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Thread: Foreign & Domestic Part IV - Colder Weather

  1. #51
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    Chapter 12 con't

    Well I’ll be dipped in slop and calling the hogs for dinner!” the officer declared as he approached the gates at what had once been Offutt Air Force Base. “I thought the Private had lost his mind when he went through the mess discreetly asking the officers and NCO’s if anyone knew someone calling themselves Little Bo Peep.”

    “Sgt. Barnes?” James questioned out load.

    “The one and only!” he pronounced with some flair.

    Staff Sergeant Isiah Barnes had led the patrol that intercepted the British squad as they neared McArthur. He’d also played an integral part in the post-EMP shift that took place in rural Ohio.

    “They made you an Officer?” Dallas asked.

    “Open the gate, Private,” he instructed to the guard then turned his attention back to the four travelers. “Wasn’t given much choice. After I opted to be deposited here during Hoplite’s trip out west, we had a fair amount of churn in the Officer Corp over the years.”

    “So, Major,” Josh began as he took in the man’s rank insignia. “Don’t suppose you’d have some empty cots for a couple of road weary friends.”

    Barnes crossed his arms.

    “The OP says there were three more travelling with you. Where’d they go and run off to?”

    “Just met up with them out on the trail. Safety in numbers… you know how it is. Said they were headed on to Casper I believe,” Josh replied innocently as he rustled his reins and the horses began heading into the base.

    “Hmpf, yeah right,” the man bristled. “And where would you four be headed I wonder? Just seeing the countryside one last time?” Applying an Australian accent he added, “On a walkabout are you?”

    “You know us, Isiah,” Dallas inserted with a chuckle. “We get bored just sittin’ around waitin’ for stuff to happen…”

    A smirk developed on the man’s face in reply. Without asking, and with very little effort, Barnes waited for the wagon to be next to him then pulled himself up and onto the seat next to Josh.

    “I can give you two nights in Barracks 3. That’s standard for traders. Best I can do,” he announced loud enough for the guards within earshot to hear.

    “Really?” James feigned. “That would be great!”

    Josh knew the disposition of every single one of Carlos’ contingent that traversed the United States. Isiah Barnes, like Dex and Jake, was a known commodity. Josh could feel it in his bones; this man knew something about the chatter they’d been listening to for the last decade. As the mini caravan head through the dilapidated Air Force Base, the Major started.

    “Damn good to see you, sir,” he began.

    “Good to be seen,” Josh replied. “So what’s the story around here? On the surface it looks fairly normal, but I’ve been around long to know better. So, before we start BS-ing each other, I’ll tell you this, I’m here for supplies. Specifically, I’m in need of certain elements that go ‘boom’.”

    Isiah glanced in his direction and then shifted his gaze to James, Dallas, and Juan. The trio sat stone faced in their saddles. Only Dallas broke character when the Major thought he saw a crooked smile developing.
    “So, you guys left McArthur… what… about a month or two ago… if you knew I was here then you probably stopped by and saw some other old friends along the way too. Mind if I ask where you’re headed?”

    “Gonna pick up some friends on the other side of Nebraska, Señor,” Jesus replied from his mount as he rode next to them.

    Isiah wasn’t aware, but Jesus’ hidden sidearm had been pointed in his direction the entire time. While Major Barnes was known to them, his presence in southeastern Ohio was limited to only a few years. No one had seen or heard from him in over a decade. Unfortunately for Barnes, it made him the proverbial weakest link in the list of visited friends on the way to Kearney, Nebraska.

    Another thing the three riders did was to constantly rotate around the cart like a protection detail. Barnes, much like the young Deputy Provosts they’d previously encountered and used sleight of hand on, had absolutely no idea that a wrong answer could have inadvertently caused his premature death.

    “Why didn’t they just come to you?

    “Like I said, needed supplies… and we needed to collect some old friends. Plus, Calderon has every base in the Midwest and Southeast under his thumb and, try as we might; we can’t get anyone on the inside to aid us in our endeavor.”
    The Major took stock of Josh, shocked at his candor. “I see,” he replied noncommittally. “Where are they coming from?”

    Josh shrugged then answered flatly, “Northwest Territory, I presume.”

    “See, now that is an interesting development because Carlos and the rest of the gang stopped by here on their way home almost a decade ago. Heather did most of the talking cuz the guy was damn near catatonic after what he saw. Which brings me to my next point… Now, as far as I am aware, the only two men I know that are still out that way, don’t really care for each other all that much… assuming of course they are both still alive.”

    “They are,” James inserted.

    “Well, apparently one of them is a homicidal lunatic.”

    “They’d just murdered his wife and son,” Josh stated flatly. “And as far as I know, I’m the only one that’s even come close to walking a mile in that man’s shoes. So, as far as that goes, been there done that. Personally, I don’t care if they like each other. This operation isn’t a drum circle, chanting to the spirit world, incense burning, hug-fest. This is about justice and the rule of law… plain and simple.”

    Isiah could almost hear the war drums beginning to thump and thunder in unison in Josh’s tone. The only thing he could think to do was to offer a nervous half chuckle at the comment. When he saw a patrol approaching, he snapped a quick salute and remained silent until they passed by.

    Barnes had to decide right then and there whether or not he was in or out. He’d seen enough of the Calderon administration, and knew just enough of the Constitution, to know that the man needed to go. Throwing caution, and the potential for a firing squad, to the wind, he began confessing to his actions for the last several years.

    “OK, here’s the deal…” he begin in a whisper barely moving his lips. “Personally, your tone and demeanor are scaring the crap out of me right now, but I’m gonna trust ya’ll. You guys have always projected a great deal of drive and conviction and that’s something that is seriously lacking in these parts, save for a few. That being said, I want in… and so do about a dozen other guys. This region and the Provosts have entirely too much latitude for perceived crimes and subsequent punishments. That only happens if there is little direction from Richmond.”

    “Or perhaps that was the direction, Señor.”

    Isiah looked over at Jesus in time to see him holstering his sidearm. Eventually, the Major nodded his acceptance of another plausible theory.

    “Who have you been in contact with?”

    “Dex, Jake, and Grappler,” Josh replied in clipped response. “Grappler is bringing Longbow so while your point is well taken, a personal request from Katherine will get their collective attention and keep them in line. We had a guy in Richmond, but unfortunately, we lost contact. Haven’t heard from Carlton in almost a year.”

    Barnes glanced over at him in disbelief then shook it off.

    “Damn,” he replied truly impressed, then added “Sorry to hear about the Corpsman though, always liked him.”

    Josh looked over and took in the man’s demeanor… facial expressions, posture, all of it. Knowing that they didn’t have much more time before they reached the line of barracks, the man stated, “I know you’re holding something back, Isiah. Spill it already.”

    “You always were able to read people. I forgot that,” the Major replied. Hesitantly, he began to explain. “We’ve been fueling a subversive campaign out here for some time with things we’ve smuggled out of the supply line and removed from the logs. These items are being stored under Barracks 8. You got that? Everything is under Barracks 8.”

    Josh nodded then motioned for Dallas. When he came close enough to the wagon, he simply held out his hand. Without saying a word he placed a gold coin in Josh’s palm and rode ahead. Isiah looked at the pair as if they were a bunch of loons.

    “I knew you were behind it. Thank you for confirming it. Dallas and I just had a little side bet. He lost,” he declared with a wide beaming smile.

    “How would you even remotely know what I just told before you got here?”

    “Well, I knew where Carlos dropped everyone all those years ago and we still monitor the comms. Since the EMP, you guys don’t have the military satellites anymore. Sooo…”

    “So?”

    “So unless you guys employ some form of encryption or a cypher of some kind, anyone with a radio can ‘hear the news,’ as it were.”

    “But we never used the radio!” the man stated shocked.

    “No, but the Provosts did. Every time someone hit a caravan, supply line, or raided a weapons depot, we heard. We figured someone had to be supplying them with intel, weapons, etc. And their movements were far too precise for civilians. The only person I knew out here with the training and a conscience was you… Just putting two and two together.”

    “Man!” he declared. Shaking off the Colonel’s revelation, he added. “Look we’re almost to the barracks, so, whatever you need, you’re welcome to… of course. Anything in that cache is yours because whatever this is,” he declared as he gestured around, “This isn’t the United States I know and love. I do have one request though.”

    “Name it.”

    “Leave a little something for the locals.”

    “Done,” James inserted as he approached from the rear.

    “I’ll let the others know,” Isiah continued then added, “We’ll begin slipping away a few days after you’ve departed. Anything you looking for in particular? Things that ‘go boom’ is kind of vague.”

    “Got any iron or steel plates and 105 howitzer shells lying around?” Josh asked somewhat jokingly, but with enough of an air to be serious as well.

    “Maybe,” Barnes replied cautiously. “Why?”

    “Jake wants to go out with a bang… apparently.”

    “I should say so!” Barnes retorted.

    With a shrug, Josh continued. “Seems he has his heart set on some designs for an IED he saw used over in the sandbox. In a pinch, he said he could make do with some Semtex or C-4, det cord with clackers, claymores… you know, stuff like that. James and Jesus would like any sniper rifle with matching ammo… got any McMillan’s that need a good home?”

    “That’s it?” Barnes asked.

    “That’s it,” Josh reiterated. “Short and sweet.”

    “Not a problem. Thought maybe you boys wanted something more exotic after the shelling of Columbus.”

    The old farmer chuckled. “Oh, I think the 105’s are gonna be as outlandish as we get on this one. Just want to get the job done. No frills... No fuss no muss.”

    “Barracks 8 has what you need,” the Major stated in hushed tone. “The guards patrol this area on a fifteen minute rotating basis and they switch out every three hours.” Then, more loudly, he proclaimed, “Pull up here on your left. As you can see all of the barracks are numbered one through twelve. You fellas will be in hut seven. The showers are located behind the structure and to the right. Chow is down on the left.”

    “It’s good to see you my old friend,” Josh stated for all to hear as he extended his hand. As the two shook, he added, “Perhaps you can join us in the dining hall for a quick meal?”

    “That would be a great idea, Colonel Simmons. I’m betting that a lot of the squad leaders and Officer Corps would jump at the chance to meet you.”

    “I look forward to it,” his friend replied.

    The other three men in Josh’s entourage didn’t want to tell the pair that their acting sucked, so they were willing to let the awkwardness of the entire episode go.

    As Major Barnes departed back to his office, the four men began unloading their duffels and hauling them into the structure. They made sure to keep the weapons cloaked under blankets. Scott’s hidden compartment had once again eluded inspection.

    “What’s the story,” Jesus whispered as he and Josh passed.

    When they crossed paths again Josh replied, “We’re in business.”

    * * *
    Hannibal ad portas

  2. #52
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    Chapter 12 con't

    “Everything on my body hurts,” Layla lamented as she flopped into the well-worn easy chair. “Jake, when are you gonna take this TV down?” she asked as she gestured toward the old nineteen inch tube style television in the corner that had been collecting dust for over two decades.

    Pausing from the preparation of dinner, he straightened and glanced in her direction.

    “I’ll take that and chuck it in my burn pile when the lights come back… not one second before. Until then, it’ll sit there as a reminder of what once was.”

    “Fair enough,” Heather replied from the kitchen table. “Can I help you with any of that, Jake?”

    “Nah, I got it,” an answered. “You’re pregnant. Just sit there and bask in the glow of your pregnancy,” he stated sarcastically.

    “Ha!” she declared. “Ya know what they don’t tell you about the glow… it’s fueled by perspiration, indigestion, and gas.”

    Her sisters and Jake vocally laughed at the comment.

    “Why don’t you get out of that hard wooden chair and go lay on the couch? Layla, give your pregnant sister the couch will ya.”

    “Oh, if I lay down I’m not getting up!” she declared as she massaged her baby bump. “She’s fine where she is.”

    Even through all of the conversation, Jake heard the quiet footfalls on his front porch. He thought he’d been hearing things when the rattle of a horses bit and bridle originally caught his attention. He’d been in that house for over a decade alone after his father passed. He knew every one of the expected creaks and moans the old farmhouse would make. These were foreign noises not attributable to the home. He had visitors.

    “Heather, will you go answer the door please.”

    “Huh?” she questioned. “There’s no one at the d—,”

    A clipped knock, knock, knock was heard at the front door.

    “That’s weird. Expecting anyone?” she asked as she stood.

    “No, but I’ve had two visits from long lost friends in the last ten days or so. Nothing surprises me at this point, especially when Colonel Simmons has a mind to get something accomplished.”

    Heather chortled at the comment as she walked behind him toward the door. “Tell me about it.”

    As she opened the door, the face of her husband stood before her. “Carlos!” she squealed as she rushed from the doorway and wrapped her arms around him.

    “Lucy! You got some ‘splainin’ to do!” he proclaimed lovingly.

    His reply only worked to make her laugh.

    Her sisters quickly sat upright then bolted from their resting spots.

    Before they made it to the door, Layla heard her husband’s smooth French voice.

    “Est-ce que ma belle épouse est là?” (Is my beautiful wife in there?)

    “Oui!” she declared as he crossed the threshold and she leapt into his waiting arms.

    Katherine stood back and watched as her sisters showered their husbands with welcome hugs and kisses. She was a little jealous that her husband hadn’t made the trip, but their relationship was different. She was the protector. Her sisters and Scott were the emotional ones. Katherine knew that Scott was safer and better served being back on the farm helping others.

    Jake rounded the open the door and declared, “What in the hell is this about?”

    The two men erupted in unison, “Jake!”

    The pair extricated themselves from their wives embraces and went to greet their host with equal vigor. When Carlos finished shaking his friends hand he made a show of picking up his sister-in-law, Katherine, and giving her a big hug.
    “Scott and the kids send their love,” he said as he set her back down on the floor.

    “Good to see you too, Carlos. What are you guys doing here?”

    “Someone decided it would be a good idea to keep secrets from her husband,” Hoplite declared as he took his wife’s hand and led her into the light of the home. “Is it true? You’re pregnant?”

    She began nodding vigorously as he went to his knees in front of her. She held his head in her hands as he lifted her double layer of shirts and exposed her belly bump. Gently, he leaned forward and kissed her skin.

    “Hey there, little buddy,” he whispered. “It’s daddy. I’m here now… and I’m gonna keep you nice and safe. So you just hang out in there and we’ll see you in a little bit, ok?”

    “Who’s hungry?” Jake declared. “Dinner’s ready!”

    “Starving!” Heather proclaimed as she released Carlos.

    “Hello, Lady Katherine,” Philip said as he kissed her on the cheek. “I trust my darling wife hasn’t complained too much on this journey.”

    “No more than usual,” she replied with a wink in the direction of her sister.

    The lot of them made their way toward the kitchen and the meal Jake had prepared. Small talk consumed the group as they recounted their various journeys across the country. The sisters wanted to know how things were getting on back at the farm, while their husbands were curious about their safety throughout the trip. They were none too pleased with Katherine’s bravado in Peoria. Their host brought the group to raucous laughter as he described James’ mood and actions the night they received visitors.

    “I swear, those three get more ornery and cantankerous as they get older,” Layla stated.

    “Quelle? En français s'il vous plaît.” (What? In French please.) Philip asked of his wife.

    “Ornery et cantankerous est comme grincheux,” (Ornery and cantankerous is like grumpy.) she explained.

    “Ah,” he stated and shook his head knowingly. “I see. Yes, they are getting incredibly grumpy in their old age… and forgetful,” he replied in English.

    “So those three went with them to Omaha?” Katherine asked.

    “Yep… just like that. But I wouldn’t worry though,” Jake said in an attempt to assuage their fears. “Your father, along with Dallas, James, and Jesus, they’ve been reading people for decades,” then he paused before he continued any further.

    Katherine noticed and inserted leadingly, “Buuuut?”

    “But nothing. Josh just has a mind to get something accomplished. He picked up three here and there’s no telling how many people he’s recruited since he left McArthur. That man’s building an army.”

    No one said anything.

    “By your silence, I take it you aim to stop him and take him home before he gets himself killed? Before you answer, I do want you to know that I am with him one hundred percent in this endeavor. That gut buster in Richmond is the classic definition of a budding oligarch. If your dad wants to blow his inauguration stage into a million pieces, I aim to help him.”

    “Hardly!” Katherine declared. “Listen, dad has it in his mind that they broke this experiment called America and come hell or high water, he’s gonna do everything he can to fix it. We’re here to help him… and keep him safe if the Alzheimer’s progresses before he finishes what he set out to do.”

    Without flinching, Jake asked, “That the reason for the little black book he carries around?”

    She nodded.

    Concerned, he asked, “When did that start?”

    “Couple years ago,” Heather answered. “At first it was cute… this little old guy writing things down.”

    “Little old guy my ass!” Jake declared. “I saw him man handle some stuff out here that I wouldn’t mess with if I had two guys helpin’ me. Personally, I think if he were to hit someone full force, he’d kill ‘em!”

    “I think she was referring more to his mental strength as opposed to his physical strength,” Layla inserted.

    “At first, I thought he was starting a memoir or a book of some kind. But then we started noticing that he’d forget certain details about his time in the Marines, or about his parents… long term memories. Which reminds me,” Heather stated as she shifted her gaze to her husband. “I was thinking, if it’s a boy, I’d like to name him Brent.”

    “Ok, and if it’s a girl?” her husband asked.

    She glanced at Layla and Philip.

    “If it’s a girl, and if it’s alright with you two, I’d like to name her Sophie, after Philip’s mother.”

    “Quelle? Tu ferais ça?” (What? You would do that?), Philip replied.

    Replying in French, Heather answered, “Oui. Ce serait un honneur.” (Yes. It would be an honor.
    )
    “L'honneur est tout à moi,” (The honor is all mine.) he replied as got up and kissed her on both cheeks.

    “I’m assuming he said that was OK,” Jake deadpanned as the group chuckled. “I’d like to get back to Josh though. How far along do you think he is… mentally I mean?”

    “It depends,” Katherine began. “How well has he been able to hide certain things from us… from Sam? I know the book idea started about five years ago so if you follow the trajectory Basilia has described, we’ve got a few years where it’s more of an inconvenience than a hindrance.”

    “Then?”

    “And then it becomes a liability,” Layla answered. “As in, depending on the climate out here in the states, he probably can’t leave the farm.”
    Hannibal ad portas

  3. #53
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    Guess I'll just wait then and help pay the bills.
    Once on safari in deepest darkest Afganistan we ran out of Gin, and were compelled to survive on food and water for several days.


    I typically carry a flask of vodka for snakebites. I also carry a small snake.- W. C. Fields

  4. #54
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    Excellent, thank you! I'm afraid in going to have to take notes........ I can watch a movie or read a book, then do it again later almost like it's brand new to me. I have an absolutely terrible memory.
    Don't bring skittles to a gun fight.

  5. #55
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    thank you
    Greater love hath no man than this, That a man lay down his life for a friend.
    John 15:13

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