Bill put his headset down and walked to the cot in the corner of the command center. E finally laid down around 3AM to grab a power nap . . . that was two hours ago. Bill tappet her foot . . . then tapped it again just a bit harder.
“Tapping my foot . . really? What are you afraid of boy?” E opened an eye, looked a Bill and smiled just a bit.
“Long memory mom, long memory.” Bill remembered his lesson from decades ago. E had been in a deep sleep on their couch. It was bed time and Bill had wanted to be tucked in – and he wanted mom, and ONLY mom to do it. He just went to her and shook her shoulder - hard. Next thing he knew he was in some kind of headlock and his dad was yelling at his mom to wake up. Too young to understand then – the swarms of the late 60’s and the raids of the early 70’s, the last big raid of ’75 that took the life of his grandparents – well, let’s just say people woke him up by slapping his foot as well.
E chuckled “Still pissed about a little headlock boy??” She stretched, rolled her legs off the edge of the cot and sat up. Her hands naturally checked her sidearm, mags and backup knife. “News?”
“Rick’s teams found the last raider probe – they were holed up in the loft of the barn on McGregor’s old homestead. Got full confirmation across the board on what’s headed our way. They also found their comm gear – a low-power HF unit, long wire antenna and solar cell/battery power unit. On a good day they could hit St. Louis but I suspect it was to primarily provide a comm link to the next wave. No one dead or wounded. A good night E.”
“Well, good news / bad news. Glad they’re “off the board”, but when they miss their check-ins we’ll be blown. They’ll know we’re on to them. Still, had to be done. Find me some coffee, then I want a full update from the Quad commanders.” Bill headed off to dig E up a cup of coffee and E stood and stretched some more. “Damn – more frickin’ kinks than I know what to do with!” she thought.
“Mornin’ Jo, you get any sleep last night?” Johanna seemed to be in the exact same place she’d left her . . . how many hours ago? “What time is it anyway?”
“Just a bit past 0500 E. I’ve cat-napped throughout the night, I’m doing fine. Let me know when you want the Quad commanders, I’ll link them up for you.” Jo had the advantage of youth and all the reserves that come with that age. She was just a year younger than Willie but a very “together” 15 year old sat at the comm console.
“Let me get my first cup in me, then we’ll start the day. We’re going to move some responsibilities to each quad commander. When the shit hits the fan, there will be no time to relay commands, best to get that move made now so each Quad is used to it. And make sure you switch to generator 2 sometime this morning, we’re already pushing 24 hours on number one. Make sure the PMs are run in one, then check 3. We’ll rotate them 12 on, 24 off. This whole pile of shit headed our way is going to take some time, no need in punishing the generators if we don’t need to.” The last thing E wanted was to be powerless just as three companies hit their bridges, best treat their generators right.
“Roger that, will add it to my list.” Jo said as she pulled a small notebook from her cargo pocket and made a few notes.
“Get me Chet please, let’s see how he’s doing this morning.” E turned to see Bill returning with a steaming mug of coffee and a thermos in his other hand.
“Thought you might need a refill or three.” Bill said, smiling and handing over her first cup of the day.
“I knew I raised you right boy, thanks. I’m going to catch up with Chet, then I want to check in with the MDR – update them and get a response plan in the works. Today’s 228 Julian.” E sat with her coffee going over the major points she wanted to confirm with the Quad commanders and Bill moved off to the HF gear and began the process of syncing the crypto gear.
“You have Chet on-line yet Jo?” E sipped and watch Jo for a sign that Chet was tied in.
“Yes Ma’am – on your headset.
E grabbed her headset . . .”Morning Chet, any luck with your visitors?” She was praying things had been “handled”.
“Morning E – two down, one seems to be making a fight of it. We should have them contained within the hour. We found one party with a portable HF station, that’s the only comm gear we found, figure that’s how they were relaying our movements to our next set of visitors. No casualties so far. You find the rest of your raider probes?” Chet was hoping E had been as successful as they had been.
“Roger that Chet, we got them and with no casualties – well other than Hank’s bruised ego, he took a couple to his front plate. He’s going to be a bit tender for a few days, otherwise we’re good. Found the same comm gear you did. Unfortunately, after they miss a check-in or two, especially with both raiding parties dark – we’re blown. No idea how that will affect things, we’ll just have to wait and see.” And with that E and Chet were pretty much on the same page.
“Here’s my plan Chet, see what you think. I’m moving half the response teams from Q1 and Q4 down to Q2 and Q3. I’m going to activate the reserves – full kit. I am putting double teams in each OP – one on-line, one in the rack or just “down”. I’m going to go over OPLAN 75 this morning with my Quad commanders – and do our best to prepare an appropriate welcome. If we can hammer the shit out of this first round, maybe they’ll be encouraged to reconsider this venture. That said, I’m going to implement ’75 fully – all choke points, all mined areas, arm all bridge explosives . . . the whole boat Chet. If they manage to bring two full regiments against us, we are in for the fight of our lives – both of us. Thoughts?” E suspected Chet would have come to the same conclusions, but she wanted to hear it from his lips.
“Right there with ya E, pretty much matching you line by line. I would look for full rollout within 48 hours. Let me work through my morning briefings – I’ll call you back. Work for you?” Chet was glad they were both in agreement – better to come to full alert and not need all that manpower than to try and crank things up when they were asshole deep in raiders.
“Roger that Chet – give me call when you’re ready . . . E out”
“Will do E – Chet out.” As each turned to the task of defending their communities.
“Gonna hit the head Jo, we’ll bring the Quad commanders up next.” E headed off to stretch her legs a bit, get a quick breath of fresh morning air and to complete her morning “duties”. In the “background” of her thoughts, she ran through OPLAN 75. It wasn’t anything she needed to refresh herself on – she and Brad had written it. After they had buried their dead, after they had grieved for her mom and dad – Brad and E found themselves in command of the county defenses. And both naturally stepped in to take Richard and Catherine’s place. Brad took over as Sherriff and E made use of her tactical skills to refine the defense of their home and – on a much broader scale – their county. The fruit of E’s efforts was OPLAN 75 – a detailed Operations Plan for the defense of their county and its communities and their families, roughly 30,000 souls.
“Alright Jo, let’s get this day started.” E grabbed her headset, rolled the county map out and listened in as Jo called roll and brought everyone online.
“Morning – can everyone hear me?” E waited for the roll.
“Quad 1 – Doug – 5x5 E”
“Quad 2 – Rick – 5x5 E”
“Quad 3 – Sheila – 5x5 E”
“Quad 4 – Tony – 5x5 E”
“Thank you. I’m going to roll through a summary. Nothing has changed since first contact. The three raider scouting parties assigned to us are all dead. We confirmed our intel with each team – they match across the board. Chet next door has dealt with two of his three and is mopping up number three as we speak. His intel to date confirms ours. That means there is a single raider company – although they have taken about 50% casualties – unaccounted for. We found two sets of HF gear, limited range, one for our raider scouts and one for Chet’s. Once they miss a couple of check-ins, we’re blown. I suspect that may well trigger the remaining company’s move. As best we can tell – they are simply a decoy, meant to keep us busy. We have no – I repeat NO – confirmation of the two Battalions headed our way and Chet’s. Still, those questioned seemed sincere in their numbers so we can’t afford to hope they were takin’ a toke or two here and there. They’re comin’ – three hundred “Sons of Missouri” and they are fully intent of owning our southern border and all access to us. The exact same threat is facing Chet. That’s 600 total raiders headed our way in a very short while. Is everyone clear on what I just laid out?” E sat back for a second flexed her back and neck and grabbed her coffee to clear her throat.
“Quad 1, Roger that – Quad 2, Roger that – Quad 3, Roger that – Quad 4, Roger that” Her commanders rolled through their acknowledgements and E got back to business.
“Roger that – here’s what we’re going to do. First, we’re going to move half the response teams from Quads 1 and 4 south. I want all OPs doubled up – everyone in full “battle rattle”. Make sure they have half on the line and half down 24/7 until further notice. Clear?” E took another drink as she listened through the roll. Each commander had full freedom to raise objections, interject their concerns and ideas. While she sounded like a tyrant – she was a commander . . . . if someone had a concern or an idea, they would speak up.
“Roger that – next we’re going to call up the reserves. Have them kit for an all-out engagement with initial rations for a week. We’ll follow with resupply of food and ammo if needed. Full tac gear, I don’t want to hear a fuckin’ thing about the heat – I’m hot too. Let them know Brad took two to the chest last night and today Ted would be holding services if it weren’t for his plates. No excuses. I know a lot of your reserves and teams are young and we haven’t faced anything like this since ’75. Remind them their failure to step up will mean the lives of their families. Clear?” E stretched again waiting for her roll to come back.
“Roger that – open up your OPLAN 75. Turn to Appendix A – Alpha. These ladies and gentlemen are your check lists. Each is specific to your Quad – the short version is . . . . you have 48 hours to complete these. They are in order of priority – Response Team Rollout, Reserve Rollout, Medical Rollout, Arm Choke Point IEDs . . . . there’s a shitload to do – I don’t care. We may be pushed to engage earlier but I pray we have 48 hours. If not, the response teams in the OPs will have to dig in until help arrives. Clear?” God E hated OPLAN 75. “More fuckin’ demons hiding it that book than I can count.” E thought as she listened to the Quad roll.
“Roger that – I am releasing command to you for your individual Quad. Don’t wait for me to tell you what the hell to do – Doug, Sheila, Tony – you old farts were here for ’75, you know what a shit storm looks like, feels like, smells like. This is going to be worse – much worse. Keep your heads in the game, make sure your team commanders understand – there are only two options in this . . . life or death. There is no middle ground. Remember my three rules – MAKE SURE HE’S DEAD . . . MAKE SURE HE’S DEAD . . . MAKE SURE HE’S DEAD! Rick – you’re up for this or Bull never would have put you in his chair. You get no slack from me – period. You clear Rick?”
“Yes Ma’am, Quad 2 will pull our weight E – you have my word.” “Breathe, breathe” Rick thought as the weight of his command just felt like it doubled.
“Everyone else clear?” E knew the answer – they were good people, they could be warriors when called – and they were sure the hell being called. Again, she listened to the roll.
“Alright folks, we’re done. Next update 1200 hours. Tony, stick around for a few. Any other business . . . . . . . hearing none, E out.” With that each Quad Commander took a deep breath and weighed what was coming. Then they got to work – no one was going to fuck with them – no one!
“What do ya think Tony?” E remembered her very first conversation with Tony back in the Spring of ’50, filling him in on Gramp’s plans for an army and asking him to come to Iowa and join up. “Shit – over 40 years ago, getting too old for this crap!” E thought.
“I like it E – sounds like a good place to start. I’m feelin’ a bit “thin” up here, but I’ll push on getting the reserves up and rolling. We probably don’t need to double up on the OPs up here but as soon as we don’t we’ll get our ass handed to us. We’ll double up and then adjust as the attacks begin. Gotta tell ya E, this scares the shit outta me. These are some pretty determined people . . . it isn’t gonna be pretty!” Not that Tony hadn’t handled this kind of shit before – hell he and E and survived ‘51, the swarm and raider attacks of the late ‘60s and ‘70s . . . . he had just hoped they were finally past this shit.
“Understood – but it’s coming. Tony, if you see any holes, see anything that needs to be different – just smack the shit outta me and let me know. I depend on you ya know – and that tactical head of yours.” E and Tony had worked their way out of more scrapes than she cared to remember – demons safely tucked away . . . at least for now.
“No problem E, no problem. Anything else – got a shitload to do before 1200.” Tony was already going through the check list – prioritizing, estimating, amping up for the coming days,weeks, months . . .
“Negative – get to it! And Tony, thanks. Talk to you at 1200 – E out.”
“Quad 4 Commander out”
They both got down to business – and there was a crap load to get done!
“Bill, you have MDR Command up?” “One step at a time” E thought.
“Yes Ma’am, you ready?” E nodded to Bill
“MDR Command, MDR Command, MDR Command – this is India 37, India 37, India 37 . . . Over”
“India 37, MDR Command – have you 5X5”
E spoke into her head set “MDR Command – India 37 commander. I have priority traffic for the command staff, over.”
“Roger India 37 – understand priority traffic – wait one.” E unscrewed the top of her thermos and filled her second cup of the morning.
“India 37 – Raptor 49, that you Demon 62?” Sid was pretty sure E was still running the show at India 37 so he thought he’d tweak her just a bit.
“Raptor 49 – Demon 62, that you Sid, thought you’d be in some old folks home by now!” E shook her head – she’d though Sid had packed it in years ago. Still, he was the best intel officer she’d ever known – whether finding her first rag-head target or gauging swarm and raider strength, he was simply the best.
“Morning E, hell – what would I do sittin’ in a rockin’ chair on the front porch. And MDR command still seems to think I can do the job – so here I am. Heard you had trouble heading your way, figured we’d hear from you this morning. Got any specifics?” Sid just sat and listened – filling his notebook with attack vectors, troop strength, response strength, time estimates . . . . 15 minutes later E wrapped it up.
“That’s the thumbnail Sid, things are about to get interesting around here. You have any updates for me?” E wondered if MDR had anything new to try and fill in some of the gaps.
“Been workin’ our assets down south of you – seems the “Sons” have been consolidating their holdings over the past 6 months. They had been moving steadily, but there appears to be a real surge in progress. They own everything from 50 miles north of Hannibal to 50 miles south of St. Louis and around 75 miles inland from the Mississippi. There’s been an ongoing battle for leadership for over a year – the survivor is a fellow who simply calls himself “Moses”. As near as we can tell, he’s “staked a claim” to everything north of 70 and east of 63. And he intends to push that as far north as he can. That will give him control of a significant portion of the Mississippi. He’ll control food supplies, fuel, movement east and west. He’s a serious fucker and a stone-cold killer. If you are in his sights – you have a real problem E. We’re spinning up MO1,2,3,9,10 and 11 to see if we can stop them before they even leave the state. But, they’re about as thin and you folks are. They’ll hurt ‘em – but I don’t think they’ll stop ‘em. We’re also going to bring in assets from Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska. Travel times are a bitch though – if they hit within the next 3 weeks, you’ll be pretty much on your own.” Sid had been running the numbers overnight – the Iowa and northern Missouri folks were going to take some real casualties.
“Understood Sid. I want this to be the last time we deal with this fucker – you understand Sid? I expect MDR to bring in enough resources to kill these assholes off once and for all! They won’t get past us – but I expect them to beat us up plenty. Once they’re stretched that far their supply lines are going to be a bitch to maintain. We cut ‘em and we kill’em. That’s my plan Sid – with you or without you – I intend to kill every single one of them that I can get my hands on.” E already felt rage building . . . . she took a couple deep breaths. Rage wasn’t going to help anything right now she reminded her self.
“Command agrees E – they are a true threat to the entire Midwest Region. We’ve got a planning team spinning up, we’re sending assets to the region to scout them out and we’re putting out a call-up for response teams and reserves. This will be their last fight E – but you’re going to have to take the first wave, there’s simply not enough time to engage them in any serious manner before they reach you.”
“Understood Sid – we’ll hold up our end, just get your ass in gear! Anything else?”
“Million of things to do!” E thought . . . million things to do!
“Clear on our end E. Will keep you updated. Raptor 49 Out!”
“Demon 62 Out!” E finished up cup two and poured her final cup of the morning. E opened up OPLAN 75 – Quad 1 and refreshed her memory on Doug’s rollout. She hated sitting in the command center – she felt more useful in full kit and on Sam riding into a fight rather than being in the rear watching her Quad commanders carrying the load. “Piss on it, it is what it is” though E – as she continued her “homework”, sure that every commander, response team and reservist was spinning up – ready to meet these assholes!
Part of what makes a warrior effective is their ability to sense a threat well in advance, to get inside the head of their opponent and simply be a step ahead of them. Hank had a real talent of being in the right place at the right time. He was reasonably certain the remainder of the probe company would come up 84 – the bridge and area protected by OP 18. The fact that the raider scouts went cowboy pretty much saved their ass. It made sense that a probe would come up the center of the county – especially since their purpose was to “make noise”. Betting on his hunch – morning found Hank and his two response teams south of the river and following its southern shore east looking for the raider company. Rick’s team was doing exactly the same thing – but traveling from the east to the west. Both would meet at 84. And both were confident they would find the raider company and end their probe before they ever crossed the river.
Martinsville straddled the river with 84 – and the bridge – bisecting the community. North of the river provided a home for the grain elevator, rail stop for grain cars and other light manufacturing. South of the river, and the bridge, was the community proper holding around 3,000 folks total. With E’s spin up – snipers would already be in place on top of the elevators, charges would likely be live to blow the bridge should the need arise and a substantial portion of the reserves would be gearing up and heading to their fighting positions. While ’75 was 18 years in the past – the lessons learned were hard ones and these folks would not go quietly. And, since no contact had been reported, Hank was certain the raider company was still south of the town.
To the south, farms filled the countryside. However, there was a substantial stand of timber about three miles below the bridge. That was Hank’s destination. It would allow the raiders to rest, water their animals in its small pond and make final preparations to take the bridge – and the town. “That’s where they’ll be.” Hank thought – confident in his decision.
By noon Hank could see the western boundary of the timber. They’d used the concealment provided by the normal tree lines that followed the shores of rivers and streams allowing them to be pretty much invisible all the way to the northeast corner of the timber. In the fields just north of the timber Hank saw a couple of hobbled horses – not smart on the raiders part – but fortunate for Hank, his hunch was confirmed. They dismounted and held a quick brief.
“Alright – here’s the plan. Two man teams, spread out north to south. Once everyone’s in position, we’ll head east – find ‘em and kill ‘em. Questions? “ Hank had worked with these men for nearly 15 years – there were none better. And there were no questions, just men checking gear, weapons, magazines and getting their head in the game.
“Rick’s team can’t be too far out. With any luck we will push them out of cover an into Rick’s crew. If not . . . well, more for us. We move out in 5.”
Each gathered their thoughts, saw to their animals, paired up and headed out. Five minutes they headed east. The timber was fairly small – a couple miles east/west and about three miles north/south. Since the hobbled horses were just north of the timber – it was a good bet the raiders were within the northern half mile . . . Hank was dead right.
Given the buildup the battle was anticlimactic. Rather than a company at full strength – they found 35 raiders that had been put through the wringer. The entire firefight lasted a mere 15 minutes – with a late assist from Rick’s team. That said – they had lost little of their “fight” – with virtually each raider dying with an edged weapon in their hand after their firearms had run dry. It had been a slaughter – and that was just fine with Hank.
“No Mercy” . . . .their calling card became their obituary.
Hank and Rick’s team salvaged animals, weapons, their comm gear and anything else of value. Then, they planted 35 raiders in Iowa soil.
There’d be more . . . many, many more.