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Operation SERF, Part III   (Chris Sullins, December 15, 2008)

“This is an illegal assembly!” proclaimed the man wearing a slate gray uniform, black boots, olive drab web gear and carrying a submachine gun.

The uniformed man walked down the center aisle between the rows toward the altar area where a young man stood at the head of the assembled group. Two other men dressed in a similar manner with weapons stood back toward the entrance and behind the people. The faces of all three were cleanly shaved and straps from their gray helmets were snapped around their chins. When the uniformed man made it to the front he turned around to face the audience with his back toward the young man. He let his firearm dangle by its sling, took off his helmet and held it under his left arm.

“Now I know all of you weren’t attending a service here on Friday morning when the curfew went into effect,” he stated as he scanned the audience of fifty people packed into the single room building. There was a mix of the local population ranging from families with young children and some teenagers to middle-aged couples and elderly women. “Those horses haven’t been standing out there for over two days and all those vehicles are still warm.”

The adults seated in the room kept eye contact with him, but said nothing. Some of the younger children whispered quietly to each other as they looked at books in the pews. A teenager was breast-feeding her infant off to the far side of the room and its suckling sometimes rose above the pops of burning wood in a nearby iron stove. An elderly man sat up slightly and folded his arms before checking his watch.

“We just heard singing before we walked in here,” the man said as he hooked his helmet to his web-gear by a small carabiner and then put his black-gloved hands on his hips. “And now we don’t hear a peep from any of you.”

“What do you want from us?” asked the young man behind him.

Without taking his hands from his hips the uniformed man looked over his left shoulder at the bearded young man and said “Are you in charge here?”

“We are all leaders here,” replied the young man.

“Really?” said the man in a half growl as he turned half way toward the man and then waved his gloved right hand out in the air toward the people. “Leaders of what?”

“Proclaiming the word to the world,” answered the young man.

“The word?” the un-helmeted man said sarcastically.

“Yes. The word.”

The gray-clothed man stepped toward the bearded man, reached over with his left hand and grabbed the long hair kept in a ponytail at the back of the young man’s head. An obese teenage boy in the front row suddenly stood up, but an elderly woman grabbed him by the sleeve of his sweater as she whispered “No.” Neither of them could see the red dot painted on his back by the laser mounted on one of men’s weapons behind him. She tugged again and as he sat down the laser light went out without any shots fired.

Still holding the bearded man’s hair with one hand, the man in gray quickly kneed his captive’s leg from behind causing the man to drop down into a submissive position on the floor. He lifted the man’s head up by the hair and with his right hand drew an extendable baton from his belt. With his left hand the gray man snapped the bearded man’s head back up so he faced the ceiling and with his right hand flicked the baton fully open. The chrome shaft of the weapon was clearly visible even to those seated at the back of the room.

“Give us the word!” yelled the man in uniform before he smashed the young man once across the mouth. As he lifted the bloodied baton back up a single tooth flung itself from the shiny cylinder and landed at the feet of the teenager. There wasn’t a second blow. The gray man released his hold on the ponytail and let his victim drop completely to the floor. The injured man on the floor gargled and gasped as the other man stood over him. He writhed on the floor and coughed a few times before he spit out another tooth which pelted lightly against a wooden podium nearby.

The man in gray turned and faced the people with a grin before looking serious again. He looked at the fat boy in the front row who still had the old woman firmly holding the sleeve of his sweater. Both were looking down at the first tooth at their feet. The boy was breathing loudly – clearly the exhales of anger rather than fear.

“What are you going to do, Hoss?” the man said sardonically as he stepped toward the teen in the front row. The crunch of the tooth was heard beneath the heavy black boot of the man in gray. The teen didn’t move or look up as the man used the teen’s other sleeve to wipe the blood off his baton. The breathing from the teen became more pronounced, but there was no movement from the boy otherwise.

“We’re out of here,” said the lead man in uniform as he collapsed each of the sequentially larger pieces of the baton back into the handle, put it back in a pouch on his belt, then donned his helmet and walked briskly toward his partners at the entrance.

He and the other two men burst outside through the double door leaving it wide open for the cold air to blow back into the large room. Light flakes of snow were slowly coming down, but had not colored the ground white as they quickly melted. They strode through the middle of two rows of rusty cars and trucks and horses still hitched to wagons and buggies. They approached an open top jeep at the back of the parking area out in front of the building. The smoke from a woodstove pipe off to one side of the building’s narrow roof curled past the naked branches of the nearby trees.

“God, this is going to get cold today,” said the man who had aimed the laser sight.

“Yeah, and we’ve got three more places to check out today,” said the other who had also waited at the back. “How did we get stuck with the jeep for this assignment?”

“Shut up and quit your b-tchin’,” said their leader who had wielded the baton. “Be thankful, you’re not on horseback for this.”

Just as the men were about to get into the jeep, a dozen other men swarmed them who had been hiding behind the vehicles, wagons, and some evergreens in the nearby tree-line. The three were on the ground immediately with weapons pinning them to the ground without a shot being fired.

“Oh, crap,” said the gray leader on the ground.

“Good morning,” said a man in a camouflage pattern made up of green, tan, brown, and black arranged in a random digital pattern. He wore a boonie hat of the same camo pattern. The eleven other men were dressed the same way and the assault rifles they carried we painted flat tan. The man in multi-color motioned for his comrades to stand their prisoners up. People started coming out of the building including the young bearded man holding his bloodied face. The people remained close to the open doors, though, and did not approach this new group of armed men.

“Has there been some sort mayhem here today?” asked the multi-color camo leader of the gray man who had squeaked out the two words upon capture.

“F-ck you,” said the man in gray calmly.

“What was that?” asked the camo leader.

“You heard me.”

“Yes, I did,” said the camo man. “But are you sure that’s the answer you want to stick with? Maybe this is the time for you to repent and ask these good people for their forgiveness?”

The man in gray spat at the camo man and the phlegm hit the other in the cheek. The gray man had a look of calm determination mixed with a fully resolute sense of fatalism his inquisitor was quite familiar with from the past. The camo man casually wiped his cheek with two fingers on one hand and flicked off the mucous chunk.

“Stand them up toward the tree line away from this place of worship,” the camo leader ordered his eleven followers. As they did the old lady who had held the teenager back came quickly hobbling forward.

“Don’t do this!” She yelled and the camo leader turned to look at her. She pointed her finger angrily at him as she said “Who do you think you are?”

“I’m the one who oils the hinge of the narrow gate,” he answered.

The old lady hesitated and then shivered more in horror rather than the outside temperature before she asked “What gives you the right?”

“I can assure you that this is not by my right,” he replied. “Go and tell the others to go back inside now. Close the doors and tend to the injured. Don’t look outside the windows. Now go.”

The group of men kept the trio standing as the old lady hustled everyone back inside the building. The doors were closed. The leader of the camouflaged men took a pistol out of his brown leather shoulder rig and shot each of the other three men in the face. Each of the three had stood unbound and had accepted their fate without additional struggle before they fell one by one.

“John,” said one of the camo men to the leader as other men dragged the bodies past the tree-line and deeper into the woods. “We need to get that jeep out of here before the others come looking.”

“Yes,” said John as he switched magazines in his pistol for a full one out of his jacket pocket. “Siphon most of the gasoline but leave some in it. Tell one man to take the jeep and drive it back to the bridge. He can dump it further away alongside the riverbed. Do not set on fire. Have another man trail him and bring him back here to his four-wheeler. They can meet us tomorrow at the next rally point.”

As the other man walked away, John looked back at the building and saw no one looking back at them through the windows. The snow began to fall harder and was beginning to stick to the ground as the air temperature began to drop. He reached into another pocket on his jacket and pulled out a satellite phone. John tapped in a few numbers and put the phone to his ear.

“We’re going to be a little late,” he began. “Can you get on the net and give me the weather forecast for the next point? You can? Good. Yes, I can wait a moment. Excellent. Thanks. Good-bye.”

He put the phone back in his pocket as one of the men approached the jeep and others came back from the woods on four-wheelers which had very quiet mufflers attached. John yelled loud enough to be heard by all “It’s going to snow all night. Let’s get moving.”

*         *         *

“Sir,” said the man at the wheel next to the captain of the small Canadian Coast Guard patrol craft. “What’s going on? Why is this worse than usual?”

“I don’t know,” said the captain as they watched the rowboat coming into better view. There were at least ten adults on board who were wearing winter coats, hats, and scarves. A plastic tarp was pulled across the middle like a blanket in an attempt to shield the occupants from the wind and light snow that was falling. This was the second boat coming from the US side of southern Lake Huron in less than an hour.

“Stop! You are entering Canadian waters!” warned a voice out of a loudspeaker mounted on the Canadian craft. “Turn back or we are authorized to escalate force.”

The captain and his crew usually encountered one boat of illegal economic migrants per day. On a weekly basis, they also intercepted the movement of drug or gun runners going north or someone with untaxed goods moving south. The craft carrying goods rather than people were often motorized and could be quite fast. But whether it was illegal people or contraband moving across the water, this usually happened at night. However, it was only approaching noon for this day and they had already encountered a second boat.

The captain could recall a time when the CCG was not a paramilitary organization and would not have been used in this way. Armed RCMP officers were added on an interim basis a few years ago before a new round of training in the use of weapons for interdiction were required for every crew member in the CCG. Everyone who wanted to remain gainfully employed adjusted well to the change. It was either that or move to western Canada.

“Sir, they haven’t turned back,” advised another man in the control room.

“Proceed to the next step,” ordered the captain.

A siren began on the coast guard vessel and was left on. A non-lethal sonic weapon on the bow of the ship was pointed at the small boat and activated as well. The people on the boat jostled around a bit and covered their ears and the rowing ceased. The tarp almost blew away when most of the hands had let go of it. The weapon was switched off for a couple seconds and then reactivated again for a few more seconds to make a point before switching back off. The siren wound down and ceased.

“Turn back now or you will hear the bad sound!” bellowed the voice over the loudspeaker.

The small boat began to comply as the rowers changed course. They had difficulty battling with the choppy water and it almost tipped over as they went parallel with the waves. After the small boat was fully turned toward sight of land, they began moving again to the South.

“I can’t believe they’re even trying on a day like today,” said the man at the wheel. “What’s happened in America?”

The captain was silent since he was not one given to idle speculation. He only hoped the boat people could make it back to their own shore alive.

*         *         *

“Mommy, when is daddy coming home?” a small girl said as she lay wrapped in a blanket on her mother’s lap.

“Soon, baby,” the mother replied as her own mother opened the woodstove in the common living area of the family’s home.

The middle-aged woman stoked the fire before adding another split piece of wood from a washing basin nearby. There were only two more small pieces left. She closed the glass and steel door to the woodstove and turned the heavy handle down which made a loud metallic squeak.

“I hope it is soon,” said the older woman. “He works all day cutting wood and then can’t even keep us stocked.”

“Mom, please don’t start.”

“Your dad kept us stocked,” said the elder as she sat back down in a wingback chair and pulled a blanket over herself. “No one had to tell him to do that. He just knew it had to be.”

“Well, he’s not here anymore is he? And whose fault is that?” said the younger woman and the child buried her head under the blanket.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” retorted the woman sitting on the chair.

“Like I said –don’t even start,” said the younger woman in a louder voice.

“Mommy…grandma…” the little girl said from under the blanket. “Please don’t fight.”

Both women went silent. They watched the flames through the glass window of the woodstove. A few minutes later the door opened and a young man walked in. He stomped off the snow on his boots, set down a backpack, and began taking off his winter outer clothing and putting the garments on brass hooks on the wall.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That heat feels good after a walk like today.”

“Daddy,” said the little girl as she sat up on her mother’s lap and pulled the blanket from over her head. “Grandma says we need more wood.”

“Everyone needs more wood, sweetie,” said the young man as he sat down on a chair next to the door and took off his boots. “That’s why daddy has a job and I can feed us all.”

“Speaking of food,” began the woman on the chair.

“Yes,” interjected the young man as he picked up the backpack, “speaking of food. Let’s see what we have in here. We’ve got some apples, a loaf of bread and four eggs. Thank, God, I didn’t break the eggs on the way home. I think the apples are from Canada.”

“That’s it?” said the younger woman. “That’s all he gave you today? You cut wood all day and help fill a train for Illinois and we barely get enough to stay fed until tomorrow?”

“I can remember when this state use to export apples,” said the middle-aged woman in a calm reminiscent way that sounded more akin to someone in their golden years. “I can remember when we sold cars to people all over the world.”

“Yes, that’s it,” said the man as he sat down next to the mother and child and began to cut pieces of the apple with a pocket knife. “Be thankful for even this much today.”

“What’s that mean?” asked the young woman as the child received a slice of apple and began chewing on it.

“After I got to work yesterday there was some news going around,” said the man as he took a slice over to his mother-in-law and sat back down. “Frank heard on the radio in his truck the day before that some terrorist attack had happened in DC and New York. There was a military order given that we were supposed to stay home. None of the rest of us had heard about it so we came in yesterday anyway. The train was still there that came in Friday night. Those guys on the train said they were still told to pick up the load. So we all figured yesterday we’d just finish the job. Even Frank showed up with his truck again today because he wanted to get paid, too.”

“When again?” said the woman in the chair after she had quickly chewed and swallowed her slice of apple. “Did this happen on Friday or Saturday?”

“The train coming or Frank showing up with the truck?” asked the man as he gave a slice to his wife.

“Neither of those,” said the woman on the chair. “When did the terrorist attacks happen?”

“Frank heard it the day before yesterday,” said the man as he cut a slice for himself.

“You mean Friday?” asked the older woman.

“Yes. Something happened on Friday.”

“I wish we had some batteries for the radio,” said the woman as she looked back toward the fire.

*         *         *

“Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America,” said the TV announcer as a man took to the podium with the presidential seal on the front and cleared his throat.

“What is he even doing sucking air on live TV?” yelled the fat man sitting on the black leather couch facing the TV. His feet were propped up and crossed at the ankle on a glass-topped coffee table in front of him. A short glass with Russian vodka on the rocks was next to one heal and a Cuban cigar rested alight in a crystal ashtray beside his other. Two dozen men, many in suits, were off to the sides or behind the couch also watching the TV, but none sat with the man on the couch. “Someone answer me now G-d d-mn it!”

“Apparently, he survived,” said one of the men.

“I can f-cking see that!” retorted the seated man. “Why isn’t he dead in DC? The only way I should be seeing him right now is being pulled dead from the rubble. I want an answer why that did not happen. Tell me why?”

There was some mumbling among the men as the fat man leaned forward then sat back with the drink in his right hand and took a sip. He pressed the mute button on the remote with his left hand and the TV went completely silent before he dropped the remote onto the cushion next to him. He looked around, waved his left hand once in the air and cupped it behind his left ear. “I’m waiting.”

“There’s been some chatter indicating he may have been purposely moved beforehand,” said a different man.

“Who moved him?” asked the fat man before he took another sip and appeared to relax a bit more.

“We know the Secret Service moved him off the schedule, but we don’t know who gave them the order,” replied the same man. “The federal agency heads and the Joint Chiefs were all tied up in the exercise and were locked out of the real world. They still don’t have half a clue about what’s going on.”

“Someone had a clue,” stated the fat man. “Does this f-ck on TV have a clue yet?”

“No,” said another man who then stepped through the other men and stood at the fat man’s right. “Intel says he had no idea it was coming and doesn’t know why he was moved out in time. We don’t know who else knew in advance. There has been no communication among departments, agencies, military posts, or even a single field agent or junior officer upward explaining any independent actions one of them might have taken. Whoever did it, isn’t communicating with the president or anyone else in their chain of command that we can hear. We’re not even sure the people he’s staying with did this.”

“Is Mond and his people a part of this?” the fat man questioned.

“No,” said the man on the right. “They haven’t said anything about it. They’re still too busy playing games. They’re probably seeing the President on secure satellite right now like we are.”

“Good. Pull Mond’s plug,” said the fat man before he finished his drink. “It should’ve been lights out for that a—hole and his drones yesterday. In the meantime, take this feed, edit it, keep a few uplifting sound-bites and then put it back in the trough for our own people to lap up after our towers get switched back on tonight. This doesn’t change the message we’re going to put out tomorrow. Then ours goes on heavy rotation.”

“Yes, Governor.”

*         *         *

“Sir, please don’t move,” said the Mexican Sub-Lieutenant as he put one hand on Ramirez’s chest and another on the arm which had an intravenous line taped to it.

“How long have I been out?” asked Ramirez as he turned from looking at the ceiling of the humvee to the other officer. He was laid out on a stretcher which went down the center of the humvee’s interior between the occupants with two soldiers on each side.

“Hours,” the officer replied. “You have been in and out of consciousness since yesterday.”

“What has happened?” asked Ramirez. “Tell me, Subteniente Gonzales, did you fire on the Americans?”

“No, sir,” said Gonzales. “Someone fired on us and the Americans. We fired on no one. The Americans at the armory fired on no one. But there have been losses.”

“Tell me everything” ordered Ramirez.

“We suffered two killed and one wounded in our lead vehicle all by a large bore weapon. The Americans lost at least six men. Three of them were killed at the front gate. They were also all killed by a large bore weapon, but we couldn’t see where any of the shooting came from. The other Americans were lost when their main building blew up. We believe it was hit by a missile. Our turret gunners heard the whoosh sound before the explosion. We don’t know where that came from either,” explained Gonzales.

“What happened to the American officer at the gate?”

“Dead, sir,” said Gonzales. “He was nearly cut in half at the waist. There was a lot of…We thought they had had killed you, too. There was one American who survived unscathed and another who was slightly wounded. None of them had made any prior movements against us. We found afterward that none of the Americans inside the armory had any ammunition. No cartridges in their magazines and no spent shells on the ground. There must have been others who attacked us both.”

“I agree,” said Ramirez. “There must be others. I suspected the Americans didn’t have any ammunition even when I was talking to their Lieutenant. I think their communication had also been cut off. I need some water.”

Gonzales put a drinking tube from a hydration pouch into Ramirez’s mouth.

“We are almost out of fuel, but we are close to General McBride’s forces,” said Gonzales.

“No,” said Ramirez after he spit out the tube and attempted to lift his own body before the driver quickly reached over and put one hand firmly down on Ramirez’s shoulder.

“Order the convoy to stop!” Ramirez yelled.

“Sir, please don’t move” said the driver as they came to a stop and the Sub-Lieutenant radioed the convoy to stop as well, “you will start bleeding again. You must stay still –you have lost most of your right arm.”

“Gonzales,” Ramirez said as he reached out with his left arm and took the other officer by the cuff of the sleeve. “Do not go to General McBride. I think the Americans are attacking each other. We can’t be in the middle of this. We are going to be blamed for what happened at the armory. This will only get worse for us.”

“What should we do?” asked Gonzales as he rested the handset on his leg as some brief chatter and beeps on the radio continued for a few seconds among the other vehicles in the convoy before falling silent.

“We must go south,” said Ramirez. “We need to get out of the middle of this fight.”

“Sir, I’m sure the men would agree, but we are almost out of fuel and the border is still miles to the south,” said Gonzales. “How would we get there?”

“We’ll do what my grandparents did every year in the old days,” said Ramirez. “We’ll walk.”

“What about the cartels?” questioned Gonzales.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” said Ramirez.

“What will we do with the mounted weapons and ammunition? We can’t carry all of it.”

“I’ll regret what might happen with it, but we’ll have to leave it all behind,” Ramirez said sincerely before he looked at the driver with some confusion and asked “Did you say I lost my arm?”

End of Part 3

Operation SERF, Part I

Operation SERF, Part II

Special note from Chris Sullins: If you’ve enjoyed reading this story, please consider making a donation to the 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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