Friday, July 20, 2012

Novel (Part 1) Chapter 5

I've added another chapter from Part 1, in case anyone out there hasn't picked up the book yet.


Barret and Governor Baker pulled out from the heliport and north onto Channel View Loop in the utility terrain vehicle, a small four wheel drive buggy that seated four; the area contained by the loop had been cleared of all trailers and RVs to make room for the state guard’s equipment.  The sky was cloudy but still beautiful; the warm, salty air beckoned anyone within its domain to the wide, sandy beaches just east of the pavement.  The waves were larger and more violent than normal today.

In another time, the beach would have been saturated with tourists taking surfing lessons, snorkeling, jumping the waves on jet skis, fishing the jetty or simply basking in the south Texas sun.  Perhaps a wedding would be taking place on the beach behind one of the condos; the bride and groom would be whisked away after the ceremony, leaving the guests to occupy their evening with fried seafood and draft beer at Louie’s Backyard – a sprawling bar and restaurant on the water.  Today the only visitors were the gulls and black skimmers, patrolling the beaches for unsuspecting sand crabs and fish.  

Governor Baker surveyed the six Amphibious Assault Vehicles and Strykers that he had begged from the Marines and Army over a month ago.  The Army had loaned Texas ten Strykers and the Marines had offered six AAVs.  The governor had sent three of each to South Padre Island after they were operable.  They were in miserable condition when Texas took delivery, obviously pulled from some repair queue; it took nearly three weeks of working around the clock to get them serviceable.  Two of the “amtracks”, as the AAVs were referred to by their previous owners, were still having mechanical issues; fortunately, there were several experienced diesel mechanics among the ranks of the Guardsman stationed on the island.  The AAVs were equipped with Bushmaster 25mm auto cannons and the Strykers were equipped with 40mm automatic grenade launchers.  The arrival of these vehicles provided a much needed boost to the morale of the fighting men on the island.  Before their arrival, all that the Guardsmen had were their Humvees, and more recently four MRAP M-ATVs.  The official reason for the governor’s visit was to personally deliver the vehicles to the island, but Barret knew better.    

Barret and Governor Baker had simply shook hands as they were introduced and had not spoken since he requested that the governor buckle up prior to pulling out on the road.  He knew the governor had not come this far south and into a war zone to shoot the breeze with a tired soldier.  He shifted in his seat uncomfortably, waiting for the governor to break the silence.  Finally, Governor Baker cleared his throat and casually motioned his hand towards the new vehicles, “Those ought to make a difference down here Sergeant, ahh, I didn’t catch your last name.”

“No sir; we don’t use our names down here.  It’s too dangerous for our families.  You are welcome to call me Sergeant or Barret; and yes sir they will make a world of difference, thank you.”

“My pleasure, Barret; I’m just sorry it didn’t happen sooner.”

“I understand sir; there’s more red tape than usual, I imagine.”

The governor snorted in disgust, “I seem to be surrounded by red tape and on everyone’s blacklist.  Texas can’t seem to catch a break.  If it ain’t trouble down here, it’s wildfires, or the riots, or the feds; I just don’t know anymore.”

Barret nodded in agreement and followed the loop north; they had almost made it back around to the heliport.  Governor Baker looked out over the beach to the east and motioned once again, “Turn off here; take us down onto the beach.”

They turned off the hot asphalt pavement and onto the wide beach; the small four-wheel drive vehicle easily managed the sandy terrain as they turned south to navigate around the exposed oil pipeline that sat audaciously on the beach, and then back north.  Barret drove out to the sand that was saturated from the crashing waves to give them a smoother ride.  An occasional rogue wave would crash into their tires on the right side and splash water onto the governor’s well-worn western style boots.  The governor almost seemed to smile for a moment as he spoke, “I used to come here in the off season with my wife.  I always loved this place; as you go over the causeway you feel like you’re leaving Texas; when you see the pipeline on the beach, you know without a doubt you’re still here.”  The men glanced at each other and chuckled.  “This is far enough; stop here.”

They had traveled nearly a mile north from where they turned on the beach; they were now stopped in front of some large dunes nestled between two vacant resorts.  Barret turned off the engine so that he could hear the waves crashing on the shoreline.  He listened to the calming sound and waited for the governor to speak.  

“Barret, I’m sure you know why I’m really here.”

“Yes sir, but you probably should debrief them or our commanding officer; I don’t know how much I can help.”

“That’ll come soon enough.  I wanted to talk to you first.”  Governor Baker stepped out onto the beach and casually strolled to the water.  “So they have been locked up for about ten days?”

“They have been on watch for eleven days, sir.  They’ve had free reign of one of the barracks; they eat what we eat every night and have a deck of cards and some other things to keep them occupied.  We even gave them a radio so they can listen to Radio Lonestar.” 

Radio Lonestar was an initiative by the governor to get the truth out to Texans and citizens of neighboring states.  The federal government had effectively nationalized all media outlets and severely limited internet communications.  The feds had complete control over what information was disseminated; talking heads stiffly read from prompters and bantered back and forth in orchestrated displays like wooden marionettes.  Radio music stations played loops of their respective music genres without interruption from a radio personality.  Talk radio had disappeared except for a select few public radio outlets.  Radio Lonestar had been the first shot across the fed’s bow, in their own minds.  Immediately after it began airing, the feds found excuses to pull funding and military support from Texas.  All federal air support had been withdrawn from the state and most ground support had been pulled, with the exception of a few strategic locations such as Corpus Christi.  The feds acted independently and refused to share intelligence with Texas.  Except for the support of a few neighboring states, mainly Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, Texas was on its own.  New Mexico and Arizona were sharing intelligence with their neighbor, but could offer no logistical or financial support because of their own problems.  The states that were helping were mostly doing so to prevent the border disaster from spilling into their territory.

The governor stared out at the horizon for a few moments and then said, “There are only six of them.  I was told there were twelve; where are the rest?”

Barret knew the governor’s question would come up and had been considering the best way to respond.  He had decided that the whole truth without any excuses would be his best route, “Yes sir, we let six soldiers ride back on a supply boat that had come from Pascagoula.  We gave them civilian clothes, their service pistol and their knife; the rest of the gear is here.”

“That’s an awful brazen decision on the part of this facility, son.  I was not informed of this decision prior to my arrival.  Tell me one good reason why I shouldn’t discharge every officer on base, or even worse.”

“Sir, with all due respect, we tried for three days straight to contact command control at Camp Mabry.  We didn’t get a response until day five; by then, they were gone.  I know Austin is under a lot of pressure right now, but we’re not getting any support; it’s like we’ve been forgotten.  Some of the boys have taken to calling this place Alamo Island, for than one reason.  Our situation is extremely dynamic; we don’t have a week or so to make our decisions down here.”

“The whole damn state’s situation is ‘dynamic’ sergeant; I have cities on fire, refugees in the streets, good people are starving and looting.  Petro is twenty dollars per gallon; trucks have quit their routes, shelves are empty and now I hear that the feds may have tried to assassinate Texas State Guardsmen and y’all let half of them go!”  Governor Baker cursed furiously and kicked at the beach.  After a few moments of his display, he carefully removed his aviator’s sunglasses and gently wiped the lenses on his buttoned shirt before placing them back over his eyes.  “Look, I know it is tough down here; we’re asking a lot from y’all.  I know support from Austin is abhorrent, but please tell me you have more than that as an excuse?”

Barret squared up with the governor in a respectful, but forceful stance, “Sir, those men are my brothers, I was a SEAL before I came back home.  I spent a lot of time in places that this government will deny I ever visited; I captured and interrogated people alongside the CIA that are still officially wanted.  I lived for the extraction jobs, but interrogation was what I did best.  It wasn’t the kind of interrogation you’re thinking though; I just sat and talked with them, usually before the advanced techniques started.  It’s the subtle tells that give us away; the words that make our eyes dart away or twitch, that make our breathing change or our pulse quicken.  Places, names, dates, I could dissect someone without ever picking up a scalpel.  If you don’t believe me, ask anyone here to play me in seven-card stud.  Those men had no idea what they were being ordered to do; I stake my honor on that.”     
“That’s a little better excuse.”  Governor Baker thought for a moment while examining the man beside him, “So, they had no idea Americans were in those Hummers?”

“No sir, as far as they knew the Humvees were stolen by cartels.  They also could not have known that we had up-armored much of our fleet; had they known that, they would have showed up with heavier armaments.”

“Why were they sent, why not just send in a couple jets?”

“Well sir, you did sign the ban on all federal drones in Texan airspace after the incidents in Dallas three months back; plus the feds know the border is flush with the eyes of our own drones.  Besides, the Air Force has been gone so long they knew it would raise a red flag to have their jets in the sky.  The feds likely figured that some friendly fire casualties by ground troops could be explained away easier than a calculated attack from the skies.  That’s my speculation, at least.”

The incident in Dallas three months back was three federal drone crashes in one week in Dallas.  The third crash killed a three year old girl named Amy Montenago and her mother in their loft apartment on Commerce Street.  The state legislature drafted a bill overnight that banned all federal drones in Texas airspace; the local media took to calling the measure “Amy’s Law”.  The feds threatened lawsuits and the withdrawal of transportation funding but the damage was done, the public was outraged.  The feds eventually relented because their problems were widespread already and they did not want to risk a confrontation with the wildly popular Governor Baker, who was well known for his fiery speeches on states’ rights and increasing government encroachment on citizens’ rights and lives.   

“Sounds like you’ve thought this through.”  Governor Baker turned his back and stared aimlessly down the beach as if he were looking for someone or something for guidance.  “I swear if this holds up to scrutiny,” his words trailed off until they were lost in the sounds of the waves, “We have a so much trouble coming our way I can’t even begin to articulate it.”   

Barret took a few steps backwards without saying a word and sunk into the seat of the UTV.  He let out a sigh and struggled to find words, but nothing came.  The governor slowly turned back around and walked to his side of the small four-wheel drive vehicle and sat down.  “Let’s go.”

Barret cranked the engine and spun the back wheels for a moment as they struggled for traction.  As they accelerated down the beach, the governor looked at Barret and asked, “But why let the six go? I don’t understand.”

“Sir, those men forfeited their lives and freedom when they refused to execute their orders, they knew that.  They could have killed us all out there but they chose a more honorable route and will surely suffer for it.  All those six men that left have in this world are their families, and we couldn’t hold them from that.  All the six men that stayed have left is us.”

“Take me to the man that may have put the Republic back in Texas.”

1 comment:

  1. As good as expected. Great.
    Papa Mike