Today’s News in: Rip – Find the Magic Key

orange swatch— As the battle enters its second stage, Jack discovers two new vehicles; a Panther tank in good condition and a Harley Davidson. —

“Maybe our luck’s changing Jack.”
“It needs to. You know, we were losing the light. Everything was with them. We’re the ones that have to move and if we got bogged down and ended up stuck here tonight, we’d be a goner for sure. Now we have a chance. Do you fancy loading on a Panther?”
“Panther? Why not? It’d be fun!”
“Hurry up and get that finished then!”
“Yessir!”
Somebody handed Jack a cup of black coffee. The unusual sound of a Harley Davidson motorbike’s engine bit into the steadily quietening air.
A weary Lieutenant Sweetwater stumbled in with three survivors, just as the Harley rolled up to Jack. When the rider pulled off his goggles Sweetwater grinned and embraced him:
“Baker! Thought you were dead!”
“Where d’ya get that Harley?” Jack asked. “Don’t answer. It was off Hardtail’s Sherman? Stupid question.”
“Somebody rode it up to the ridge with Thomason and Pennebaker. There’s a path near this end of the forest.”
“Good to know. Sweetwater, report.”

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Today’s News in: Rip – Find the Magic Key

orange swatch— In the thick of battle, their Battalion commander is killed. Jack has to take over. —

“Blue one. Now listen to me real good. We have never got on too well, but this time I need you to excel yourself. You need to forget all the crap and do better than you ever did. If not, we’re all dead.”
“Right red one. Got it.”
“Get your ass up here. You will be leading the assault on the Panther, but I’ll need to get it all straight with you first.”
“You staying there then?”
“We ain’t goin’ anywhere. We have only one track. Okay, everyone stay on the radio and alert. The way I see this, the gun at the end of this road is the strong point, not the farmhouse, although that’s where their defensive line is. If we can force it to move, their whole defence will collapse. Only problem is, I can’t see it. It’s about 1000 yards to a turn, with trees beyond. It must be in the trees. Anyways, we’ll find out, but I’m betting it’s a Tiger.”
“Why’s that, red one?” blue one asked.
“Two reasons. First, if it’s an eighty-eight, why would any commander put a Panther in such an isolated position? It’s the best thing he’s got. On the other hand, if he’s got a Tiger, and he’s SS, he might rather risk the Panther than his own skin. It has better protection.”
“If it’s a tiger. It could be another Panther.”
“We’ll find out. Everyone stay on your radios and stay alert. Red one over.”
Jack turned the transmitter to ‘intercom:’
“Okay, listen up guys. Sprouts, see if you can fix the tracks. But before you do that, tell me what shell that was that hit red two. Okay?”
“Sure skip.”
“Lucky, you’re no use in here for now. Help Sprouts. Mickey, keep a bead on that Panther. If you see him, take a shot. Let’s hope it’s an early one. Aim at the base of the turret. That’s its only real weakness. Deak, scan all radio frequencies. See if you can pick up any German. You speak a little of the lingo, so maybe we can learn something.”

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Today’s News in: Rip – Find the Magic Key

orange swatch— Jack doesn’t like the road ahead. He calls for the column to halt but a moment later, things get hairy. —

As Carla rumbled over the bridge Jack yelled:
“Stop!”
“What is it Jack?” Sprouts yelled back, when the tank had stopped.
“I don’t like it,” Jack replied. “It’s too quiet. No horses, no cows, no cars or wagons, no birds. Pull over Lucky! Get on the radi-…”
A flash of light caught his eye, straight ahead. He ducked, slamming the hatch closed and yelling, “Incomin- … !”
The tank rocked with the impact of an armour penetrating round. Everybody’s eyes closed, expecting their life to be snuffed out. A moment later they heard a ‘clang’ some way behind Carla, an explosion to their right, and the tank stopped rocking.
“What the fuck happened!” somebody yelled.
“Turn the tank Lucky!” Jack yelled.
The crew was as well-oiled as any crew in the US Army, so Lucky responded without thinking. The tank began to pirouette to the right, Lucky reversing one set of tracks and pushing the other forward as hard as he could.
“What the hell are you doin’?” Sprouts yelled.
Carla had almost turned round completely when they heard the whistle of another incoming round. An instant later, they were rocked again, but during that instant, Lucky had stamped on the throttle pedal and the tank had lurched ahead about six feet. Something smashed into the rear, right corner of the tank and explode, sending hot shards of metal into the main compartment. None hit the men. Carla continued to roll forward.

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Today’s News in: Rip – Find the Magic Key

orange swatch— Dawn. Pressburger briefs the tank commanders before the tanks begin to roll into Czechoslovakia. —

Dawn didn’t so much break, as inveigle its way into the darkness. Thick fog caused drops of ice cold water to drip off everything, soaking the Sherman engines’ spark plugs and making them reluctant to start. But now the steady rumble of the V8s in the gaseous Hades between silent trees added a hypnotic quality, which soothed the crews. The pre-dawn briefing didn’t start well for Jack:
“Merriweather, that’s the third time you have gone AWOL under my command,” Pressburger bellowed, throwing down a wad of maps. “If you weren’t the best tank crew I have, you would be up for Courts Marshal. Just once more and … .” He left the consequences hanging.
Jack noticed the tent canvas seem to shimmer, as if it wasn’t quite there. Then he found he couldn’t remember what the man had just been saying to him.
“You listening to me Merriweather?”
“Yes sir.”
The other five tank commanders, the last left in the 4th Armored Division’s 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, glanced at Jack, but he stared ahead, stone-faced.
“Now, down to business,” Pressburger continued. He rolled out a large map on a table and stuck his finger onto a black spider. “This here, is Pilsen. That’s where we’re going. Patton just got the go-ahead from Eisenhower and Bradley to invade Czechoslovakia. But we’re not to go beyond Pilsen. Why Pilsen?”

Rip-Find the Magic Key: 2nd longest Western novel at 1 M+ words. Subscribe bit.ly/LazloFerran | Buy Vol 1 bit.ly/ripvol1 | Understand more bit.ly/inforip