Several miles east, Robert “Smokey” Hughes more feels the hum in the air than hears it. He knows what this sound means. It’s the third time since late winter he has encountered the near silent helicopter, but he’s never gotten a good look at it. Planting has gone bad this spring, what with the hard weather and all, and he has been forced to work late into the night on the few good days his tractor can handle the deep mud of the bottomland. He watches the sky while puffing on his pipe taking a break from fixing his disk harrow. It is nearing 4:30 a.m. At the first fluttering hum in the air he extinguishes the running lights of the vehicle and douses his droplight. Wrenches and screwdrivers rest in a row on the flat crossbeam of the disker. They begin to vibrate as the helicopter eases closer; their steel lies mute and dark in the thick night air.
It comes over Reed’s Hill fast and low, like a dark mythic beast in the last lunge before a kill, an almost imperceptible low growling rage. In the darkness, for some reason, Smokey Hughes catches a momentary flash of red on the full underbody of the helicopter. Maybe it’s a painted Day-Glo flag or a new kind of infrared scope, he can’t tell. The thing seems as big as a semitruck but shaped aerodynamically with lines so perfect and true, the sheer mastery of design shoots a chill through him. He has never seen anything like this, and it scares the shit out of him.
This is government, he is sure of it. The militia is finally under surveillance. Trouble is coming. He’d known it would happen, and now, here they were – black, silent, probably armed, and ready for battle. It’s time to call Sumter and tell him. Sumter would know what to do. He always did.
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