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Link Posted: 9/2/2009 6:10:34 AM EDT
[#1]
I'll echo the comments of the other guys here and say great story.

I like the progression of everything so far..Keep it up
Link Posted: 9/2/2009 6:28:28 PM EDT
[#2]
Great story so far.  Thanks



Ron
Link Posted: 9/2/2009 8:54:56 PM EDT
[#3]
Awesome story.  I really like how you are not letting the whole story out too soon.  Keep it up.  I have this page bookmarked.
Link Posted: 9/4/2009 10:44:56 PM EDT
[#4]
Chapter 13: Concluded

Sean and the others spent most of the night and the following day on the road.  That night they went to Tien’s compound.  They did some horse trading for food and some weapons, but the primary purpose of the visit was politics.  Sean had some strong views regarding the current state of affairs in the nation.  Although he and his band of veterans were a power locally, on a larger level they would not last long on their own if what Sean predicated happened.  

Tien came from a part of the world that had witnessed first-hand what happens when the tide of absolutism washes over the land.  So, it didn’t take much for Sean to convince him that a political and social revolution loomed on the horizon.  Together, he and Sean worked out some future plans.  Sean possessed limited military power and some political insight.  Tien represented economic power, and his connections in Canada and the black-market were invaluable.   Together they had the potential to form a very strong alliance.  After reaching an understanding, Sean and his team left with a few cases of ammo and some rice.  

From Tien’s place, they headed to Gerry’s.  Gerry assembled several of the farmers in his house.  Sean easily convinced Tien.  Convincing the farmers proved tougher.  Despite Sean’s argument, and the wealth of evidence to support it, the general consensus among the farmers was that what Sean proposed was impossible.  Before Sean could even finish explaining his position, the shouting started.  

“What you are suggesting is impossible.  This is America!  Sure, we’ve had some setbacks recently, but this is still America,” one of the men said.

Sean replied.  “What I am suggesting has happened in almost every nation in the world.  What is insane is to think it can’t happen here.  It’s like thinking you can’t get into a car accident, or your house can’t catch fire.   It can happen here and it is happening here.”

“What about those thugs that got moved in here,” another farmer asked.  “Are you going to protect us from them?”

“If any of those PA goons come to my house to, I’ll blast them the second they come through the door,”  another said.

“And then what,” Sean asked.  “What then?  You go out in a blaze of glory and your wife and kids are either killed or thrown into a reeducation camp.  Is that what you want?  This goes beyond guns.  This is about freedom.  Not just for you, but for children and grandchildren. We need to think beyond just guns.  We need to organize and come up with plans, some long term plans.  But first, we need to all get on the same sheet of music.”

“Its conspiracy theory crap!  The country is just poor, that’s all,” One younger men yelled.

“The country is poor because they made it that way,” another shouted back.  “What about the unions and all these transplants?  Not too long ago, we were all complaining about the flu vaccinations.  Have you all forgotten about that?”

“Impossible,” another yelled.  “It can’t happen here!”

The shouting degenerated into various squabbles throughout the room.  Sean could tell he’d gotten nowhere and would get nowhere today.  He gave a nod to Gerry, signaling him to come outside.

Out in the cool misty air, and away from the noise, Sean spoke to his friend.  “Less people in there now than when it was just union thugs and flu shots we were worried about.”

“Yup,” Gerry nodded.  “A few people didn’t show this time. People are scared.  The burning of the tractors, and the killing of the livestock, that’s got people really worried.  There are about twenty transplants out here now.  All males of them are males.  All of them are under thirty.  And none of them seem too interested in farming.”

“Well that is part of the plan, to scare you.  To scare you so you won’t speak out, or assemble, or protest or put up a fight.  The plan is to scare you into submission.  If you are scared, you are easier to control.

“Maybe,” Gerry answered.  “Maybe they are scared.  But what you were about to suggest in there was a step beyond writing letters to your Congressman.”

“I know it.  If I thought other options existed, I would suggest them.  But those days are over.”  Sean picked a stone of the ground and hurled it out into the fields.  “There ain’t many more subtle moves they can make.  Eventually they are going to stop with the incremental infringements upon our liberty and come right out in the open and take it away.  When that happens, I hope these people ain’t too scared to fight back.”

“I agree with you, but you need to understand.  These people have a lot to lose Sean.”

“They have a lot more to lose if they don’t fight.  Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren.  You want them growing up in a society without opportunity? Where some government agent outlines the course of their lives?  No schools, not real ones anyways.  No opportunity.  Being born into a job.  Being a serf and living your life under some administrator’s beck and call. If this isn’t stopped, you’ll lose not only everything you and your family have, you’ll lose everything you and your family ever will have. Ever. If we don’t stand up to this, we’ll lose everything America was, and everything it ever could be.”

The old farmer nodded.  “I know.  But these guys, they are set in their ways.  They don’t want to believe what you are saying.  It is too much for them.  Maybe they know it’s true, but it’s too much for them to admit to.  I think most of them are scared, and rather than admit to themselves what is happening, they want to think that they’re safe.   Maybe it’s easier to hide your head in the sand and hope nothing will happen than to see the light.”

“You make them see the light Gerry.  I don’t think we have much time.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX­XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The sun drifted down below the Olympic Mountains to the west.   Sean didn’t speak much on the ride back to the compound.  The inability to rally the farmers didn’t put him in a very good mood.    He felt frustrated.  Even after the obvious evidence, which included the transplanted people attacking their property, many of the farmers refused to believe what Sean suggested could happen here.  Their refusal to admit to what seemed so clear could be summed up in four words they kept repeating; But this is America.

The news on the radio offered no solace either.  It just broadcasted more of the same.  The Progressive swell had only gotten louder and more powerful.  When they drove past the aircraft plant, Jim turned off the radio and turned to Davis who sat in the back seat.

“Any word on what’s going on there?”

“Marcus says they won’t be able to start production till the New Year,” Davis answered.  “They have the machinery in place, but there is a nationwide shortage on welding rods or something like that.  So in the meantime all the plant workers are putting up all these pro-Progress posters and murals.  Recruiting posters and public service announcements, things like that.”

“Wonderful,” Jim groaned.

“Everybody who works in the plant has to be a member of the union, and the union supports Progress,” Sean answered glumly.  “So there you have it.  They are the working party of the Progressive movement.”

The convoy came around a bend to make the approach to the compound’s gate.  Sean’s thoughts were on Gerry and the farmers.  Most of the other members on the convoy were also thinking about something other than the task at hand.  The gate lay just ahead, and the gate generated feelings of safety, even though they hadn’t entered yet.

When the lead truck got to within a hundred yards of the gate, the bomb exploded.   It had been placed in the ditch that ran alongside the road, so as it exploded it pushed a cloud of mud and water ahead of it.  The cloud engulfed the lead vehicle. The force of the blast caught the back of the pickup truck and pushed it across the road, twisting and crumpling the bed.  All the vehicles screeched to a halt.  When the cloud cleared, the downed vehicle sat sideways in the road.  It had been spun almost 90 degrees.  The bed of the truck had nearly been blown completely off of the frame and hung twisted and mangled.

The radios were silent except for the slight hiss of the squelch.  Nobody could believe what they just saw.  While many strange things had happened recently, nobody expected to be hit an IED in rural Washington State.

Back in Jim’s truck, Sean reached forward and grabbed a CB mic.  “Okay guys,” Sean's voice came across the radio as calm and reassuring. “This isn’t the first time most of us have been hit by an IED.  You all know what to do, let’s get to it.”

The calm authority of his voice spurred everybody into action.  At the rear of the convoy, the last vehicle went into reverse, getting some distance from the other vehicles and blocking off the road.  From inside the other vehicles, the other men checked outside their windows for other IEDs.  After checking from inside their vehicles, the men exited their trucks and began searching outward in ever increasing circles, looking for more bombs and evidence of whoever detonated the bomb.

Somebody called to the lead truck on the radio.  There was no answer. Eventually, the driver’s door opened.  A single arm emerged from inside the truck giving the thumbs up sign.  From the passenger side door of the truck stepped a single figure.  It was the one they called Grandpa.  Walking to the side of the road, Grandpa removed the magazine from his rifle, and then put the magazine in a pouch on his belt designed for just such a purpose.  Jim saw him and wondered what the hell he was doing.  Grandpa tried to put another magazine into his rifle, but before he could, he collapsed into a heap on the side of the road.

Doc Hyde ran to where Grandpa had collapsed. His huge medical backpack bounced off his body as he ran.  Off to the side of the road, Cody and a few others moved through the woods of the greenbelt.  At the gate of the compound, more people appeared.  They were armed and eager to find out what just happened.

After the team established some security, Sean and Jim moved up to where Doc Hyde worked on Grandpa.  Jim could see blood trickling out of Grandpa’s ears, and his eyes were beginning to blacken.  Doc Hyde looked up as they got near.

“He needs to get to a hospital.”  Doc Hyde spoke softly, but from the blood coming out of his ears and trickling down his neck, it didn’t look like Grandpa could hear.  “His bell got rung… badly.”

“How badly?”

“Can’t say for sure, but I’m guessing he’s got some brain trauma.  And this wasn’t his first IED.  He already has a history of TBI from the war.”

“TBI,” Jim asked.

“Traumatic Brain Injury,” Doc Hyde answered.  Before he could explain any further, everybody turned to face a new sound.  From the rear of the vehicles came the sound of three shots in quick succession and then the screeching of a car’s brakes.  Sean and Jim turned.  One of the men had fired some warning shots at a car that approached from the rear of the convoy.  The car stopped in the middle of the road, while Sean’s man held his rifle on it.  The driver got out of the car.  It was Judy.  Her face showed signs of panic.  

“Let her in,” Sean yelled, waving her through.

Judy ran up to where Jim and Sean stood.  She’d been crying and her face was still flushed.

“What’s wrong?”

“The Police came with some of those Progressive Auxiliary men.  They just arrested Tien.

“What,” Jim said.  With everything happening at once he felt overwhelmed.

“They came this afternoon to our place.  They came in and arrested him for black-marketeering and hoarding food.”

Before Judy could explain any more, Chris walked up to the group from the compound.   Everybody could see the concern of his face.  Once he got to the group he smiled and spoke softly.  His smile wasn’t one of happiness.  It was the kind of smile somebody makes when things are so ridiculous, so awful that all you can do is smile.  Chris focused on Sean and spoke.  “We just got a call over the CB radio Sean. James Pritchard wants to see you.”

“Huh,” Sean said, surveying the damaged vehicle and Judy in her panic.  “What a coincidence.”  

Link Posted: 9/5/2009 11:58:33 AM EDT
[#5]
more more more.
this story RULES!
Link Posted: 9/8/2009 12:02:05 AM EDT
[#6]
I don't know about the rest of the readers but its getting that I check this forum 2-3 times  day for the next installment of this story!
Link Posted: 9/9/2009 10:28:36 PM EDT
[#7]
“And I want you to know now you can think whatever you want to about Fidel Castro, but he was one of the brightest leaders I have ever met.”  Rep Diane Watson (D-CA)

The most honest, courageous politician I have ever met. - Jesse Jackson speaking about Fidel Castro during a 1984 visit to Havana.

If there ever was in the history of humanity an enemy who was truly universal, an enemy whose acts and moves trouble the entire world, threaten the entire world, attack the entire world in any way or another, that real and really universal enemy is precisely Yankee imperialism.   Fidel Castro


Chapter 14

The pandemonium continued outside the gate for a few more minutes before everybody came to their senses and moved into the relative safety of the compound.  Doc Hyde continued to look after Grandpa.  Grandpa could hear and was alert, but the blood trickling out of his ears and his prior medical history had Doc worried.  JD, the compound’s resident mechanic, towed the wrecked truck into the compound where he could survey the damage.  Inside the gate, Sean and Chris discussed what just happened.

“Did they find any weapons when they picked up Tien,” Chris asked Judy.  She shook her head no.

“Tien doesn’t store any weapons there for any length of time.  But they didn’t even search the place. They just grabbed him and left.”

“Did they grab anybody else?”

“No,” Judy answered.  “They bashed Hoang with a club and broke his nose, but they didn’t grab anybody else.”  She had calmed down, and now the panic she felt gave way to anger.  “We asked why they took him. The police told us he was being charged with hoarding.”

“I didn’t know hoarding was a crime,” Chris said.

“Hoarding is always a crime in totalitarian states,” Sean said.  “At least they didn’t arrest him for anti-progressive thoughts.”

“Not yet,” Judy said.  “This shit is the very reason we came to this country.  Now what happened over there, is happening here.  It has happened here.”  Sean put his hand on Judy’s shoulder to calm her down.  

“We’ll figure out a way to get Tien, okay?”  Judy nodded.  His words calmed her down, even though she knew there might be nothing they could do.  Sean asked if Judy could give them a minute, then he and Sean discussed this most recent attack.

“Grandpa got lucky,” Sean said.  “The bomb was down in the ditch and under a few inches of mud and water.  That reduced the effectiveness of the blast. If that bomb went off along the roadside, that little truck would have been damaged much worse.”

“Somebody certainly has our number,” Chris said.  “There was only a limited opportunity to plant that device.”

“I know,” Sean said.

“Just like somebody knew you and your wife go for a run every morning.”

“I know.  However, I’m more worried about Tien right now.  Losing our black-market connection interferes with our plan.”

Chris nodded.  “Do you think they were trying to arrest you too, and just missed you?  You were at Tien’s this morning.”

Sean shook his head.  “I think they arrested Tien to get some leverage on us.  Why else would James be looking for me right now?”

“Maybe he wanted to confirm you got killed by that IED.”

“Maybe,” Sean said.  “A bomb doesn’t really seem like his style though.  I don’t think his Chief of Staff would let that happen.  An ice pick to the back of the head seems more his speed.”

The men who patrolled the roadside came in through the gate with Cody in the lead.  Cody walked up to Chris and Sean with some wreckage. In his left hand he held some remnants of the casing of an artillery shell.  In his right he held a wrecked and burnt piece of plastic that could still be recognized as a phone.  Chris picked up the piece of the shell and studied it.

“We have a South African 155 artillery round and a phone.”  Chris handed the metal fragment to Sean.  “Give you three guesses where people learn how to do this.”

“Text-book,” Cody said.  “We looked for a trigger man, or at least where a trigger man might have hidden, but no luck.  Tommy was on the gate today.  He didn’t see anybody drive down the road or anything out of the ordinary.  Whoever placed this knew enough about this to do it right under our noses.  That indicates a certain level of skill.”

“Good work Cody,” Sean said.  He tossed the metal back to Cody.  “Making one of these takes a certain level of technical proficiency too.”

Chris nodded.  “Could be our friends the Mutants want to tie up some lose ends.”

“It could be the Maysville PD bomb squad too,” Cody added.  “We could pay a visit to the Chief of Police.” He tapped his fingers along the fore-stock of his scoped rifle.  Sean looked at the long-gun, then looked up and shook his head.  Whatever Cody suggested, Sean didn’t like it.

Before anybody could suggest any more acts of vengeance, the sounds of sirens filled the air.  Outside the compound, an ambulance approached, and then stopped at the gate.  
“Where did the ambulance come from,” Sean asked.

“I called for it,” Jim answered.  Everybody looked at him like he was crazy.  Jim shrugged.  “I used the emergency channel on the CB.”

“Looks like it worked,” Chris said.

Somebody yelled to the men at the gate to let the ambulance in.  It wound through the serpentine into the compound, killing its sirens as it entered.  The ambulance came from a company that had been nationalized as part of the seizure.  The ambulance logo once read “Pacific Medical Response.” Now it read, “Progressive Medical Response.” But whoever changed “Pacific,” to “Progressive,” scrawled it out crudely in red spray paint above the word Pacific, which had a red spray paint line crossing it out.  Streaks from the paint ran down the side of the ambulance.  If the artist intended the spray painted work to be a mockery of the idea of Progress, it worked.  

The passenger door of the ambulance flew open and a young skinny paramedic jumped out.  He had a pistol-grip shotgun strapped to outside of his medical bag.  He didn’t speak to anybody.  Instead he went straight to Doc Hyde and Grandpa. The medic asked what happened.  Hyde explained about the bomb blast.

“A bomb,” the medic exclaimed.  “Man! The whole country is going to hell.”

The medics and Doc worked to get Grandpa ready to transport, while a small crowd formed to watch the process.  JD walked up to Chris and Sean to discuss the wrecked vehicle.  Jim looked around.  Tiny pockets of activity around the gate buzzed, while some individuals stood around, taking it all in but not doing anything productive.  

The congregation at the gate got larger and louder.  Not only did it present a good target, but a lot of energy and time was being wasted.  Sean used the volume and authority of his voice to quiet everybody down.  Then he provided some direction.

“Alright,” he said.  “This is what I want to happen.”  Jim hadn’t much experience with anything military before the Seizure, but as he listened to his boss he imagined that Sean had reverted back into his Marine Corps mode.  

“Davis, get the vehicles ready.  I want two details ready to go.  I’ll go meet with the honorable Mr. Pritchard.  Chris, I want you to go see the Sheriff.  Maybe he can help us out with this.”  

Chris and Davis both nodded.

“JD, Check out that vehicle, see if what we can do with it, if anything.  We’ll also need one of the spare trucks ready to go.  Doc, I want you to go with Grandpa.  Once he gets to the hospital, we lose control of him. With the way things are going, I’m not comfortable with that.”

Everybody nodded.  Sean continued, “Davis, I want to be ready to go in an hour.”  

Sean asked if anybody had any questions.  Nobody did, so they all went about their business.  As people moved to execute their assigned tasks, Sean pulled Hooker aside.  Since both he and Chris would be out, Hooker would stay back in the compound.

Before getting into the ambulance, Doc Hyde removed his rifle and all his gear and piled it in Jim’s arms.  “Take care of this.  I won’t need this heavy stuff at the hospital.  It will raise to many suspicions.  Grandpa ‘s stuff is over there.”   The Corpsman said.  One of the other veterans handed the Sailor another pistol just as he jumped in the back of the ambulance and the rear doors shut behind him.  In an instant, the ambulance sped away.

Jim watched the vehicle swerve wildly through the serpentine of obstacles at the front gate, then picked up speed as it got on the main road.  Cody walked up and punched Jim in the arm.  
“C’mon.  Let’s get the vehicles ready to go back out.”

XXXXXX

Chris arrived at his meeting first by design.  The Sheriff’s office and Pritchard’s office were on opposite ends of town.  Once he’d met with the Sheriff, Chris would call over to Sean on the CB and give him an update.

      Once at the Sheriff’s office, a young woman in a deputy’s uniform led Chris through the twists and turns to Maltby’s office.  She asked Chris to wait a few steps back she knocked on the door.  She knocked twice before getting an answer.  When the Sheriff finally answered from inside, Chris could see the light in the room snap on.

“He’ll see you now,” the Deputy said.  She looked embarrassed as she walked back to her desk.

        Inside the office, Chris could smell the thick sweet smell of stale bourbon.  He noticed a few empty bottles in the waste basket.  The Sheriff looked like he’d slept in his uniform.   Chris explained the situation with Tien and asked if his friend could help.

      “The Maysville Police have Tien.  It has nothing to do with me.”

      “We need him out.  Do you have any pull with the Chief of Police?”

“If Tien’s in jail, it’s his own damn fault.”  The Sheriff slurred his words ever so slightly.  “Black marketeering is against the law.  I’m not helping a criminal get out of jail.”

“Tien provides some necessary services around here, such as getting people food. Without Tien’s help, a lot of ordinary people’s lives get much tougher.  The black-market is the only place you can get some of the stuff people need.”

“And so we abandon the law,” The Sheriff asked?

“I think other people’s transgressions are much more serious than Tien’s.”

“What does that mean,” the Sheriff said.

“You know what that means.  You talk about the law?  Look around you. You tell me how much value those in charge right now place on the law.”

“That doesn’t give Tien the right to break the law.”

“Maybe.  But if the people who make the rules have no regard for them, and manipulate them to suit their own needs, why should Tien follow the rules? Why should Tien be held accountable for breaking the law but not everybody else?”

“Careful,” the Sheriff warned. “I don’t like your tone.  Tien isn’t the only one around here who is breaking the law.  Don’t think I don’t know about that.  I know you and Sean and your band of gunmen aren’t completely on the up and up.”

Chris stood up.  “We aren’t the ones setting up reeducation camps, or seizing people’s property under the guise of ‘community,’ or ‘safety’ or some other false pretense.  And I recall a time not too long ago when a county Sheriff came to us for help.  I recall a Sheriff getting the help he asked for.  I recall a bunch of gang members getting killed.  But I don’t remember much talk about the law then.”

“I should never have allowed that,” The Sheriff said remorsefully.  “I was weak.  I convinced myself it was a necessity.”

Chris countered.  “It was a necessity. And getting Tien out of jail is a necessity.”

“No,” the Sheriff answered.  “He needs to go through the process.  If he is innocent, he has nothing to fear.”

Chris laughed.  “Nothing to fear?  Sheriff, open your eyes.  Can’t you see what is going on?  The law you are clinging too is essentially worthless.  The government is using the law as a tool to do whatever they want.

“What good is the rule of law?  I respect your desire to uphold the law Sheriff.  But, I think your moral code doesn’t reflect our current reality. For the rule of law to work, you need buy in from all levels of society. How can the rule of law work, if the very politicians who make the laws and run the government have no regard for it themselves?  How can you enforce the law if it is being used as a tool to rob and enslave the very citizens you swore to protect?”

       This wasn’t a conversation the Sheriff wanted to have.  He pointed a long finger at Chris.  “Get out!”

Chris left the office and walked down the hall.  He worried that they might have lost the friend they had in Sheriff Maltby.  Back in his office, the Sheriff opened a drawer and pulled out a bottle to wash the conversation away.

XXXX

Sean and his team waited till the sun went down before approaching James Pritchard’s headquarters building.  As he and Jim walked across the parking lot to the lobby, Jim felt some ominous feelings.  The one-time hotel now resembled a fortress: bars covered all the windows, armored cars squatted by the front door, roving police patrols circled the building.  

“I hope he didn’t bring you here just to kill or arrest you,” Jim said.  He tightened his grip on his rifle.

“Maybe I don’t walk out of here.  But if that is the case, I won’t be the only one who doesn’t walk out.”  Sean looked down at a bulge in his jacket pocket.  It contained a Chinese hand grenade.  Jim knew Sean carried two more.  In addition to the grenades, Sean had a pistol on his hip, and a small hammerless revolver in one coat pocket. Jim carried a pistol and his assault rifle with its skeleton stock tucked neatly along its side.  He’d never seen a grenade thrown before.  He hoped tonight would not be the night.

A security checkpoint crossed the lobby of the headquarters, blocking entry to the inner corridors.  Metal detectors and x-ray machines had to be negotiated to gain entry.   Maysville police rose to motion Sean and Jim through the security process, but before they could, Malik appeared from nowhere and stopped them.  

“We’ve been through this before,” Malik said.  “He doesn’t need to go through security.”  He motioned Sean and Jim around the metal detectors.

In addition to the police in the lobby of the Headquarters, there were also two Progressive Auxiliary men.  Both of them sat on the couch in the lobby.  Sean also noticed that neither one stirred when he and Jim entered, even though Jim was obviously armed.  

      The PA men wore blue uniforms, dark blue version of the old style of military battle dress uniforms.  The uniforms hung loose around their bodies.  It looked like they spent days sleeping in their uniforms.  Sewn on the shoulders of the uniforms were rank insignia.  The rank insignia were black and white and looked like upside down version of the Navy’s Petty Officer ranks, with combinations of stars and diamonds in place of the eagle.  Sean made a note to figure out how the PA rank structure worked.  Each man carried a Chinese version of the AK-47 assault rifle; the same rifle Jim carried.  They fashioned slings out of old shoe laces and slung the weapons around their necks.  Sean noticed that the wooden butt-stock of each rifle had been removed.  Each rifle contained magazines tapped end to end with brown packing tape.  On their feet, the PA men wore old style black leather combat boots, but the boots weren’t black anymore.  One man had spray painted his boots red.  The other man did the same thing, but with gold paint.  From across the room, Sean and Jim could see the streaks from the shoddy paint job.

Malik led Jim and Sean into the elevator and hit the button to take them to the top floor.  Before the elevator moved, Malik swiped a keycard through a reader.  After a few beeps and dings, the elevator made its way up to the penthouse.

“What is with the spray paint on the boots,” Sean asked.  Malik didn’t turn his focus from the elevator doors.

“Who knows,” was Malik’s unenthusiastic reply.

The elevator’s bell rang as it passed each floor.

“So,” Malik started.  “When are you going to get off your ass and kill Hugh Bowden.”

Sean turned to Malik, a little shocked.  Jim gripped his rifle a little tighter.  “You know something I don’t,” Sean asked.

“I probably do.”  The eleveator kept dinging as it made its way up the floors.  Malik continued.  “Hugh is a pain in my ass.”

“I thought he was a friend of Progress.”

“He is.  He is also expendable.”

“Hmm,” Sean answered.  He turned to look Malik right in his eyes.  “Am I expendable too?”

The elevator’s bell rang one last time, then the doors opened.  Malik turned and looked Sean up and down.  Before leaving the elevator, Malik answered. “You aren’t expendable today.”

From the elevator, the three men headed down the hall and into James Pritchard’s office.  Both the Country Executive and Connor Justin of Grass Roots sat inside discussing some topic on the administration of the county.  The politician and the young environmentalist looked as if they had been in a heated discussion.

“Sean, I’m glad you’re here.  I wanted to talk to you,” James said.  He stood and offered a hand, which Sean accepted.  James smiled his politician’s smile.  Sean did not smile back.  He never smiles, James though.  Every time James saw him, Sean had the stern and somber face of a man who not only experienced hardships throughout his life, but expected more hardships to come.  

“Good.  Let’s talk about Tien.  Why is he in jail and when is he getting out?”

James started to answer, but before he could, Connor jumped in.  He spoke without rising from his chair.  “Greed,” Connor answered.  “Greed is his crime. He’s a hoarder and a profiteer.”

“Some would say he’s a business man.  One who provides valuable services to our community.  In case you didn’t notice, the economic situation of this country isn’t so good.  There are a lot of empty shelves in the grocery stores.”

“That isn’t our fault,” Justin replied.  “It is the fault of people like that greedy Tien.  He’s more concerned with profits than doing what is socially just.”

“I don’t see how it Tien’s fault,” Sean replied.  “He’s just dealing with this abissmal failure called the seizure.”

“It wasn’t a seizure.  Seizure is a word the hate-mongers and racists use to stir up trouble and prey off of people’s fear.  It was a slight readjustment of the economy, that’s all.”

“”Dress it up however you like,” Sean said.  “But whatever you want to call it, it did not work.”

“It isn’t our fault that the readjustment didn’t work.  If people did what they were told, it would have gone flawlessly.  Instead, these greedy capitalist plunderers and right wing hoarders didn’t turn over the property we needed to the state.”  

Connor continued.  “You think you have it bad?  Think of all those poor people who are stuck in our Transient Centers.”

“You mean those people who were rounded up and forced into camps?”

“That was for their safety and well being!”

“So it was for their own good?”

“Yes!”

“Just as the ‘Seizure’ was done for our own good, and countless other government programs, that only fail and do more harm than good.”

“The only reason they don’t work is because right-wing racist facists like you don’t do what you are told to.”

“I’m the facist?  I’m not the one throwing people into concentration camps, you are.”

“You threw the Native Americans onto reservations, and Africans onto plantations!  What do you have to say about that?”

“I never put anybody onto a plantation or reservation.”

“White people did, and I know you would if you could.  I know you are a racist.  I see you carrying that gun around.”

Sean looked at the young man like he was crazy.  “What do guns have to do with racism?”

“Guns have everything to do with racism! They are the tools you people use to force people who don’t look like you into bondage.”

“Which of course is completely different from Grass Roots forcing people into their Transient Centers at gunpoint?” Sean turned to James.  “How much longer do I have to listen to this?”

James smiled.  “I’m afraid Mr. Justin is just a little passionate about his job.  Connor, why don’t you give us a minute alone with Mr. Bastle and his friend.  Thank you.”

Connor Justin got up and marched out.

“He’s actually quite intelligent,”  James said after the Grass Roots activist left.  “He has two Masters degrees.  By the way, where did you go to school?”

Sean didn’t take the bait.  Instead he steered the conversation back into the circle he wanted it to stay in.  “What about Tien? Why is he in jail?”

“Well,”  James started.  “There is lots of talk that Tien is involved in the black market.  Certainly, nothing has been proven at this point, but there are charges and we have to look into them.  But I do understand what you started to say back there.  Tien does provide a useful service to some of my citizens.”   Jim didn’t like the way the politician said, ‘my citizens.’  

“We might be able to work something out.  I’m sure there is some kind of arrangement that would benefit the community as a whole.  As you know, resources around here are getting a little tight.”

“Who’s fault is that,” Sean asked.

“The Hoarders,” Malik answered from the couch.

“Let’s not start all that talk again.  It makes my head hurt.  Tien is in jail, and I’m here.  So I’m going to take a stab in the dark.  You need something from me.  You need something, and once I give it to you, Tien will be released from jail.”

James smiled.  “You catch on quick.  I like that.”  He smiled his sickening politician smile.  Sean didn’t smile.  He held the same somber expression.

“What do you want?”

“Fuel,” Malik said. “Fuel, as in, we’re short on it.  The county needs it to operate.  The police cars, the heavy equipment we are using to transform the city, the aircraft plant.  We need fuel to make it all run.  Unfortuantly, some states aren’t giving their fair share to the rest of us.”

“I don’t have any fuel,” Sean answered.  “I’ve got those fuel trucks, but I have nothing to put in them.”

“Oh we don’t want your fuel,” James said.  “That’s small potatoes.  We need significant amounts.  If we don’t get it, I’m afraid we won’t be able to run the county government.”

Sean didn’t believe any of this.  But, believe it or not, he needed Tien and his black market connections.   He asked James how much fuel he needed.  James gave him an number and Sean almost choked.

“How much?  That would take a dozen tanker trucks!”

“Fourteen,” James replied.

“This won’t be like going to the store and buying a gallon of milk,” Sean said.  “The logistics alone are significant.  Where do I get that much fuel?”

“There is fuel for the taking up North in Canada.  That is where these profiteers are selling it all.  And as far as the difficulty of the logistics goes, well, that is why we picked you for the job,” James smiled.  “I always knew you were a man who could get some things done for me.”

“Maybe.  But Tien is the one with all the contacts up north.  I need him.”

Malik called his bluff.  “Tien isn’t the only one with those contacts.  His family members have ties up there too.  Why do you think we didn’t arrest them too?”

“What about tankers?  We don’t own any.  And I remember not too long ago being told they were illegal for just regular citizens to even own.  Another one of those safety concerns.”

“We can get you the tankers. That isn’t a problem.  And don’t worry about the legal issues.  You’d be on county business.”

“And the county business is picking up fuel off the black market?  Isn’t that why Tien is in jail?”

James Pritchard wasn’t new to the art of negotiation.  He avoided Sean’s question.  The deal was done, James just needed to put the issue to bed.  “It is simple and it’s the best thing for everybody.  You go north and fill up those tankers, the county gets the fuel we need to operate, and we’ll sweep these charges aside and let your friend out of jail.”

“I’ll get you the fuel,” Sean said.

“I’m glad we could come to an agreement,” Pritchard said, and then smiled his phony smile.  Jim wanted to smash the politician’s teeth out.

A few more details were worked out before Jim and Sean left.   Malik didn’t show them out.  After the door shut behind Jim and Sean, Malik spoke. “Our young environmentalist seemed a little hot-headed, as usual.”

“He’s upset about all these PA men in the building, with their guns and uniforms.  I think he’s a little jealous.”

“Do you think he suspects anything?

“No,” James answered.  He poured himself a drink out of a lead crystal decanter.  “He’s just upset that the PA is here and they have more toys than the Grass Roots folks do.  And he’s upset that the union people are getting the plant expansion they wanted.  And he found out about the new Environmental Operations wing of the PA, so he isn’t happy about that either.  He’s worried that he is going to get squeezed out of the environmental business.

“That’s the problem with the ‘Big Tent,’ theory,” James continued. “Eventually there aren’t enough resources for everybody under the tent.  Then somebody has to get kicked out of the tent.”

“He’s going to have a fit when Grass Roots goes away.”

“When Grass Roots goes away, he won’t know what hit him,” James said.

“What about Bastle,” Malik asked.

“What about him?”

“I don’t trust him,” Malik said.

“You don’t think he’ll get the fuel?”

“It isn’t that Mr. Pritchard.  I’m sure he will get the fuel. I don’t trust Hugh Bowden or a lot of these others because deep down they are just thugs or bullies.  But I don’t trust him because he is too smart and too capable.  These other idiots need us.  He doesn’t.  That makes him dangerous.”

“Oh I think you’re just being a little paranoid Malik,” James said.  “We can manipulate him, just like the others.  We’ve got him getting the fuel don’t we?”

“We’ve got him getting the fuel because we have Tien in jail.  He isn’t getting it for his own material gain.  He’s smart enough to have an agenda beyond just what he can get for his own benefit and wealth.  I don’t think we can buy his loyalty as perhaps he’s led us to believe.”

“You think he’ll screw us on this deal, Malik?”

“No Mr. Pritchard,”  Malik answered.  “He’ll get us the fuel.  It’s what he does next is what worries me.”
Link Posted: 9/10/2009 10:01:33 AM EDT
[#8]
I just found this story - GREAT WORK SHARKMAN!!!!
Link Posted: 9/11/2009 4:44:44 PM EDT
[#9]
Thanks for this new chapter.  Keep it going.  As I have said before this story is excellent.
Link Posted: 9/11/2009 9:13:00 PM EDT
[#10]
Still going strong.  It really makes my day when a new chapter goes up.
Link Posted: 9/12/2009 1:20:20 PM EDT
[Last Edit: sharkman6] [#11]
Chapter 14:  Last section.

When Sean and Jim returned from the compound, they found Chris waiting for them in Sean’s study.  Sean gave Chris the details of their latest tasking from James Pritchard.  

“Where are we getting the fuel to make it up there,” Chris asked.

“Pritchard.  He’s providing the startup fuel, the tankers, and the money to buy everything.  We just need to make the run for him.  We’ll get with Judy and Hoang to get the trucks and drivers.  I want you to come too Chris.  We’ll have over 20 vehicles on this job; I’ll need some help with the command and control.”

Chris nodded his head.  “This will be a big operation. How much time do we have?”

“A week.”

Chris thought it over.  “It’s not much time, but not unrealistic.  We’ve hit tighter timelines before.”

“Either of you wondering why he’s going to all this trouble,” Jim asked from a corner of the room.

“The government degenerated into a kleptocracy.  He’s probably going to use the fuel to buy himself a new house, or a new mistress.  Or both.”

“But why use us?  If he needs trucks he has Hugh Bowden.  Or he could go to Tien directly.  He doesn’t need you.  And he can’t be so foolish as to think he can trust you completely.”

“So what are you suggesting?”

“Maybe he’s gotten us involved because he has to get this fuel.  Maybe it is about more than just some personal gain.  As in, not getting this fuel is not an option for him.  He is impressed with your abilities, he always says so.  Maybe he’s using you because he cannot afford to fail on this one.  If he has a lot riding on getting this fuel, he’d use somebody he knows will get the job done.”

Chris and Sean looked at each other.  “It is a possibility Sean.  Stumpy said that James had some big wig over the other day.  He was giving this new guy a tour of the place.”

Jim chimed back in. “You are always saying the Progressive elements have an agenda, maybe this is part of it.”

“Maybe,” Sean said.  “In the big scheme of things it isn’t much fuel though.   It’s not like it’s enough to run the county for very long.  I assumed he was using it for his own gain.  If it isn’t for that, what could it be?”

“I don’t know,” Jim said.  “You’re the Boss. I just drive the truck.”

Everybody chuckled at that.  But when the humor subsided, Chris spoke.  “Jim, why don’t you round everybody up so we can pass the word?  Judy is around here somewhere.  Find her too.” Jim nodded and headed out the door.  Once he left,   Chris spoke.  “I’m glad we kept him around.  For an ex-greenie, he’s a worker.”

“As I recall, you weren’t too keen on the idea of keeping him.”

“I admit it. I got that one wrong.”  After a pause, Chris spoke again.  “Boss, there are some other things we need to talk about.”

“Yes?”

“You listen to the news on the way home?”

Sean shook his head no, so Chris explained.  “The Sons of Liberty set off a bomb in Tacoma.  This one was in a restaurant.  The place was a PA hangout.  They killed a few PA recruits, but they also killed some civilians.”

“Jesus,” Sean said.  “I thought those cowboys got the message to knock those bombings off.  It is going to do more harm than good.”

“They seem to be under a different opinion.  They think as long as they are killing PA men, it is all good.”

“Idiots,” Sean said.  “These fools are going to stop their little revolution before it even gets started.  Maybe we can take care of that up north.”

“There is more,” Chris continued.  “They are still singing the praises of Progress.  That has me worried too.  More worried than the bombings.  That news should have cycled out by now.  Instead it is still going strong.”

“Obviously somebody doesn’t want the people forgetting how progressive principals saved us all from the flu.  If it hasn’t gone away by now…”

“It is going to get bigger,” Chris finished Sean sentence.   “It’s a full-on media blitz, or propaganda campaign or information operation.  Call it what you want, but whatever it is, they want people thinking positively about progress.”

“Makes you wonder about what is happening to the people in the camps.”

“I haven’t got time to worry about the camps,” Chris said.  “I’m worried about our people, right here.”

“I know,” Sean said.

       “We need to accelerate our own planning.”

        “I know, but we will need Tine’s economic power to make it happen.  I don’t like the idea of what’s happening here, but I don’t like the idea of my wife and kids stuck in some refugee camp in Canada because we had no way to provide for them.  We need to work our way through this challenge.  We get Tien out of jail, and get back on track.”

        “And what if they don’t let Tien out of jail?”

        “Then I’ll adjust the plan,” Sean said.  “Right after I kill Pritchard.  If he lied to me and thinks he can get me chasing my tail…”

        Sean thought a moment, and then spoke again.  “Speaking of killing people, Malik Jackson had some interesting things to say.”  Sean went on to explain the conversation in the elevator.  

        “You think Malik likes us?”

         “I think Malik knows that if I kill Bowden or Bowden kills me, it is good for Malik.”

         Chris agreed, then when on to discuss his meeting with the Sheriff.  He didn’t leave out any of the details. “The Sheriff wasn’t much help,” he said. “It looks like he’s been hitting the bottle pretty hard, maybe sleeping in his office too.  I don’t think he’s dealing with what’s going on very well.”

“The Sheriff is a good man,” Sean said.  “I’m sure everything that is going on has him conflicted.  There are a lot of morally and ethically gray areas he needs to work in right now.”

“You don’t seem to have those problems,” Chris said.

“I’ve spent more time working in the gray areas than the Sheriff has.”

After a long pause, Chris spoke.  “The elections in Iraq are this week.”

“Good.  Maybe sometime soon we can finally get some good news.”
Link Posted: 9/12/2009 5:08:48 PM EDT
[#12]
Keep up the good work.  Thanks

Ron
Link Posted: 9/23/2009 3:05:08 PM EDT
[#13]
It keeps getting better, man.
Link Posted: 9/24/2009 12:15:21 AM EDT
[Last Edit: sharkman6] [#14]
Chapter 15


In today's world, however, the number of children in a family is a matter of profound public concern. The law regulates other highly personal matters. For example, no one may lawfully have more than one spouse at a time. Why should the law not be able to prevent a person from having more than two children?

From the book, ECOSCIENCE, coauthored by John Holdren, White House “Science Czar”


“We do most of our business in Vancouver,” Judy said.  “But there is a large black-market camp out here in the mountains.” She leaned over a map spread out on the long conference table in the compound’s patrol room.  All of the key personnel were assembled and they were going over some of the initial considerations for going north. Using a long slender finger, Judy pointed to a spot on that map east of Vancouver but just north of the U.S. Canadian border.  

“Right here is a tent city built on a black-market, cross-border smuggling economy.  With the amount of fuel we need, we’ll have to go there.”

“Will they have that much fuel there?”

Judy nodded.  “An oil company is set up there with industrial tanks.  They move raw stuff out of the North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, refine it in Canada. Then it gets stored here because it is easy access to the border and the smuggling routes down the I-5 corridor.”

“Which oil company,” Chris asked.

Judy smiled.  “A big one.”

She continued.  “This camp is one big smuggling center, so anything you want, you can get there; guns, black market medical supplies, luxury goods, precious metals, foreign currencies, drugs, you name it.”

“Buy and sell,” Sean asked.   Judy nodded.  “Anything we can sell to get us some more liquidity, we need to take with us,” Sean said to the group.

“What about more guns,” Somebody asked.  “With all this talk about states leaving the union, we should get ourselves some more weapons.”

“Except for a few choice items, let’s stick with cash,” Sean replied.  “It is easier to go to war without weapons than without money.”
 
“Do you have enough trucks and drivers to make this run,” Chris asked Judy.

“No problem.  I’ve got more than enough volunteers to make this run.”

“Good.  We’ll need a couple extra trucks, just in case.”  Chris turned to JD.  “We got anything that can recover one of these big rigs if they go down?”

“Nope,” the mechanic said.  “If one goes down, we’ll have to fix it, tow it with another truck, or leave it.”

“What about the pickup that got his by the IED,” Sean asked.

“The truck is wrecked.  I can salvage it for parts, but it wouldn’t be safe to put on the road again.  We still have the two spare trucks.  I can get them ready.”

“Get them ready,” Sean said. “We’ll need them.  Well also take your wrecker and our two fuel trucks.  We might as well get ourselves some fuel while we’re up there.”

“This is getting to be a big operation,” Davis said.

“Yes,” Jim smiled.  “I think that is why we got the job.”

Judy asked another question.  “What about Hoang?  He wants to go too.”

      “No,” Sean said.  His tone calm, but firm. Once the word got out about this mission to get Tien out of jail, everybody wanted to go.  While he appreciated their enthusiasm, Sean could not take everybody.  There were only so many spaces in the vehicles and things still needed to get done at home. In some case, people could do more good by staying home than going on the run to Canada.  As a leader, Sean had to carefully consider how he employed his manpower.

      “Hoang’s got his head half-way busted open.  I want him to stay here and try to get in and see Tien.  I don’t know what they are doing to Tien in jail, if anything. But, if somebody keeps trying to visit him, they might think twice about any rough stuff.”  

      “Can I come?  I’m good with a rifle and can drive just as good as any of Judy’s people.”  The voice came from the back of the room.  It was Marcus.  Somehow he managed to get inside the patrol room.  Davis cringed a little when Marcus spoke.  

       Sean looked at Marcus, considering whether or not to take him. “I need you here.  You’re our eyes and ears in the aircraft plant.  Plus, with all the attacks lately, we could use another gun hand around here.”

Marcus protested.  “But I want to go.”

“No, you need to stay here,” Sean said calmly.

“But I can help.  I deserve to go too!”  Marcus’s protests stirred up some others in the room.  Before those murmurs could get any louder, somebody put a stop to it.

“Everybody can’t go!”  Chris, normally quiet and laid back, took control of the room with the tone and volume of his voice.  “We only have so many seats in the vehicles, and we still have things that need to get done here.  So, not everybody is going.  Any more protests go through me, not the Boss.  If I say ‘no,’ it means no.  No protests.  This is a military operation, or at least a para-military one.  If your skin isn’t thick enough to take no for an answer, this isn’t the place for you.”

Everybody took in his words and seemed to agree, with one exception. Marcus sat back and folded his arms.  He obviously was not happy with the decision.  Davis made a mental note to go talk to Marcus later.

“What about Judy’s drivers,” somebody in the back said. “Some of those guys don’t even speak English.”

“Judy can help with that,” Sean answered.

Somebody tried to protest, but Chris cut them short.  “It’s a challenge we have to deal with.  That’s all.  Let’s move on.”

Everybody waited for Sean.  After a pause, he spoke slowly.  “One of many challenges we have to deal with.  But our biggest challenge right now is time.  Pritchard want the fuel by the end of the week.  

“In an hour, we’ll publish a warning order.   That will give you all a heads up as to what we’re doing and let you all start your general preparations.  While that’s going on, Chris and a few others and I will start working out the detailed plan.  But make no mistakes, time is a factor.  For a couple of reasons.  One of which is this: We don’t know what they are doing to Tien.  If they are putting the screws on him, on a long enough timeline they get whatever information they are looking for out of him.“

After everybody left, only Chris and Sean sat in the patrol room.  Neither spoke. They just looked at each other.  Chris smiled, then Sean smiled, and they both almost started laughing.  

“Think we can pull this off,” Chris asked.

“Yeah,” Sean said, nodding as he spoke.  “It won’t be pretty, but we’ll make it work.”
––––
After the ambulance dropped him off, Doc Douglas Hyde crossed through the gate and made his way into the compound’s patrol room.  He was looking for Chris to let him know Grandpa’s status.  

Doc Hyde always thought he would be a career Navy man.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t how things turned out for him.  Technically, he was in a deserter status from the Navy, not that anybody was looking for him.

Doc started his Navy career just in time to enjoy the benefits of the Global War on Terror.  After his initial medical training, Doc volunteered to serve with the Marines.  After additional training, Doc Hyde found himself in the position of a platoon Corpsman for an infantry platoon just in time for the invasion of Iraq.  If it wasn’t for the patience and mentoring of his Lead Petty Officer, Doc Hyde would have been “lost in the sauce,” as the unit made its way north into Baghdad.   The Marines and Sailors took care of Doc, and he did the same.  When the invasion was over, Doc couldn’t see himself going back to the “Blue side,” of Navy Medicine.  The Marine Corps, or the “Green side,” was the place for him

After the invasion came more deployments.  Doc stayed home long enough to find a wife and have a daughter, but not long enough to stay married.  On his fifth tour he came back from a patrol to find an envelope waiting for him.  Sitting on top of the dam in Haditha Iraq, he opened it to find divorce papers.  The papers came filled out and had little sticky tabs with arrows on them to show Doc where to initial and sign.  The divorce was amicable.  She loved her sailor, but she couldn’t live a life with a husband who was never around.

Near the end of that tour, his chief pulled him into his office and told him he needed to go back to the Blue side for awhile to get a break.  Then Petty Officer Hyde protested, but the Chief wouldn’t hear it.

“You are taking a break.  The fact that you don’t think you need one, means you need one,” the Chief said. Chiefs run the Navy, and through his connections, Doc Hyde’s Chief got him assigned as close to his ex-wife and Daughter as he could; at the Naval Hospital in Bremerton, Washington State.

      The work at the hospital was easy, but not fulfilling.  The Blue side wasn’t the Green side. But Doc had the advantage of being just a ferry ride away from his ex-wife and daughter who lived near Seattle.  

      After the seizure came the flu pandemic. Between the seizure, the flu, and all the chaos that came with them, Doc decided he had to leave to check on his family.  At this point the phones were out, crime had gone rampant, and Doc hadn’t heard from his ex-wife or daughter in weeks.  He packed up his truck and left to find his family.  The ferry system stopped running to prevent the spread of the flu, so Doc drove across a good portion of Western Washington to get to Seattle.  After dodging roadblocks and checkpoints manned by both police and people who clearly weren’t police, Doc made it to his ex-wife’s house only to find it empty. His ex-wife and daughter didn’t leave a clue as to where they went.  To this day, Doc had no idea what happened to his family.  Maybe they were dead, maybe they were in a camp, but maybe they were safe in some unknown location. Doc hoped for the later, but he knew it wasn’t likely.

    Not really knowing what to do next, Doc wandered around the area looking for signs of his family.  One day he found himself sitting in a bar.  Wondering what to do next, Doc found a familiar face.  Into the bar walked three men.  All three carried weapons and walked with the confidence of men who were certain of their place in the world.  Doc recognized one of the men.  It was Cody, a marine he’d served with in Iraq.

    “We’re working in a sort of militia group,” Cody told him.  “The Boss is a marine, a ‘Sir,’ type.  He’s got us organized.”  That seemed like a good enough deal to him.  Doc joined up on the spot, and as the only Corpsman, the group welcomed him.

Doc felt he did the right thing by looking for his family, but he did have a regret. He regretted he didn’t make Chief.  “Chief,” was a rite of passage in the Navy, it symbolized both professional achievement and personal commitment.   At some point, Doc knew he’d have to come to terms with his deserter status.  

Doc Hyde walked into the patrol room and collapsed into a chair.  The room was empty, save Chris, who was checking names off a list on a clip-board.

“Welcome back,” Chris said.  “How is Grandpa?”

Doc pulled a pistol out from the small of his back and set it on the map covered table.  “He’ll live,” doc Hyde answered.  “But he’s in a bad way.  That makes his fifth IED; if you count the times he got hit overseas.  The human body can only take so much.  He needs to not be going on anymore convoys.”

“I hear we’re going to Canada?”

“How do you know that?”

“News travels fast, even if the power is out most of the time.  I’ll get my gear ready.”

“We’re glad you’re back in time. We thought maybe you got a job with that ambulance company.”

“Well, since it got taken over by the government during the seizure, it isn’t really a company any more.  And, those EMT’s told me they haven’t been paid in two months.  They’ve been grabbing patient meals at the hospital to feed their family.”

“That’s not so good.”

“No, it isn’t good.  Nothing out there looked real good.  The hospital looked wrecked.  The whole place looks like its falling apart.  Dirty, things broken that should be fixed.  Lights not working.  Walls need painting. They have a whole hallway full of broken medical equipment.  They cannibalize parts off the broken machines to keep the others working. The whole city looks that way.  Well, the parts of the city that are dressed up with Progress propaganda look alright, but the rest of the city looks bad.  All the houses look like they are about to fall over.  The building that the Grass Roots and James Pritchard work out of looks good though.”

They both chuckled a little at that.  There wasn’t much else you could do.  After a few moments, Chris asked Doc something that had been eating at him since Grandpa got hauled off.  

“I’ve got my little sleeping problems, as you know.  And I know Davis sees you as well.  Not that long ago we watched Sean beat a guy to death with a pistol to the point the pistol broke.  Now Grandpa is out of action because of past injuries.  My question is, just what kind of shape are we in medically?”

Doc took a few moments to think about his answer.  “Rarely is something all good or all bad.  The good news here is that we have group with a tremendous amount of combat experience.  That’s a tremendous asset. But, that experience comes with a price.  The emotional scars and baggage we are all carrying around is the price for the experience we bring to the table.  I hate to say it, but it’s the price of doing business.”

Doc went on, “I’m guessing that you are asking because you expect something on the horizon.”

Chris nodded.  “I don’t know what is going to happen.  But the way things are going, it seems like it is only a matter of time before this country enters another Civil War or Revolution or some other clash of arms.  When that happens, I need to know where we stand.  Are these guys capable of entering another war?  Can we even employ them?”

“I don’t know if we are a militia or a guerrilla outfit or what, but whatever we are, the medical readiness of this command is my responsibility.  If comes time stop this ‘progress,’ in its tracks, I will ensure they are medically ready to the best of my ability.  What we do next is up to you and the Boss. You take care of the one, and I’ll take care of the other.”

“Fair enough,” Chris said.

––-

Malik’s office was not nearly as big as Pritchard’s office, and the view wasn’t nearly as nice.  Malik didn’t need or want the big corner office.  Such amenities came with a price.  He preferred to be the man behind the scenes, working to make it all happen.  Right now work involved the military liaison, Lt. Colonel Kwon.  The Marine had some concerns for Malik to address.
“It is my training schedule.  You canceled it so they PA can attend a series of political rallies next week.”  

“So?” Malik asked.  “What about it?”

“I need to get these PA men trained up.  Right now they are just a bunch of people toting guns around.  I’m supposed to turn them into cohesive fighting units.   I can’t do it if they are going to be in political rallies all the time.”

“The rallies take priority over everything else.”

The Marine tried to protest, but Malik cut him off.  “We need those rallies to accomplish our political objectives.”

“Well what about the factory? The factory is supposed to be producing equipment for the PA.  But all those union workers are supposed to be at the rallies too.  How can we get anything done if everybody is at the rallies all day long instead of doing their jobs?

The Lt Col pointed out the window to the bay. “The Naval Station.  I’m supposed to have PA monitoring teams on every unit and every ship there.  And the Marine detachment too.  I don’t even have those teams picked yet, let alone trained up.”

“Colonel, I think you have it backwards.  Those rallies are your job.  The political goals of this administration are the number one priority.  Without the political agenda, there is no need for a trained and equipped PA.”

“So the PA goes along untrained and unequipped?  How are we going to accomplish all these goals without a trained and equipped force?”

“We have the will of the people,” Malik said. “They tell me that will be enough.”

“I take more than just will to win wars.  In case you forgot, there are still a lot of people who don’t believe in Progress, and I don’t think they are just going to stand idly by as we consolidate power.”

“Don’t try to sell me on the notion you are some warfighter Kwon,” Malik said.  “I know your history.  What do they call it? The Iron triangle?  You went from the Pentagon to the Marine Base in Quantico to the Marine Corps Headquarters and then back again your entire career.  You spent the last six years as a legislative aide in the Capital.  You’ve never seen combat.  You are a political appointee who came here for political reasons.  You want to make general and have hitched your wagon to this Progress movement to make it happen.

“As a politician yourself, you can appreciate that the military objectives of what we are trying to achieve come second to the political objectives.  After all, this is a political operation, not a military one.

“Now, you and the PA can train on your own time, but the word is you’re people will rally to support whatever message the White House delivers next week, and that is what you’ll do.”

The Marine left, and he left unhappy, but Malik didn’t care about the man’s happiness.  After the officer left, Malik got up and locked the door.  He needed some peace and quiet. Looking out his window, Malik watched some union workers putting up another mural.

This new mural depicted a woman and her child.  The woman was reaching up to stack a can of food in a pantry already full of them.  She looked over her shoulder and down at a little girl who appeared to be her daughter.  The daughter pointed an accusing finger up at her mother.  The little girls face held a look of scorn and disgust.  The woman had a look of guilt.  She looked as if she’d been caught in the act of some crime, and according to the mural, she had.  The mural’s caption read:

[
HOARDING FOOD IS A CRIME AGAINST SOCIETY


Malik appreciated the good work this artist did.  The power of the mural wasn’t just that it admonished food hoarding as a crime.  In fact, as far as Malik knew, food hoarding wasn’t officially a crime, at least not yet.  The power of the mural lie in the way it presented the mother and child.   The mother was the criminal, doing wrong.  She was not just committing crimes that didn’t just violate the law, but hurt society as a whole.  The child was the enforcer, pointing out the error of her elder’s ways.  The old, and the old ways, were criminal.  It was up to the new generations to do what was right.  And through various forms of media, including murals like this one, painted on the side of a building in the sleepy city of Maysville Washington, the government would show this new generation the way things should be.

“I’m glad I don’t have any children,” Malik said to himself.

––-

The rain picked up and it took the full setting of the windshield wipers to clear the glass so Paul Linggi could see to drive.  Even so, he crept along the elevated road through the farm land. The weather limited visibility to just a few dozen meters.  The heavy rain would not last long, and the rain wouldn’t last all day.  But this was still wet country. At least a little rain had fallen every day for the past 20 days.  That was not unusual for the part of Washington State.  Still, it was not good either.  The fields on either side of the road had a few inches of standing water in them.  Beneath the standing water, the mud would be several inches deep

     Despite the rain and standing water, no flooding took place so far.  If it did, it wouldn’t be Paul Linggi’s problem. The FEMA man received notice he’d been reassigned.  The official letter sat on the passenger seat across from him in the full-size pickup.  His new assignment would be supporting James Pritchard’s staff.  

The man coming out to replace him wasn’t even a member of FEMA.  Instead, he was a member of the “Social Responsibility” wing of the PA whose Ivy League degrees in Social Awareness and Environmental Justice somehow made him qualified to deal with the floods.  Paul made a call back to his superiors in FEMA to ask when the new guy would be out here.  They answered that it was hard to say, transportation networks were unreliable.  The commercial airline industry got seized by the government, and now many planes never got into the air.  Rumors circulated that the Transportation Czar was going to require citizens to purchase travel passes in order to travel more than 100 miles from their home address.   On the radio, talking heads discussed the benefits of such a plan.  Not only would this have the benefit of reducing the burden on the stressed transportation networks, but less people traveling would benefit the environment as well, and make the highways safer because there would be less traffic.  And of course, it would provide another revenue stream to the already cash poor government.

After Paul heard the non-news on his replacement, he asked when he could expect to get paid.  This was a reasonable question, since he hadn’t been paid in a month.  Again, Paul got a veiled response of essentially, “I don’t know.”  There were many reasons why the old firefighter hadn’t gotten paid.  The banking system had more or less been taken over by the government, with the predictable declines in efficiency. The modernized banking system needed power and computers to handle things like direct deposits and EFT’s, but with America’s power and communications infrastructure on the verge of collapse, the modernizations became more of a hindrance than a help.  The old ways to transfer and track money weren’t always possible.  And there was the obvious reason that Paul wasn’t getting paid; because the government had no money to pay him.

But the lack of pay didn’t bother him as much as the new assignment.  Why did he have to go manage the logistics of the local County Executive? The county staff should do that.  And if not them, then the Grass Roots or the PA or any of the other Quasi-government agencies running around and springing up left and right.  Paul’s expertise lay in managing the logistics to prepare for, prevent, mitigate and manage disasters.  If the rains kept up, flooding would happen.  Why he’d be pulled from one duty to another made for a good question.

One answer seemed obvious: James Pritchard didn’t have anybody who could do it for him.  The Grass Roots were very good at spouting rhetoric and being passionate about the many forms of Progress, but they failed in any task of substance.   They couldn’t plan, they couldn’t produce, and they couldn’t realize just how little they actually contributed.  They were a group of people who were appointed to positions of power based on their college degrees and political affiliations, not on their substantive accomplishments.  What did it even mean to have a degree in ‘Social Justice,’ Paul asked himself.

And what was worse, Paul knew that working on a staff made up of these many personalities would not be easy, especially for somebody in his position.   Just like his pay, all resources were tight and getting tighter.  Nobody produced much of anything anymore.  Manufacturing, decreasing all the way up to the seizure, had only gotten worse once the government took everything over.  And not only were new things not be produced, but the tools and talent needed to repair the old things were hard to find as well.  Spare parts were cannibalized from old equipment.  Schools that once taught things like engineering or other useful trades either shut down or changed their curriculum to reflect the radical political currents.  The numbers of engineers and scientists coming out of Universities went down, but the number of young men and women graduating with degrees in things like “Social Networking” and, “Global Sexual Justice,” went up.  These men and women hit the workforce with nowhere to go but the government and its many official and semi-official agencies.  

Resources dwindled as the number of government agencies looking to consume them increased.  That wouldn’t bode well for Paul, since his job centered on managing those resources.

Paul continued driving.  He crested a hill and when he did, the rain eased up enough for Paul to see the city of Maysville under a bank of gray clouds and lightly falling rain.  James Pritchard’s headquarters building loomed in the distance.

––––

The compound buzzed with chaotic activity.  Judy and her truckers arrived with the empty tankers James Pritchard provided.  Every available foot of empty street had a vehicle staged in it.  Chris ran from vehicle to vehicle with a clip board, tallying the passengers and passing instructions.  Another veteran used hand motions and a liberal amount of cursing and shouting to get vehicles arranged in a proper manner.  JD had all the tool cabinets on his modified tow truck opened and conducted a last minute inventory of all his tools and supplies.  Jim heard Judy up the street yelling in a mix of English and Vietnamese.  All the coming and going, the shouting and flurries of last minute activity had at one time seemed alien to Jim, but he’d become increasingly accustomed to it.  The hustle and bustle and the underlying sense of urgency with which everything got done once a decision was reached was the new normal.  Jim saw that he veterans were obviously comfortable with it all.  This, he decided, must be a part of what war is like.

All the briefs and planning processes were over.  The veterans did their best to mirror their usual procedures, but the integration of all the new personnel unfamiliar with the standard ways of doing business made it necessary to adjust a few things.  The good news was that they remained on track with their timeline.  Judy and her truckers picked up the tankers earlier.  There were a few spare trucks, and a few trucks carrying cargo for either delivery or sale in Canada.  Sean got the money from Malik.  The only thing left were those numerous last minute preparations that always surfaced.

Sean’s truck stood staged near the front of the formation.  Sean, Jim and Hooker loaded some last minute cargo.  In the bed of the command truck, Sean and Hooker secured a motorcycle. Jim arranged some weapons and ammunition and medical gear in the cab for optimum access.  Green metal ammo cans full of extra magazines and drums for the RPK and RPD were staged in both the cab and the bed. Wrapped around the front brush-bar was a heavy tow rope. CB antenna sprung up from the front and back for the truck, connected to four separate radios inside the cab.  As Jim completed the checks and preparations on the vehicle he and Sean shared, he caught the approach of a uniformed man out of the corner of his eye.  He turned to see Major Ski flanked by two armed and armored Marines.  

“Nice ride,” The Major said.  

“Thanks, it is an Indian Chief.  1937.”

“I didn’t know you rode.”

“It wasn’t for me,” Sean said.  “My Dad and my little brother restored it. It was supposed to be my brother, but he didn’t have room for it at his place, so my dad kept it.  Once my brother got a bigger place, my dad was going to deliver it to him.”

“Where is your brother now?”

Sean shrugged his shoulders.  His eyes, fixed on the bike, got a distant look.  “Who knows?  I haven’t heard from him or his family since the seizure.  He’s probably dead.  Maybe they are in a camp somewhere.  Anyway, it’s time to sell.  I figured we could take it with us and sell it up north.”

“You’re selling the bike your dad rebuilt for your brother?”

The Major looked around and saw a few other trucks had motorcycles in the back.

“Those part of your dad’s collection too?”

Sean nodded. “I’m selling the whole collection.  We need the money.  Well, we may need the money. I guess this is what they meant by the ‘fortunes’ part when they talked about pledging ‘our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

The statement made the Major a little uncomfortable.  More people than Sean Bastle mentioned the idea of some form of revolution recently.  Rather than continue down the road of revolution, the Major changed the course of the conversation.

“Since when did you start carrying one of those,” The Major said, pointing at a satellite phone hanging out of a pocket on Sean’s brown work coat.

“This is a gift from James.  He obviously wants to keep tabs on me.  Probably because of these.” Sean patted two gym bags.  “The cash James gave us to buy the fuel,” he explained.

Major Ski smiled, “You sure you aren’t gonna just take the money are run?”

“That ain’t how I operate.

The Major looked at the sky.  “It’ll be dark soon.”

“That’s the idea. Leave just before dark to maximize the hours of darkness to make the run north.”

“Taking the interstate?”

“No.  We’re staying off the highways.  We’ll drive up along the mountains.”

“That’s what I thought,” the Major said.  And that is why I am here.  I’m bringing you some information. There is a town on the way to where you are going. Leddersville.  It’s a no-name little town, but they have their own little militia group.”

“So what?  I’m sure most towns have some type of militia group by now.”

“They are a Pro-Progress Militia.  It doesn’t look like they have too many gun-hands, maybe a dozen or two at the most.  But they do run a number of criminal enterprises.  I wouldn’t put hijacking past them.”

“How do you know so much about their operation?”

“We’re keeping tabs on all the militias and para-military groups in the country.  If hostilities break out, it might be a good idea to know the capabilities, limitations and intentions of all those types of groups.”

“Does that include us?”

The Major ignored Sean’s question and continued.  “They cook drugs up there that they funnel through the Grass Roots to sell to people in the camps in Seattle and Tacoma.  They also collect protection money from the smugglers who run through their territory.”

“And they are Pro-Progress?”

“They make a lot of money selling those drugs.”

“Ex-military?”

“Not these guys.  Maybe ex-criminals.  They look mostly like hillbillies who learned a little about chemistry and found an opportunity.”

Sean asked another question.  “How do you know so much about what goes on in the camps?”

The Major didn’t blink.  “We have our sources.”  

“I’ll bet you do.”  

      Judy walked up to the group, a Heckler and Koch submachine gun slung over one shoulder.  On one thigh she wore a series of pouches that contained extra magazine for the submachine gun.  On the opposite thigh she carried a Heckler and Koch pistol in a drop holster.  Her hair was tied back in a ponytail.  Her expression was all business.

    “My people are all ready and standing by.  Chris says everything is ready to go.”

    “Good.  You ride with me.  I don’t speak Vietnamese and a lot of these drivers don’t speak English so well.”

    “I figured as much.  She tossed a backpack in the back of the pickup.”

     Sean turned to Major Ski.  “Looks like it’s about that time.”

     The Major offered his hand.  Sean took it.  That consisted of all the goodbye they needed. Sean climbed into the truck with Hooker, Judy and Jim behind the wheel.    The Major stood to the side with his security team and watched.  Trucks all over the compound rumbled to life.  If he hadn’t stood so close to Sean’s truck, he never would have heard the exchanges over the radio.  Chris, located in a truck at the rear of the formation let his Boss know that everybody was ready to go.  Sean acknowledged, and then addressed everybody over the CB radio.

All victors… all victors… This is Black 6, let’s move out.”  Judy repeated Sean’s words over the radio in Vietnamese.  Soon all the trucks were rumbling out the front gate in one long convoy headed north.  

The Major stood and enjoyed the sight of the men and machines racing off to accomplish their task.  Despite all the chaos that just took place, the movement of the convoy out the gate demonstrated the principal of military efficiency.  The vehicles and their organization projected a sense of power.  It felt good to watch it.  Sean had a good group, the Major thought.    There was so much more the Major wanted to tell his friend, but now was not the time.  

––––

Not long after the convoy left and the sun set, Gerry Sheely found himself dealing with problems of his own out in the valley. The rain started not long after the sun set.  Now the dark cool rain splashed all around him.  Gerry looked up to the sky and let the cold drops hit his face.  

“What should we do Gerry,” another farmer asked.  Turning from the sky, Gerry focused on the task at hand.  The violence against the farmers had escalated. Now it wasn’t animals that lie dead.  It was people.  The crumpled body of a man lie just inside his front door.  He’d been shot.  In the kitchen was his wife.  She’d been beaten to death with a baseball bat.  The bat stood in a corner, still covered in gore.  In a room down the hall, the teenage son, the only one left after the real flu pandemic from two years ago, cried while Gerry’s wife tried to console him.

“You think the Sheriff will do anything, Gerry,” another farmer asked. A small group of them assembled at the scene of the crime.  Some advocated violence against the transplants, but more were scared.  Most expected the Sheriff to come in and take care of these new people, but Gerry and a few hardliners didn’t have so much faith.

 Gerry looked back up and let the cool rain splash onto his bare face again.  “I don’t know.  But if we do that, who knows what the next step will be.  The government put these guys here in the first place. Maybe they put them here to do this.  They’ve attacked our property, now they’ve attacked us.  But if the authorities put them here to do this, I don’t know how much help the Sheriff will be.”

“Maybe we should go over there and kill these guys ourselves.”

Gerry didn’t answer that question.

Link Posted: 9/24/2009 3:39:10 PM EDT
[#15]
Yet another great chapter. You have a gift, I think this story when finished needs to be in hardback.
Link Posted: 9/24/2009 4:33:31 PM EDT
[#16]
Excellant story, well written. The scenario sure does compare to the current times. Keep it up!
Link Posted: 9/24/2009 9:23:21 PM EDT
[#17]
Originally Posted By kaiserworks:
Yet another great chapter. You have a gift, I think this story when finished needs to be in hardback.


That may be the idea, depending on how much interest there is to follow these characters into a 2nd and maybe 3rd book.

Anything not working in this story for anybody?
Link Posted: 9/24/2009 11:22:22 PM EDT
[#18]
I like it so far i just need more of it hahaha!!
Link Posted: 9/26/2009 12:28:40 AM EDT
[#19]
Originally Posted By Berserker179:
I like it so far i just need more of it hahaha!!


Here you go
Link Posted: 9/26/2009 12:34:30 AM EDT
[#20]
Chapter 16


Political power is the central issue in insurgencies and counterinsurgencies; each side aims to get the
people to accept its governance or authority as legitimate. Insurgents use all available tools—political (including
diplomatic), informational (including appeals to religious, ethnic, or ideological beliefs), military,
and economic—to overthrow the existing authority. This authority may be an established government or
an interim governing body. Counterinsurgents, in turn, use all instruments of national power to sustain the
established or emerging government and reduce the likelihood of another crisis emerging.
ARMY FIELD MANUAL 3-24: COUNTER INSURGENCY


The trip to Canada was long, but uneventful.  After a trip through wet and winding mountain roads through the Cascades, the long convoy of tankers, security trucks, and support vehicles made it to the border.  The only event in Washington occurred as they passed the town of Leddersville.  As they drove through that town, the seat of the pro-progress militia Major Ski warned them about, a man used a hand held device to record the passing vehicles.  Although they were obviously under surveillance, Sean kept the convoy moving forward.  The priority was Tien.  Sean didn’t want to have his men chasing ghost through the cold wet Washington night.

The border crossing was also a non-event.  There were no personnel on the U.S. side.   As the vehicles crossed into Canada, Jim drove his truck up to the group of uniformed Canadian guards standing post.  Judy rolled down her window, and handed one of the guards a package the size of a paperback novel wrapped with brown paper and string.  The guard took the package, and without opening it, motioned them through.  The guards didn’t search or even stop a single vehicle.   Jim got the impression that the guard and Judy had done this before.

From the border, the drive continued through winding mountain roads.  The sun broke over the glistening North Cascades not long after the border crossing.  Everything was lush and green, except for the gray stone of the mountains and the bright clean white snow on the peaks. The road continued to wind and twist until it brought the convoy to its destination.  Nestled in a draw between two rocky ridges sat their destination, the smuggling center known as Camp Martel

Camp Martel was made up of equal parts Wilde West town and rock music festival.  Not only did it serve as a hub for the illegal trade going back and forth between the United States and Canada, but it also served as a home for a variety of displaced persons from Western Europe.  French, English, Italians, Germans and Spaniards who chose not to live under the increasingly radicalized and amalgamated Europe dominated by the EU, fled here to Canada.  In some cases, groups trained and plotted for a violent return to their home countries.  Everybody in the camp carried a weapon.  Many in the camp drank too much.  Even now at the early hour, throngs of men, obviously inebriated, moved across the muddy streets.  

Tents and shacks lined the muddy center streets, contributing to the old west feel.  Some more permanent buildings were interspersed along the way.  Up one ridgeline stood about a dozen industrial sized fuel tanks, their circular steel stairs winding around them to the tops where men stood watch with rifles.  Prefabricated steel buildings near the tanks bore the logo of the oil company that ran the operation.  In a vacant plot of land on the opposite side of the valley, survey stakes and spray-painted lines indicated where to lay a cement foundation, a sig this camp would be expanding.

Prudence dictated not to bring everything into the camp at once.  Moving a little ways down the road, they found a place to stage the vehicles and set up a security until negotiations could be completed.  Although everybody wanted to experience the encampment, only Sean and a few others went forward.

It only took a few moments after the pickups pulled into the camp that two men walked up to the trucks.  Each wore a heavy work jacket with their oil company logo on it.  They looked as if they’d been waiting all morning for the convoy to show up.

“I’m guessing you from that big convoy of trucks that just crossed the border,” one said.  “You came to the right place.  We normally don’t cater to the volumes you all need, but we have a good price for you.”

“Then let’s go somewhere and talk business,” Judy said, shouldering her submachine gun and hefting out one of the two bags of money. “You hang onto the other bag until I work this out,” She said over her shoulder as she walked off with the two oil men, a couple of her drivers walking in tow for security.

“You gonna let her walk off with the money Boss,” somebody asked.

“She’ll probably negotiate a better deal than we could,” Jim said.

Chris, who’d also come into town with a small security team, jerked a thumb at the motorcycle in the bed of Sean’s truck and addressed everybody in the group.  “One of Tien’s black-market contacts is on his way here from Vancouver.  He’ll be the one we fence most of this stuff too.”

     “Right,” Sean said.  “In the meantime, we might as well have a look a look around. Remember, the idea is to be low-profile. I also see a lot of people walking around here with booze and guns, and considering it is not even nine in the morning, that may be an indicator. So, be careful.  Let’s meet back here in an hour and see where we are at.”

Chris walked up close to Sean.  “Ivan and I are going to see if we can find anything on the list.”  He held up a scrap of paper than he and Sean composed of all the weapons related items that would be worth buying.  Sean nodded approval, but added, “Be careful. I’m sure that the advocates of progress have some eyes up here.” Heeding the warning, Chris and Ivan disappeared in amongst the comings and goings of the camp.  

Not long after Chris left, two more men walked up to where the others stood.  One man carried a weapons and when Hooker noticed them approaching, he went into protection mode, stepping between the men’s line of approach and Sean.  The safety on his weapon made a metallic click as he disengaged it. When these two new men were close enough to talk the unarmed man spoke.  

“We’re looking for Sean Bastle.”

Jim moved his assault rifle to where he could employ it moved the selector from safe to automatic.  Sean, who stood at an angle to the men, also took the safety of his pistol, which he held against his leg and out of sight of the two men.

“Who are you?”

“We represent the Sons of Liberty,” the unarmed man said.

“Good,” Sean said without smiling.  “Because we need to talk.”

––––-

A smart person erected a large tent and turned it into bar.  Opening a bar in a town based on smuggling proved to be a lucrative venture for the operator.  Because Camp Martel operated outside the law, the bar operated 24 hours a day.  Even at this early hour in the day several patrons occupied the rough plywood tables in the room. Sean along with Hooker and Jim, enjoyed a drink across from the two Sons of Liberty men.

The armed man wore a set of fatigues made out of the latest camouflage pattern.  The holsters he wore on each thigh were made out of ballistic nylon also of the same pattern. In each holster rested an expensive 1911 style pistol, with camouflage grips that matched the holster and fatigues.  An expensive assault rifle with a variety of equally expensive attachments hung from the man’s back.  On his head he wore a camouflage baseball hat with a subdued patch on the front that read, Sons of Liberty.

The unarmed man wore casual clothes and glasses. He was skinny and bookish.  He initiated the conversation.  “I’m Philip Benjamin.  I represent the diplomatic wing of the Sons of Liberty.  Commander Chisum here represents the military operations of our organization.”

Sean nodded to each man. Then he spoke bluntly.  “Stop the bombings.”  This took both men off guard.  Each looked at the other.  Sitting across from them, Jim could tell this wasn’t the response they expected. Finally the diplomat spoke.

“We wanted to tell you that we appreciate the support you’ve given our cells. The money, the weapons, the other supplies you’ve given them, all of that went a long ways to supporting our cause. The certificates for the Industrial Safety and Environmental Sustainability Mandate you gave us turned out to be very profitable as well once we sold them on the black-market.”  Sean didn’t speak, so the man continues.

       “We also understand you were in the military once.  An officer?”  Sean didn’t answer the man’s question.  After a pause the diplomat continued.

“We’d like you to take command of a rather large component of our operations, a field unit.  We’re ready to give you a hundred men.  All armed, all ready to fight.  We can have them ready for you when you go back across the border.”

Sean asked, “And what would I do with these men, exactly?”

“Why fight of course,” the Commander said.  “Just think of the damage you could do to the progress movement with that many men.”

“Fight huh?  You want me to take these guys and wage war against Progress?”  Sean shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

The two men looked shocked.  “We’re offering you a company of men and you are turning us down?  Are you crazy?”

“I’m crazy enough to think ahead.  How will I house, feed and clothe these men?  How will I pay them? Who trained them, or are they even trained at all.  Where will I put them? A hundred men aren’t easy to hide.  Somebody is liable to notice I’ve got a small army running around.”

Once again the men looked at each other.  This time the uniformed man spoke.  “I’m a little bit surprised.  We thought you’d be honored to receive a command. This is a chance to fight for the new liberation of America.”

“I already have a command, and honor has nothing to do with it.  I’m not accepting any command unless I’m certain I’ll get the resources to support it.  Just feeding that many men would be nearly impossible. And how would I pay them?”

“I don’t think paying these men will be an issue,” the bookish man said. “They are all volunteers.  They are willing supporters to the cause of liberty.”

“If they have families they’ll need to be paid somehow. And we still have the issue of the tactics that you are employing.  If the only plan you have right now is to bomb your opponents into submission, you aren’t getting anything else out me.”

The camouflaged Commander spoke. “Right now bombings are all we are capable of.  It’s because men like you won’t take direct action that we’re limited.”

Sean looked the Commander up and down with angry eyes.  “Why don’t you take these hundred men down there yourself and fight? You’ve certainly got the gear for it.”

Philip jumped in quickly to avoid any heated words between the two armed men sitting by him.  “Our hope is to escalate our operations.  We feel that if our movement gains more notice, we may be able to secure outside support.  The bombings aren’t the ideal course of action, but perhaps their results will bring about the recognition we need.”

      Sean laughed.  “You say you are part of the diplomatic arm of the Sons of Liberty? No foreign government, at least none that will help you cause, is going to support you if you’re out there setting off bombs.  Terrorists blow up restaurants. You don’t want that label.”

“Plenty of governments support terrorism,” Commander Chisum replied.

“Maybe, but those governments aren’t going to support you in your fight against progress.  I think those governments like what is going on in America right now.”

Sean took a sip from his drink before continuing. “You also need to think about the people here.  Our country spent a lot of time and effort fighting terrorists who ran around planting bombs.  Do you think your bombing campaign isn’t going to turn them away from your cause?  Surely you can’t think people approve of you blowing up restaurants or teenaged kids, even if they are PA recruits.”

“I’ll admit that we have a bit of an image problem.”

“Image problem?  You have a results problem and a tactics problem.  You need to stop these bombings.  Americans associate bombing restaurants and street corners with terrorism.  You can’t afford to have that image if you want this campaign to work. You need to use tactics they won’t reject on moral and ethical grounds.  You need to clearly define your political aims and get that message out to the people.”

“How do we do that,” Commander Chisum asked.  His tone demanding and irate.  “The government controls all the media outlets now after they took them in the seizure.  They won’t let us get our message out through the regular media.”

“Of course the government isn’t going to let you put out anti-government messages. They aren’t going to give you a tool to overthrow them.  The media bias is your problem to overcome.  If the media won’t support your cause, create a media outlet of your own.”

“How?”

“I don’t know.  The internet is up, sometimes.  Set up a radio station here in Canada and broadcast into America.  Start printing an underground newspaper.  Print leaflets if you have to.  But you need to get a clear message out and you need to do it soon because the media is painting you all out to be a bunch of nut-job terrorists. In a war like this, it is as much about information as it is about fighting.  You need to get your information out to the people and at the same time discount, discredit and disprove what they are putting out.  You need to start doing this soon, because that is what the progress movement is doing, and in the information war, you’re losing."

Once again, the Commander protested, this time lacing some of his words with sarcasm. “Our bombing campaign has killed many PA men.  You can’t deny it.  Maybe it isn’t politically correct.  Maybe it doesn’t follow somebody’s bullshit rules, but it is effective.”

“The bombings are not going to win you support, local or international.  I think international support is nothing but a pipedream.  Regardless, you need to garner public support.  You need to get your information out to the people.  You need to define what your political goals are. From there, you need to develop a military plan that will that help you achieve your political goals.  You will not do it with just bombings.  That’s causing you more harm than good.”

The Commander protested again. “We’re killing PA soldiers before they can even take the field.”

“So?  You kill some PA recruits, so what.  They have plenty of recruits. What about the citizens that get killed in your bombings? What about the citizens whose support you could have won but instead you drove to the other side because of your terrorist tactics.  What about the moral and ethical implications of you actions.”

“Irrelevant.”

“Absolutely relevant.  You can’t do what you’re trying to do unless you think beyond just blowing people up.”

“Our revolution is happening,” the Commander said, so loud the few heads in the bar turned their way.  “Any American who won’t support us needs to get out of the way.  This is happening whether the average American wants it to or not.”

“So you’ll drag the American people into this kicking and screaming if you have to?”

“If that’s what we have to do, you bet we will.  We’ll do it for their own good, whether they like it or not.”

“Funny,” Sean said.  “That’s what the Progress people say.”

––––
Link Posted: 9/26/2009 12:37:05 AM EDT
[#21]
Sharkman,
    Your story so far is phenomenal.  If you publish this book down the line I will buy it.  I check this page daily looking for new chapters to read.  Your story is multidimensional and the characters are well developed.  I am completely engrossed; please keep up the great work.
Link Posted: 9/26/2009 11:39:07 AM EDT
[#22]
excellant,  moar please................................................
Link Posted: 9/26/2009 4:26:53 PM EDT
[#23]
great story.
Link Posted: 9/28/2009 9:11:36 PM EDT
[#24]
Chapter 16 Continued.


The Sheriff came out to see Gerry, but he did not come alone.  He brought with him Connor Justin of Grass Roots, and a small host of PA men.  Together, they all walked over the scene of the crime. These PA men looked the same as the ones in the headquarters building; dark blue battle dress uniforms, spray painted combat boots, and the Chinese assault rifles with the stocks removed.  All of them also carried another weapon, a short club made out of whatever was handy. Some of the men had wrapped lengths of barbed wire around their clubs. Aside from the rifles, bats and the uniforms, they were unequipped save for a few water bottles carried in the cargo pockets of their trousers.

Everything took place under the watchful eyes of other members of Gerry’s farming community.  All were curious as to how the Sheriff would handle this.  Reggie, the surviving son of the murdered couple surveyed the scene carefully as well. He sat sunken into a lawn chair in the yard as the deputies, PA men and farmers all circulated around him.  No rain fell this morning, but the thick clouds kept the sun out.

As the few deputies went through the motions of conducting an investigation, Gerry pulled the Sheriff aside to speak to him in the yard.  The Sheriff showed no signs of drinking, although Gerry certainly looked.

“First our livestock and now us.  This must stop,” Gerry told the Sheriff.“

“I know.”

“They’re just down the street.  You need to go down there and put a stop to this.”

“Who are you talking about?”

Gerry rolled his eyes.  “Is that a serious question? I’m talking about those transplants of course.  All this started when they relocated here.”

Sheriff Maltby motioned to Israel Moreno.  “He got relocated here.  You want me to go over and arrest him too?”

“Israel is a middle aged former farmer with a wife and kids.  He ain’t a teenager fresh out of jail who never saw a farm before.  I’m telling you, those kids were sent here to cause trouble and run us off. You need to go over there and stop this now, protocol be damned.  If you don’t there will be more of this.”

“I’m not doing that.”

“You did it once before.”

“I’m sick of hearing about that,” the Sheriff said.

“None of these people care what you are or aren’t sick of.  They want security.  If they aren’t going to get that from you, they might seek it out on their own. But, no matter what, once they lose confidence in you giving them protection, things will get real bad around here.”  Gerry added, “Once societies lose faith in the law, they start to collapse.”

“So what am I to do?”  The Sheriff raised his voice, and Gerry could hear the desperation in it.  “My job is to enforce the law.  If there isn’t any evidence pointing to these guys, I can’t arrest them.  I can’t just deny due process. If I abandon the law what happens then?”

“I don’t know how to answer that,” Gerry said, speaking low to calm the Sheriff down.  “You don’t have to go down there blasting like Bastle did, but you need to do something.  If only for appearances you need to do something.  Between the vandalism the livestock and this, my people have had enough.  They aren’t seeing the law as a means of providing justice and security. They are starting to see the law as a tool being used to oppress them. You need to do something.”

“I can’t just go over there and arrest them, and I sure can’t just kill them.  There has to be an investigation.  We have to follow the process. I have to enforce the laws, all of the laws.  All of this comes down on me, and if I don’t do what I was sworn to do, who upholds the law then?”

“Nobody will, and I guess that is my point.  Nobody is upholding the law, they are manipulating it.  Those people were put on that land to drive us out.  You can’t tell me they are farmers.  That’s bullshit. How does that coincide with the law?  Your ‘law’ has been abandoned by the law makers.  When that happens, what obligation are you or I under to obey the law?”

“I didn’t manipulate the laws.”

“I’m not saying you did Sheriff, and I can appreciate the difficult position you are in.  But things will get a lot more difficult around here once people lose faith that the law is inherently good.”

“Sheriff,” Connor yelled.  He motioned the law man over to the tractor he and some of the other Grass Roots and PA men stood around.  The Sheriff walked over while Gerry stayed put.  When he got to the tractor, Connor pointed to a spot on the tractor.  Together, they both discussed something.  Their discussion soon became heated, with Connor gesturing wildly, waving his arms and pointing around the farm.  The Sheriff seemed to grow weary with every word.   When they broke apart, the Sheriff walked back to Gerry and Reginald while Connor pulled a cell phone out of his dingy white Grass Roots parka.

The Sheriff carried the pain and discomfort on his face.  “Reggie, do you have the environmental certificates for that tractor over their?”

Reginald looked up, but didn’t answer.  “What are you talking about,” Gerry asked.

“I’m talking about the Industrial Safety and Environmental Sustainability Mandate.  You need to have a certificate for that tractor.  If you don’t have one, I’m afraid we’re going to have to confiscate it.”

“You can’t be serious,” Gerry said.

“I’m afraid I am.”

“Sheriff, can we speak in private,” Gerry asked. The Sheriff ignored his request.  

“Reggie, did your dad have the compliance paperwork for that tractor,” the Sheriff asked, ignoring Gerry.”

“Go to hell,” Reggie said, not even looking at the Sheriff.

The Sheriff looked at Gerry.  He could tell by the look on Gerry’s face he’d get no help. “This is important Reggie.  We need to see that paperwork.”

Connor scoffed.  “If he doesn’t have the paperwork we’re taking the tractor.”

“He’s right son,” the Sheriff said.  He tried to calm the young man with the tone of his voice. “Please, if you have the paperwork we need to see it.”

“You think I care about a damn tractor? You just took my parents away. You fucking killed them!” Reginald raged.  His chest puffed and his fists balled. On instinct, the Sheriff pulled out his pistol and leveled it at Reginald.  

“Stay back son.  You need to take it easy now.”  Reginald stopped at the sight of the pistol.  Standing to the side, Gerry became very cognizant of the semi-automatic shotgun he held at his side.   He didn’t lift it, but he placed his finger on the safety.  Before he could disengage it another voice raged out.  This time it was Israel.

“That’s how they do it.  This is how they do it,” Israel yelled to all the farmers and anybody else bearing witness.  “They get the police to take you in.  Don’t you see?  They want us all locked up in those camps!”  He raved like a lunatic.  His words became so heated that they ran together into a single babble that came out with spittle as he screamed. The other farmers, standing on the sidelines, now gathered around to get a closer view of the action.

Connor lowered his cell phone from his ear and joined in the shouting, throwing his words directly at Israel. “You ignorant hicks!  Everything we do, we do for your own good.  We provide for your safety. We stop you from poisoning the environment. We keep you from destroying the economy in your greedy quest for profits.”  

“All you do is steal from us to run your damn agenda,” Israel screamed.  “This isn’t about us; it’s about you and what you want.  We can’t even run our equipment without paying you another damn fee that you’re just going to take from us and squander away!”

Connor shouted back. “We don’t take anything from you.  When you pay for that certificate, not only do you get your money’s worth in environmental savings, but you also get your money’s worth in more government.  You get twice the value of your money when we tax you.  You should be thanking us for the government and oversight we provide you. Where would you be without us?”

That statement pushed Israel over the edge.  He clenched his fists and rushed at Connor, blinded by rage.  The Sheriff lowered his pistol, not willing to shot an unarmed man. But a PA man standing next to Connor stepped forward to cut off Israel. As Israel closed on Connor, the PA man swung his short bat with one hand and caught him right in the center of his chest.  The blow wasn’t hard enough to kill the man, but Israel collapsed to the ground, clutching himself and screaming. Gerry brought his shotgun up to his waist and leveled it at Connor and his PA goon, but didn’t fire.  The PA men raised their rifles like big pistols and pointed them back at Gerry and the farmers.  In the center of it all, Sheriff Maltby raised his arms and screamed for everybody to stop.

Connor, still on his phone, looked at the Sheriff and the farmer, then turned to the PA men and shrugged his shoulders.  The PA men lowered their weapons and then turned away to wander about aimlessly around the yard.

Gerry lowered the shotgun at his hip.  There wouldn’t be fighting today.  That didn’t matter.  There would be fighting in the future.  Any credibility Gerry’s people had in the Sheriff just disappeared, as did their faith in the law and its ability to protect them.

Connor put his cell phone away and walked up to where Gerry and the other farmers stood.  He spoke loud, addressing them all in an angry and condescending tone

“We’re still taking the tractor,” Connor said. “We’ll be back later to inspect all the other farm equipment around here and if it isn’t in compliance, we’re taking that too.”

As if on cue, a semi with an empty low-boy trailer pulled into the farm. The logo on the side of the truck read HB Green Fuels.  The others wandered off, but Gerry stayed to watch them load the tractor and take it away.

––––
Hooker, Jim and Sean looked into the back of one of the trucks.  Ivan, also standing next to them reached into the bed of the truck and pulled out a grey block with blue lettering on it.  

“Belgian,” Ivan said.  “We got one-pound and quarter-pound blocks.” What he held in his hand was a block of TNT.  Inside the truck sat a foot locker full of the grey rectangular blocks. It made for a sizeable quantity of explosives.  “We’ve also got time fuse, blasting caps and some detonating machines.  All the stuff we need to make them work.”

“Where did these come from,” Sean asked.

“Me and Chris and some of the others, we pooled our money together and bought them.  It was at the top of the list, so we decided to get it. Cheap too. You’d be amazed what you can find here.  These expats must have raided every armory in Western Europe before they left.  They’ve got everything here and they sell it all out of these bars. It’s a Canadian version of Mogadishu.”
“Any heavy stuff,” Sean asked.

“Anything is available,” Ivan answered. “There is a French guy with a couple cases of brand new Milan missiles. He’s got them loaded in a couple of 1980’s Volkswagen Vanagons.  It’s crazy.”  

“Weapons aren’t the only thing they have up here,” Chris said as he walked up behind the group. “Information is being traded as well.”  He turned to Sean he suggested, “Why don’t we take a walk?”

Chris led Sean, Hooker and Jim back down the muddy streets to another bar, this one in a long hut made of sheets of plywood and lumber. It must have been an expedient attempt at an Irish Pub because a plywood sign over the entrance read, “The Bogside.”  Underneath the title somebody had drawn a golden harp on a green background.  They all entered.  In one corner of the bar, a lone man sat at a table.  He wore a gortex jacket to protect against the cold and the wet, and a dark blue knit cap on his head.  Jim could tell by the way Sean’s face lit up that he knew the man, and they were friends.  Sean walked up to the table and the man rose.  They embraced.  

Sean asked the man, “What are you doing out here in the mountains Greeny?  You’re a long way from the water.”

The man shrugged.  “I heard this camp is a busy place.  I thought it might be a good place to see what the action is.”

Sean turned to Jim and Hooker.  “This is Sidney Green. The last we talked, Lieutenant Commander Green here worked in Naval Intelligence.”  He turned back to his old friend.  “Are you still in the N-2 Green?”

The Naval Officer smiled.  “I might be. Lots of things happen in this camp. You might think it would be a good idea for somebody to be up here keeping an eye on things.”

“What’s the story with the Sons of Liberty?  Are you supporting them?”

       Green let out a deep sigh before speaking, as if discussing the subject made him weary. “The Sons of Liberty are officially still criminals, so no, we give them no support.  Not officially, or unofficially.  No money, no training, no weapons, no intelligence sharing.  Not even a slap on the ass.  The bombing campaign they launched didn’t help.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good American’s in that group, but they are decentralized and fragmented with no clear message and they have a lot of cowboys in their ranks.  The Top Brass wants them gone. Our hope is that if things go down, we can at least give them so more clearly defined objectives, if not absorb them completely and then root out the loose cannons.”

“That ‘Commander,’ didn’t impress me,” Sean said.

Green continued.  “We had high hopes for them when they started out.  The problem was that most of their best people were ex-military.  As the military started expanding, some of their best people quit to rejoin the regular forces.  They have some good guys, but they are a decentralized operation.  It is hard for the good ones to influence some of the other cells. Anyway, I imagine there is a reason why those two are here in Canada instead of down south fighting the good fight.”

“Speaking of fighting the good fight, at what point are all these creeping encroachments going to stop,” Chris asked.  “This progressive agenda gets more radical every day. I have to think that somebody in the highest levels of government or the military is thinking about putting a stop to this.”

Green took a drink from his beer. “I think war is a foregone conclusion. The people in power right now are too radicalized, and too certain they can push their extreme agenda without significant resistance.  They truly think they have a mandate from the people.  The problem is that they believe that they have a mandate because the media tells them so.  But the media tells them that because they are complicit with the progressive government.  And of course there is no media outlet for a dissenting opinion because it’s all controlled by progressive oversight. It is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog.

“The other part of this is that the government is broke.  We can’t borrow anymore money.  Right now there is no way fund the basic functions of government, let alone maintain all the additional programs that keep getting added.   There needs to be a complete restructuring of our economy unless we change the course our government’s on.  We’re looking at possibly another ‘seizure.’  This one would be more aggressive than the last.”

Jim asked, “Couldn’t the military just go into the Capital and seize the mechanisms of government right now?”

Green shook his head.  “All the military units within 200 miles of the capital are led by pro-progressive commanders and monitored by PA officials. No, those who oppose this progress movement have accepted the fact that in order to effect the changes we desire, it will be probably be war.  Another seizure would be the triggering event for a war, and without another seizure, the government is broke.  Right now our leadership is just trying to work out all the political variables.”

“What do you mean by political variables?”

Lt Cmdr Green fidgeted a little then cleared his throat.  Sean immediately picked up on the body language and asked, “What?”

      The Navy man took a second to get started. We he finally started speaking, he spoke in a slow steady tone that conveyed the seriousness of his words.  “Most people in the military agree that the present course of action the country is on is unacceptable.  However, there is disagreement on what to do about it.  The military leadership wants to force a change at the federal level.  They want to remove the Executive branch as well as complicit members of the Legislative and Judicial branches, and replace them with leaders more in line with the Constitution.  

“But at the state level, the governors don’t want to hear that.  The states are talking succession.  They maintain that much of the United States is embracing these new ideas and policies, and that if some states like Illinois or New Jersey want to be progressive, let them. They don’t want to risk their citizens’ lives and treasure to liberate people who don’t want to be liberated.  In Texas and much of the South, they see this as a continuation of the Civil War.  

“What does the Top Brass have to say?”

“They won’t move forward without a civilian and political face to all this.  They don’t want this seen as a military coup.  This is a nation founded on civilian oversight of the military.  They want to maintain that.”

“Are any states supportive of a federal takeover?”

Green nodded.  “The Governors of the Dakotas and Wyoming are. Montana is on the fence.  Utah could go either way and Alaska may join Canada.  But the other issue is that this doesn’t necessarily translate along state lines, it is more of a demographics issue.  Urban centers are more likely to remain loyal to the present government, while rural areas are more likely to support a takeover.   Take California.  All the major cities are fiercely loyalist.  But, if you get up into places like Red Bluff and Eureka, or out to the Central Valley, not so much support for progress there.  And it goes the other way too.  Texas is spouting succession, but Austin is a major Grass Roots and PA recruiting center.  If a revolution or civil war does take place, it won’t translate into simple geographic lines.”

“No,” Sean said.  “I don’t suppose it will.  Brother against brother and all that.”

“Even in the military it’s like that.  The administration realizes that the military is its biggest threat right now, so it is taking steps to remove military leaders who oppose progress with one who are sympathetic to their cause.”

“Hence the announcement about the replacements for the Chief of Naval Operations and new Commandant of the Marine Corps,” Jim said. “And the restructuring of that Marine division.”

“Exactly,” Green replied.  “They are finding complicit military officers or bribing ones that can be bought.  There are also a lot of Generals and Admirals who know how violent a revolution will be and want no part of it, on either side.”

“How much longer do we have?”

“It got to happen soon.  The progress movement can only creep so much longer before they have to just make a bold move. From what we hear, the White House is going to make a big move right after the New Year. If that is a second seizure, that would be the triggering event that makes this all happen.”

“Any chance of a political solution,” Jim asked.

“Not likely,” Green answered.  “They are so radicalized, it’s beyond reconciliation I think, and the government has seized so much and expanded so far beyond their scope as defined by the Constitution the only way to set things straight is a total house cleaning.  Maybe we can postpone this for awhile, but I think war of some form in inevitable.

“But let’s go back to the different political goals, succession versus takeover, and how this directly impacts all of you. Washington State is strong loyalist territory.  And while Eastern Washington is a little more “Red State,” your part of Washington isn’t.  You are still under Seattle’s sphere of influence, a big pro-progress center.  Unless we have the military option with a full takeover of the federal government, and it is successful, your neck of the woods could still remain in loyalist territory once the fighting ended.”

“Yeah,” Sean answered.

“Maybe you need to think about moving.”

Sean shook his head.  “I was raised in that house.  My parents are buried in the backyard.  I’m not too keen on the idea of just walking away.  I also don’t like the idea of this country fragmenting because it is an easier option than going the full measure.”

“That’s a hard one to sell to the secessionists.  They don’t want to expend the blood and treasure to free a bunch of people who are comfortable with being enslaved.  Besides, something like that will mean a very long, very bloody war.  America has been at war since September 11th.  People are tired of war.”

Sean countered, but not in a mean or accusing tone.  “America has been at war in one form or another since its founding.  If preserving this country in the form it was intended isn’t a reason to go to war, than what is?”

“I just don’t want to see you get left out in the cold,” Green said.  “I can see you risking everything and when everything is done and the peace makers draw the new lines on the map, your back where you started; in a tyrannous socialist state.”

Sean leaned back in his chair.  He removed his hat and rubbed his throbbing head.   “You sure didn’t bring me a lot of news I wanted to hear, Green.”

“I bring you the information you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”

Chris asked Green, “Any chance of a change in political tones on our part?”

“The generals are working on it, but the governors and state politicians aren’t budging.  Unless we get a powerful political force in there, it’s not looking promising.”

“There may be a solution for you on this political dilemma.  As you know, we recruiting everybody into the military we can get.  One of the things we’re offering is protection, specifically, protection to families. The powers that be know people won’t fight if they’re worried about the safety of their families.  Right now that is one of ‘our militaries,’ highest priorities.”

“What do you mean?”

Green looked around.  “We’re quietly relocating the families of people who are loyal to our cause.  We are setting up centers in areas like Texas and Montana.  That way we can ensure their safety.  If you were to join up, we could move your families into one of these safe areas.  They’d be given homes, food, security and even jobs.”

“What kind of jobs?”

“Working in our war industries.  This fight won’t be easy, or short.  We’ll need a lot of stuff to make it happen.”

“But,” Sean said.  “If I ‘joined up,’ I’d be serving at the pleasure of some General.  That means I might not necessarily be running things up here. In fact I doubt anybody would keep me here running a platoon sized militia.  They’d role me into the ‘regular’ forces.  Probably do the same with everybody else here.”

“That’s right,” Green answered.  “You enjoy his protection, you work for him. He gets to say where you go in the organization.

“They could just tear apart the unit we’ve built,” Chris said.  “It wasn’t easy putting that together.”

“No it wasn’t,” Sean said.  “And I’m not keen about my family living in a refugee camp.  Even one in Texas or some other free state.”

“They wouldn’t be refugee camps,” Green replied.

Sean cocked his head and gave him a look.  “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”

“Not refugee camps.  They’d have protection, they’d have jobs.”

“So they’d be work camps?”

“C’mon,” Green answered. “I know how it sounds, but it is not a bad deal.  You’re family will be safe.  We get you back.  I think it’s a win-win deal.”

“I’ll put the word out to my people,” Sean said. “But my family isn’t going to any camp, friendly or otherwise.  And as much as I appreciate the offer, I’ll be staying in my part of progress-hell.  If there is fighting to be done, that is where I’ll do it.”

Green tried to say something, but Chris cut him off.  “We’ve already made preparations.”  The statement not only provided information, but let Green know the topic wasn’t up for discussion any more.

“So this could all go down and at the end of the day Washington State is still under the control of Progress,” Jim asked. He shook his head and chuckled a little.  It seemed like they could never catch a break.

“Probably worse.  If a peace treaty of some sort went down and you were on the other side, not only would you have to worry about being punished for not being a friend of Progress, but any treaty would give credibility and legitimacy to the Progressive government.  The Progress Movement would have a mandate.  With that kind of legitimacy they’d be able to push more policies through.”
“It would energize them,” Chris added.

“Right,” Green replied. “And with all the opposition living in the ‘Red-States,’ they’d have an even tighter hold of power.”

Sean leaned back in his chair.  He spoke, addressing nobody in particular.  “If it goes to war, it needs to be a war all the way.  No half measures.  We need to fight to preserve the union.  None of this separation business.”

“That will be decided by people who aren’t sitting at this table,” Green said.  

“So what else do you know Green,” Sean asked.
\
“How long have you got?”

Before Sean could answer, Jim pushed his chair back from the table and stood up.  “I’ll get us another round.”

The conversation continued until Judy entered the bar.  When she did, all heads turned.  She walked in with confidence.  Striding over to the table, she took a seat next to the others, grabbed the shot glass in front of Jim and downed it.  Indicating Green, she asked, “Who is this?”

“That’s Lt. Commander Sidney Green,” Chris answered.  “He used to be in Naval Intelligence. We asked if he still is but he never really answered us.” Green smiled and the two shook hands.  Judy grabbed another shot glass of the table and killed that.

“We’ve got our fuel and we got it at a little better price than expected.”

“Any cash left over.”

“No,” Judy replied.  “The extra money I used to fill up our own fuel trucks.  The price was too good to pass up.  The trucks are being fueled now.  We should be done in a few hours. And Mike is back where we circled up the wagons, taking a look at all the stuff you want to unload.”

“Any word on that?”

“No, but he did want to talk to you in person Sean.”

“About what exactly?”

“He wasn’t specific,” Judy said.  “But he used the word ‘business proposal,’ a few times.”

Sean turned to Green.  “Looks like we need to go.  It was good to see you Green.”

Green smiled. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”

––––
Walking back to the trucks from the bar, Sean spoke to the group.

“I don’t like it, but he makes a point.  I can understand why some governors wouldn’t be too keen to wage a war to unite a country when some parts of the country would be best left to their progressive ideals.  I won’t use the term states, but you have certain localities in this country that have utterly failed in their responsibilities not just in regards to their political leaders, but they have failed in their fundamental duties as American citizens as well. If you were the governor of say, Texas, why would you risk the lives and treasure of Texans to unify parts of America that not only embrace the principals of progress, but would also be a drain to the communities around them?  

“In some places in this country, graft, corruption, crime, ignorance, a ‘blame others’ mentality, and a blind acceptance of the status quo are a way of live.  Decades have passed, and the only thing that has changed in these places is who they blame and how loudly they shout.  Without dramatic changes in these places, why would you take the risks to bring them into the fold? They are an additional burden that would just go back to the old progressive ways.  You won’t convince somebody in these secessionist states to go liberate a place like Chicago, if when they do Chicago goes back to its infamous Chicago style politics.

“Still,” Sean said.  “I would hate to see the United States broken and fragmented.  Despite everything going on, this is a good nation.  We need to get it back on track, not break it apart.”

“The Progressives have a unifying political agenda.  We need the same,” Chris said.  Sean nodded in agreement.  

“Maybe you should start campaigning Boss,” Jim said.  

“No,” Sean replied.  “I’m no politician.  I only study politics because it relates to another art.”  As soon as he said that, gunfire erupted up the dirty street.  A man, clearly drunk, stood in the middle of the camp firing an assault rifle into the air on full-auto for no apparent reason.  Soon, other joined in with him and a dozen weapons were going off.  

“C’mon,” Sean said.  “Let’s get out of here before one of us gets shot by these yahoos.
Link Posted: 9/29/2009 3:24:20 PM EDT
[#25]
Good story.  Thanks



Ron
Link Posted: 9/29/2009 7:19:26 PM EDT
[#26]
More please
Link Posted: 9/29/2009 8:53:21 PM EDT
[#27]
Great story I look forward to the rest of it.
Link Posted: 9/30/2009 10:09:25 PM EDT
[#28]
Sharkman, Thanks for a great ending to Chapter 16.  It so close to reading today's newspaper or watching the news on FOX.  Scary stuff that Sean is going through.  Really enjoying the story.  No get back to work!!!!
Link Posted: 10/2/2009 8:17:52 PM EDT
[#29]
Chapter 17


When armies approach each other, it makes all the difference which owns only the ground on which it stands or sleeps and which one owns all the rest.
Winston Churchill: Their Finest Hour, 1949


The meeting in Canada between Sean and the smuggler Mike Vo took place out in the open, where all the tankers, now full of fuel sat ready for the return trip. Mike and his men arrived in high end European SUVs as well as the necessary equipment to transport everything they would buy.  They were all well dressed and well armed with high end shotguns and submachine guns.  Mike Vo ran a profitable smuggling business in Canada before the recent unpleasantness.  Since the seizure and the economic collapse of the United States, that business grew to become even more profitable.  Now, with the possibility of conflict breaking out, Mike Vo stood to make a fortune.  For Sean, this meeting was about generating some cash to cover potential operating costs.  For Mike Vo, this was about long term business.  He had an intelligence network of his own, and what his intel told him, having a relationship with Sean Bastle would be good for business if hostilities broke out.

“That is for your stuff,” Mike Vo said.  One of his men handed Chris an envelope full of cash.  “And this is for your bikes,” Mike handed Sean another brown envelope.  Sean opened it up to find it full of Canadian currency. Sean handed all the money to Chris and told his second in command, “Put it in the general fund.”

Mike told Sean, “I appreciate you doing this for Tien.”

“Not a problem,” Sean replied.  “Tien is a good man. He’s helped us out in the past.”

Mike smiled.  “I heard you drove past Leddersville on your way up here.”  Sean confirmed that they did and Mike continued.  “You’re pretty well connected, I’m sure you know what goes on there.”  Sean confirmed that too.  Mike got to the meat of his proposal.

“The routes Tien and I use take us through their area of operations. That costs us a lot of money.”  Mike and Sean looked each other dead in the eye, each knowing what came next.  “It would benefit us if we didn’t have to pay that expense in the future.”

        As Sean and Michael worked out some new deal, Jim smoked a cigarette a short distance away. Davis stood next to him, wiping down his sniper rifle. “What do you suppose they are working out now,” Davis asked.  

       “I don’t know,” Jim said as he looked around.  Somebody caught his eye.  He jerked his head in their direction and asked Davis, “I thought we told him he wasn’t going?”

Davis didn’t need to look to know Jim referred to Marcus. “I already talked to him. He snuck in with one of Judy’s drivers as we left the compound.  I caught him by their trucks a few hours ago.  He was dicking around on his cell phone too.  Another thing we warned him not to do.”

“Well,” Jim said.  “No more convoys for him.”

“No,” Jim said.  “He’s lucky we don’t leave his ass here.”

The exchange continued between Mike and Sean.  Without taking his eyes of the exchange between Sean and the smugglers, Davis spoke.  “I knew the Boss before the seizure.  Well, I knew who he was.  But I didn’t really know him.”  Jim didn’t reply.  Davis volunteered more information.

“We served in the same battalion for the invasion. We were both in the reserves then.  I was in the sniper platoon.  He was in one of the rifle companies.”

“Is that how you ended up here?”

“No,” Davis replied.  “One of my buddies went back to Iraq again a few years later.  While he was there he worked for the Boss.  I missed that deployment.  I was out of the reserves and in college at the time.  After a few years of college though, I got bored and took some time off to go back to Iraq as a private contractor.”

“How was that?”

Davis shrugged his shoulders.  “The money was good, and I was doing the same stuff I did as a Marine sniper.  It was alright, but it just wasn’t the same as the Marines.

“Anyway, when the contract ended I came back and things started getting nuts.  My girlfriend dumped me.  She’d been hanging out with some hippy types while I was gone and decided she wasn’t down with dating a mercenary.  Then I couldn’t get back into school.  I think it was because of the contracting job, you know?  Like they really didn’t approve of what I did, so they kept me out of school. They never gave me an answer as to why they wouldn’t accept my application to come back.

“So basically I was just bumming around drinking all the money I earned as a contractor when my buddy called me up. He told me that this little militia group was getting formed up here and asked if I wanted to join up. His old boss from Iraq was heading it all up.  I told him no way.  Militias were for nut-jobs; at least that’s what I thought at the time.  Two days later the seizure happened.  I drove past the factory where my dad used to work and it was surrounded by State Police.  I called my buddy back and we hit the road.”

“Wait,” Jim said.  “You got a call before the seizure?  Before all this weird stuff started going down?”

      “That’s right. When we got up here, he had it all set up and figured out.  Weapons stockpiled, food stockpiled, ammo and medicine stockpiled.  He had it all worked out before it went bad, like he had a crystal ball or something.

      “Maybe somebody gave him a heads-up,” Jim suggested.

       “Maybe,” Davis replied.  “Either way, he seems to get things figured out pretty quick.”

       Jim stomped out his spent cigarette then lit another one.  “What happened to your buddy?”

“When the Marine Corps started taking back everybody who would join he headed down to Camp Pendleton with a few others.”

Mike Vo handed Sean another brown package, presumably full of cash too.  Sean took it, and after the two men shook hands, the smuggler and his men loaded up into their SUVs and drove off.  Sean rallied all of the key players together.

“It’s been a long trip and a long day.  We’re going to spend the night here and leave first thing in the morning.  We’ll take the same way back as we took out here.”  That statement brought about some puzzled looks.

“We’re leaving in the morning?  So we’re going to make this run in the daytime?”

Sean nodded.

“And we’re taking the same route, where we saw that guy recording us? Won’t that make us more vulnerable?”

“It will,” Sean said.  “But that’s the way it needs to be.”

XXXX

In Maysville, James Pritchard and Malik and many of the key members of their staff were assembled around a conference table in the headquarters building.  James stood at the head end with a handful of papers.  Malik sat at the opposite end of the table where he could keep an eye on everybody.

James spoke.  “I’ve received several memos today, from everybody from the Governor all the way up to the White House.  As you may have heard, the President is going to address the nation in a few days.  While we know that as much as 90% of the country supports the policies of this administration, there are always those few crazies out there who are either unsupportive, or in many cases unable to understand the Progressive polices our leadership puts forward.  Following the speech, we will be holding political rallies for several days to show how much we support whatever this speech is about.  The White House also asked us to support the President’s speech through discussion and has provided us with some talking points and themes to present after the speech to ensure a unified message is going out.”  

James flipped through a few of the pages then started.  “We’ll start with foreign affairs.  Any international discussions need to be turned back to one of two themes: Indian aggression against Pakistan or Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. Also, we should keep putting the idea out there that we are all citizens of the world.  Gradually we want the idea of a world community replacing the outdated ideas of traditional citizenship.”

“Another issue that we see coming up is the PA.  Rather than debate the Constitutionality of the PA, we want to make this an issue of the PA versus the Sons of Liberty.  So, if somebody is arguing that the PA is has not Constitutional basis, we need to turn the argument back on them that not supporting the PA is supporting the Sons of Liberty and other right-wing extremist groups.”  Paul Linggi looked at the other personalities around the table. Some scribbled notes.  Others nodded knowingly at the County Executive’s words.  Nobody seemed to take any issue with what was taking place.

       James moved on. “There is still a very small minority of people who are still complaining about our economic policies, especially the readjustment.  When that comes up we simply point out how bad things would be if we did not enact the readjustment.  The White House suggests we use what they call the one-half rule.  So if unemployment is at 30%, we say we are at one half of the unemployment we would have without the readjustment, or 60%, and with another readjustment we could get it below 15%, one half of what it is now.”

“Will this speech outline another readjustment,” Connor Justin asked.

“I don’t know,” James said. “I don’t have any details about the actual content of the speech. We just have suggestions on how to support it.”

Paul asked a question. “There are still empty shelves in the few stores that are open.  Things are falling apart and we don’t have the supplies to fix them.  People are hungry.  What do we say when that issue comes up?”

“The official policy is that production is back on track to meet the demands of the people, and if people aren’t getting what they need, that is the fault of the hoarders and profit-seekers.  That was a major point the administration wanted us to push.  The economy is in the shape it is in not because the policies are unsound, but because some citizens aren’t supporting the policies or doing their fair share. We should also portray the hoarders as racist.”

“Racist, homophobic, gun-owning, greedy, you know the drill,” Malik added.  “And this doesn’t just apply to hoarders, it applies to everything.  So if somebody doesn’t support our environmental policies, they aren’t just anti-green, they are homophobic.  If they oppose another readjustment, they are racist.”

“How would those relate,” Paul asked.

“Find a way,” James said. “Get creative.”  He looked down at his notes and continued.

“We also want to stress that we are not going to rebuild the economy at the expense of the environment. Green priorities take precedence when it comes to the industry, manufacturing or any other aspect of the economy.”  

Connor asked, “Is there anything else about the environment?”

“Just the same things.  People who don’t support Progress are poisoning the planet. People turning profits do so at the expense of the environment.  All of that.”

Raymond Lynn spoke, “There are some people who don’t agree with our Progressive policies that are doing things that support environmentalism.  What about them?”  

“It doesn’t matter,” Malik answered. “If it isn’t approved and certified by some Progressive organization, then officially it is bad for the environment.  This has just as much to do with politics as it does with the environment.”

“I don’t want them stealing my movement,” Connor said, and then added, “Effective environmental policies will always generate revenue for the monitoring agencies.”

“Very true,” James said.  

The military advisor, Lt Colonel Kwon, the military asked a question. “What about the family unit? A lot of these anti-Progressives hold the idea of family above the idea of a Progressive government.”

James thumbed through the pages in his hand. “No official policy has come out on that.   However, family should not take precedence over community.  At some point we will need to deconstruct the idea of the family unit and replace it with a Progressive alternative.”  That statement made Paul uncomfortable.  He came from a large traditional family.  Despite his feelings, he didn’t speak.

“Maybe we could run the public schools like boarding school,” Raymond Lynn suggested. “Where the kids live in the schools and would only go back to their parents on weekends and holidays, if that.”

“That’s good,” James said smiling. “It would also allow us to make workdays longer since parents wouldn’t have to tend to their children.  This ties in nicely with a proposal that daycare be made a right.  I’ll talk to my friend about this.”

“I don’t like the idea of longer work days,” Hugh complained. Malik gave the union man a stern look and he fell silent.

“So what exactly is the President going to say in this speech,” Paul asked.  He got no answers, just incredulous looks from the others that he would even ask such a question. Undaunted, Paul continued voicing his doubts. “You are asking us to support a plan we know nothing about.  We don’t know what the president is going to say, but we are supposed to support it, and do so through some pre-determined talking points that might not even relate to what he says?”  Paul looked around and saw only blank faces.  “Am I the only one who has a problem with this?”

“Who cares what he says. It will be Progressive, and that’s all that matters,” Malik said. Paul could tell by the way Malik spoke that he didn’t necessarily believe what he said, but the hatchet man wasn’t going to let his lack of faith interfere with his execution of policy.  

“We don’t even know if what he’s going to say relates to any of these points.  These are all over the map, the war in India, Palestine, racism, hoarding stuff.  What does the environment have to do with homophobia? What do any of these have to do with the others. How is the President going to tie all these together in one speech?”

“If you knew anything about Progress you’d know that they are all connected,” James explained.  He clearly didn’t appreciate Paul’s questions.

Paul continued. “How are we going to convince people using arguments like these?”

“This isn’t about winning them over to our side,” Malik said.  “This about ensuring the people on our side know that they are right and those who aren’t on our side are kept in the fringes of society, or at least feel that way.”

“But why do we have to marginalize anybody?  Shouldn’t we be providing an argument to win those people over to our side of the issues?”

“No,” James said.

“But why not?”

“Because those people aren’t Progressive.”

Paul was taken aback by that statement.  He looked around the table.  “We just got a memo from the White House asking us to support a President’s speech, but we have no idea what he’s going to say.  Again, Am I the only one who has a problem with this?”  Nobody spoke. Looking around the table and seeing impassive faces, Paul got his answer.
Link Posted: 10/2/2009 9:09:58 PM EDT
[#30]
Damn. Your story is so believable it's scary
Link Posted: 10/4/2009 8:44:08 PM EDT
[#31]
EXCELLANT, keep it coming please.........
Link Posted: 10/5/2009 10:11:57 AM EDT
[#32]
“Racist, homophobic, gun-owning, greedy, you know the drill,” Malik added. “And this doesn’t just apply to hoarders, it applies to everything. So if somebody doesn’t support our environmental policies, they aren’t just anti-green, they are homophobic. If they oppose another readjustment, they are racist.”


That's a familiar sounding strategy.
Link Posted: 10/6/2009 7:41:48 PM EDT
[#33]
Chapter 17 Continued.

The trip from Canada started out uneventful.  Nobody manned the border crossing, so the long line of trucks just sped through it.  Sean, Judy and Hooker rode while Jim drove.  After a few miles, Sean turned on the truck’s radio to pass the time. The news, like all news coming from the federally controlled media, amounted to nothing more than a sounding board for the government’s agenda. Another panel discussed the latest topic on the agenda. In this case the moderator and his guest discussed the idea of self-defense.

“This idea that the individual citizen has the right to defend themselves is preposterous.  There is no right of self defense codified in either the Constitution or Bill of Rights.  That so-called right is the responsibility of the government.  Law Enforcement is a government responsibility; it is not to be assumed by citizens.  And what I find crazy is that all these people say they believe in the founding documents, but then claim to have a right that doesn’t appear in any of them.”

The moderator asked, “So you reject the idea that self-defense is a right?”

Self defense is nothing more than vigilantism, plain and simple.  Let me ask you, what is the difference between shooting somebody because you think they might hurt you, and shooting them because they are black, or gay, or a foreigner?  There is no difference at all. What these under-educated gun-nuts call self-defense is nothing more murder, just like India’s aggressionist policies against the freedom loving people in Pakistan or Israel’s policies against Palestinian women and children, or this country’s foreign policy since 1776; Murder.

     “The sooner we abandon these antiquated notions that weapons, and I’m not just talking about firearms, but the mindset that accepts the idea of weapons in the hands of ordinary citizens, the better we are as a society.  Things like the 2nd Amendment and the Castle Doctrine need to just go away.  The President or the Supreme Court or whoever just needs to say, these are done, these are gone, no discussion, get over it.  It’s time for everybody to just take a deep breath and get with modern times and accept the role of the government and the PA and everything else.”

     “Its funny you mentioned mindset,” the moderator said. “Because just last week, the Institute for Progressive Psychiatry released a study.  This was a very important and scientific study and it determined that this morbid fascination with weapons is actually a mental illness.  And, the American Council for Emotions and Feelings has made a very Progressive proposal that gun owners should have to register with the Department of Health and Human Services because they may actually suffer from a mental disorder. They’ve already presented this important scientific evidence to the Surgeon General and Senate Subcommittee on Mental health and Public Safety.  What are your thoughts on that?”

“Well, with all these mentally ill people running around with guns, I feel much safer with civilian defense forces like the PA patrolling our streets and protecting us.  Just look at what these right wing extremist groups like the Sons of Liberty are doing? They are blowing up children and hospitals.”

The moderator asked another question. “What do you think of the latest Grass Roots poll that showed many people feel much safer with a PA man guarding their streets than some cop or a military soldier?”

“It’s no coincidence that the same states where we see the biggest rejection of the PA are once again the states that keep talking the same nonsense about the Constitution and secession, and on and on.  I just wish they’d embrace progress so we could all just go on with our lives.”


       The CB interrupted the dialogue on the radio. “Black 6, Black 6, this is Victor 1.” Victor 1 was the radio call sign for the lead vehicle in the convoy, travelling well ahead of the rest of the others to ensure security.  Rounding a bend, Jim could see it parked on the shoulder just below a crest in the road. Jim eased off the road and the other vehicles in the convoy stopped as Sean answered.

“This is Black 6, go ahead.”

“We’ve got something up ahead you need to take a look at.”


The entire convoy slowed to a halt, staying back from the lead vehicle on the crest.  Sean’s men hopped out of their trucks and set up security for the vehicles.  Some of Judy’s men did the same.  Other drivers left their trucks to mill about only to be herded back into their trucks or coached into something resembling a tactical posture.

Sean left his truck wearing a tactical vest over his body armor.  The olive drab vest, loaded with rifle magazines and a handheld CB radio, showed the signs of years of use. Tan stains from Middle Eastern sand and dust still spotted the nylon material.

After the road crested, it fell to a long straightaway.  A pile of debris blocked the highway ahead.  Although it stood some distance away, Sean could easily pick out individual men running back and forth behind the obstacle. Sean took out a small set of binoculars and surveyed the roadblock ahead of him. Logs were stacked on either side of the road to provide cover to the men who guarded it.  The logs spilled onto either side of the road and left just enough space in the middle for one vehicle.  A faded blue panel van blocked that empty space. A rundown single story prefabricated building stood in a clearing to the right of the roadblock.  The roadblock, though simple, effectively blocked the road.  The thick forest on either side made it impossible to drive a vehicle around.  Sheets of plywood were nailed to a tree near the roadblock.  Spray paint on the wood read, “CB Channel 12”

“They’ve run a chain through that van and have it chained to the trees on either side of the road,” Sean said calmly, still scanning with binoculars.  “Hooker, how far do you think it is to their blockade?”

Standing next to him, Hooker didn’t hesitate. “400 meters.”

Sean turned around.  The rise in the road prevented the men at the blockade seeing the long convoy of trucks.  Thick stands of moss covered evergreen trees lined the road.  Someone standing just a short ways inside the woods would be hidden from view from anybody outside.  Sean used the handheld radio on his gear. He spoke without taking the binoculars from his eyes.  

      “Roadblock, roadblock.  This is the convoy.”

A voice crackled back. “Hey, how you doing up there?”

“We’re fine. What do you want?”

“We want some of that fuel you’re hauling down our highway.  Not all of it, but if you’re moving fuel on our roads you going to give us a cut.”


“How much of a cut?”

“Not much.  Just four of your tankers,”
the voice on the other end replied.

Sean turned to Hooker.  “Looks like maybe a dozen for manpower.”  Jim watched his boss. He appeared completely unsurprised at this latest challenge.  

“There’s probably a few in that building too,” Hooker added.  “People always feel safe in buildings.”

“Keeps ‘em out of the rain too,” Sean added.  He keyed his handset again, “This isn’t our fuel.  Let us call our Boss first.”

“Don’t take too long.  The price may go up.”  


Sean pulled out the phone that James gave him.  Chris and Hooker gave him some quizzical looks, but Sean shrugged and explained.  “It is his fuel after all.”

––––
Back in Maysville, James and Malik listened on a speaker phone while Sean described the situation.

“I can give them what they want, or I can smash my way through them.  I’d just as soon fight as hand over this stuff, but it is your fuel. It’s up to you.”

James muted the speaker phone. “What do you think?”

Malik thought about it for a second, weighing and calculating the angles.  “Let him do it. Let him shoot his way through them.”

“You don’t think we should just call our Leddersville people and let them through?”

“I think we have a lot more to gain by pitting these two against each other.”

“What if they wreck one of the tankers?”

“Then we’ll make them replace the fuel, and at a markup. We should be putting the squeeze on these people in Leddersville anyway. Their drug business benefits the Grass Roots people who administer the camps but we don’t get any of that money.  Maybe we can use this attack as leverage to get into their business.”

“What if he wipes out those people in Leddersville?”

“That’s not even a problem.  If he kills some of those Leddersville people we can always pull more out of prison to replace them. Either way it weakens one if not both of these groups, making it easier for us to control them. Keeping both Bastle’s guys and the drug dealers in Leddersville off balance is good for us. In this fight, no matter who gets killed, it is good for us.”

James Pritchard thought about that statement.  “You think it might go bad for Bastle,” He asked Malik.

Malik shook his head no.  “If he couldn’t make it past those country bumpkins, we wouldn’t have picked him.”

––––

“We have a go order,” Sean said to the others as he stuffed the phone back into his gear.  The key leaders gravitated towards him.  Even Chris, normally located in the rear of the convoy, appeared from nowhere to learn their next move.

“What about cops?”

“James said he’ll keep the law away.”

“What’s the plan, Boss,” Davis asked.

Sean smiled.  “This will be easy. They picked this stretch of road because it gives them a lot of standoff for their weapons.  But this is good ground for us.  On this side of the rise, they can’t see us.  We can move through the forest on either side of the road unobserved. So this is what we’re going to do.

Sean knelt down and drew out a plan in the dirt with the tip of a stick.  Jim listened, but even after all this time with Sean and his veterans and the one-on-one tutelage of Hooker, he only understood about half of the military-speak coming out of his Boss’s mouth.  The veterans on the other hand, seemed to understand perfectly.  When Sean was done he asked if there were any questions.  They key members of the group all shook their heads no.  Sean looked at his watch.

“We’ll step off in 15 minutes.”  

Everybody nodded then went to action.  Davis and Cody went to fetch their sniper equipment.  Hooker motioned for Jim to follow.  “Let’s get the machineguns.”
“Hooker, I need you to tell me what the hell we are doing because it was like he was speaking another language back there.”

Hooker smiled.  “Sean, Ivan and some of the others are going to move through the woods, take the roadblock, and destroy it so the trucks can get through.  While they are moving up to the roadblock, you, me, Davis and Cody are going to be shooting at the roadblock with the light machineguns and their sniper rifle. Clear?”

Jim felt a little sick to his stomach.  “Clear enough.”

“Good.  Now once the roadblock is breeched, Chris is going to herd all these trucks over the crest and down through the obstacle. Got it?”
Jim nodded affirmative.

“Good. Now, we ain’t just throwing bullets down there.  Remember what I taught you from the book?” Another nod so Hooker continued.  “We’re going to fire along their little wall down there to keep their heads down.  That’s going to be tough, because we’ll be firing from bipods instead of tripods, but it can be done.

“We need talking guns.  I’ll shoot, then you shoot, then I shoot again. When I change magazine, I need you to pick up the slack and vice verse.”

Jim nodded, trying to remember everything Hooker threw at him.

“And while we are suppressing, Cody and Davis will pick off whoever pops their head out.”

“Won’t they shoot back?”

“Probably.  I know I would.  But 400 meters is a long shot for most people, especially when they are being shot at.”

Jim thought about that.  He asked another question. “What if they have more guys in the woods?”

“Then we will adjust the plan.”

“What if they have mines or traps in the woods?”

“Then we will adjust the plan.”

Jim started with another questions, but before he could ask, Hooker cut him off.  “In situations like these, you make the plan knowing that things will happen that require you to change your original plan.  So you accept it, and you learn to be flexible.  If you can’t do that, if you can’t accept change, if you can’t work under conditions of uncertainty, you won’t be too successful on the battlefield.  Now, grab your gear and let’s go.”

One of Judy men, an old man, short with dark leathery skin, pulled the RPD out of their pickup truck.

“Hey,” Hooker moved to stop the man, but Judy intervened.  

“It’s okay,” She said. When he was just a child he fought in the Vietnam war.” They watched as the old man skillfully disassembled the RPD apart and inspected it.

Hooker asked, “For which side?” The old man grinned. “Okay,” Hooker said.  “He takes the RPD. That frees me up to direct fire.  You take the right side of the road.” The old man nodded.

Cody and Davis had already collected their sniper equipment and moved into the woods to find a good place to take their shots.  Back at the truck, Sean made some last minute adjustments to his gear.  He removed his pistol and pistol magazines and put them into his truck.  In their place, he added more magazines for his rifle and a flare pistol.  He spoke a few brief words to Chris and Hooker and then he and Ivan and the assault element assembled to review their plan.  When Sean and the others stepped off into the woods they moved with confidence.  If any of them felt scared, Jim didn’t see it on their faces.  He thought they looked strangely comfortable.  

“We wait here,” Hooker said.  “We don’t want them seeing us setting up these guns because they’d shoot us. So, we wait for Davis to take his first shot.  Once that happens, we rush to the crest, get these guns up, and then lay down some fire.”

Jim swallowed hard then signaled he understood.  His heart pounded in his chest.  His mind raced trying to remember everything he might have forgotten.

“Once you’re over that crest, get down in the prone position and find some micro-terrain because they will shoot back.  You remember about micro-terrain?”

“I do,” Jim answered.

“Good,” Hooker said cheerily.  “Now we wait.”

Wait is what they did.  Jim was so scared and excited and nervous about not failing that his whole body shook.  He could taste bile in his mouth and felt acid in his stomach.  Why won’t they just shoot, he asked himself, looking in the direction of Cody and Davis who were invisible in the woods.  Part of him hoped that there would be no shot, that there wouldn’t be any fighting.  The other part of him knew that wasn’t possible.  This fight was inevitable. All the events of the last two years led Jim to this.  His role in this conflict was unavoidable.  

The shot from Davis’s sniper rifle, the gunshot he’d been waiting and agonizing over, made Jim jump it scared him so bad.  Then he ran.  Everything and everyone seemed to be in motion. They were up and running, and in an instant they were in position. Jim hit the ground.  He got the RPK up and into his shoulder. Hooker tossed a handful of loaded 40 round magazines next to him and then ran to the RPD gunner with more ammo.

The RPD fired first.  The elderly gunner put his first burst a little short of the barricade, the bullets kicking up puffs of pulverized asphalt.  He fired a second burst and it connected with the roadblock. Then men behind it ducked down for cover.

“Fire,” Hooker yelled.  He darted back behind Jim with a pair of binoculars.  Now firing broke out from the men behind the barricade.  Jim squeezed off a burst, and then shuddered when the sniper rifle to his left boomed.  Hooker yelled again, “Short, you’re short.”  Jim adjusted the weapon in his shoulder.  The RPD fired off another burst. The sniper rifle thundered again.  The men behind the barricade fired in earnest now.  Jim heard some bullets snap over his head and saw more kick up dust in front of him.  He fired again.

“You’re still short. Come up!” Jim adjusted again and his next burst was on target. He could see the sparks jump off the panel van from his impacts.  Now they were in a rhythm. The RPD fired, then Jim fired his RPK, then the RPD fired again.

Hooker watched the tracers arc out and impact into the barricade.  The sound of the bullets punching into the metal of the van carried all the way to back to them on the crest.

“Slow it down,” Hooker yelled out.  “Conserve ammo and don’t let your barrel overheat.  Short bursts.”

Jim took out a spent magazine and the tried to rock in a fresh one.  He fumbled with it and it dropped to the dirt with a clang.

“Hurry up,” Hooker said calmly without dropping his binoculars.  His words worked magic, and somehow Jim made the magazine instantly insert itself into the weapon.  He fired off another burst.  Hooker yelled out commands, “Left, right, short, long.”  The RPD on his right barked, then Jim squeezed the trigger on his own weapon, then the RPD would bark again.  Through it all the big sniper rifle boomed at intervals.  Jim caught the mechanical sounds of Davis working the bolt and Cody’s commands. “Far right, where the panel van and the logs meet.”  The rifle boomed and Jim saw something or someone tumble to the ground.

Two men ran from behind the barricade for the woods.  Neither carried a weapon.  The RPD fired and one tumbled to the ground.

“Slow your rate of fire.”  Hooker coached him again, and then moved over to the RPD.

Jim heard the sound of something rushing through the air then a small explosion.  Jim turned to see a flare burning in the air above the forest.  The flare pistol.

“Shift fire!  Shift onto the building!”  Jim had no idea what Hooker meant, so he looked over to the big man.  Hooker, realizing he never explained that part ran over to Jim, picked up the RPK and set it down so it pointed at the dilapidated building.  “Fire on that till I tell you to stop, and fire fast!”

Downrange, Jim saw the enemy men change their focus.  Sean and the assault element came out of the woods, firing into the men manning the roadblock.  The gun battle got heated for only a few moments before dying down.  Most of the enemy ran across the road and into the woods away from Sean and the others. Those that stayed were cut down.  

Hooker reappeared, standing over Jim.  “Cease fire!” The radio on Hooker’s gear crackled to life. “Black 5, Black 5, we’ve secured the roadblock.  We need that wrecker down here.”

Jim heard more screaming and yelling.  Hooker stood in the middle of the road and waved frantically.  An incoming bullet chipped the asphalt near his feet. Jim caught the sound of an engine revving and then JD screamed past him in the modified tow truck with one of the pickup trucks moving right behind him.  

“Jim!” He turned to Hooker voice.  “Grab your gear and let’s go.” Jim pushed himself up and snatched up all the magazines for the PRK, some empty, and some still with ammo.  He struggled to collect them all. For every one he picked up he seemed to drop two.

“Stuff them down your shirt!” Once again Jim turned to look at Hooker who stood in the middle of the road next to their truck now driven by Judy.  “Stuff them down your shirt,” the Marine machine gunner yelled again and then motioned stuffing an empty magazine down his shirt with his hand. Another bullet snapped over the road and both Hooker and Judy crouched down. Jim cringed as well and dropped all of the magazines he just collected up.

Moving with purpose but without running, Hooker went to Jim, picked him up off the ground.  With one of his big hands, he scooped up all the magazines and stuffed them down Jim’s tucked in shirt.  Jim felt like a toddler being dressed by his dad.  Grabbing Jim with one hand, Hooker drug his gunner to Judy in the waiting truck.

“Get in!”  Before Jim could move, Hooker picked him up and threw him and his machine gun into the bed of the pickup.  Jim heard pounding on the roof of the cab and, “Go!”  Judy hit the gas so hard Jim flew back into the tailgate and almost fell out the back.

Judy wasted no time covering the distance to the roadblock.  When she got there she slammed on the brakes and this time Jim flew forward into the cab.  She weaved through the break in the roadblock, drove through to the other side, and stopped where Hooker directed her. Jim looked back.  Blood, spent shell casings, and a few bodies covered the road on this side of the obstacle.  The panel van, still being drug out of the way by JD and his truck, sat on the side of the road, no longer an obstacle.

“Out,” Hooker yelled. Without giving Jim a chance to respond, the big machine gunner picked him up and tossed him out of the back of the truck.  Engines rumbled as the trucks of the convoy began moving forward.  Jim watched them come over the crest he’d just been firing from and move to the roadblock.  He could hear Chris’s voice on the CB radio, then more chatter.

“Outboard, face outboard,” Hooker told him. Jim did as ordered.  Behind him he could hear Sean on the radio, passing orders in the quick, curt and efficient manner they all used.  Judy repeated his commands in Vietnamese.

“Black 6, Black 6, this is Black 5.”

“Go for 6”

“We’re all moving back here.”

“Roger.”

As one of Judy’s trucks pulled up to the roadblock, something exploded with enough force to throw Jim to the ground. Ringing filled his ears. Tendrils of gray smoke wisped past him as he pushed himself up off the ground.

“IED!”

One of the tractor trailers sat broken in the breech.  The bomb blast cut up through its wheel well.  The fiberglass fender and hood were shredded. The truck sat dead just in front of the opening in the roadblock.  Jim turned away from the sight of the blasted truck and cringed as more shots rang out.  Incoming fire came from the dilapidated double wide trailer off the road.  A fury of bullets returned to the building as Ivan and his men all fired back. Hooker snatched the RPK out of Jim’s hands and fired onto the trailer with controlled, accurate bursts that tore through the thin walls. Ivan led a few others across the yard to the trailer.  Hooker redirected his fire, angling on his target to rip it apart without endangering his friends.

“Get your rifle!”

Jim ran back to the truck and grabbed his assault rifle out of the cab.  

“Jim!”  He turned back around.  Bastle and JD crouched next to the wrecked tractor trailer.  Oil and anti-freeze pooled underneath the engine.  Air hissed as it escaped out of a slashed air-line.  The two men who were inside the cab when the bomb went off sat coughing on the side of the road.  A veteran checked them out while JD and the Boss checked out the blasted truck.

“The tanker is intact but the truck is in bad shape.”

“Can you fix it?”

“Not in ten minutes.”

“Then get rid of it, that’s why we brought the extra trucks.”  Sean grabbed the handset on his radio.

“Black 5, Black 5, this is Black 6.”

“Go for 5.”

“We’ve got a down vehicle in the breech.  We’ll need one of the spare rigs.”

“Roger, I’m on it.”

Sean walked over to his truck.  “Jim, follow me.” Jim followed his Boss back to where their pickup sat on the side of the road.  It offered an excellent vantage point to view the building that Ivan and the others were clearing.  Jim stopped by the cab to see the last man enter the shack.

A hand reached up and grabbed Jim by his chest-rig.  Sean, kneeling behind the engine block of his truck yanked Jim down. “Take a knee,” the Boss said as he looked out to the trailer.  Jim tried to peer around his boss’s shoulder to see what was going on.

“Your weapon in condition one,” Sean asked nonchalantly without taking his eyes off the building Ivan and the others entered. Jim checked the chamber, founded it empty, then chambered a round and unfolded the stock.

Shouts came from the building, then some shots, and the sounds of something crashing.  More information passed over the radios in a language Jim only half understood. One of the men inside the building waved out the doorway.  Sean waved back, spoke into his radio, then spoke to Jim.

“Jim, we’re going to the building they just cleared.  Let’s go.”  With that, Sean took off at a dead sprint.  Jim struggled to stay on his tail.  They covered the ground quickly, their gear bouncing off their body as they ran.  When they got to the building, Sean stopped near the doorway.  Jim hit the wall behind him with a crash.

Sean shouted inside. “Two friendlies coming in.”  No reply came from inside.  Jim felt a lump in his throat.  Another shout. “Two friendlies coming in.”

“In,” shouted somebody inside.  Both men darted into the wrecked home.  Spent shell casings littered the floor.  One dead body lay in a heap near a window.  Blood trails led from the doorway into another room. Electrical wires and a motorcycle battery sat next to a window.  The wires ran out in the direction of the explosion.  

In the next room Ivan and a few others stood ready for action.  One man stuffed handfuls of documents into his pockets. Another searched through the wreckage of the room. Two members of the enemy militia lay face down on the floor with guns on them.  A third sat flex-cuffed with his hands behind his back and one of the veterans with a knee on the man’s neck.  He struggled and screamed, but not against his captor. Doc Hyde worked at patching a bullet wound in the man’s leg.

“What’s the story?”

“A few took off through the woods.  These men threw down their weapons and gave up,” Ivan said.  He trained his own weapon on the men who were face down.  Two captured weapons were slung over his shoulder.

“Doc?”

“This one will live.  He’s probably got a broken tib-fib, but he won’t bleed to death.”

“You want us to chase after those two in the woods.”

Sean shook his head no.

“What do you want us to do with them?”

“Tie them to something solid and leave them here.  Take their gear."

One man cursed.  Ivan kicked the man solidly in the ribs and shut him up.  If Sean had an opinion about it, he didn’t voice it.  The radio crackled.  Sean answered it, then spoke to Ivan. “You’ve got just a few minutes to wrap it up in here. Jim, let’s go.”  

They were back outside and running to the road.  The damaged truck was out from under the tanker and on the side of the road.  Jim watched as one of the spare trucks backed up into the tanker and slammed into the kingpin so hard the whole tanker skidded back a few feet.  On the side of the road, the damaged truck now burned violently.  Someone threw a Molotov cocktail inside the cab to destroy the vehicle rather than leave it for somebody else to use.

Chris, now at the remnants of the barricade, yelled to the driver and gestured with his arms. “Move, move, move!” Trucks behind him, lined up all the way back to the crest of the hill, laid into their horns until Judy got them to stop by yelling in Vietnamese across the CB.

Somebody jumped out of the truck at the barricade to attach the airlines of the tanker.  Jim jumped into his own truck, sliding behind the wheel as Judy climbed into the back seat, the mike of the CB still in her hand as she yelled out instructions in Vietnamese.  Another pickup sped up to the shot up building so Ivan and his team could load it up with what they’d captured.  

A load shuddering sound filled the air.  The truck in breech lurched forward, dragging the tanker behind it until the brakes finally released and the whole unit rolled steadily forward.

“Good,” Sean observed as he climbed into the pickup.  Now all the trucks were moving steadily forward through the breech.  Truck after truck drove up to the obstacle, slowed to weave through the debris, then accelerated once they were clear.

“Jim, get us to the head end,” Sean said, then spoke into his radio.  Hooker hopped into the back seat, with the RPK and swapped out its magazine for a fresh one.  Jim drove half on the road and half on the shoulder.  Gravel crunched and flew under the trucks tires as Jim passed the tankers then cut his way into his appropriate place in the convoy.

“Black 6, Black 6, this is Black 5.”

“Go”

“We’re all through.  Up on victors and up on pax.”

“Anybody down?”

“Just the two in the IED’d truck, but they’re alright.”

“Roger… All victors, all victors, let’s get moving.”  
The lead vehicles accelerated, and the rest followed suit.  Jim checked the rearview mirror.  Behind him the down truck burned on the side of the road.  Black oily smoke curled upwards.  Debris from the roadblock lay scattered about.  Jim watched the devastation in the rearview mirror until it all disappeared.  

––––

When he felt the appropriate amount of time had passed, Jim turned to his boss in the passenger seat.

“What was all that about.  We didn’t just roll onto those guys.”

Sean pulled out one of the brown paper packages that Mike Vo gave them and set it on the dashboard with a thump.  

“Those guys were charging Mike protection money to move goods through their territory.  Mike gave us this money if we could knock them down a few pegs. He figured if they were a little weaker he could avoid paying them protection.  The fact that these guys provide support to the Grass Roots didn’t hurt either.”

“But was it worth the risk?”

“If there is revolution or civil war or whatever we’re going to call it, we’re going to need stuff; medicine, weapons, fuel, the list goes on and on.  I don’t think this is going to be like my last war, where if I need something I just asked for it.  We may be on our own.  If I don’t have a higher headquarters to provide the support I need, I have to get it myself.  Rather than try to build my own logistics network to do that, I figure I’d just use one that already exists.  Mike and Tien already have an operation to procure, store and transport the stuff we might need.”

“So it was a business decision?”

“Yes, with the business being war.”

“But what made them think they could rob us?  We were rolling pretty heavy.”

“News travels pretty fast in Camp Martel. Mike Vo put the word out that if they made a show of force, we’d let them have some of the fuel rather than fight. He made sure that that information got down to the people in Leddersville.”

“Is that why we left in the daytime, instead of at night?”

“I wanted to make sure they knew we were coming.”

The usually stoic Hooker laughed. “A right-wing non-state actor just attacked a left-wing narco-based militia, under approval from a government they both work for, to secure support from a cross-border smuggling organization, just in case they have to revolt against the government they were working for in the first place.  If that isn’t fourth generation warfare, I don’t know what is.”

Jim asked, “Think our Progressive friends will be mad about this?”

Sean smiled. “They can’t get too mad because James Pritchard gave us the go ahead to do it.”

The CB radio crackled to life. Chris’s voice came across the airwaves.  

“Boss, you listening to the news?”

“Negative.”

“You might want to turn it on.”
 Sean flipped the knob on the radio and it came to life.

“Both the United Nations and the European Union have denounced the Iraqi election and are demanding the Sheik Dulami not assume office until the election results can be verified by the appropriate international agencies.

“Iran also issued a bold statement, condemning the election of a man they characterize as dangerously nationalistic and a threat to the region.  The President of Iran said he would not tolerate Sheik Dulami assuming the office of Prime Minister and demanded that the Western Nations take steps to block the Sheik’s assumption of power.   In a short press conference today, Sheik Dulami sent a message to both the E.U and the UN, telling them that they needed to be out of Iraq before he is inaugurated after the New Year.

"The U.S. Secretary of State is expected to deliver an official response to the Sheik’s election this evening."


Jim decided Sean must have liked that news, because his Boss didn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

––––

Sean used the phone to call ahead, so when the convoy rolled into the lot owned by HB Green Fuels, James Pritchard, Malik, and most importantly Tien, were all their waiting for him.  James made certain that Hugh Bowden didn’t show his face that day, but that was the only concession the politician made to the men’s pride.  

For James Pritchard, the delivery of the fuel demanded a celebration.  The man practically gushed with joy at the delivery of the cargo.  Now that he possessed the fuel, he felt certain of his ascending to new political heights. But the men and women who brought the fuel weren’t up for any such festivities.  Once they dropped off the tankers and secured Tien, Chris got the men back on their way home.

“That politician looked pretty smug today,” Jim said on the drive home.  “I hope he’s proud of himself.”

Sean, who hadn’t displayed anything but happiness since he heard about the election in Iraq, replied simply, “Let him have his day,” Sean said.  “I’ll enjoy mine.”


Link Posted: 10/6/2009 9:59:55 PM EDT
[#34]
Another great chapter man.
Link Posted: 10/6/2009 11:23:21 PM EDT
[#35]
Originally Posted By Berserker179:
Another great chapter man.


Link Posted: 10/7/2009 12:40:33 AM EDT
[#36]
Originally Posted By Gripy:
Originally Posted By Berserker179:
Another great chapter man.




Things are really heating up.
Link Posted: 10/7/2009 2:41:31 AM EDT
[#37]
outstanding chapter, Jim finally got his cherry popped. He did preform a little less than expectated though. I think he will improve with more action under his belt..........

Keep it up, please!
Link Posted: 10/7/2009 2:54:40 AM EDT
[#38]
Very nice.
Link Posted: 10/7/2009 9:20:24 PM EDT
[#39]
Nice work



Ron
Link Posted: 10/12/2009 11:02:22 PM EDT
[#40]
Originally Posted By cwm1150:
outstanding chapter, Jim finally got his cherry popped. He did preform a little less than expectated though. I think he will improve with more action under his belt..........

Keep it up, please!


Yes, but he listened, did what he was told and didn't bitch about it.  Good showing for a new guy...  IMHO...

WDS
Link Posted: 10/15/2009 2:59:58 AM EDT
[#41]
I keep checking for an update every 30 minutes, but to no avail.  You have failed me.  But do not worry, I will continue to check to the point of insanity- I like your story that much.  Your writing is great, but expect harassment daily until my needs are satisfied.  I'm jonesin here man.
Link Posted: 10/15/2009 3:00:07 AM EDT
[Last Edit: RandyBuck] [#42]
sent twice
Link Posted: 10/16/2009 12:38:57 AM EDT
[#43]
Chapter 18:


“I don’t think it is unreasonable that the world community shouldn’t get a say in who gets elected into the senior offices in some nations.  Iraq is a major oil producer and they have an effect on the entire world.  I could understand not letting citizens from other countries vote in their election, but there should be some sort of vetting process by the world community.  Social organizations like the U.N. the E.U. and the Great Council of Islamic Nations should have just as much say in who gets elected to be the head of Iraq as the Iraqi people.  I don’t think the Iraqi people alone have the legitimacy to put this man into Office.”

“Do they expect the Iraqi people to buy into this,” Jim asked Sean as they both cleaned their weapons.  The rain beat down heavily.  A dull roar came from the roof of the patrol room. The weather kept everybody inside, which was fine.  They had plenty of maintenance to do after the run across the border.  As they performed their work, they listened to the Secretary of State discuss the issue of the newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister.

“This isn’t for the Iraqi people,” Sean replied as he ran a rag over the parts of his disassembled rifle.  “This is for us.  This kind of propaganda is to be used internally on us.”

“What do you mean?”

Sean held the barrel of his disassembled weapon up to the light so he could look down its length to ensure its cleanliness.  “It’s like in Vietnam when our pilots were shot down and captured, and made to sign war crimes confessions.  Those, ‘confessions,’ weren’t meant to influence people over here.  Most people here knew those confessions are shams and the ones that didn’t were against the war anyways.  Our enemies used those confessions to influence their own citizens. To reinforce in them the idea they were fighting the good fight.

 “Take those pictures of Jane Fonda behind the anti-aircraft gun for example.   It had an effect on the people in the United States at the time, but its true effect was on the people in North Vietnam.  The North Vietnamese used pictures like that to garner support from their own people. They saw this American movie star openly supporting their government against her own.  That’s an extreme example, but this is the same way. They don’t give a shit about the Sheik or the people in Iraq.  This propaganda is for us. They are trying to get people here comfortable with the idea that we are all citizens of the world, and the rest of the world gets as much say in what goes on here as we do.”

Sean looked gaunt.  He shaved off the beard, and now his face looked much thinner and the scar on his cheek became more prominent.  They all looked thin Jim thought.  All except Hooker who was built like a pack animal and actually seemed to be getting bigger despite a diet made up mostly of rice and vegetables.  But, Sean looked a little worse than the others.  Whatever joy he’d felt at the Iraqi election had worn off.  The stress of everything going through his mind looked as if it had taken its toll.

The door to the building swung open. Hooker and Davis hauled in heavy canvas duffle bags, hurrying to get out of the rain.

“Judy dropped off some gifts to show their appreciation for getting Tien out of the pokey.” Davis opened his duffle and pulled out a rocket launcher.  He set the launcher on the table then reached back into the bag and pulled out a backpack containing rockets.  All the veterans gathered around to check out the newest addition to their armory.  Jim thought the launcher looked a little too old and worn.

“I hope we got some new rockets for that thing.”

Davis shook his head.  “Just some old HEAT rounds.”

“Those looked a lot cooler in video games,” he said. The launcher did look beat.  Small cracks ran down the length of the fiberglass furniture.  In many spot protective coating had worn away to bare metal.

“It’s basically a metal pipe with an initiating mechanism, and a scope.  I bet it cost less than fifty bucks to make it.” Sean picked up one of the rockets and looked it over with a dubious expression.  He wasn’t impressed.   “These rounds are older than us. Put this with that damned flame thrower.  I don’t want somebody blowing themselves up with this thing.”

“He’s got a hunk of junk.  I’ve got the good stuff.”  Hooker said as he opened his bags, revealing two machine guns.  These weren’t light machine guns like the ones they’d used in Leddersville, these were the real deal; Two Chinese knockoffs of Russian PKM medium machine guns.  Hooker opened up their bipods to set them up on a table for everybody to inspect.  They appeared to be in excellent condition.
 
“Looks like these were never issued.  Not as good as a pair of .50 cals, but they can do some damage.  We got the tripods and spare barrels to go with them, some belts and some ammo too.”

“How much ammo?”

“Not much, only 2,000 rounds per gun.”

“Two thousand rounds?  That’s not a lot of ammo,” Jim asked.

Hooker shook his head.  “Not for one of these babies Jim.” Hooker patted the receiver on one of the guns lovingly.

Chris came into the patrol room, drenched.  “We also got some more assault rifles and ammo to go with them.  Tien will be by tomorrow Boss, to talk about his ordeal.”  The helicopter pilot turned to the others.  “Let’s get these things locked up.  Hooker, make sure that RPG and those rockets are stored somewhere they won’t kill any kids if they explode.  Those rockets are older than any one of us here.

The men went back to their duties.  Chris to a seat next to Jim and the Boss broke out his pistol and went to work cleaning it.

“You talk to Marcus,” Sean asked Chris.

“I did, the little shit.  He’s got a lot of attitude.  Stuck to his contention that he was too good a shot and too valuable to be left behind.  He’s going to get left behind a lot more.”

“You get him back on track?  I want him gathering information out of that plant.  His ability to gather information is more important that his skill with a rifle, which I doubt is as good as he boasts.”

“We talked about that, but I don’t think he gets it.  He’s one of those guys who does more thinking with his gun than with his brain.”

“He’s young,” Jim added.  “Not that being young is a problem, but being young and not listening to people who know better is.”

“So what do you think we should do Jim?  You’ve been hovering around the upper echelons of command long enough. What’s your opinion?”

“Kick him out of our little, ‘circle of trust.’  You gave him a direct order, two direct orders, and he totally disregarded both of them.  We don’t need to kick him out of the compound, but we don’t need to put ourselves in a position where we rely on him.”

“You don’t think he deserves a chance to redeem himself?”

“I don’t think he’d try to redeem himself. He’s got a bad attitude.  Bad attitudes are hard to change.”

Sean looked to Chris, who replied, “We’re still getting good information from Stumpy, and we’ve got other people working in the plant we can leverage.  I say we leave him be awhile.”

“Done,” Sean said.  “By the way, how is Stumpy’s work going?”

Chris laughed. “Nobody seems to notice he’s been working in that building off and on for a few weeks now. That’s good for us.”

“Yes it is,” Sean said.

Jim smiled.  Stumpy had been working on the damaged sewer in James Pritchard’s headquarters for quite awhile.  Nobody seemed too worried about what the poop man was up to.   Satishpied with the condition of his rifle, Jim slapped it together.

Chris unloaded a magazine and then stripped it apart to clean it. “I’m still worried about the two assassination attempts.  That is something you and I still need to address.”

Sean held up his hands.  “Of all the other things we have going on, that’s not even something I’ve got time to worry about.”

“Well I’m not done worrying about two attempts on your life,” Chris said.

“We only know the one was meant for me.”

“I don’t think somebody rigged up that IED to kill Grandpa, so as far as I’m concerned its two attempts.  I don’t want a third, especially a successful one.  And don’t say anything like, ‘It’s the price of doing business.’  We need this addressed.”

“You have any plans?”

“Not yet.”

“Well XO, when you do, you let me know.”

“XO huh?  Is that my title now?”

“I’m sure it will be soon. Start getting used to it.”
––––
Malik walked into James Pritchard’s office without knocking and set a handful of papers on his boss’s desk.

“Need you to sign these.”

Without reading any of the documents, James took out a pen and scratched his name across the bottom of the documents. “How bad was it for those boys up in Leddersville,” he asked casually.

“They had about two dozen men to start with.  Bastle killed eight of them.  They’ve got three more wounded and five still missing.”

James ginned with greedy intent and handed Malik a piece of paper.  “A memo from the Attorney General,” He explained.  “Looks like manpower for them shouldn’t be an issue.  We just need to figure out what to charge them for replacements.”

Malik looked over the memo, glancing over the fluff and reading through the meat.  “How soon will this take effect?”

“In the coming weeks.  We’ll see more memos like that one.  The plan is for the PA to create a branch to match just about every feral agency.  Everything from the Department of Education to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

Malik looked up from the paper.  “That’s pretty aggressive.  Where will they get the people?”

“Well these won’t be mirror images.  The PA will just provide oversight to all these departments.”

“And eventually co-opt them?”

The grin on James’s face grew wider.  Since the arrival of the fuel yesterday, Malik noticed some significant changes in his boss.   The delivery made the man much more self assured.  Every new Progressive program had the potential to bring him more power and wealth. Sitting behind his desk, he now schemed for new ways to exploit these programs.  The man practically had dollar signs in his eyes as he discussed exploiting the manpower problems in Leddersville.

“Son, Progress is the name of the game, and if these agencies don’t get Progressive enough to suit the demands of the people, the PA will help them out. “But let’s get back to our people in Leddersville.  Figure what they need to make up for their losses and then find some replacements we can release from prison.  Just make sure they provide us with a fair share of their business.”

Malik knew enough about politics to know that when a politician meant when he used the words, “fair share.”

     James changed the subject.  “Will everything be ready for the President’s speech tonight?”

      “Yes.  Hugh Bowden will have his bar loaded with union members for the address.  After the speech they will launch a spontaneous rally of support for whatever the President says.  Tomorrow they will institute a work stoppage in the plant until the community shows the appropriate level of support for the President says.”

       “And what is the appropriate level of support?”

        “Who knows?  We don’t even know what tonight’s speech is about.  It’s all bullshit anyway. They can’t work at the plant. There is still the welding rod shortage.” There were also shortages of copper wire, tires and batteries, and that was not all.  Major end items to get the factory running were still sitting on the docks at ports on the East Coast for want of transport across the nation.
Malik continued. “Grass Roots volunteers will also discuss the speech in all the schools tomorrow. The Progressive Auxiliary members will be marching and attending rallies in Seattle and Tacoma for the next two weeks.”

       “Good.  It sounds like we’ll make a strong show of support.”

       “Yes,” Malik agreed.  “We’ll see what he has to say.”
––––
They key members of the county’s Progress movement assembled to watch the President’s address.  They milled around inside a conference room, each wondering what would take place.  Lt Colonel Kwon stepped through them all and set a laptop on the conference table.  He flipped open the screen so all could see it.  The computer utilized a wireless network and the screen displayed some random commercial website.

         “Watch,” the Marine said.

A television screen mounted on a wall at the end of the conference table showed a podium with the Presidential seal and a red carpet behind it.  From the background noise, you could tell the President approached.   On the computer, the screen flickered a few times.  The address line on the webpage went blank, then flashed, and then populated by itself.  The computer brought up the new web address and after a few moments it displayed a live feed of the White House.  The image on the computer screen mirrored that of the TV.

Lt Colonel Kwon hit a few keys on the laptop, demonstrating an attempt to exit the feed.  Nothing happened.  He explained. “Right now the FCC has total control over this computer, and any other computer connected to a server in the United States.”  Everybody in the room gravitated to the computer, appreciating the significance of what they witnessed.

     “You could even unplug it and it wouldn’t shut down.  The only way to stop it is to remove the battery.”  Kwon smiled.  “They are working on a program where if you remove the battery during a mandated program, next time the computer is connected to the internet it will send a message to the FCC.  They are also working on a program to capture video enabled cell phones.” Paul watched the others nod in fawning approval.

“If a computer wasn’t on at the time the address started, or was on but not online, it wouldn’t connect to the President’s address.  The FCC is working with the NSA to fix that too.”

“Why,” Paul asked.

The Marine looked at the FEMA man with puzzlement.  “The White House decided that the internet is no different than radio or television.  It is under the oversight of the federal government.  Controlling the flow of information is in the best interests of the people.”

The possibility of any further discussion ended.  The President took the podium amidst a barrage of flashbulbs. Every TV channel and radio station in the United States broadcasted the President’s speech, as did any online computer.  Recordings of the speech would be replayed the next day in public areas across the country.  In all of the Grass Roots Transient camps, jumbo screens displayed the speech live to their literally captive audiences, an easy feat since most major sports stadiums housed the camps.  The President adjusted the microphone then spoke.

“In the last two years, my accomplishments and the accomplishments of those loyal to Progress have been many and grand in scope.  By seizing many of this nation’s industries, we halted a financial crisis. Today, the economic benefits of the Readjustment are apparent.  Unemployment will decrease to record lows. Store shelves will soon be full.  Wages and industrial output are projected to go higher than they ever have before. The quality of life for the average American is on track to be the better than ever before in just a few years. And most importantly, we were able to achieve these economic advantages without compromising the All-American value of sustainability, centralization and compassion.”

“And as more and more of you embraced the inherent goodness of Progress, I was able to achieve one of the greatest accomplishments of my administration so far.  With the help of many Progressive Americans, we were able to defeat a deadly pandemic before it ravaged the land.  But I did not come to this office to stop a few disasters. I came to this office to shape our nation’s future.”

The President had to pause as the gathered reporters set down their cameras and notepads and stood to give him a round of applause and cheers.  Once the ovation ended, he continued.

“Our nation’s failures and misdeeds have been many and egregious, but one of our greatest failures has been our blind adherence to an inefficient political system that allows dissent and prevents elected officials who have been given a mandate from the people from getting things done.  How often has our bipartisan system prevented a president from doing what is right?  If you look back on our history, all of America’s sins were committed under a political process that allowed for conflicting beliefs, instead of orchestrating a unified devotion.  The genocide committed against Native Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans,  our use of atomic weapons, our failure to support the Palestinians in their heroic struggles, the ecological apartheid committed against our inner cities, and profit driven health-care;  None of these atrocious acts were committed under a unified single-party system.  If we had a Progressive system, none of these events would have happened.
“What our defeat of the recent pandemic has proven is that we need a single party system, a system that can establish a consensus for each issue and break it down into simple terms that every American can understand and support. Why must we reach across the aisle, when we can embrace as members of the same faith with the same dream?  What we need to do now is make up for the lack of forethought and enlightenment our founding fathers showed.  We need to fix this broken system we inherited and march toward a greater America, a more powerful America, a more Progressive America.”


Once again the President had to pause for the reporters to show their support.

“Thousands of Americans, most of them children, die every day because of the endless bickering that takes place amongst our legislators.  A few Senators and Congressmen are allowed to discuss and debate issues rather than take the Progressive route and follow our clear agenda.  These debates are never based on the Progressive principals of compassion, love and inclusion.  Instead, greed and hate are allowed to distort the conversation, because those that protest Progress do so only for their own selfish benefits.

“Benefits of a Progressive single party system are clear; lower taxes, better education for our children, more jobs, greater respect by our fellow nations, and an economy that won’t just be more sustainable, but greener and distributed in a manner that benefits all Americans, not just a few  greedy corporations.  This is not just my opinion.  These are the facts and they cannot be disputed.  Anyone who does so is either selfishly stonewalling out of hate, or ignorant of the truth.

“I urge all the leaders of this nation, be they political leaders, businessmen, military officers, Judges or  teachers,  I urge you to show your patriotism and support for this great nation of by joining the Progress party.  Now is the time to set aside old party affiliations and old ideologies that never worked.  Now is the time for Americans to speak with one voice, think with one mind and act with one purpose.  I urge you all to embrace this change that the American people have mandated.”


       In his kitchen, Gerry Sheely listened to the President’s speech as he sipped at a glass of moonshine and ran an oily cloth over his semi-automatic shotgun.  One of the pistols Sean gave him sat nearby on the kitchen table.   A loaded hunting rifle also sat on the table.  Most of the other farmers turned their homes into armed camps now that they knew there would be no help from the Sheriff if the transplants attacked again. The ones that weren’t arming were packing up to leave. The day after the Sheriff’s last visit, the PA and the Grass Roots came back into the valley with a half dozen low-boys.  They put every piece of farm equipment they could fit onto the trucks and left. If it hadn’t been raining, Gerry was certain they would have come back for more.
What they did with the confiscated equipment was the real insult.  The Grass Roots donated it to the transplants.  The Grass Roots administrator said donating the equipment was necessary in the name of fairness.  After all, it wouldn’t be fair to relocate people here without giving them an advantage to make them competitive with the farmers already established.
Gerry’s farmers couldn’t take much more.  Gerry couldn’t take much more either.  All this talk of compassion and coming together sounded great, but it was never true compassion.  For all their talk about compassion and fairness, they always targeted some group.  Even now in this veiled “come-together,” speech, the President targeted the same people Progress always targeted; people like Gerry.  The reason why was obvious.  Their policies didn’t work.  They didn’t work practically, economically, or legally.  And rather than admit they didn’t work, the Progressives chose to blame others for the failures of their programs.  If a program wasn’t legal, then the law needed to be rewritten or ignored.  If a program went bankrupt, it was because people didn’t pay enough taxes.  If somebody critized a program, it was out of hate or fear or some personal bias.  It was never about the actual program itself.

Their policies didn’t work, and it was always the fault of people like Gerry.  So they had to make their policies more aggressive.  But the policies still didn’t work and once again people like Gerry were to blame, each time the blame getting louder and more intense.

Gerry took another sip and listened to the speech continue.

"And I don’t want to see this just at the Federal level.  Oh no.  I want to see this at the state level, the city level, the county level, and throughout this nation. I want to wake up one morning, look out of the White House and look upon a sea of loyal Progressive American’s from one coast, to the other.

“As President, I am willing to permit reasonable and enlightened debate on this issue.  But, any debate must lead to the conclusion that I have outlined and the people demanded. America will have a Progressive single-party system that will lead this nation into its proper place in the world community.

“For those who are skeptical of this new system, let me remind you of the many successes Progress has brought to this country.  Now is not the time to debate or to tread lightly like a coward.  Now is the time for courageous and immediate action.  The path of America is the path of Progress, and you can no more stop Progress than you can stop the future.”


Paul tuned out the final moments of the speech and looked around the room.  In his head he did what firefighters called a scene size-up, identifying hazards, or potential hazards. These hazards came in the form of people.  The Grass Roots leaders looked at the screen with almost blank eyes.  They were believers, and if the President read random words out of the dictionary, they’d gush all over themselves with approval.  At the other end of the room sat Lt Colonel Kwon.  He possessed more intelligence than the young idealists, but Paul didn’t trust him either.  He had political and professional aspirations of his own, and those aspirations depended upon this Progress movement.  James Pritchard sat the head of the table.  He too linked his future to Progress.  Progress would give him the power and wealth he’d been unable to obtain otherwise.  Paul knew enough about the stunt with the fuel to know that politician. Like most politicians, he could not be trusted.  

Paul considered himself a good enough judge of character to know that Malik really didn’t believe in this Progress garbage at all.  But Malik knew he could profit from it and the useful idiots who supported it.  Of all the people in the room, Malik was the only one Paul respected.  But respect or not, Paul didn’t trust the man. Paul recognized he was a man behind enemy lines.  He had no friends in this room, not a single person he could trust.  He felt very alone.

As Paul’s mind raced, the lights in the building cut out completely.  The emergency lights, which should have kicked on, stayed off.  The only light in the conference room came from Kwon’s laptop.

Curses and groans erupted.  The power going out was nothing new, but usually the backup generators kicked on.  Not this time.  Amidst the moaning and complaining, Paul reached into his pocket and pulled out a flashlight.  His light filled the room.  Paul’s eyes followed the light.  All the faces around the room looked at him as if he were crazy.  It took a second for him to realize it, but they thought he was crazy because he had a flashlight.  His preparedness made him insane.

“Shouldn’t the generator have started,” somebody asked.  Eyes turned to Paul.

“I’ll go down and take a look at it,” He sighed.  Although outwardly he appeared dejected, inside he felt happy for an excuse to get out of the conference room and do something tangible.

––––
Down in the basement, Paul saw the beam of a flashlight playing across the walls and heard cursing.  “Who’s there,” he called out into the darkness.  His own flashlight lit up a face in the darkness.  Stumpy, the man who worked on the building’s sewer system yelled back.

“It’s only me.  How ‘bout you get that light out of my eyes and help me find the generator so we don’t have to wander around in the darkness like a couple of fools.”

Paul smiled and lowered his light. “I’ve been down here before.  The generator is this way.”  He led Stumpy down a corridor. Their flashlights illuminated the big grey piece of machinery at the end.

“I’m surprised anybody else around here had the common sense to carry a flashlight around with them,” Stumpy said as they walked.

“I spent enough time as a firefighter to appreciate the value of a good flashlight,” Paul responded.   “I thought I’d come down here and see if I could fix it.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve got some doubts as to how mechanically inclined some of the people are around here.  Aren’t you they guy working on our plumbing?”

“I am,” Stumpy said. “I’d like to be done. But the damage to the pipes down here is pretty extensive, and things being what they are, I can’t find all the parts to fix things right away.  That will probably keep me coming in and out of here for a long time.”

“I know how you feel,” Paul said.  He grabbed a broom leaning against a wall. “Things are getting harder to come by.”

Stumpy took the broom from Paul.  “Every couple of days I come here with whatever parts I can come up with and start making repairs.  This is a pretty important building and I figured it won’t hurt to keep it running.”

“Stand back,” Stumpy said.  He flipped a few levers on the generator and then used the end of the broomstick to hit the big red reset button.  The machinery coughed, made a mechanical winding screech, and then shuddered to life.  The lights came on.

“We did it,” Paul said. Stumpy thought the old firefighter seemed like a good enough fellow.  Too bad he had to lie to him.

––––-

As soon as the speech ended, media coverage switched to the hundreds of spontaneous rallies that erupted to show support for the President.  Camera angles were carefully chosen to make it appear that entire cities were out in the streets demonstrating their support of the president.  Untelevised reports indicated overwhelming popular support for the President’s speech even in the potentially secessionist states.

In a small town in North Dakota, its small town mayor looked out the window of his home onto an empty street.  He saw lots of snow, but no rallying supporters.   He closed the curtain and shut off his TV.  

Dale Genesee never had great political ambitions.  He’d been the mayor of this small farming town in North Dakota since he turned 40.  In a few months, he’d be 60.  The reasons he ran for mayor in the first place were simple.  He loved his town and felt an obligation to serve it.   This was where he was born and raised.  He’d first left to spend four years in college.  After that he spent another six years in the Air Force.  After that he returned to school and eventually become a history professor, taking a job in a small community college in his home town.

Now, he worked as Mayor of his quiet little town, taught part time and ran a small family farm with his sons and their families.  He lived his life quietly. But as much as he enjoyed the solitude and the slow pace of his life, there were some things he could not ignore.  With a doctorate degree in history, he knew enough about how the world and human nature worked to form his own opinions about what he just saw on the TV, what it would lead to, and what he needed to do about it.  

“Grab the truck.  We’re heading into Canada,” he said quietly to his son.  The young man disappeared to execute his task.  The Mayor sat down at his desk and took out a pen and a sheet of paper.  What he needed to do, he could not do in the United States.  But before he left for Canada, he had to write his resignation as Mayor.  


Link Posted: 10/16/2009 7:50:18 PM EDT
[#44]
Link Posted: 10/16/2009 8:17:06 PM EDT
[#45]
YAY!
keep it goin . . . . more more MORE
Link Posted: 10/16/2009 9:50:21 PM EDT
[#46]
You should save chapters this scary for halloween!  Spot on writing!
Link Posted: 10/17/2009 6:31:59 AM EDT
[#47]
Great Chapter!

I especially liked the flashlight part, I get weird looks and the "Why do you carry a flashlight" comment all the time.

Thanks
Link Posted: 10/18/2009 3:19:25 PM EDT
[#48]
Welcome to the future...  I mean present one party system. Fiction imitates reality. Thanks for another great chapter Sharkman, I can't wait to see what Stumpy has up his sleeve!!!
Link Posted: 10/18/2009 3:47:04 PM EDT
[#49]
Originally Posted By kaiserworks:
Welcome to the future...  I mean present one party system. Fiction imitates reality. Thanks for another great chapter Sharkman, I can't wait to see what Stumpy has up his sleeve!!!


I'm betting that Stumpy had about a ton of TNT/C4/RDX etc... salted in and around the building, and at the correct time, that building is going to disappear...  

just a guess...

WDS
Link Posted: 10/18/2009 10:28:38 PM EDT
[#50]
Great Stuff!

Thanks and keep it up....please?

..........Mounger
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