Once again Commander Trump was livid.
“They took out a helicopter? Then send in a tank or two! We’ve declared martial law. We need to establish law and order!”
Bill Barr had entered the bunker at some time during the briefing. ‘You’re absolutely right, Commander! You stand on firm ground because, let’s face it, our country hasn’t been besieged like this since the Civil War.”
Video was coming in from Kansas City. “Idiots!” said Admiral Dusseldorf. “The militia should have waited for them inside the convention center. Amateurs!”
“Anybody know why there were so many of them in Kansas?” Trump asked the room.
“Maybe they were setting up a base there,” an aide offered.
“Somebody’s thinking!” said Trump. He turned to General Patterson. “What do you think, have we seen the last of them?”
“Not if they’ve got more RPGs.”
“What about the militia? How did they do?”
“They were cut off by a second group and wiped out.”
“Shit! How many casualties on their side? Please tell me we wiped them out, too!”
“Could be. After the attack we saw no sign of an organized force. Other than the RPG attack on the Huey. That might have literally been their parting shot,” suggested Harding from the Army.
Patterson looked around the room at what was left of the Joint Chiefs. They all seemed to be caught up in the blood lust of the moment. He was disgusted.
He had an idea. “Commander, what we need is some good intel on the ground.”
“What do you suggest, general?”
“I’m itching to get into the thick of things. Let me take some special ops guys and see what I can find out. Maybe we’ll find out the fight’s over. If not, it will be when we show up.”
“Those are some balls you got there, general. That’s a tremendous idea!”
“Ass kisser,” mumbled Harding.
An aide came in to report more warriors, Sioux riding down from the Dakotas.
“Double time on that, Patterson!” said the Commander.
Patterson saluted and quickly left the bunker. He flagged down an MP. “Corporal, have you seen Captain Mendez?”
“In the breakroom, sir!”
They spotted each other as soon as he entered the room.
“Glad to see you’re still here, Mendez.”
“I’m not sure why I am, sir,” admitted the Marine. “What you said shook me to the core.”
“Take a walk with me, Captain.”
When they were out of earshot, Patterson asked, “How do you feel about what’s going on?”
“I don’t think it’s good for the country. My family is staying off the streets, hoping this will all blow over soon.”
“I’ve been ordered to check out the situation in Kansas. I’d like you to go with me.”
“Just the two of us?”
“Of course not! I want thirty Special Ops and I want you to pick them.”
“And, Mendez? Make sure they’re black or brown.”
“That’s an order, Mendez. We’ll take a cargo plane and load her up good with RPGs, rifles, and a tank. Let’s meet up on the airfield at 1800.”
Josh and Curtis passed a sign welcoming them to Flagstaff, Arizona. There was snow piled high on the sides of the road. Up ahead, smoke rose from the chimney of a little coffee shop.
“I’m starving!” admitted Josh.
“I’d give anything to have some scrambled eggs, bacon, and real coffee. I haven’t seen a 24-hour Starbucks since we left L.A.!”
Kicking snow off their boots, they found the coffee shop was busy at 8 a.m. Tables were situated in L-shape in front of large windows looking out on the road. A large African-American man stood behind the cash register.
“Sit anywhere you want!”
A pretty black girl in her early twenties showed up to take their order. Her name tag said she was Darlene.
“What’ll it be, guys?”
They ordered their food and before she could walk away, Curtis asked, “Did you vote the other day?”
“I didn’t have a chance. They moved our polling place. By the time I got off, it was closed.”
“Didn’t you find that odd?”
“Nah. It happens all the time in these little towns.”
“Last I heard, Flagstaff’s not that little,” commented Josh.
She left to give a customer the check, filled some coffee cups, and returned.
“I usually forget to vote. I only remembered this time because highway patrol was in here the other day saying they were expecting trouble. I guess that’s why they moved the polling place.”
The big, burly manager walked over. “These boys bothering you, Darlene?”
“No, Daddy. Just making small talk.”
Darlene took the hint and made her rounds. Curtis went looking for the restroom. The manager followed him in.
“If you keep talking to my girl you’re going to get her sucked into whatever nightmare you’re living right now. Look, I’m going to give you some directions that will take you down some back roads so you can avoid the checkpoint on the highway.”
“What makes you think…?”
“California license plates. You’d be surprised how often that means trouble. You might want to take off ASAP before it gets busy in town. Breakfast is on me. Good luck. And if you have anything that says ‘Black Lives Matter,’ get rid of it. They’re calling them domestic terrorists.”
Curtis grabbed Josh and they left quickly. Curtis told him about the conversation in the restroom and the advice that was offered.
“Should we stick to our plan of traveling at night?” Josh asked. “Maybe stop at a motel and get some sleep?’
“I say drive on through. The manager said we’re only about five hours away. Besides, there’s a lot of ice on the roads that freezes up at night. I don’t want to spin off a cliff and not get found till next Spring.”
They made it through town and onto the 180 east without attracting any attention. They spotted half a dozen motorcycles at a McDonald’s as they transitioned onto US-89 north. One straggly biker sipping his coffee seemed to take an interest in their passing.
They had traveled about 25 miles when Josh heard the roar of motorcycles from behind.
“Shit!” said Josh, glancing in the rearview mirror.
“What do you want to do?”
“What can we do? Just be cool. Maybe they’re not interested in us.”
A couple of the bikers were pulling up alongside the old Buick on the driver’s side. They took note of the two of them and began to creep over closer.
Bam! Suddenly there was another biker on the other side kicking at Curtis’ door.
“Maybe they just want to pass,” suggested Curtis. They both laughed which seemed to infuriate the bikers.
Josh swerved toward the two on his side and was satisfied to see one waver before righting the bike.
Now there was a concerted effort to kick in both sides of the car. “Think they have insurance?” asked Josh.
“Man, if I wasn’t scared shitless right now, I would think you were hilarious.”
“When the guy comes up again to bash your side of the car, give him the door.”
Curtis swung the door out, but the biker easily swerved and actually tried to grab his shoulder to pull him out of the car. Josh swerved the other way and the biker on Curtis’ side had to avoid the door as it swung back.
He looked frightened. “Let’s not try that move again!”
More bikers had moved into position. One of them had a tire iron he swung and smashed in the rear passenger window. Shards of glass sprayed the interior of the car.
Josh looked up at the rearview mirror to see a Toyota Tundra barreling down on them. The bikers hadn’t noticed it yet. The truck pulled behind the bikers on the driver’s side. A baseball bat poked out of the cab and clipped a biker in the back of the head. He hit the asphalt, his motorcycle tumbling over him.
A double-barreled shotgun appeared on the other side of the truck and blasted the front tire of another bike. The rider flew over the handlebars. The rest of the bikers moved into position and pulled out firearms of their own and the battle was engaged. From out of the truck came three more shotguns and five more bikers went down.
“We are definitely outgunned,” said Curtis.
The bikers suddenly remembered them and fired at them. The back window exploded inward.
The truck flashed their brights on and off.
Josh said, “I think the guys in the truck want me to pull over.” He abruptly stopped on the shoulder and waited for the truck to catch up.
Three bikers revved up and went around the truck intent on doing damage to Curtis and Josh. The truck sped up and caught them in its grill and shoved them aside.
“That’s eleven,” announced Josh.
Another older pickup truck appeared behind the bikers. A single man popped up from the bed with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and fired one into their midst. Two bikers were far enough away from the blast that they rode quickly past and kept going.
“Holy shit!” said Josh.
A man leaned out of the window of the first truck. “Follow us. We don’t want to be around when the law shows up.”
They drove in a caravan all the way up the 89 to the 160 north. They all stopped in Tuba City and four guys climbed out of the first truck and five out of the second. They circled Josh and Curtis. It was pretty clear they were Native American.
“What are you doing in Indian country?” one of them asked sternly.
“We’re on our way to meet my sister in Colorado,” answered Josh.
“What’s she doing in Colorado?” another asked.
“Hey, when do we get to ask some questions?”
“We saved your asses. You’ll get a turn,” said the first one.
“So, your sister?”
“Her name’s Candy. We’re supposed to meet her at Mesa Verde.”
“That’s where we’re headed. The gathering of tribes,” said the first. “My name’s Marcus. Me and Louis are from the Hualapai reservation. We got a couple buddies, Carlos and Chuck from the Havasupai.” He pointed to the men from the other truck. “Those guys are Hopi.”
“Hey! Not me!” objected one who looked younger than the others. “I’m Max. I’m Kaibab.”
“This is Curtis. I’m Josh.”
One of them looked at Curtis. “I was pretty sure you were cool, but you can’t trust a lot of white folks these days.”
Marcus handed Curtis a shotgun. “You need to be packing one of these for protection.”
“We’re going to get something to eat, do some shopping and head out. It’s about a four-hour drive,” explained Max. “Are you stocked up?”
“We can always grab some more food. My mom and dad gave us their camping stuff,” said Josh.
“How long are we packing for?” asked Curtis.
Andy’s phone rang. It was Josh.
“Josh! How are you, my man? Are you with your sister?”
“We’re almost there, dad! How are you and mom?”
“We are doing our best to go with the flow here. Cooperation is the key. Any problems?”
“Curtis is always hungry.”
“We’ve met some cool guys and we’re headed in the same direction. They also seem to be better prepared than us.”
“Be careful, son.”
“We are, dad. Next time I call I’ll be with Candy. In fact, we’re on our way now. You and mom take care. Talk to you later!”
“We love you, son. Talk with you soon.”
Tanner was at the door.
“Knight, we need your help to man a checkpoint. We’re expecting some trouble tonight.”
“I wouldn’t be much help. My son says I get winded just walking up the driveway.”
“You will just have to ask folks some questions. Muscle will be there with you.”
“This will go a long way to showing your loyalty.”
Andy sighed and shared a look with Carrie.
“Sure. Count me in.”
“Great! We’ll see you at the end of the block at about 8 pm.”
They had a light dinner; Andy’s stomach was doing flip-flops.
Ten minutes before his appointment, he put on a jacket.
Carrie hugged him tightly. “Be careful. Don’t let them catch you off guard.”
He gave her his best comforting smile and walked out.
There was a massive LAPD officer at the checkpoint. He looked at Andy with disdain.
“So, you’re our new Neighborhood Watch?”
“I guess so. Andy Knight. What’s with the increased security?”
“Just keep your eyes open. Question anybody and everybody.” He handed him a checklist. “If anyone even starts to give you lip, call me over. Look for telltale signs of terrorism: Black Lives Matter swag, anything that says Democrat Party. Those are the ones we want to pull aside and question more extensively.”
“And your name?”
“Fenton. Or officer or boss while you’re on duty.”
“When am I off duty?”
“When I say you are. About midnight.” Fenton looked up and saw a car approaching.
“Look sharp. Here’s your first customer.”
Four college-aged guys pulled up reeking of pot and beer. Andy called out to Fenton.
“Uh, boss? Can you check this out?”
Fenton leaned into the car. “God, that smells good!”
The driver held out a lit joint. “Want some?”
Fenton took a long draw off the joint. “Got an extra brewski?”
They passed him a Budweiser.
“Thanks, fellas. Have a good night!” He frowned in Andy’s direction as they drove away.
“Are we going to have a problem here?”
“Should you be drinking and smoking on the job?” Andy asked.
“Who are you, my mother? The beer’s for after work. Those were just frat boys having some innocent fun. I was bonding with them. Head’s up! There’s another car.”
This car was an older model, a little beaten up. Andy leaned down and saw two white guys in the front seat and a young black couple in the back. He glanced down at the checklist.
“Anybody here a member of a terrorist organization?” Nervous giggles all around.
“Of course not,” answered the driver in an offended tone.
“That wouldn’t include BLM, would it?” the girl in the back seat asked sweetly.
“Yes, it would,” said Andy.
“Okay then. Have a good night.”
They started to pull away when Fenton stepped in front of their car. He stuck his head inside the vehicle for a moment then came toward Andy fuming.
“I knew it! I knew you were a security risk when I set eyes on you!”
“What are you talking about?” Andy asked.
“You clueless idiot!” said Fenton. “The county sends over one or two test vehicles every night and you just failed!”
“Red flag number one: a black couple in the car. One Negro, maybe an Oreo. Two, often a conspiracy. Red flag number two: nervous giggles when asked a direct question. They’re hiding something. Pull that car aside and strip it, go through the glove box, under the seats, through the trunk. You’re going to find something. Even if nothing’s there, catch my drift?”
Fenton gave an exasperated sigh. “Black on the outside, white on the inside. They think like a white person and just happen to be black.” He gave Andy a look of assessment.
“I don’t think you’re cut out for this. Or maybe you’re a sympathizer. I’m going to recommend you to re-education camp. It’ll get you out of the ‘burbs for a while. As soon as your replacement shows up, you’re free to go.”
It was 10:30 pm when Andy walked in the door.
“How did it go? Did you pass the test?”
“Nope, we’re going to get reprogrammed.” He crawled into bed next to her and turned on his side away from her. He felt her move against his back and drape her arm over him. Her body’s warmth chased away the foreboding chill that had followed him home.
“Men, I’m General Patterson from the Pentagon. You’ve been chosen for a very important, unique mission. I know you’ve heard that many times before but let me explain.” Thirty-one black and brown faces, an intelligent team of kickass soldiers, waited for him to find the words.
“First, a show of hands. How many of you think your duty is to uphold the Constitution?”
“Second, how many think your first duty is to the President?”
He saw lots of puzzled faces and one upraised hand.
“Our first duty is to uphold the Constitution and follow our commander-in-chief, sir.”
“And what if the commander-in-chief has been incapacitated?”
The soldiers were starting to exchange glances. “There’s a chain of command, sir.”
“So, who’s next?”
“The Vice President, sir.”
“Next question. Who did you vote for in 2016?”
There were more exchanged glances. The same soldier spoke up.
“How we voted is a private matter, sir.”
“Bear with me, Colonel. Gentlemen, your vote in 2016 may compromise your objectivity and could undermine your ability to assess an imminent threat to the nation and each one of you.”
“General, you guys at the Pentagon are the politicians. We’re here to defend our freedom.”
Here was where Caesar crossed the Rubicon.
“Do you remember the oath you took talking about enemies foreign and domestic?”
“We, gentlemen, have reached the most dangerous moment in American history. I am not using hyperbole. FDR referred to a rendezvous with destiny. THIS IS IT! In order to save our nation, our freedom and all that we hold dear, we must rise up against tyranny. Some will say that we are aiding and abetting the enemies of the Constitution, but the opposite is true. So, I will ask the question again: Who did you vote for in 2016?”
The numbers revealed the hold that Trump had on the military: Seventy-three percent had voted for Trump.
“How many voted for him again?” Patterson asked. This time the total was about fifty percent.
“Thank you for your honest answers. Now I need to share some confidential information that will explain why those questions were important and why you’re here today. Mr. Trump is planning to seize outright dictatorial control of our nation.”
Some shook their heads and looked defiant.
“I witnessed firsthand his execution of a member of the joint chiefs of staff who gave him advice he didn’t want to hear. For his blunt counsel, General Sutherland received a bullet to the head. In this day where bad news is called fake news because we simply don’t want to believe it, I can verify it because I was there!
“Now I must reveal our destination. We are en route to Kansas City, Kansas where the president has authorized force against civilians by an illegal militia working in conjunction with local troops. We are going to investigate and engage this and other illegal militias operating unilaterally in direct violation of the United States Constitution. As soon as I know more about the situation on the ground, I will inform you so you can be most effective in protecting human life and neutralizing enemy combatants. I will now answer any questions you may have.”
“General, how do we know this isn’t fake news or some test of our loyalty?”
“Captain, I swear to you on all I hold dear, my family, my rank, my country, and my faith that we are in some unprecedented hot water here, deep doodoo, and we are the only thing standing between total anarchy and Civil war.”
“General, why us?”
“Colonel, take a look around. Look at your fellow soldiers, the best and the brightest people of color in this military. You all are here because you have the most to lose if this goes down. Maybe you’re not worried because you’re a badass son of a bitch. Then think of your family! Are there any of them involved in Black Lives Matter or maybe they’re political lefties? Trump has taken a page out of the Chairman Mao playbook and has established re-education camps.”
“And why is that a bad thing?” somebody asked.
“Is that America? We don’t have to agree with them, but it’s a free country, right? NOT ANY MORE! It’s time to get serious. I need to know that I can count on you, that your country can count on you.”
He spotted a hand in the back.
“One last question.”
The soldier stood up and drew his weapon.
“I need you to stand down, Gen…”
Patterson had pulled his own gun and put a bullet into the soldier’s head. The sound of the shot rang in the belly of the cargo plane long after the soldier had slumped to the floor.
“As God is my witness, I didn’t want to do that, but this mission is the most important thing you will do in your lives. We all need to go in knowing we have each other’s backs. I need to know that when I give an order, it will be followed quickly and without question. I need you to sound off individually starting with you, Mendez.”
“Sir! Yes, sir!”
Patterson was proud to see that all but one other had taken stock and thrown in their lot with the rest. Now what was he going to do with her?
Ronnie and Candy rolled into what was starting to look like a bivouac. Most of the warriors were moving supplies into the cave dwellings. The dwellings seemed etched into the side of the mountain with a portion still providing an overhanging shelter.
“Good. There’s not a lot anybody can spot from the air,” remarked Ronnie.
He turned to the brave who was showing them around. “Where are the park rangers?”
“We created a makeshift jail where they’re being tended to.”
“Not an ideal situation. Excess baggage but weren’t not savages.” Everyone within earshot laughed.
“It’s a little chilly. Have we got enough camp stoves and blankets?” Candy asked.
“You think it’s cold now,” said their guide. “The temp plummets after the sun goes down. And I don’t know how long the snowfall will hold off.”
“How many warriors have checked in?”
“Word of mouth has traveled to the west coast. We’re looking at three thousand, thirty-five hundred right now, with more pouring in.”
“Shit! A drop in the bucket!” He turned to the guide.
“Any idea on our odds?”
“We’ve been running the numbers. Counting the reserves, we’re looking at about seven million of them. And they’ve got all, or at least most, of the weaponry.”
Ronnie ran a hand through his hair. “What the fuck have I got us into?”
“It’s a fight for the country. A good fight,” Candy assured him.
“A lot of good people are going to die. Did it really have to come to this?”
“If you could have taken a time machine back to 1940 and killed Hitler, would you?”
“I would have gone back further and strangled him in the crib.”
“A little baby? I don’t think so.”
“Yeah, he was probably a lot cuter without that mustache.”
Candy’s walkie barked. “Somebody here to see you, Captain.”
“I guess that’s me. I can’t get used to that military designation.”
“Send them up to Area 5,” she replied.
She saw two men running up the steep incline toward her.
“Josh!” They threw their arms around each other with tears threatening them both.
She turned and embraced Curtis. “Thank you for being here. Thanks for joining the fight.”
“I just got a text. More brothers are coming.”
“We have plenty of room,” said Ronnie. “82 square miles.”
Reggie and his entourage joined the group. “I was at Woodstock. This can get messy pretty fast. You’re going to need sanitation duty. That, too, is part of the glorious rebellion.”
“I’m on it!” offered Josh. “First on, first off, right?”
Josh’s phone showed an incoming call from his mother. Candy was getting a call from her dad.
“Did you make it?” asked his mother.
“We’re right here with Candy!”
“How does she look?”
“Okay. Healthy. Like the B.I.C.”
“The Bitch in Charge.”
“I’m not going to tell you how anti-feminist that is. Go talk to your dad. Let me talk to Candy.”
“We’re so happy you guys made it safely. Any problems?”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle with friends along the way.”
“You can never have enough friends.”
“Inventory is going well, but I could have sworn there were more hammers,” Josh said.
“Huh? Oh. Order some more.”
“I did. They’re on the way. Lots more.”
“You can never have too many hammers,” Andy said.
“Especially when they’ve got all the nails,” Josh answered obliquely. “I’ve got to check in for my work assignment.”
“Already? Me too,” said Andy.
“What are you doing?”
“Your mom and I are going out of town for the weekend.”
“Really, dad? At a time like this?”
“A bunch of the neighbors are going to take a bus to an Indian casino to do some gambling.“
“Nobody can make up their mind. They’re looking at ALL the casinos. And haven’t made ANY RESERVATIONS.“
The phone signal disappeared as did everyone else’s.
The copilot pulled Patterson aside. “KC’s an all-clear. Party’s over. Should we head for home?”
“Captain Flores, is it? Who did you vote for a few days ago?”
“Permission to speak freely, General?”
“That was quite emphatic.”
“Just another way of saying you have my full support, General.”
“And the pilot?”
“Let’s put it this way, he’s Muslim. He hates the Orange One.”
“Good enough. Any chatter on some of the more obscure channels?”
“Yes, sir, but it’s too weird to take seriously.”
“There is talk about a big powwow on ancestral grounds. Some kinda Little Bighorn Horn shit, if you’ll excuse my French.”
“It’s a lead, though, to where all these folks vanished. Do you have any opinions where this powwow might be happening?”
“There’s Devil’s Tower in Arizona, Rainbow Bridge in Utah, a whole lot of sacred sites. We’re not picking up any extra radio traffic. Not since Kansas.”
“Maybe they really are gone.”
“Has Patterson checked in?” the Commander asked a passing aide.
He turned to Admiral Harding.
“He wouldn’t just take off, would he?”
“Couldn’t tell you, sir. These are strange times.”
Trump stood up and seamed to sway for a second.
“Are you okay, sir?’ asked Harding.
“Do you want someone to wake you when we’re in touch with General Patterson?”
“Only if it’s important. Good night.”
Andy worried that Jason hadn’t understood his message. He was clear without being obvious, he thought. And what had happened to the phones and the electricity? He was aware of the power of an electromagnetic pulse, but that usually required a nuclear blast far above the city. Was the resistance capable of such an act? Neither Josh nor Candy had given any indication that something of that force had been imminent. That narrowed it down to Washington or a foreign power.
These old buses, lacking solid-state electronics, were still working. They were headed to a re-education camp in the Mosconi Center. Their guards were herding them with a nervous glance among themselves.
The surly cop, Fenton, was checking off names as they boarded. Andy stopped.
Fenton ignored him. “Wiped out everything west of Nevada,” said one of the other guards.
That was limited, though Andy was pretty sure the damage was more extensive. He wondered how the kids were doing. They might never know now.
Patterson and the troops were tumbling along with their plane as it dropped like a rock from the sky. Mendez came out of the cockpit. “Everybody grab something and hold on. We’re ditching the tank!”
He and another soldier released eight of the ten tethers and had to jump back as the tank seemed to shake the rear of the plane apart. The gate stayed locked into place.
“We have no power to the gate!” screamed the copilot. “We need to open the ramp manually!”
“I’ll get it!” Mendez yelled as he yanked at the remaining ramp hooks and operated the manual hydraulic bellcrank.
Mendez and Ferguson, the female Special Ops member, and the tank rolled backward into space. As it headed for the open ramp, the momentum as it rumbled away knocked Mendez off his feet, sucking him out in its wake. In a second the two soldiers were gone and the gate closed.
The plane bobbed upward for a minute to compensate for the abrupt jettison of seventy tons of ballast. Then the plane still plummeted. Unfortunately, the C-130J had not been built to glide to a landing, but it held up admirably until it bounced off I-70, clipped an 18-wheeler and mowed down trees and foliage until it could move no more.
Patterson called out, “Everybody okay?”
“I think I might have cracked a rib,” said the pilot.
The general entered the cockpit and found a large branch had punched into the cabin and was inches from the nose of the pilot.
“I was trying to get us to Grand Junction Regional Airport, but I couldn’t raise anybody. Not even static,” explained Flores.
“If I’m right about what hit us, we’re lucky to be alive,” said Patterson.
“The only thing I’m aware of that could take out both the engines and communications would be an electromagnetic pulse,” said the pilot, El-Rahim.
“I would love to sit here and discuss theories, among them who the hell did this, but the temperature outside is dropping and I think snow’s in the forecast.”
One of the soldiers started whistling a Christmas carol.
“General, do you think someone saw us go down and they’re on their way?”
“That EMP would have knocked out radar with all the other electronics. I’d say we’re on our own. It’s damn lucky we have the best of the best here. Suggestions?”
“Hays here, General. We’ve got blankets and food. We don’t know where we are other than somewhere in Colorado, so my recommendation is sit here till morning.”
Patterson looked at the soldiers. Most of them were in their twenties but were trained for this. “Any other recommendations? Seeing none, you four take a walk around the craft. Check out the depth of the snow. Hays, take three of your buddies and break out supplies: food, blankets, the stuff we’re going to need to make it through the night.”
“We might post a lookout or two so we don’t end up somebody’s prisoner or collateral damage,” suggested Master Sergeant Perez.
Phillips suggested limiting their meal choices. “I say MREs for tonight till we get our bearings and options in the morning.”
They ate quietly until Hays broached an earlier subject. “For real, General, the president went off the deep end?”
“It scared the hell out of me. I mean, he’s always been a loose cannon, but I hate to think what would happen with those launch codes.”
“You mean what already may have happened.”
“I hate to think he’d do that to his own country, but I’ve seen some crazy shit the last few days so, you’re right. Nothing is out of the realm of possibility. In fact, if the EMP wasn’t him, why hasn’t he launched a retaliatory strike?”
“Maybe he can’t. Maybe the EMP wiped the launch codes.”
“Good point, Jones, is it?”
“You and your chow buddy have first watch.”
“I suggest we all get some sleep. We don’t know what time it is, but we have to be ready for whatever tomorrow brings.”
“I’ve got a pocket watch my dad gave me that his dad gave him.” He illuminated the face with his lighter.
“It’s a pitch-black night. What are we going to do if we don’t sleep?”
“Good night, General.”
“Good night, Lieutenant.”
Armando and his family stopped for gas in Grand Junction accompanied by his brother Ernesto and Ramon, who apparently refused to let them out of his sight. Ernesto was still in a lot of pain so Armando knew he’d be useless in any kind of dust-up with gabachos like the ones that had beaten him up a few hours prior.
Armando was happy with their decision to head back to Mexico. There were going to be major problems for people of color for a long time; he didn’t want to end up like his big brother and was afraid for his wife and kids.
He insisted the boys pee even though they claimed they didn’t need to and Ramon and Ernesto took the hint. He handed the guy behind the counter a twenty-dollar bill for the gas.
The guy was white, about 25 years of age, covered in tattoos. He scowled at Armando.
“Why don’t you go back where you’re from, Jose?”
“We are!” answered Armando in a celebratory tone. “We’re headed there right now!”
“Good!” said the clerk, at a loss for words.
Outside, Serena was trying to pack everybody back into the car.
“Everybody put on your jackets,” insisted Serena. The car’s heater worked sporadically at best. The radio worked fine and they pulled out of the station with Tejano music blasting. They were headed south when the engine coughed and died.
Armando tried several times to get it to start, but there was no telltale click, click as the battery tried to inject life into the spark plugs. Finally, the engine roared and jumped as though it was anxious to continue the journey. An 18-wheeler scared the hell out of all of them as it passed swiftly and silently on the right.
“Mira!” said Ramon. They looked back at the station. It was dark and so were the streetlights.
They looked up as something huge flew over creaking and whistling. A loud crash followed and continued up the side of the mountain for several minutes followed by deathly silence.
Pedro spoke up from the back seat. “Papa, what was that?”
“I don’t know, mijo, but it was miles away.”
They drove on into the night, keeping their eyes on the reflectors on the guard rails to help them navigate the dark.
Ronnie came walking up the trail at about 1 a.m. Candy and Songbird were sipping hot cocoa.
“Walkies are out, cell phones are dead.” He reported.
“EMP,” Songbird said matter-of-factly.
“Shit!” said Ronnie.
“Kinda puts us on an even footing,” Songbird said.
“Who do you think did it?” asked Ronnie.
“Crazy Donnie? Maybe. More like Kim Jong-Un.”
“Are we talking war?”
“Depends. If his aim is as bad as they say, we’re probably at DEFCON 1 with no disruption to life as we loathe it. But if he landed a lucky strike, the United States won’t have any retaliatory ability.”
“I’m not going to be to reach my folks,” said Candy.
“We’ve got like 5,000 fighters in here now. More coming in every day. All different colors, religions, even some nerdy little group calling themselves the Lancer Allies. I’m not sure how they even found us. How are we going to coordinate anything if we can’t communicate to everybody at once?” fretted Ronnie.
“Occupy Wall Street,” said Josh, as he walked up. “They had folks go out and round up a group, tell them the plan of the day, and those guys would carry the message down the line. Remember jazz hands?”
Everyone gave him blank stares. “It was like applause.”
“It would help with our first few tasks: training, finding who has it and who can teach skills like archery, small arms, martial arts,” said Songbird. “Josh, go find those Lancer folks and have them go take inventory.”
“Yes, sir. Right after sanitation rounds.”
“Go tell your friend he’s got shit detail in the morning,” said Ronnie.
Josh grinned, saluted, and left.
According to Lamar Simpson’s grandfather’s watch, it was about 6 a.m. when he and others awoke, but a fog was keeping the sun at bay.
“General?” He noticed that the general and several of the Special Ops were checking out the condition of the plane outside. Patterson was ordering the removal of weaponry first, food and other necessities second.
“Simpson, you’re inventory. Grab a buddy. We have to get this shit out of here.”
There were car horns blaring on the road below. Soldiers who weren’t busy saw two pickup trucks sitting on the side of I-70.
“Do you boys need any help?” asked Songbird. He suddenly noticed the man in charge appeared to be a General. “Good morning, General. I hope you and your team weren’t planning to arrest us.”
“General Songbird, People’s Army, sir.”
“Ah! The trouble-makers from Kansas City.”
“No sir, that would describe the militia that attacked us.”
“Then you and I need to talk.”
“We can head to HQ in one truck. Another with a trailer is on its way.” Songbird turned to his troops. “Andrita, I’m leaving you in charge. Get this stuff down off the mountainside and meet us back at base. Camo everything.”
Songbird and Patterson talked as they headed to Mesa Verde.
“Are you responsible for that EMP that took us out last night, General Songbird?”
“No, sir. My guess would be the North Koreans. I think we caught the edge of the pulse. I don’t think anybody east of here felt it.”
“That would explain why your vehicles are running.”
“Yes, sir, but Kim Jong-Un’s aim will be better next time, I’m afraid. Is Commander Trump going to retaliate?”
“Couldn’t say. By now my team and I are classified AWOL or MIA, take your pick.”
“It’s going to make a big difference to us, General. Are you here to oppose us or join us?”
“I don’t want to tell this story more than once. Are we almost there?” asked Patterson.
Songbird parked in a huge parking lot just a half mile from the cliff dwellings.
“This is our stop, General. Please join us for coffee and a little bit of breakfast if you’re interested.” They reached the cliff where Ronnie, Candy and others were waiting.
Ronnie showed no deference for the General’s stripes.
“Friend or foe, General?”
“Here goes. All is ask is that you hear me out before you decide what to do with my men and me.”
Patterson told them what he had seen for himself in the bunker.
“Even though the reason I gave for leaving was legit – to hunt you down – the plan was to bring fire power and join your efforts to take out this dangerous traitor.”
“Is he going to come looking for you?”
“Well, by now he’s probably aware there was an EMP last night and may have affected communications. That may buy us some time. What’s the situation here?”
“We have just about every tribe here or on their way, a lot of military deserters, every group that has suffered the wrath and prejudice of Trump and his people. I’m afraid I’d have to label this a civil war.” Candy said.
“It’s sad that it has come to this. What’s the plan?”
“Now that you’re here, we’re open to suggestions,” said Ronnie. “We picked this spot because it’s hard to see from the air, whether that’s aircraft or satellite. At this point, we have about 12,000. Many have never shot a gun or fired a bow so they’re getting trained.”
“Just a thought: how far away is the NORAD base?”