esse held the group in suspense as he related the story about Beau and the Fightin' Nines.  Liking the attention, he leaned back against the table, crossed his legs and took a sip of his coffee.

He began with "I remember it as if it were yesterday" just the same as any experienced story teller would begin.

"Well, the visiting group didn't seem to have any professionalism about them at all.  Just a kind of rivalry between each and every set of them no matter which two.  They strutted around like Banty roosters, each one ready and willing to prove himself, his worth, his talent, his word, his ability and/or whatever else they thought needed proving."

It was said of them in many circles of conversation around many tables, that "they'd fight at the drop of a hat . . . and drop the hat themselves.  Then, they'd stomp on it!"

Now, Beau secretly admired the reputation of the groups accomplishment of retrieving their dead, but he doubted they could do what all they thought they could.  He wondered how on earth they could accomplish anything as unorganized the bunch seemed to be."

Jesse paused every now and then to allow his audience to savor what he'd related so far.

"It seemed as if they didn't have any idea about chain of command.  He didn't see officers or soldiers.  He saw an over-cocky bunch of over confident zealots all rattling their sabers in a never ending jostle to prove who would be the right-hand man.  A group of men like that can be exterminated quickly."

"Beau was lost in his thoughts as he compared the F9's to Old Patriots.  To him, The Four, the Old Patriots were the yardstick to which all other groups were to measure up."

"Most of the F9's were young, few over forty compared to the all over 50 of the Four.  He was rudely shaken from his little private conversation by one of the over proud and loud wannabe VIP military dude standing right in front of him.  He was so deep in his private thoughts he hadn't even seen him approach."

"The man could have been courts martialed in the way he approaced a senior officer" Jesse opined.  He sat lost in his own thoughts a second or so, took another sip of coffee then continued.

"Beau had casually parked his caboose about half on and half off of the big old metal desk at which he usually sat.  He was just more or less leaning against it during the noisy pre-briefing clatter awaiting the Generals to get this meeting started.  He'd taken mental notes and were comparing them.  The soldier addressed him again returning Beau to the attention of the Ready Room.

"What?" asked Beau.

Are you deaf old man?  I asked you a question!"

The cocky ten gallon ego of the overloaded punk was getting loud and close to overloading his one gallon ability.  "Watch it son, you don't talk to a Marine like that . . ." Beau was thinking.

Beau looked around to see what in the world was going on, and noticed the eyes of the entire room consisting of three groups was on him.  "Oh.  Were you speaking to me?  I figured even the F9's had more manners than this.  You wanna get out of my face soldier?"

The guy was already into the charade much too deep to back out and save face.  He responded even louder and a lot more brave than he should have been.  "I guess you didn't hear me.  I asked you what were you staring at?  Haven't you ever seen a group of real fighting men before?"

"All the chatter and clatter had suddenly come to a deathly quiet.  No one even wanted to breathe lest they not hear the conversation and watched Xande put himself closer and closer to a courts martial."

Jesse had 'em all on the edge of their seats.  "Beau was no stranger to bar room brawls, and that is exactly what this fella was wanting.  Beau hadn't even stood up neither did he raise his voice.  What he said must have stung bitterly.

"Beau simply said "Well . . . to answer your question, yeah.  I have.  I was just wondering about all you non-coms and where your self-importance originated.  All of you, like little Banty roosters just a struttin' 'round here full of self-importance.

Yeah, I've seen a real bunch of fightin' men, but your group sure doesn't measure up.  Now, you gonna get out of my face or will I have to move you?"

The audience of Jesse's barely breathing themselves, were leaning forward as he paused, crossing his legs the other way, taking a sip of his coffee, then taking his time to swallow.  He couldn't believe the attention of these people.  He continued "Xande's big mouth opened again and he made as if to step forward."

"Wrong!  Beau did his best to fill the guys big mouth full of knuckles.  The young guy was tough.  No doubt about it.  But he'd picked on the wrong old guy with which to bully and impress the crowd."

"Two blocks, Beau hit him again, then a spin with one of Sung Wu's kicks to the head and the guy went down like a bag rocks.  Very down.  Beau was standing over the loudmouth on the floor never receiving a punch the man had thrown."

"Beau didn't even look around!  He just backed up and leaned against the desk again as if nothing had happened.  Heck, he wasn't even breathing hard.  Everybody in the room was standing there in awe looking at Beau with jaws wide open."

'Bout that time the command sounded "Aten hut!" and all came to attention where they were.  Well, that is, all with the exception of the man with the over sized mouth still lying on the floor.  General Turschak walked up to look at him out cold on the floor.  "What happened to him?" he asked.

Beau was the closest and standing at attention.  The General looked at him as he launched the question.  Beau without diverting his attention from straight ahead just answered in his best redneck drawl; "he must of run into something harder than his head sir."

"Lieutenant Lane!"

"Yes sir!" a man at the back of the room, one of the quieter ones, answered briskly.

"Wake this soldier up and get him vertical!"

"Yes sir!" the man named Lane strode forward.  He looked at Beau real hard before bending over to pick up the guy on the floor.

The guy on the floor was not small, and he was dead weight.  He motioned to another guy with the nod of his head and between the two of them, they got him up enough to drag him out of the ready room.

"What did you hit him with soldier?" the General asked Beau, looking straight at him.

"Nothing but the cold hard hands of experience sir!"

Beau was still standing at attention.  General Bradsher of the Fightin' 9's turned to General Randolph and said "do your men always attack other men they don't like and just knock them out?"

"Naw Barlow.  They kill the ones they don't like and just knock out the ones who gets in their face for no reason.  He'll kill 'im the next time . . . " he finished in his best hillbilly drawl."

"Perhaps this man ought to be taught a lesson in courtesy and military manners" the General Turschak said.

"Well Arny, I doubt if there's a more courteous or mannerly man in this room than colonel Beau Adams.  And I'd be willing to bet a thou with 3 to 1 odds on him any day of the week that there's not a tougher man either.  You have someone in mind to teach him some manners?  If not, then let's get this show on the road."

"Humph" General Bradsher snorted.  "We can deal with this later."

General Randolph strode over to the podium in front of the room and dropped the stack of manilla folders onto it.  "At ease gentlemen.  You may be seated.  General Bradsher will begin by going over the mission and to assign groups their post.  colonel Adams will assign which planes and order of lift off.  General"

He motioned to General Bradsher and took his seat.  General Bradsher stepped quickly up to the front of the room and laid out and the plans.  He finished by stating the zero hour and yielded the floor to General Turschak who talked about the White House itself.

"The Dash," as it was called, was set for less than a week.  There were many preparations in the complex mission, much more so than when just the Old Patriots did a job.  Planes would be sent to the headquarters of each group and deliver them to The Virginia Bunker.  Final preps were to be organized there, and the entire group of paratroopers would lift off at the same time.

Four planes would be making the flight, and it would be one to remember.  The trouble with the loudmouth, Xande Baldwin . . . was far from over.  A showdown was coming and he would understand what it meant to be in a real Storm.

"But that wasn't the only fight Xande had while here at the Bunker.  Here's another for you" Jesse said.  It was clear he was enjoying himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Chapter VIII