Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The scanner traffic, what I could make out on the Fire Department channel, told me that both the warehouse and retail stores at Sprague and Havana were gone.
The firemen on scene had all but abandoned firefighting when the first shots rang out, leaving the salvage warehouse and whatever was in the grocery and retail stores to burn. I suspected though, that what was likely happening, was that the looters were pinning down the law and fire units, while taking everything they could out the back side of the stores. With the buildings being fully involved though, there was little chance that we’d find out through an inventory.
The situation for the looters got dramatically worse as I listened in on the Fire Department channel. From what I could glean, there were at least fifty looters, supported by riflemen at distance. Snipers.
That changed as what was described by the incident commander as a gunship--probably one of the A-10 Warthogs that I’d seen come into town--came out of nowhere with a strafing run from its’ big cannon. I did wish in a perverse way that I could have seen it happen.
“Spokane to all units,” the radio called. I hadn’t heard an All Units call in months.
“All units, Pacific Northwest Command reports that secure radio communications within the region are believed to be compromised. No reply needed. Spokane out.”
“Holy smokes,” Carl said.
“That’s an understatement,” I said.
“Compromised?” Kelly asked. “That means the encryption procedures have been broken?” Kelly and Marie had both made pretty good students of the communications suite at the County operations center, under the tutelage of the director of the center.
“Maybe,” I thought. “Way more likely they’ve just scammed some military gear.”
I sat down and listened to the scanners, trying to visualize what was going on. The ‘tactical’ frequency on the joint police and military channel was dead silent.
“This is Spokane County Emergency Services Department broadcasting on all active AM and FM frequencies and television. Pacific Northwest Command is instituting a military curfew effective at nine p.m. tonight due to criminal activity in several locations in the Pacific Northwest region. Locally, this criminal activity includes an attack and looting on a large grocery store and warehouse facility at Sprague and Havana, with snipers shooting at firemen, emergency service workers and National Guard troops. One fireman is confirmed dead, and two wounded. An unknown number of additional casualties have been reported. County authorities request all residents of the region to be especially vigilant overnight, and to immediately report suspicious activity to your local precinct commander and local Guard units.”
“Late word of criminal activity and direct attacks similar to Spokane’s have also been reported in several other cities in the West, including Missoula and Kalispell, Montana; Bellingham, Ellensburg and Yakima, Washington; Bend, Klamath Falls and Pendleton, Oregon; Boise, Coeur d’Alene, and McCall, Idaho. Similar activities are taking place in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver within the Canadian Territories."
“It is unconfirmed at this hour, but reports have been heard over shortwave radio that ‘New Republic’ leader Cynthia Blackburn has been assassinated in The Hamptons in New York State. No word has been received from Federal authorities on the status of the New Republic rebellion or the rumors of its collapse. It is unknown if the widespread attacks are related to the status of the ‘New Republic.’”
“Repeating in its entirety…”
“So Dad, do we need to be on watch rotation tonight?” Carl asked.
“And me on the radio?” Kelly said, an almost hopeful tone in her voice.
“Maybe so. I hadn’t heard anything about the other cities, so that’s news to me.”
“You should talk this over with Alan and Ron,” Karen said.
“I spouse so. Been months since we’ve had to spend the night in a camouflaged hole in the ground.”
“Well, it is snowy outside again, so you’re used it right?” Carl said one ear plugged into the shortwave.
“Will the Guard shack at the store still be manned?” Karen asked.
“Far as I know, yeah,” I said as Carl and John called Ron, Libby and Alan on the CB.
The unasked question was obvious to me though Karen wouldn’t ask it neither would John or Sarah. Carl was probably closest to actually asking, ‘Are they coming for you?’
Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
We were an hour into our first shift at our posts. Carl and Ron would trade off with John and I for second shift. John was on the west side of the block I was on the east. Alan took the night off—if this continued, I’d have tomorrow night off and he’d cover me. Two of our original locations were provisioned, and the block had help from other residents as well with their own posts further north and south. We were nothing if not well defended for one shift, maybe two…the problem with more area to defend was how quickly our resources were depleted.
Our lookout posts had all been upgraded over the summer with better protection as well as better camouflage. Each had a seat or bench of some kind; was better protected against the elements, and had the ability to have supplies stored in weather-tight containers as well. We hadn’t yet found parts and pieces to hard-wire communications between the houses, the lookouts, or our neighbors’ places….but we were still looking….along with, I’d add, a few thousand other similar-minded people. We had switched out our radios though to single-sideband CB’s, which had plusses and minuses over our little FRS’s.
Our better shelters allowed us to stay warmer and drier, but no less bored. How military scouts and watchmen kept alert was a mystery to me. Kelly had gone to bed at midnight, and Karen and Libby were taking over for a couple hours. Mary would work tomorrow night if needed. We all hoped that this would be a one-time event, though.
It was a nice December night…the problem of course, was that it was still October. We had a light wind out of the east, low clouds, and temperatures in the twenties. We hadn’t heard any news of the various attacks since coming on-shift. My little Sony AM radio had nothing but static.
“Stainless to Rust bucket,” the CB asked. That was me, ‘Rust Bucket’. A holdover from my days of hauling home cars that ought to have been recycled, not restored. ‘Stainless’ was tonight’s call sign for the base station, but only ‘my’ home call sign. Each post had a different frequency and a different call code name…unless we needed to speak to each other…common frequencies were then used.
“Northwest Command states that the Sprague and Havana situation is mopped up. Heard it on AM band,” Karen said, knowing that I’d wonder where she heard it.
“Gotcha. Anything else?”
“Nothing I can say in the clear.”
“Understood,” I said as I noted headlights from a Humvee approaching. “Traffic coming our way. Military.”
“Let me know.”
“Will do. Out.”
The Humvee pulled to a stop right in front of my post, partly hidden by a pine tree, and now partially underground. It really wasn’t a secret where our posts were to the Army—I helped put a map together for them of the place. No point in trying to hide. Nevertheless, I’d already racked the shotgun and had it trained on the truck.
The driver got out of the truck, and called out to me. “Mr. Drummond? You out here?”
“Yep. And you are?” I replied from my location.
“Corporal Barnes, sir.”
“And Corporal, I believe you have a key phrase for me.”
“Yes, sir. ‘Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the fool is next to confusion.’”
“Correct. Proverbs 10:14. What can I do for you, Corporal?”
“Sir, my C.O. would like a few minutes of your time regarding a pending op. Thought you’d want to know, and sent me up here because regular comms are compromised.”
“Where and when?”
“Well, sir, right now, and over at Valley Hospital. And sir? We have a full company ready to respond to any problem in this area. You really don’t need to be out here, if you’d rather not.”
“Good to know, but it never hurts to be sure.”
“I understand sir. Do you need a few minutes?”
“That’d be best, yes.”
I called in to Karen, and told her that I would be in the house in a minute, and to recall all of the lookouts that she was monitoring to our house.
I was wondering how she’d take this, and what ‘pending operation’ was so important as to round up a low-level bureaucrat like me in the middle of the night.
“Corporal, go ahead and park. I’ll be right back.”
“Very well, sir.”
I stowed the shotgun, grabbed my pack and the M-16 in its’ fabric sleeve, custom made by one of the armorers in the Forty-First, and climbed the steps out of the post. The Humvee had pulled into the driveway, just outside the gate.
“Be right back,” I said.
Inside, both dogs were waiting for me, and Karen and Libby were looking for John out the back window.
“So what’s going on?” Karen asked as she turned and gave me a quick kiss.
“Not sure. This corporal stopped by with orders to pick me up and meet his C.O. over at Valley General regarding a ‘pending operation.’
“Why not on the radio?” Libby asked, before answering her own question. “Right. They’re listening in. You sure they’re on the level?”
“Yes. He gave me the correct password….you didn’t know,” I said to Karen and everyone, “but in the event that someone from the Army came asking for me directly, that they’d be challenged with a key verse. I challenged, he answered correctly.”
“Which verse?” Libby asked.
“Wise men lay up knowledge…” Karen said.
“So,” I asked Karen. “Wanna go?”
“You,” I said as John came in. Libby filled him in on what was going on.
“Let’s tell the other watches to stand down. Army appears to have us covered.”
“Sure enough. Get your parka and boots. It’s cold out,” I told Karen. “Lib, would you mind keeping an eye on the place while we’re gone?”
“I’ll do it,” John volunteered. “If I can play a little xBox while doing so…”
“No problem. We’ll take one of the CB’s with us. You ought a be able to reach us on it if needed.”
“You ready?” I asked Karen, now clad in her heavy coat, knitted mittens, and boots.
“Yep. And there’s hot cider on the stove, and some cinnamon sticks in mugs. Help yourself.”
“Thanks,” John said.
“I’ll stay here, too, Libby said. “The girls are upstairs, and that cider sounds good.”
Karen responded quietly, “Don’t forget there’s some of that homemade apple brandy in the kitchen….”
“Thanks. I might partake.”
Outside, Karen and I climbed into the back seat of the Humvee, with the Corporal driving and another soldier, literally riding shotgun. In ten minutes, we were standing in the Valley Hospital conference room.
“Mr. Drummond, thank you for coming. I hope I didn’t disturb your evening too much. I’m Major Elaine Cross.” The Major was dressed in her digital camo uniform and winter gear. Her striking red hair and freckles made her look much younger than she ought as a major…
“Major, this is my wife, Karen. Pleased to meet you,” I said as I shook her hand. “I don’t think I’ve met many female officers in the Forty-First.”
“There are a few of us. I’ve just been assigned to Spokane after a couple months in Lewiston.”
“Major, what brings us here tonight?”
“Sir, my daylight counterpart is Major George. I believe you met him today. Your Townsman, Mr. Weathers, floated a pretty good idea today. That idea has been ordered into effect immediately by General Anderson. That’s one reason I needed to talk to you. There is another.”
“What idea is that?” Karen asked. I hadn’t filled her in on it, because I figured it had a snowballs’ chance of actually taking place.
“An armed compound on the east side of Coeur d’Alene Lake has been raiding adjacent properties, and is responsible for the deaths of a half-dozen law enforcement officers and fourteen Army soldiers.”
I cut her off. “Since when? It was two dead this morning.”
“Since six-thirty this evening. The aerial operation will commence in less than an hour. Should the compound not surrender immediately, further aerial operations will eliminate the threat. Ground forces will then conduct mop-up operations beginning at first light.”
“Good God. You’re going to bomb them?” Karen asked with no small amount of alarm.
“Yes, ma’am. Hopefully, once. They have had ample opportunity to surrender, but they have instead acted with more aggression towards both civilian forces and the military. General Anderson agreed that it is a better use of resources in a combined operation rather than a protracted use of ground forces.”
“This has been going on for a while, hon,” I told Karen. “OK, I said. So why am I really here?” I asked the major.
“Your counterparts in Kootenai and Benewah counties were threatened directly by the leadership of this compound this morning. They are in protected locations at this time.”
“OK. You think it’s a problem for me, too? Security?”
“You have made some enemies.”
“But you don’t have any evidence that Rick or our family are in danger, do you?” Karen asked.
“No, ma’am. Better safe than sorry though. There are bigger issues at play here, with regards to the population of this compound. They are politically very highly connected to both the Federal and the Rebellion leaderships, as well as international banking cartels. They have been supplied by outside forces—outside of this region—since April. Those shipments, brought into the Coeur d’Alene airport as well as a private airstrip, ceased at the end of September. That is not public knowledge. Intel doesn’t know why they have not acted like their eastern counterparts.”
“Maybe they have, with all this ‘coincidental’ looting and whatnot today. Maybe today is their day.”
“That may well be. In any regard, we’d like you to remain at your residence or under military protection until this is over.”
“You think they have plants over here?” I asked.
“Yes. Most certainly. Those that have been identified through our local intel resources will be rounded up within the next three hours.”
“I’m not at liberty to say at this point, and frankly, the numbers are fuzzy.”
“All right. Let’s talk about communications. Do they have military gear, and have they the capability to listen in on what are supposed to be secure communications? If so, that’s going to raise Hell with normal police operations.”
“That is what they believe, yes. It is not entirely true. One of our combat communications squadrons has seen to that.”
“You’re gaming them,” Karen said.
“Yes, we are, Mrs. Drummond. You’ve seen the A-10 Warthogs, flying in over the past few days?”
“Pretty hard not to. They were at maybe, fifteen hundred feet,” I said.
“You didn’t see or hear, the Raptors. They’ve come in on the same flight path, at night though, and without anti-collision lights on, following above and just behind the A-10’s. The A-10’s were the diversion for the F-22’s.”
“You’ve been expecting this to come to a head,” I said.
“There is a date that has been held pretty close to the vest, which is the second reason I needed to speak with you. That day is tomorrow, the day that new Federal currency is to start arriving at major population centers throughout the United States, in new Federal banks. The money is being delivered via Air Force transport aircraft.”
“And about damned time. We can’t have a functioning economy without physical money.”
“Actually, Spokane and most of the Pacific Northwest Command is doing pretty well comparatively speaking from what I understand, if not for lack of adequate money to go around.”
“My point,” I said. “That’s one concern that I can perhaps think less about…or more correctly, shift my concerns elsewhere.”
“Ever the happy bunny, aren’t you?” Karen said. “Major, exactly where are these ‘Federal Banks’ supposed to be? Most of our banks were sacked after the Domino.”
“Fourteen locations within the utility service area have been identified as being viable for repair within ten days.”
“Ten days won’t cut it, Major. If people get wind that there’s ‘money’ to be available for currency, you’ll have riots unless you have some method to make it available and quickly.”
“I have not seen the Federal plans for this, Mr. Drummond, only regarding the shipment, and that I could inform appropriate authorities within twenty-four hours of the scheduled arrival.”
“When do I…sorry, ‘we’ find out about the rest of the plan?”
“I would suspect an announcement from the Federal level tomorrow. Word will spread, it’s inevitable.”
“Mr. Drummond, I’ll keep a squad on guard around your home tonight, in addition to the men already assigned. I’ll have your driver take you home, when you’re ready.”
“Now’s good,” I said.
“A few minutes, Rick. I want to pop by the nursery first.”
Major Cross looked at Karen, and was about to ask a question, but I responded first.
“My wife—baby magnet.”
“I understand. I have two myself.”
“Here in town?” Karen asked.
“Not yet. Still in Lewiston with my Mom. I haven’t found a place to move them to up here yet. I lost my husband and my father down south.”
“Yes,” the Major said quietly. “They were at University Medical Center…my husband was working in ER that day, my dad in the pharmacy. Truck bomb went off. One of the first around the country.”
“I’m very sorry,” Karen said. Elaine nodded.
“Major, you come see us tomorrow at our place,” I said. “We have a number of empty houses in the neighborhood that are almost ready to move into. You’d be welcome to choose, and we’d be happy to have you.”
“I couldn’t possibly,” she said. “I’m sure that….”
“None of that now. You can certainly. I’m serious. Think it over and come by tomorrow. It sounds like I’ll be home.”
She was quiet for a moment or two, before she answered with a little waver in her voice. “Thank you. I will.”