeping to the woods,” said Bennington. “On the way, we saw two sentries at the Clara Martin Center house, but no roadblocks or other measures.”
The interpretation of what Bennington and Lyon found in Randolph was subject of much discussion at the meeting, with the group finally deciding to interpret the findings in the most pessimistic way possible: Raiders have set up in Randolph and are running most, if not all of the town with a generous helping of cruelty to help them keep control.
“We recognize that it’s entirely possible that the three bodies were Raiders, and that the peaceful Survivors of Randolph have set them out as an example to other Raiders,” said Tobiason, “but I’m inclined to believe otherwise, because it doesn’t make sense that a Raider would be accused of being a traitor.”
The GDC unanimously voted to treat the mission to Randolph as a diplomatic effort, but to be prepared for a retreat under fire if necessary. Ideally, the mission would also include a stop at the Snowsville General Store north of Randolph for additional ammunition and weapons, but that would require going through Randolph twice, which looks increasingly unlikely.
Given the challenges faced by the mission, the GDC determined that preparing for a worst-case scenario is warranted, and has ordered the armoring of a convoy to travel into Randolph. Each truck traveling on the mission will be outfitted as follows:
Cargo barriers: As pictured on the front page, each pickup truck will have its bed covered by a barrier on each side. Each barrier will be bulletprof, consisting of two-inch boards with three sheets of corrugated roofing steel over them. They will have slits for defenders to see outside and to return fire, if necessary. The barriers will be angled so that they meet in the middle of the truck bed about four feet high, forming a tent-shaped space underneath for óg˜õXšh¦}iîâ–iUUa”±SB 0v9È E8P ûzÊ×òçK¶HïõX#»¸…cW ! wÛsÛ5Y‰.Lq † aù±§§›õöºÑ® EÑ Ò+Á2ps
Wheel guards: In order to avoid becoming immobilized by flat tires caused by gunfire, each vehicle will have a double-layer of corrugated roofing steel bolted to the quarter panels to cover the tires down to just a few inches above street level.
Window guards: In order to provide maximum protection to the driver, who cannot return fire and drive simultaneously, standing-seam roofing steel will be bolted over the side windows and windshield, except for an eight-inch wide strip across the windshield, and a four-inch wide strip on side windows for visibility.
Armed crews: Each truck will include a driver armed with a handgun, a front-seat passenger with a long gun, and two people in the cargo bed, each with long guns. Crew-cab pickups will also include two more crew members with long guns.
“I know this sounds like a war party, but we face a pretty dire situation here,” said GDC member Martha Arceneaux. “We absolutely have to secure our northern border, because without that, we’re at terrible risk – especially the Dairy. So we have to make this diplomatic effort, but we also have to be prepared for trouble, but going in armed and armored could end up prompting the very response we’re hoping to avoid, so… it’s just very complicated.”
GDC member Mark Cohen agreed with Arceneaux, but said he’s more convinced that a show of force is appropriate. “I really think that it’s a no-lose proposition,” he said. “First of all, we’re prepared just in case. And second of all, if everything is peaceful there and they’re willing to talk, then at least we’re able to discuss things from a position of strength, rather than a position of vulnerability.”
Cohen said that just a few weeks ago, he would have been reluctant to show force, but his experience in the May 10 Raider attack changed his outlook. “We had to actually shoot at human beings during that attack,” he said. “It was horrible, and I think we can avoid it if ä7ÉÞwóg˜õXšh¦}iîâ–iUUa”±SB 0v9È