Authors: Thomas A. Watson
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Military
“Not much of an army,” Amanda said.
“They have a lot of bodies and a shitload of weapons,” Nathan pointed out. “Half of you sleep and half stay awake today. Amanda, go to sleep. I will listen now, and wake you with the next shift and you will listen,” Nathan said standing up.
Amanda walked over and gently shook Nathan. “Nathan, its five,” she said quietly. Emma seeing Amanda by Nathan flew over and jumped on him.
“Uff,” Nathan huffed as Emma dove on him. “Emma, let me wake up before you assault me,” Nathan complained sitting up.
“No, blah, blah,” Emma said and started blabbering pointing at the trees.
Nathan stared at the intense look on Emma’s face as she babbled away pointing at the trees. “I wish I knew what the hell you were talking about,” he muttered.
“It’s baby talk, it doesn’t mean anything,” Amanda said.
Looking up at Amanda with a serious face, “Then why the hell is she pointing and using her hands?” Nathan asked seriously. Rolling her eyes, Amanda sat down beside him.
“They are still talking in codes,” she said, opening her notebook. Nathan had listened all morning till waking the next group at eleven. It was just after nine when most of the talk on the radio switched to code. ‘Snake line,’ ‘slugs,’ ‘cans,’ and many other code words started filling the air. Just listening to them for two hours, Nathan had broken some of the code words, or at least he thought he did.
“Figure out any more?” Nathan asked, handing Emma her sippy cup without realizing he had done it.
“Yeah, and you were right, ‘snake line’ is railroad, I confirmed it. From what I can gather, slugs and ants are the bad guys and patriots are the good guys. Sometimes I think the good guys are also called dogs,” she said as Nathan held up his hand.
“Are you sure about ‘patriots’? That is also a surface to air missile,” Nathan said.
“Yes, unless they are moving a thousand missiles toward Topeka,” Amanda said. She looked at her notes. “Besides, one called ‘Tango Charlie’ said ‘mojo’ took out three ‘whirly birds’ south of Salina, and one had fangs.”
“What about ‘dogs’?” Nathan asked as Jasmine brought over a cup of coffee.
Amanda searched her notes. “Someone called ‘mighty mike’ said, ‘The dogs are removing the claymores, and will move to the east, covering the patriots.’” Nathan pulled Amanda beside him and read Amanda’s notes as the others sat and watched.
After a few minutes Nathan laughed. “Firecracker, you are a natural codebreaker.”
“Really?” Amanda asked with glee.
“Yeah,” Nathan said, looking at the notebook. She had written lines of speech and underlined words that didn’t fit. On the opposite page was a cipher. “I think ‘dogs’ refers to army troops that joined the rebellion, while ‘patriots’ refers to civilians who are fighting.”
“Okay, so how does this help us?” Jasmine asked.
Amanda gave her a grumpy look. Nathan put his hand on Amanda’s leg to calm her. “It lets us know they are heading away from us. The ‘slugs’ in the area have been ‘salted,’ which I think means killed. I’m guessing that refers to the Homeland boys,” Nathan said, reading one of the lines Amanda wrote.
“Ants?” John asked.
“Good as any, I guess. The army and U.N. troops, mindless drones,” Nathan said.
“Do you think this is happening everywhere?” Jasmine asked.
Nathan shook his head. “No, not yet. If it was, they wouldn’t be pulling troops out of Arkansas and other cities. You don’t pull out troops in areas you don’t control yet.” He continued to read Amanda’s notes. “You heard that?” Nathan said, pointing at a line.
Amanda looked at what he was pointing at. “Yes.”
“What?” Tom asked, who was making notes in his notebook.
“The port of New Orleans was sabotaged by dogs, and the river is blocked by sunken ships,” Nathan said.
“Okay, so?” John asked.
“That is a huge port. They destroyed it so it couldn’t be used to offload troops,” Nathan explained, still reading and turning a page.
“What about supplies?” John asked.
“We know troops are coming,” Nathan said, and laughed. “It seems Texas is being a real pain in the ass. One ham operator reports that almost ninety percent of the guard and police are fighting the government. Most of every military base was taken over intact and fifty percent of those troops joined the guard.”
Tom asked, “Won’t the government try to get that back? Texas has a lot of stuff they need, like oil.”
“Oh they are. A battalion of German troops stationed in Arizona moved against San Antonio. The battle’s still going on,” Nathan said.
“Anything about what’s on our route?” Jasmine asked hopefully.
“Yep, western Colorado is firmly in government hands. They are trying to move out in eastern Colorado and southern Wyoming but are facing serious resistance. Phoenix, Las Vegas, and surrounding areas are under government control. Damn, looks like the Mormons in Utah took over the NSA site there and put a real bad hurt on the government’s command and control, taking over several satellites as well. California is in total chaos, nobody in in control of anything. Chinese troops started landing there ten days ago until several rogue Navy ships and subs started sinking their ships,” Nathan said as he flipped the page.
“Oregon and western Washington State are firmly in government hands, and the Chinese are landing troops in Washington now,” he said in a somber voice. “Idaho and Montana have taken over all military bases and are killing all ‘slugs and ants.’ Canadian troops invaded and secured North Dakota and north Minnesota, and northern parts of South Dakota then tried to enter Montana but were wiped out.” He looked up with a fake smile.
They all knew it was a fake smile. Finally Jasmine asked, “Isn’t that good news?”
“I don’t know. This is massive in scale.” Nathan shrugged and picked up his coffee. “Amanda, did the one who reported all that ever give out a handle?”
She flipped back in her notebook. “Yes, he said he was ‘Foxtrot Utah Charlie Kilo Utah Golf Mike Echo November’ out of the Cowboy State,” she said. Nathan fell over laughing. Amanda looked to the others, wondering what she said. They were just as perplexed as she was. She turned to Nathan. “What?”
Sitting up, Nathan wiped his eyes. “His call sign is ‘F-UCK U G MEN’ and he’s in Wyoming. If they haven’t shut him down we should be safe from bigger troop movements.”
“What’s he mean…” Amanda looked down at her notes. “’I will rebroadcast after scooting.’”
The laughter left Nathan just as fast as it had come. “Shit, he’s moving so they can’t lock on him. You have to move or they can find you. He’s worried about them hitting him after all. How long did he broadcast?”
“Two hours,” Amanda said.
“Damn, he’s not that worried,” Nathan mumbled.
“What else did he say?” John asked.
Nathan held out his hand and Amanda passed over the notebook. “China invaded Southeast Asia, and South Korea has fallen,” Nathan said.
“What part of Southeast Asia?” Jasmine asked.
“All of it, from Vietnam to Burma,” Amanda said.
“They won’t take it. No country can, it’s been tried,” Jasmine said confidently.
Nathan looked up at her. “Yes they can. They are killing anything that fights them. They wiped out the capitol of Burma to the last person. The Chinese almost have the entire area. Reports were over seven million troops invaded.”
“I thought China and Russia were fighting?” John asked.
“No General Mans, Denis told me they just had a skirmish over Mongolia,” Nathan said.
“Anything else?” Jasmine asked pointing at the notebook.
“Oh yeah, India and Pakistan are at war and the Russians invaded the Middle East,” Nathan said, but Jasmine held up her hand stopping him.
“Here at home. That’s on the other side of the globe,” Jasmine said.
“The entire eastern seaboard is under government control, all the way to Florida. Resistance starts at Alabama. Almost all major cities east of the Mississippi River are government-controlled. The government has secured the Mississippi delta for food production, along with areas in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee. That’s what they were doing here in Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas, trying to secure the farmlands. According to this guy, it’s not going well for them here. They didn’t send enough troops, or the ones they sent turned on them,” Nathan said.
“How can a soldier follow those kinds of orders?” John asked.
“John, the government had been slowly removing generals and admirals who followed the Constitution and not them,” Nathan said, still reading. He looked up after reading the last page.
Amanda nodded. “Yeah, death projections so far in the US are at forty-two million, and by the end of this month, a hundred million.” Everyone just froze hearing that.
“What about the rest of the world?” Casey asked.
Amanda cleared her throat. “Most of Mexico City burned down and half the population is believed to be dead. It’s the same for Central and South America. Africa’s not much better. Europe is reporting a quarter of its population dead. China and Russia are reporting less than that; they are invading other countries and taking food and supplies. Europe wasn’t hit as badly as we were with EMPs but they still lost power from the flare.”
“We are really going to lose three quarters of our population, aren’t we?” Jasmine asked.
Nathan nodded. “Yeah, some supplies are getting in but they are staying in the cities only. That’s the justification of moving people to the camps, but it won’t be enough.”
“If they left the people in the country, do you think it wouldn’t be so bad?” John asked.
Nathan thought about it for a minute before answering. “If they had left the farmers and ranchers alone and brought them the fuel the military and Homeland are using, they could curb a
lot of starving.”
“They are purposely killing Americans by starvation,” John declared.
“Yes they are, but they know this. Those are the people that are independent and pose a threat,” Nathan replied.
The group just sat around digesting what they heard, except Emma and Chip, who ate. Soon the others slowly began to eat until Nathan stood up when the sun touched the horizon. He started packing up camp and saddled his horse. He dug in his pack for Ares’s brush and called him over.
With all the running around, Ares had gotten several mats in his coat, which Nathan brushed out. Amanda moved over to get it and brush Athena. “No, listen and write,” Nathan said calling Athena over and brushing her out.
When Nathan was done the sun was down and with clouds in the sky it got dark quickly. Everyone turned on their NVGs and climbed on their horses. “Casey, stay near Amanda. Amanda, I want you to listen to what’s going on. You know our route and the nearby towns, so if you hear something let me know,” Nathan said.
“Nathan,” Tom called out. “We aren’t going to go fast tonight, are we? The donkeys don’t do so hot going at a gallop for that long.”
“No, we are going at our regular pace unless we need to move it,” Nathan said, adjusting Emma. He moved the SAW he had hung off his saddle horn so it didn’t hit Smoke on the leg. Kicking Smoke in the sides, Nathan led them out of the trees, crossing the creek they had camped by. As he moved across the field he lifted his thermal and scanned the area. Not seeing anything to worry about, he pulled onto the dirt road, heading north.
Riding along everyone was watching their areas lost in thought. After two hours Nathan held up his arm, motioning the others up to him as he led Smoke into the ditch. Nathan pulled out his map and turned the UV light on his NVGs on. “Damn it! Will you warn us before you do that?” Jasmine snapped.
“Sorry,” Nathan said, looking at the map.
“Nathan, those last few houses’ doors were closed,” John said.
Putting his map away and turning off the UV light, he said, “Yeah, that last one had a person on watch sitting on the porch. Look at that house over there.” He pointed to the west. They noticed a house over a mile away. “There is light coming from the upstairs windows.”
“So they didn’t make it here, taking people?” Casey asked.
Nathan unclipped his NVGs and put them in a pouch on his vest. “Seems that way,” he said. Unclipping the thermal from his M-4, Nathan clipped it to his head harness then adjusted his boonie hat.
“What are you doing?” Jasmine asked.
“Putting my thermal on,” Nathan replied, getting used to the new vision. Instead of one eye seeing a green world it now saw a black and white world in varying shades.
“No shit. Why now?” Jasmine asked.
“One reason I don’t wear them all night is the damn thing eats batteries like potato chips. I’m putting them on now because I want to see anything that’s alive far away,” he said. He looked at Jasmine and, unlike the NVG, monocular which showed things fairly normally, the thermal just showed a white hot skull outline with darker white eyes. “Spooky,” Nathan mumbled, fighting a shiver down.
“What’s got you worried?” John asked. Nathan pointed to the field across the road. The others turned and saw two mounds lying in a field. “Dead cows?” John asked, puzzled.
“Can you really see them?” Nathan asked.
“Yes and they look torn apart. We’ve seen it before. In Arkansas you pointed out one that had been killed by people, and in Mississippi one that had been killed by dogs. That looks like what happened to those,” John said.
“That’s the ninth one in a mile,” Nathan said, adjusting his rifle against a sleeping Emma.
“What’s that have to do with you getting ready for battle?” Jasmine asked.
Nudging his chin at the three cows, “That took a big ass pack to do that.”
“You said it only took five or six dogs to run down a cow,” Casey piped up.
“That’s right, ‘run them down.’ Those three were wrestled down right there at the same time. They are within yards of each other. Don’t you think that’s kind of strange?” Nathan asked.
“Someone could’ve shot them and then the dogs ate them,” Casey offered.
Nathan smiled. “That is a very good possibility, but I don’t think so.”
Amanda quit writing in her notebook but didn’t look up. “There are reports on the radio of large packs. Several kids were attacked and killed in Tescott, to our northeast about nine miles.” She started writing again. Nathan grinned at her. Writing with NVGs was difficult but writing with a monocular was tough as hell. Looking over to see what she was writing Nathan realized he wouldn’t see anything with the thermal, and his right eye could barely see shapes and the outline of the road. It was pretty dark.