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Operation SERF, Part II (Chris Sullins, December 6, 2008)
It was a half hour after dawn and the early morning light provided enough illumination to the living room via the large broken picture window and open doorway to Eduard Morgan’s home. Mark had regretted allowing his aunt Maria to come back to the home with him to check things out. She was now knees down on the carpet next to Eduard’s body sobbing with her face buried in her hands.
Mark looked around the room. The front door, large and small windows and walls had all been peppered with bullet holes. Shattered glass was blown everywhere on the inside of the living room. A rifle with a broken stock lay on the inside of the doorway. Given the blood-spackled deep gash on the inside of the door frame, it appeared the weapon had been broken against it. The broken butt-stock was covered in blood and bits of brain and hair.
He looked down at the body beside the wheelchair that was flipped backward. There appeared to be a single bullet wound in the upper left chest close to the collar bone. But the real damage had been done to Eduard’s head which had been smashed in from the frontal cranium down to the palate. An unpeeled portion of scalp held together some larger fragments of cracked skull on one side barely keeping the remaining interior contents of the head contained. The tilt and condition of the fractured head was such that only the slightest tip would allow gravity to spill the rest of the brains onto the carpet.
“Maria,” said Mark in a voice loud enough to be heard above her sobbing, but not carry too far to the outside of the house. “Maria, we need to leave.”
She didn’t respond and Mark gently touched her shoulder. “Maria, we can’t stay here.”
Maria stood up and wiped her face. She looked at Mark and then around the rest of the living room. She took a few steps and got a folded light blue fleece blanket that was over the top back of a chair. Maria shook it once to open it fully, and lifted it again in the air allowing it to billow and float down over the upper body of Eduard. It took on his outline and patches of red soaked through the blue synthetic material.
“This is not dignified,” Maria said. “He has a folded American flag back in his bedroom closet. It was his wife’s.”
“We don’t have time,” Mark said. “We’re not even supposed to be here. We don’t know if the Joneses are going to let us stay there until nightfall. I’m sorry, but we can’t stay.”
“You’re right,” Maria said. “This was like the time back in the village before your mother and I came here. This wasn’t supposed to happen here.”
“This shouldn’t happen anywhere, never,” said Mark as he picked up the broken rifle by the barrel. The action and trigger mechanism were still intact. He pulled it open slightly and saw that a live round was still inside the chamber. He picked up the piece of stock by the splintered end less red with blood. “Does he have more bullets for this? More guns?”
“No, he let me trade the bullets to Jose last year,” she said. “He didn’t have any other guns.”
“Did he have anything else we could use?” Mark asked as he wrapped the two pieces of the weapon in a long black rain coat from the closet.
* * *
“I am Teniente Hernando Ramirez,” said the man standing outside of the front gate of the armory. A score of humvees, some with mounted machine guns manned by gunners and one with a rocket launcher were lined up on the road behind him leading to the armory. In the homes and businesses along the street, many people were looking through windows at what appeared to be a severely mismatched Mexican standoff between an invading army and a small group of local guardsmen.
“Mr. Ramirez,” began 1LT Smith before he was immediately interrupted.
“Teniente Ramirez,” interjected the man standing before him on the other side of the horizontal tubular steel cattle-style gate set next to the guard shack and the tall chain link fence which enclosed the public parking area in front of the main armor building. “I am a Teniente.”
“And what is a teniente?” mustered Smith in a demanding tone.
“An officer in the Army of National Defense of Mexico,” said Ramirez with further explanation, “similar to a Lieutenant such as yourself in your army.”
1LT Smith’s single black vertical bar was clearly visible in the center of his unarmored chest and a silver bar stuck in a blue army flash on his black beret was only a couple inches above his left eye. The soldier across from him did not have any rank visible on the heavy body armor and magazine pouches that covered his torso and a new-looking camo cover without insignia was tightly stretched over a Kevlar helmet on the man’s head.
“Teniente Ramirez,” began 1LT Smith again,”I’m Lieutenant Smith and I’m the officer in command of this facility. Why are you here?”
“We were ordered by General McBride to secure this armory,” Ramirez said. “We were told this armory had been abandoned.”
Smith had heard of General McBride of the US Army, but he was on the federal side and not in the state’s National Guard. “As you can see for yourself, we hold this armory. It has not been abandoned. You came all the way from Mexico to do this?”
“No, Lieutenant Smith,” said Ramirez. “We were already in the US on a joint training exercise –one coordinated by General McBride— when we were ordered to do this. We were ordered to come here by General McBride and my own leadership. It was a joint defense decision.”
“General McBride did,” Smith repeated becoming skeptical. He recalled family stories passed down about his great-great grandfather during WWII and the “Battle of the Bulge” in particular when his grandfather’s unit ran into German soldiers disguised as American soldiers. This seemed to Smith like a modern but far less skillful attempt at infiltration.
Smith was vaguely aware of the current joint exercise, but it was in the next state. He knew the USA, Mexico, and Canada had been military allies under the North American Defense Agreement for years despite their tightly controlled borders and strict immigration policies currently between each other. Smith was aware the countries had assisted each other during many natural disasters and terrorist incidents. However, he was suspicious given the earlier timing of both the deserting gate guards and the phone call yesterday. He wondered about outside events and remembered past history in which allied countries suddenly changed sides and attacked those who were once friendly or at least peaceful and neutral.
“Yes, he gave it to me himself in person,” said Ramirez. “Major Frank was my liaison from the US Army and he was there as well. He was in the training exercise with us, but he was ordered to secure another armory. He went to Shelbyville.”
“Why was he securing that armory?” Asked Smith.
“It was being looted,” said Ramirez as he became a little surprised by the question. “There were terrorist attacks on Washington, DC and New York City yesterday. There are riots in your state’s cities. Do you not know what is going on in your own country?”
Smith considered what to say next. He didn’t want to appear ignorant to Ramirez and still wondered what kind of game might be afoot, but he also wanted more information. Even if everything he had just heard was a lie, sometimes elimination left the truth. He was concerned that asking too many questions about the outside would also reveal that their communication was still down. Still, he had to.
“What kind of attacks on Washington and New York?” Smith asked.
“Bombs. One happened during a special session of Congress. Another at the exchange. There were thousands killed,” Ramirez replied. The Mexican officer looked past his American counterpart at the two other soldiers behind him and then beyond them to two soldiers wearing soft caps peeking above the roof of the armory as if they were archers on medieval battlements. Ramirez guessed there might be a few more soldiers scattered around the facility and at the back. “Lieutenant Smith, we’re here to help you. You need our help in your country’s time of need. There aren’t enough of you here to do this. You can’t secure this place on your own.”
1LT Smith looked back at SSG Brown who was standing a few feet away with SPC Miller outside the guard shack. The other two soldiers were fully within earshot and could hear the entire conversation. The armory in Adam County was located outside of Shelbyville. They couldn’t make any guesses about alleged attacks on DC and NYC or riots in the state capital. If true, though, the significance of everything wasn’t lost on any of them.
The two enlisted men kept their M4 rifles at the low ready while Smith had his arms straight at his side. The officer’s sole weapon, his pistol, was fully holstered with a lanyard lassoing it to his belt. None of the men wore body armor since this item had never been stored at their local armory. Their personal Kevlar helmets had been pulled months ago under an emergency Executive Order to help make up for short supplies to soldiers who were deploying for the long war overseas. It was with some irony at the time that removal of this required headgear had kept them from using their own handful of military vehicles still remaining at the armory during their most recent annual training. It would have violated safety regulations.
“Teniente Ramirez, I would like to thank you for offering your assistance,” said Smith. “However, I am in command of this facility and I am declining it. I do not have orders from my chain of command allowing anyone access at this time.”
“Lieutenant Smith, I understand your position completely, but is that your final answer?” asked Ramirez.
“Yes,” answered Smith immediately. “Besides, I imagine your own country could probably use you even more than we can. There are many problems in Mexico which could use your attention.”
“You are correct,” Ramirez said. He stepped forward and extended his right empty hand through the cattle gate which was chained and locked on one end. The chain was probably far stronger than the two hinges on the other side. “I think my people would be better served by our return home. I wish you and your nation the best of luck in this time. But, may I ask you one favor?”
Smith met Ramirez in a handshake. “If it is within my power.”
“We were sent here with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition from your army, but very little food. We used up all our MREs just getting here,” Ramirez said. “Do you have any to spare?”
“I can give you MREs,” said Smith. “May I also ask for one thing in return?”
“Some of that ammunition you have,” Smith said remembering how his soldiers had found none in the armory yesterday. “We could use some more ammunition.”
“Of course,” said Ramirez with a smile. “It was yours to begin with.”
* * *
“What the hell are they doing?” asked Mond as he stood over a different man at a terminal in a different row in the large room.
“Sir, it looks like they’re shaking hands,” said the man as he scrolled a mouse wheel and the screen zoomed in to view the wristwatch bands on both soldiers.
“I can see that,” stated Mond. “Why is that soldier even still there inside the gate? Why are any of them still there? Tell me why the Mexicans aren’t on the inside already?”
“I don’t know,” stated the operator. “The US unit has already taken the other armory. This doesn’t appear to be members of that unit inside of this one. They’re not wearing any body armor and none of the vehicles inside of the wire are warm. I would guess these are soldiers who were already in place when this began. It’s the locals. Those soldiers weren’t supposed to be there when the Mexican unit arrived.”
“I know that,” snapped Mond. “Back up the frame view so I can see both sides. This is going to muddy things up completely in this sector by the time the next element of play was to come into effect. If those US soldiers stay in there, that element will not come into effect with the local population.”
“I have the entire Mexican unit in view on the road and there are eight soldiers inside the wire,” stated the man as the view on his screen not only enlarged but made a change of angle as well. The view from above turned as if a camera was slowly circling above the entire town.
“What’s keeping them from moving in?” said an exasperated Mond who was still clearly rhetorical to the man who didn’t answer until asked a direct question. “What does the drone have onboard?”
“Full complement,” the operator stated. “Two missiles and two guns, one with explosive and the other with non-explosive ammunition.”
“Excellent,” said Mond. “We might be able to turn this into an even better opportunity.”
“How would you like it done, sir?”
“Don’t pull the trigger just yet,” admonished Mond. “Does this facility have anything of value in it for the immediate next round of takers or in the long-term view?”
“Sir, hold on please,” started the man before turning to the worker at the next terminal. “Hey, Bob, what does this Armory mean to us?”
“Just a second,” said the other worker as he glanced at his co-worker’s screen, looked back at his own and made some mouse clicks. “No material or strategic value. Everything except the small-arms, food, and a few unarmored vehicles were already removed. No ammunition or fuel is on-site. Communication cut yesterday. This is a symbolic action objective. Mexicans were to move in, then leave when…”
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Mond. “I know the original plan. This could still work with minor modification –maybe even better than originally planned.”
Mond touched the operator’s shoulder “How accurate is the drone?”
“Sir, you saw the handshake,” said the operator. “How would you like it done? It’s your call and I can do it.”
“Let’s see how we can stir up the wasp nest,” said Mond before going silent and watching a full circular pass again on the screen. “Put one rocket into the armory’s main building and put some non-explosive rounds into the lead Mexican vehicle and the men at the gate. Both sides of the gate.”
“Sir, although I appreciate the dramatic effect of the missile on the building, someone might actually see it flying in,” cautioned the operator. “May I suggest some of the explosive rounds instead for the hit on the building?”
“You’re worried about witnesses,” said Mond. “How old school of you. That isn’t going to matter in a few weeks. Use the paints and brushes I originally asked for but feel free to be individually creative, yet subtle, with the brush strokes. Are you capable of applying that kind of high art?”
“Yes, sir, I’ll just have to wait a few second for the right angle over the Mexican column with the single rounds and then I can launch the missile when the sun…”
“Don’t tell me how you’re going to pull the trigger,” said Mond. “Just do it.”
“Yes, sir,” said the operator followed by some mouse clicks a few seconds later. “It’s finished.”
“This is still just the beginning,” said Mond. “Take the drone to the next armory. We’ll come back here later.”
* * *
“Sir, take your hands off the computer!” one soldier yelled at the other who was ignoring him. The soldier who just gave the order had an armband signifying he was a Military Police officer. Another younger soldier with the same armband also moved into the room with him. A far older soldier at the antique oak desk continued to type on the keyboard and tap on the mouse pad without making even a glance of acknowledgement toward them.
“Sir, lift up your hands and move away from the computer!” he bellowed again as one hand brushed past his pistol and went to a small taser on his belt.
“Stop,” said a voice from behind as another older soldier entered the room next to the two MPs and put his hand on the MP’s wrist before he could draw the non-lethal weapon. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Excuse me, Colonel Barry,” said the MP as the officer let go of his wrist and pushed by.
The older soldier walked over to his similar-aged counterpart who was still typing and oblivious to them all. Barry came to a stop in front of the desk and with one hand calmly reached out and unplugged the Ethernet cable from the back of the laptop. The seated man stopped typing and looked up as Barry let the cable fall to the Persian rug on the floor.
“It’s over, Colonel Gordan,” Barry said. “You’re finished. You’re people are finished.”
“Over?” said Gordan as he sat back in the leather-covered thick padded chair. “I’m not the only one you’re up against. You won’t be able to stop us all.”
“Things have gone too far already,” Barry said before looking back at the MPs. “Sergeant, take him into custody.”
* * *
“This is getting boring,” Steve said as he sat on the couch with three other men across from Mike who was fully-reclined in an easy chair. Three other men were lying on the carpeted floor asleep. “Who else wants to leave?”
There was no answer from the men who were awake on the couch. The men on the floor didn’t stir. Mike moved his chair into the upright position and reached over for a toothpick on the lamp stand next to him and put it in the corner of his mouth. Mike looked at Steve without saying a word. Steve sat up straight and gave him an angry look.
“What?” Steve said.
“Are you A-D-D or something?” Mike said without taking the toothpick out.
“A-D-D? What do you mean by that?” Steve asked quickly.
Mike took out the toothpick and asked “Did you forget yesterday already?”
“What do mean? Those helicopters?” Steve said and one of the men on the floor stirred.
“Yes, those Apaches,” Mike replied. “The ones that scared your butts back up here after you left yesterday.”
“That was yesterday,” Steve said. “They haven’t been back. What’s your point?”
“Shut up,” said one man who stirred on the floor. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“No, you, shut up,” Steve said to the man before looking back at Mike. “If something was going to happen to us, it would’ve happened by now.”
“No, it hasn’t happened because you guys aren’t running around out there being stupid,” Mike said as he rolled the toothpick between his thumb and forefinger. “That’s going to change as soon as you guys start playing like it’s ‘Red Dawn’ in town. Like I said yesterday –don’t get mixed up in someone else’s fight. Wait till it’s over and then see who’s still standing when the dust settles. When it’s over.”
“I don’t have to listen to this,” Steve said as some spittle escaped into the air on the last word. “You act like you know something. I mean what the f-ck were you in the Marines? You were a cook, right? Or, was that just your cover and you were really some kind of SEAL team guy?”
“I was a specialist in all aspects of food service,” said Mike as he leaned forward in his chair. “I wasn’t anything else. Why don’t you just take a long deep breath and calm down before…”
“Before what?” Steve yelled as he stood up. “What are you going to do? Pull a Riddick and kill me with your toothpick?”
With the reflexes of a snake lunging toward a mouse, Mike shot his hand forward plunging half the toothpick into Steve’s thigh and withdrew the unbroken wood in its entirety. Steve fell to the floor with a high-pitched scream just missing one of the men who had been asleep. All three of them jolted awake. Two of the men on the couch were frozen with wide eyes while the third unsuccessfully attempted to stifle a laugh which came out mostly through his naval cavity.
“Get a hold of yourself,” Mike said to Steve, “I didn’t break it off in you.”
“You stuck me!” Steve said as he sat up and looked at the small wet area forming on the side of his jeans.
“That’s right,” Mike confirm. “I took you out with a toothpick.”
“Like an olive or a little cube of cheese,” said the man who had laughed on the couch.
Mike helped Steve up off the floor and Steve stood on both legs on his own.
“There are some band-aids in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom,” Mike told Steve. “Stick one on your leg, then come back here, and sit down.”
The men who had been startled awake were sitting up on the floor. Mike looked at them and then at the other men on the couch. No one said anything as Steve limped slightly down the hall.
“There is something going on out there and it’s very dangerous,” Mike said. “Just give it one more day and stay out of it. You can wait here.”
“Mike,” said one of the men on the floor. “I’m worried about my family.”
Mike opened the interior door of his trailer and looked out the screen door as the cool morning breeze came in. He looked back at the man and said “I am, too.”
End of Part 2
To read Part 1, please go to: Operation SERF, Part I
Special note from Chris Sullins: If you’ve enjoyed reading this story, please consider making a donation to the oftwominds.com website. Charles Hugh Smith has graciously provided space for it on his website for your reading enjoyment. Although it’s from a genre outside the commentary and other essays which usually appear on OTM, I thank Mr. Smith in presenting this to a far wider audience than I would have been able to do on my own. He has done this in the spirit of the First Amendment and in the fine tradition of experienced writers supporting new writers. I give similar thanks to those people who’ve also linked from their websites and/or emailed friends and family.
This story has been written “on the fly” with each part appearing as time permits. The number of parts and when it will “end” has not been determined. This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons or events in the past, present, or future are either out of sheer coincidence or due to the cyclical nature of history. Please bear with me on minor technical errors as we continue to follow the unfolding situation along with some symbolism in what I would like to call a “Strategic Action Thriller”.
* * *
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