Texas U

Texas Wildfire

(Inspired from an idea by Michael-John Davis)

Chapter 1

By Dwayne MacInnes

September 2040


T.J. Murdock sat at the head of a long desk in the conference room on the Lone Star Skyways airship Zephyr. Half a dozen men sat around the table watching the projected presentation on the screen at the other end of the room. Murdock hated traveling on these airships, but his old man the founder and CEO of Texicorp Oil, George Murdock insisted on doing business this way.

When most of the major airlines collapsed twenty years before entrepreneurs again looked towards the airship to transport people across the globe. They were not as fast as a jet; however, the emerging industry billed them as the cruise ships of the skies. With modern lightweight materials, the use of helium, and larger gondolas than those their ancestors used over a hundred years ago, the airships proved to be quite cost effective and popular

Murdock looked out the tinted window of the conference room. Once the presentation was over the windows would lose its tinting to allow the sunlight to flood the room. However, for now T.J. would have to endure another boring meeting that he knew by heart.

The airship gently banked high in the air. The hybrid diesel-electric motors located in six pods situated around the semi-rigid gasbag hummed quietly as they propelled the ship through the bright blue sky. Solar panels located on the top of the gasbag helped keep the batteries charged thus making the operations of the airship more economical. The gasbag was comprised of helium-filled cells that helped contain leaks and therefore reduce the cost of refilling the helium at each stop.

However, if T.J. had his way he would still travel by jet. Of course, the well-to-do could only afford the cost of flying this way, and the Murdock family was very well-to-do. T.J. was happy in the fact that the major oil industries of the world were still considered an "old boy's club". His preferred way of conducting business was to take his clients out to an exclusive Gentlemen's club outside Texicorp's corporate headquarters in Houston called the Texas Hold 'Em.

The club had a private boardroom that could be rented for a premium that ensured plenty of privacy, liquor, and beautiful young hostesses. T.J. found that most of the time the clients were so inebriated with alcohol and distracted by the sight of nude women working the room that he could easily cut deals that heavily favored Texicorp.

Unfortunately, George Murdock did not approve of T.J's business practices. So lately, the old man started to dictate where and how business meetings would be held. This galled the younger Murdock to no end.

Of course, there were many things these days that galled the younger Murdock. The current recession looked to change radically the direction the country ran. After the recession in the first decade of the 21st century, many people felt that plans for recovery allowed too much government intervention. Even though the plans succeeded in pulling the U.S. out of the recession, it was not long before resurgence in the conservative movement took over the country. Their rise to power was fueled by the fears of too much government in business, work, and people's lives.

Over the years, Congress repealed the government regulations over Wall Street, business, and labor practices to the point where there was virtually no oversight. A truly laisez-faire economy came into existence. During the first twenty years, many people made a lot of money. As their successes became public, more people jumped on board hoping for their share of the wealth.

With the collapse of Social Security facing the country, the conservatives were able to privatize the government-run benefit program. Now, the private citizen could invest in one or more of the many booming companies out there. Many people felt that they had secured their future.

However, by 2038 the house of cards began to collapse. First, the stock market crashed as multiple ponzi schemes emerged. Without any regulations, the frauds went unnoticed for decades. The economic bubble burst, retirement plans under the privatization plan instantly dried-up. Businesses started to go under as capital dwindled and banks closed.

With unemployment at 13.5% and rising, the country was nearing another great depression. President Roberts, a man who balked at instituting any government intervention plans, kept cutting taxes on the wealthy in the hopes the well-to-do would help spend their way out of the recession. It failed miserably. The wealthy hoarded their capital. They squirreled it away in overseas accounts.

Now, the country's infrastructure was starting to fail. With the loss of tax dollars, many of the remaining federal and state government programs were bankrupt. Charities too were feeling the pinch as the hard-pressed American worker could no longer afford to give to worthy causes. The situation was spiraling out of control.

2040 brought new hope as the election arrived. The Republican Party's choice was Senator Victor Newland of Louisiana, a man who claimed to be a moderate Republican and claimed to march to his own drummer. The Democrats fielded California Senator Ramón Ramirez, the first Hispanic to make it through the primaries.

Like many white Texans, Murdock feared having a Hispanic in the Whitehouse. Even now, the population of Texas was about half Hispanic. However, the rest of the county looked to electing Ramirez in a landslide election based on the promise of taking the country in a new direction. A direction Ramirez based on new regulations to forestall corporate corruption, raising taxes on the wealthy to cover the expenses of the previous decades, and the creation of multiple government programs to promote job creation and economic growth.

These sounded great to the average American; however, it meant a loss in revenue to large companies like Texicorp through new taxes and regulations. The old man did not seem overly concerned but it bothered T.J. a lot. The younger Murdock feared a slippery slope towards a government takeover of his father’s company before T.J could inherit it.

Murdock returned his attention to the meeting. The presentation was nearly over and that meant Murdock could return to his cabin and relax before the airship docked in Houston.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 2

By Dwayne MacInnes

The meeting lasted longer than Murdock expected. Negotiating the rights for joint oil extraction with the various Mexican oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico proved more difficult than expected. Texicorp had the technology and the means the Mexicans only had to agree to an equitable share of the profits and the funds for construction for the oil platforms.

Once the negotiations concluded, T.J. returned to his cabin. He walked over to the small wet bar and prepared himself a drink and then punched a button on his 4 inch by 3 inch computer-phone on a nearby desk. He figured he still had some time left before the airship docked to relax.

T.J. Murdock leaned back in the soft leather chair. He held a Scotch in one hand and stared at the holographic program emanating from his small compu-phone sitting on the small aluminum desk in the small cabin. Murdock lifted the glass with the amber liquid that contained two small ice cubes to his lips. He took a sip, placed the glass of Scotch on the desk next to the computer and closed his eyes. This was how he liked to relax after a long day of negotiations.

T.J. pushed the volume button on the computer to increase the sound in his remote ear buds. This was his favorite webcast, The Flash Limbeck Show. John "Flash" Limbeck was the most popular pundit broadcasting today and everyone had an opinion of him. You either loved or hated him there was no middle ground.

"So now the liberals are saying that our current economic meltdown is because of the last twenty years of conservatism," snorted Flash. "This is their own fault going back to the Obama administration and even the Clinton years last century. If they allowed the market place to perform without Big Brother watching over every Wall Street transaction the economy would be able to perform in a more natural state.

"It has taken the last 20 years just to roll back those artificial constraints...or should I say restraints. If we were allowed to continue the Reagan laisez-faire practices and stopped bailing out every business that failed, we would be a lot stronger now than we currently are.

"I see we have a caller. Hello Jack from Detroit."

"Hello, Flash. Do you really think that by letting companies fail our unemployment figures of 14 percent would be less?" a caller queried Flash.

"In the long term yes. Because a new and stronger company would move into the vacuum and replace these dinosaurs that were only around because Obama bailed them out thirty years ago."

T.J. smiled to himself. These liberals were always thinking that they could pull one over on Limbeck. However, before T.J. could enjoy more of the webcast the steward broke in over the intercom located in each cabin.

"Attention, Zephyr guests. We will be pulling into the Houston Aerodrome in 15 minutes. Please prepare to disembark if this is your stop. The captain and crew of Lone Star Skyways would like to thank you for flying aboard the Zephyr."

T.J. groaned. He turned off the computer and took a big swig of his Scotch.

* * * * *

People were bustling to exit down the gangway into the glass-dome of the Houston Aerodrome from the secured airship. Several other airships with a variety of logos from different airship airlines circled the spacious structure and were either taking on or disgorging passengers.

T.J. glanced at his watch and waited for the crowd to thin so that he could disembark. The oilman looked out a window and observed various crewmembers swarming over a nearby airship preparing it for takeoff.

"Excuse me," familiar voice said in a heavy Mexican accent.

T.J. turned to the familiar sound to see one of the representatives from the Tigre Petro oil company standing in front of him. Murdock put on a friendly smile and held out a hand.

"Señ or Vargas, correct?" T.J. asked shaking the Latino’s hand.

"Sí! sí!" exclaimed the smaller man with dark hair and a matching mustache. "Our company looks forward to working with yours Mr. Murdock."

"T.J., please," laughed Murdock. "Mr. Murdock is my father."

"Sí, T.J.," smiled Mr. Vargas. "However, some of my colleagues are concerned that the recent wave of anti-Latino sentiment in your country could endanger our relationship."

T.J. laughed, "Oh, that! That is nothing to worry about; it is just politics and the concern over illegal immigrants. It is nothing that concerns us."

Vargas's face turned sour shortly and then brightened. "Sí, of course, then the rumors of Texas seceding from the United States if Ramirez becomes president are not true."

It was now T.J’s turn to frown momentarily. He had heard these rumors and many in Texas believed they had the right to leave the union whenever they wanted. The state legislature even voted in certain language in its constitution to give it strength. With the anxiety over illegals and the growing number of Hispanics in the state helped fan the flames of fear amongst the white population. They felt that in a few years they would find themselves as a minority.

"I would not let that concern you," T.J. tried to reassure Vargas. "My father would never let politics overshadow business."

"Claro que Sí!" laughed Vargas unintentionally slipping into Spanish.

The crowd of passengers leaving the airship was now starting to thin. T.J. motioned for Mr. Vargas to follow him towards the gangway.

Vargas shook his head and said, "Sorry, I am continuing on to New Mexico and then south. However, I will be in Houston for some business in a few weeks. Maybe we could continue our conversation then."

T.J. gave the smaller man a wolfish grin, "I know just the place where we can meet. It is not too far from our corporate headquarters here in Houston. Give me a call and we can set up an appointment."

The two men shook hands before departing their separate ways.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 3

By Dwayne MacInnes

October 2040

Sheriff Bernie Gracen of Littleton, New Mexico sat in an air-conditioned auditorium. He and around thirty other men and women sat in folding chairs waiting for Fred Wilson, the local leader of the Oath Keepers, to speak. As the presidential race entered its final leg, things were really starting to heat up in the south, especially, in the states that bordered Mexico.

It appeared that Ramirez would easily defeat Newland in the November elections. The prospect of having a Hispanic as their president disturbed many white southerners. Texas was openly threatening to secede if Ramirez won. Although the other Border States were not talking about leaving the United States, they had many citizens who would not mind joining Texas in secession.

Sheriff Gracen removed his cowboy hat and fanned himself as he continued to wait for Wilson to show himself. A quick glance around the room revealed many men and women in camouflage fatigues or western shirts and blue jeans, all were Caucasian. The sheriff knew that most were veterans; there were some members of the National Guard and local law enforcement mixed in to boot. Some of them sat by themselves, like Gracen and others were talking in small groups. There were even a couple of reporters and one local TV news crew with a camera there to report the event.

Finally, a man stepped up to a podium at the end of the auditorium. He held some papers in his hands as he scanned the audience. He blew twice into the tiny microphone positioned in front of him and was greeted with the sound he made that emanated from the speakers on the floor in front of him.

"Gentlemen, will you please take a seat," the man said. "I have a few things to go over tonight."

Gracen replaced his hat upon his head as he sat up straight in his metal chair. This was obviously Fred Wilson at the mike. The assembly quickly came to order before breaking into applause. Wilson smiled and motioned for everyone to quiet down.

"Thank you, please...." Wilson said to the group. "We have a lot to cover tonight."

After a couple of minutes, the sound of clapping hands and whistles finally died down.

"Hello, I am Fred Wilson and I represent the New Mexico branch of the Oath Keepers," Wilson stated only to stop again as the audience again started to applaud him.

"Please, please we have a lot of work tonight," Wilson pleaded with the audience.

"Like stopping a spic from being president!" yelled a voice from the rear of the auditorium.

Wilson took on a stern look before he continued, "I must please ask that everyone be respectful. There are members of the press here."

A few boos broke out before Wilson could regain order. "Now, please let us show our guests some respect."

"That's more than the liberal media will give us," shouted another voice.

"Gentlemen, we will not get far if you keep disrupting my presentation," Wilson smiled.

The audience finally quieted down so that Wilson could give his presentation. In short, he was asking the audience to sign a contract that would state they would not follow orders that they felt violated the Constitution of the United States. They would resist nonviolently and they would consider Ramón Ramirez as a possible enemy of the state.

There were many in the room who believed that Ramirez was born in Mexico and was not eligible to be president. They also believed that if elected president he would return the Border States back to Mexico.

Sometimes the exchanges heated up and Wilson would have to regain control of the situation before he could return to his presentation. However, after two hours the presentation wound itself down. Wilson opened the floor to questions; most of the people gathered just wanted to know when they could sign the documents. However, Wilson took some more serious questions from the news people attending the presentation.

Wilson pointed to a woman in a red blazer with a cameraman accompanying her. "Mr. Wilson," the journalist began. "Is it true that the Oath Keepers organization is nonpartisan?"

Fred Wilson smiled, "Yes, we do not endorse either candidate."

"However, you consider Mr. Ramirez as a possible enemy of the state. Would that not imply you back Mr. Newland?" the woman countered.

"We only follow what is in the Constitution. Ramirez, as a senator, has voted in the past that he will undermine the rights of the people as they are written in the Constitution if he were to win the election.

"To be fair, we would also list Senator Newland as a possible threat if his voting record were the same. But, it is important to remember we are not here to play politics but only to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States."

"Are you associated with the Sons of the Alamo or the New Texas Tea Party?" the female reporter asked.

"We are not in any way related to SOTA or NTTP. We are our own group here in New Mexico. As for the Texas branch of the Oath Keepers you'll have to ask them."

Wilson pointed to another reporter in the back. A man in a tan suit stood up with a small palm computer with a microphone attached to it in his hand.

"What about the allegations that Ramirez is not a U.S. citizen," the reporter began. "There have been several documents proving that he was born in San Diego to a third generation Latino-American family."

"I am not here to discuss whether the senator from California was born in the U.S. or in Mexico," Wilson answered. "However, I will point out that there are many documents pointing to his birth in Tecate, Mexico or even in Venezuela and that he was brought to a hospital in San Diego later."

"But, those documents have all been proven false," the reporter continued.

"Maybe and maybe not," Wilson replied. "The fact of the matter is that we are not here to stop an election, but to prevent a possible hostile government from treading on the rights of its citizens."

Wilson took a few more questions from the press before he called the meeting adjourned. Sheriff Gracen was impressed with how Wilson was able to maintain his composure and control his audience. The sheriff was standing up to leave when he noticed that Fred Wilson himself was next to him.

"Sheriff Gracen?" Wilson asked with his hand already extended.

"Yes," Gracen said gripping the man's hand. "How can I help you?"

"Well, as you know," Fred Wilson began, "that the local sheriff will be our first line of defense against a hostile government."

Gracen nodded his head in agreement; the sheriff would have to prevent any federal hostility.

"Well, sheriff if you would not mind I would like you to be my second in command," Wilson said with a smile. "That is if your time will permit."

The usually stoic lawman slapped Wilson on the shoulder, "Hell yes! I'd be honored to help you with running things here."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 4

By Dwayne MacInnes

"Now look here," a man said to Senator Ramirez as he was preparing for the final debate of the election. "Just stick to you main speaking points as we rehearsed."

"Todd, relax," Ramirez smiled to his campaign director as he sat in his chair. A woman powdered his face so that the studio lights would not glare off his skin while the event was being broadcast over the web.

"You know that Senator Newland may try to derail you by bringing up those false claims running around the internet. You know the ones about you being smuggled into the Untied States," Todd Schneider continued.

"Oh, I don't think he will. The press has been pounding him pretty good for trying to make those claims stick. Not to mention that every time he does so, his credibility drops. Look at his latest poll numbers," Ramirez stated as the woman finished touching up his face.

"How about the claims that you have close ties to Venezuela. You know you did visit it when you were a youth. Tthey have not been exactly cozy with the United States for the last half a century."

"You mean when I was on a youth mission with my church? Only the conservative's fringe element believe I was there learning to be a terrorist. I doubt if Newland would risk losing the majority Republican vote by trying such a tactic."

"He's desperate, Ramón," Todd pressed. "He has nothing to lose...."

"Except the election." Ramirez interrupted with a smirk as he held up a finger.

"Seriously, if he can get you on uncertain ground he could make you look like you don't know what you are talking about. Like the whole Texas issue."

"Five minutes," a man in a ball cap said as he ducked his head into the dressing room. Ramirez nodded towards the man that he was ready. The senator stood up and grabbed his dress coat. "Really, Todd," Ramirez said as he put his arms through his coat, "I did win at least one election."

"But not one this important," Todd shot back before Ramirez winked and exited the dressing room.

Northrup F-20 Tigershark

Buck Dubois watched the live-stream of the internet webcast of the last debate on his compu-phone. The holographic images of the two candidates seemed oddly out of place among the vintage aircraft Buck had restored over the years in his old hangar. There was a World War II B-17 bomber, two B-25s and his prize, a newly restored B-29 Super Fortress.

Buck also restored some fighters that included a few World War II P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts. He also had some jet fighters like his three F-86 Sabers from the Korean War, an F-4 Phantom from the Vietnam War and a long lost prototype F-20 Tigershark that never went into production. His Texas Rangers Air show was the envy of many in the nation.

Like many in the Texas heartland Buck was really hoping that Senator Newland would be able to pull off an upset and put Ramirez in his place. Many people in the west and northern part of the state showed that they favored Ramirez. However, when you got to the center and the east the opinions of the voters were radically different.

Buck watched horror struck as Newland fumbled his rebuttals and failed to land a telling point upon the younger Latino. Newland may not be the best candidate ever to run in the race, but Buck felt that anybody would be a better candidate than Ramirez would. The old airplane restorer was a member of the Sons of the Alamo and he felt that Ramirez was a threat to his state and his nation.

"Gawd dammit!!!" cursed Buck grabbing his greasy ball cap off his head and tossing it upon the concrete floor of the hangar as Ramirez easily countered another assault from Newland.

"I do not believe that the election process should be hijacked by one state or even a part of a state," the voice of Ramirez echoed from the speakers in the compu-phone.

Before Ramirez had even finished his rebuttal, Buck had the small compu-phone in his hand and the number to SOTA headquarters ordered up.

"Yeah, Jerry," Buck said as Jerry Byrd answered and his image displayed on the small LCD screen. "We need to call an emergency meeting."

"It's already in the works," Jerry replied. "I've been getting calls all through the debate. Looks like tomorrow night at my place. I'll see if any of the New Tea Party people are interested."

"We need to do something big," Buck said. "I have an idea, but I need every trustworthy pilot we can get."

Jerry was silent for a while before he replied, "It must be big. I don't suppose you would tell me over the phone."

"Hell no!" Buck exclaimed. "The Feds are probably listening in on this transmission."

"In that case we'll meet at our alternate meeting site," Jerry said flatly. "Phone conversation is to be kept at a minimum. No internet and no talking to anyone outside the group."

"Got it," Buck said as his punched the disconnect button on his compu-phone. An evil grin broke out over the man's face. Ramirez may just find Texas is more than he can handle.

* * * * *

Governor Lester Tucker sat in his office watching the debate on his conference screen dominating the wall behind his desk. He puffed on a cigar in an agitated manner allowing blue smoke to rise slowly into the air. Even though it was illegal to smoke inside any public buildings in the country, the governor liked to stay after everyone went home. He would sit there and relax with a good old fashion cigar like the ones his predecessors smoked in the previous century.

Everyone knew Governor Tucker did this, but everyone ignored it for the main reason that many did not agree with the federal anti-smoking laws and the governor did it after hours. Tucker was always careful to clean up after himself so there were no telltale remains.

However, tonight the governor was not able to relax. The debate was going horribly wrong for Senator Newland. This was his last chance to score some major points against Ramirez, and the senator from Louisiana was blowing it and blowing it in a big way. The governor twirled his chair around towards his large mahogany desk and proceeded to open a lower drawer.

Tucker reached into the drawer and pulled out a half-emptied bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. As the governor turned back to the conference screen, he took a long pull at the bottle feeling the amber liquid warm his throat and stomach.

He knew that it was a good bet that Ramirez would win the election. However, it now looked like it was going to be a landslide. The governor took another slug from the bottle before he hit the phone button on his desktop. The receiver built in the desk came to life as the automated voice said, "Please, state the name of the person or party you want dialed.

Tucker frowned before saying, "New Texas Tea Party."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 5

By Dwayne MacInnes

November 2040

"Mr. President," a voice broke into the oval office. President Roberts sat at his desk watching the election results from the screen on the wall in front of him. Since he took office eight years ago, the president appeared to have aged a good twenty years. His jet-black hair was now gray and his youthful face was haggard, sorrowful, and creased with wrinkles.

"Yes," Roberts replied never taking his eyes off the screen.

"Would you like something to eat?" the voice asked.

"No, Sam," Roberts said in a sad voice to his good friend and top advisor Samuel Dent.

"Doesn't look very good, does it?" Sam said to the president.

"No Sam, it does not," Roberts said finally looking up to his advisor. "Ramirez won with 62% of the vote, a complete landslide. Plus, it looks like the Democrats will have a majority in the House and Senate."

"Well, we could make things a little interesting here for your replacement by the time January 20th arrives," Sam gave an evil smile.

Roberts chuckled, "No, we won't do as some outgoing presidents have done in the past. I may only have an 18% approval rating but I always do things above the table."

"What do you think we should do?"

"I think we should do everything we can to help Ramirez until he takes office," Roberts replied.

"You know the Vice President is not going to like it?"

"Kimberly Watson has an even lower approval rating than I do. Her animosity towards minorities and backroom deals has plagued this administration with scandals," Roberts replied sadly. He never wanted her on his ticket but the party boys insisted and he played along only to have one of the biggest liabilities any president ever had to endure.

"You know she's almost asking the country to revolt against Ramirez," Sam reminded Roberts.

"I have taken measures to have her silenced until she can return to North Dakota. The last thing our party needs is any more embarrassments and scandals," the president said. "I believe that the party has made that abundantly clear to her."

Sam looked around sheepishly for a few minute before he finally cleared his throat. "Ah, sir...." Sam began. Roberts knew that when Sam called him "sir" he was walking into uncomfortable territory.

"Yes, Sam. What is it?"

"It's the whole Texas thing. Governor Tucker has sworn he'll secede before he sees Ramirez as his president."

Roberts looked up at Dent and smiled. "Sam, my boy. I believe I may have taken care of that as well."

* * * * *

George Murdock went to bed early. He did not care to watch the election results like everyone else. He knew what the results were going to be. Furthermore, he knew that the new administration was going to crack down and reinstate some regulations on many corporations. It was just part of business. Sometimes things are easy and sometimes they get hard. The sign of a good strong company was one that could work through the harder times.

Unfortunately, some of the younger business people did not see that. They did not have the experience of years behind them like George did, nor did they see far enough into the future to realize that politics was a big pendulum. Sometimes it swung right and sometimes left. Sometimes it swung way to the right and sometimes way to the left.

So, it was from a sound and restful sleep that George Murdock was awakened. His head swam and his senses reeled before he realized that there was someone else in the darkened bedroom with him. He at first felt the presence, and then he could make out the dark outline of a man in the shadows near his bedroom window.

"Mr. Murdock?" the man said in a low gruff voice.

"Yes, I am George Murdock," the tycoon said as he sat up in bed.

"Do not be alarmed," the man replied as he turned on a lamp on the side table.

George Murdock held up his hand to block the glare of the lamp's light until his eyes could adjust. He blinked rapidly several times, as he said, "Who the hell are you and how did you get in here?"

"Please, keep your voice down," the man said. "I am here to protect your assets"

"What do you mean....?"

The man stepped into the light cutting short any further questions. The intruder was wearing a black uniform with a combat harness. In his hands, he held a small submachine gun and on his head sat a black stocking watch cap.

"I am here to let you know that we are going to make sure that your company and its assets -- including your oil fields, pipelines, and refineries -- will be under our protection. In that way, they will not fall into unfriendly hands in the case Texas decides to leave the union."

"You mean you are here to take over my company? Did the country suddenly decide to nationalize the oil industry?" Murdock asked his mind racing to catch-up.

"No," the man said. "We are here to keep your company running and to ensure that some of your assets do not accidentally fall into unfriendly hands. That includes any funds that may be at your discretion."

The stranger smiled, "We have even provided you with our own accountants on loan from the IRS."

Murdock swung his legs around and stuck his feet into his slippers. As he stood up in his silk pajamas, he walked over to the man in black.

"I believe I should at least know who my business partner is."

"I am Staff Sergeant William Murphy, Delta Force," Murphy saluted. "Oh, and sir, this conversation never happened."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 6

By Dwayne MacInnes

T.J. sat in the private boardroom of the Texas Hold 'Em gentlemen's club. He was surprised to get a call from Mr. Vargas the day before asking to meet privately. Mr. Vargas wanted to discuss an important business deal between the two of them. T.J. of course, recommended his favorite establishment.

The room was large with wood paneled walls. One wall had a giant rack of horns from a Texas Longhorn mounted on it. In the center was a long boardroom table and plenty of privacy. The best assets however, were the well stocked bar and the six hostesses wearing nothing save white cowboy hats, matching boots, gloves, and gun belts that doubled as a place to stash any tips.

One of the women stood behind the bar and acted as the bartender. The other five stationed themselves around the room. They would wait as discretely as a naked woman can, waiting for one of the clients to make a demand. The demands could take any shape. However anything that required more than just serving drinks or a simple lap dance, would cost significantly more.

T.J. had already helped himself to a scotch before Mr. Vargas entered the room. The small Hispanic man strolled over to the table without even looking towards the women.

"Damn," thought T.J. "the man must be gay."

Vargas took a chair across from T.J. and placed a briefcase upon the table. Vargas then looked over towards one of the hostesses and ordered a tequila. As the woman walked towards the bar Vargas asked, "Can we trust that nothing that is said here gets out?"

"Absolutely," T.J. smiled. "I practically run the place. Many a business deal has gone down here without any leaks. Hell, it would be bad for business."

"Bueno," Vargas noticeably relaxed. "What I have to talk about is of utmost importance and therefore secrecy."

The hostess soon returned with a shot glass full of tequila for Mr. Vargas. The Latino took the shot glass and downed the drink in one fast go.

"So what business do you wish to talk about?" T.J. asked.

Vargas now relaxed smiled at T.J. "It looks like Texas may secede after all, no?"

T.J. studied the smaller man closely. He did not know how to answer. The governor was talking about secession, and many people were in favor of it. Even T.J. would rather live in the Republic of Texas than a United States of America run by Ramirez.

"Please, Mr. Murdock," Vargas said. "I know more about you than you think. I also know the risks to your company if Texas remains in the United States."

Even though there were a half-dozen beautiful naked women in the room T.J. only noticed Vargas. It was quite evident that Vargas was more than a fellow oilman. However, T.J. still could not guess his game.

"I'm afraid you are losing me Mr. Vargas."

"I hope not. But please hear me out first," Vargas continued. "Texicorp oil is only one of many oil companies in Texas, no?"

T.J. nodded his head in affirmation.

"Now if Texas were to secede from the United States what do you think will happen?"

"Governor Tucker doesn't think that Ramirez has the cojones to attack us if we secede."

Vargas motioned to a hostess for another drink before smiling at T.J. "But what do you think will happen."

"We'll be invaded and will more than likely lose."

"Why do you think that, Mr. Murdock?"

T.J. was so engrossed in Mr. Vargas's conversation that he had not corrected Vargas about calling him Mr. Murdock twice now. "We don't have the weapons the U.S. army has. Even if we call up our National Guard units, they only have some old M-1 Abrams tanks. They would not last long against those new M-3 Schwarzkopfs with the gauss guns."

Vargas smiled to the lovely woman who brought him his tequila. He slipped the woman a fifty-dollar bill. He then turned towards T.J. and opened his briefcase. "What if we could level the playing field?"

T.J. looked at Vargas in disbelief, "Let's say I was interested, how would you do that?"

"Your company deals in billions of dollars every year. So it would not be hard for you to purchase some top-grade weaponry," Vargas said as he slid some papers over to T.J.

T.J. studied the pages in front of him. If Vargas was playing him straight, he could get his hands on some top of the line weapons. Certainly, there were not any Schwarzkoprfs but there were some very nice antitank and infantry weapons laid out before him. Finally, T.J. slid the pages back to Vargas.

"Three questions, Mr. Vargas if you will," T.J. finally said.

Vargas smiled and nodded his head before downing his shot glass.

"First, what makes you think I would be interested in your proposal?"

"As I said before, there are many oil companies out there. If Texas wins its independence and Texicorp was the main backer., who do you think will get those rich oil fields that used to belong to U.S. companies? I think that would be worth the risk, no?"

T.J. nodded his head, "Okay, that one makes sense. Second question: how do I know your claims about getting these weapons are legit?"

"Easy. The first order you place will be on credit. After you receive and test your shipment you can pay us and then proceed to make further orders."

T.J. leaned closer to Vargas across the table and lowered his voice. "Thirdly, why are the Mexicans interested in arming Texas?"

Vargas smiled before he broke into a big laugh; he then motioned for one of the hostesses to prepare him another shot of tequila. "Easy. I do not represent Mexico. I am from Venezuela."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 7

By Dwayne MacInnes

Governor Tucker scowled across the room towards his staff. Things were not shaping up as he had hoped. Even though there were many Texans who wanted to secede from the United States, he did not have the sympathy of the majority. The state legislature even refused to debate the issue while President Roberts remained in power.

To make matters worse, there were rumors that President Roberts had snuck some military special forces across the state line to "protect" the oil fields and refineries. Common knowledge had it that all military bases were on lockdown with heightened security. This meant that any Texas surprise move to take over any federal arm depots would prove difficult and deadly.

"Do we have any confirmation of any special forces at any of these oil fields," growled the governor.

One aide looked at the governor sheepishly across his big desk in the office. "Ah…nothing concrete. The rumors are that if any of the oil companies spill the beans, they will have their assets seized and will lose their rights to any and all oil interests across the country."

Tucker did not understand why Roberts was so interested in helping Ramirez come to power. Hell, the man's job approval rating was just a tick higher than the vice president's was and she was quite open about her disapproval when Ramirez won the vote a month ago.

"Damn it!" cursed Tucker. "You know that if Roberts would support us he could bring Alaska into the mix."

"I don't think the president is interested in breaking up the country," offered a young female staffer.

Tucker stared at the young lady until she seemed to melt as she hid behind some of the other advisors.

"I don't give a rat's behind what you think!" Tucker yelled. "If Roberts was a stronger man he would return to his home state and declare independence like we will. The people up there are as upset about Ramirez becoming president as we are."

"What about Watson?" asked another aide.

"Are you freaking kidding me!?!" Tucker exploded. "North Da-freaking-kota? What are they going to do? Throw snowballs? Watson is washed up and she doesn't carry a lot of weight with anyone."

"Sir, couldn't we call up the National Guard?"

"No, I need a state emergency and I don't have one handy right now!"

* * * * *

"So get this, listeners," Flash Limbeck spoke into the microphone in his studio. "It appears that President Roberts is now a closet liberal.

"He's been tightening the security in and around Texas. Even here in New Mexico, he has all military bases on high alert. Why? Are we the enemy?

"If there is a danger in this country, it is not from Texas, but from the man who will take over the oval office in a couple of week's time. A man who will open the borders up to any illegal immigrant, a man who will relax our national security so that terrorists can attack us at will, and now it looks like a man who will be a dictator and will hold the country by martial law.

"Is there any reason why Texas wants to secede from the United States?"

Limbeck looked at the control board in the studio and noticed the light flashing alerting him to a caller. A read out on the screen gave Limbeck the vital information about the caller he needed before he proceeded.

"I have a caller from Washington State, a Mr. Wainright."

"Yes, Flash," the man's voice stated. "I hear that most of the people in Texas are not for secession."

"You mean the liberals in the western part of the state. Yes, for nearly a century illegal immigrants have been settling in the western part of the state and they can stand to lose a lot if Texas declares its independence. They would not be able to give the territory back to Mexico or even sneak some of their compadres over the border anymore."

"Do you know if the rumors are true that the Minutemen movement is now openly carrying firearms?" the man asked Flash.

"It's their God given rights if they are. Hell, I would just to keep those communist loving liberals in Washington in an uproar."

* * * * *

Fred Wilson was pleased at the size of the turnout for the Oath Keepers meetings lately. After the election, the group had swollen in size to the point where larger and larger facilities had to be booked. The number of law enforcement and National Guardsmen now outnumbered the veterans.

Sheriff Gracen now acted as Wilson's lieutenant. The sheriff helped organize the meetings, and he kept everyone on track. With the situation in Texas rapidly coming to a boil, it was important that everyone understood that they would not take up arms against Texas nor would they follow any orders that they felt violated the Constitution.

It would be a tightrope walk, but it was important that everyone understood what his or her roles were. Back at his department, Sheriff Gracen also warned his deputies of the same thing. Especially now that Roberts had mobilized many of the military forces in the surrounding states to be ready for any signs of attack.

"Okay, can I get everyone's attention," Wilson said towards the large assembly in the theater.

Hundreds of people, most in some type of uniform, began to take their seats in the large auditorium. The buzz of a hundred or so conversations slowly trailed off as everyone gave Wilson his or her attention.

"It looks like Roberts is helping Ramirez set up his little dictatorship," Wilson began. "As you may have noticed there is a larger military presence in the area."

There were some loud rumblings from the auditorium as the Oath Keepers commented to each other about the increased presence of the U.S. military in the area and in the town of Littleton.

"I must remind everyone of their oath. We will not violate the U.S. Constitution and if war breaks out we will not fire upon our brothers and sisters in Texas trying to defend their rights against tyranny."

The assembly broke into applause at this and it took a few minutes before Wilson could restore order. "I do not presume to tell you what to do. You will have to search your hearts when the time comes and determine if you will side with liberty or tyranny.

"Things could get ugly. You may have to decide to choose between defending Texas against these Federal forces or joining the dictator that will take office in a couple of weeks."

The crowd instantly exploded into boos and catcalls.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 8

By Dwayne MacInnes

"So now our Marxist president has not been in office for more than two months and he already has a spending bill that will explode the deficit to new heights," Flash spat incredulously into his microphone. "His reasoning is that we need to get people back to work and he plans on doing it with our tax dollars! Is there any reason why the New Tea Party movements around the country are holding protests?

"Just look at this 'New Deal' type of program…in the deserts of Arizona and here in New Mexico, Ramirez is paying people to build solar generation plants. Is that where we should be shoveling our tax dollars? The government is paying people to work; this smacks a bit of socialism doesn’t it. Hell, this is full-blown communism. It looks like Hugo Chavez Ramirez is really Che Guevera Ramirez."

Flash Limbeck was now in full rant. His loyal listeners loved it when Flash skewered liberals with his verbal barbs. "Look here folks," Flash continued. "It looks like even former Vice President Watson will be at the Killeen NTTP rally tomorrow as a guest of Governor Tucker. I urge any of my loyal fans, if you can, to head on down to Killeen to witness this event. If you cannot make it at least attend one of the other rallies across the country."

* * * * *

Mayor Warren Locke and Police Chief Gerald Mills surveyed the growing crowd gathering around city hall. Locke frowned as he noticed that there were very few police officers around to help keep the situation under control.

Mayor Locke glanced at Chief Mills with great concern on his face. Antigovernment protesters were currently overrunning the city of Killeen. The police chief was wearing the standard riot gear like the other officers in the street. The law officers stood out in their black armor against the crowd of protesters in their civilian clothes. This fact only highlighted how seriously outnumbered the law enforcement officers were.

"Where are your officers, Chief?" Locke asked.

"Mayor," Mills started to say.

Governor Tucker began speaking to the large crowd of angry people. Some of the protesters were holding signs of Ramirez with a Hitler mustache or wearing a Fidel Castro beard and hat.

"Over 70% of the law enforcement officers of Killeen belong to the Oath Keepers of Texas," he Mills continued. "Most of my men and women called in sick or did not bother to even show up for work today.

"It is worse at the Sheriff's Department. The sheriff did not bother to show up; I have a desk sergeant with a handful of deputies helping us out."

"Everyone got the damn blue flu, eh. Things could get pretty ugly if we don't get adequate crowd control," Locke stated frantically.

"I have every available officer assembled. I've called in the reserves I even have the desk staff getting into riot gear just in case," Chief Mills replied as calmly as he could to the mayor. "I've asked for help from the Texas Rangers and the Highway Patrol. I have even pleaded with the Governor for help from the National Guard."

"I would not expect any help from him!" spat Locke. "He would love to have the crowd break into a riot and bring about a national incident with Fort Hood. Then he would have everyone eating out of his hands when he finally did call out the guard."

"The crowd is still peaceful. Maybe this will be nothing more than another rally," Mills said wishfully. "You know I have only a few officers and some Explorer Scouts who are interested in law enforcement watching the station. If things hit the fan we are in it deep."

Governor Tucker's voice broke over the crowd, "…and it is the right of Texas to secede from the United States anytime it wants. We all know it's a fact."

Mayor Locke sighed before stating, "It is not really true. We have the right to break into five smaller states, not to secede from the country."

"I suppose if it were our right we would still be a confederate country after 180 years," Chief Mills added. "I'm also afraid if Texas does try to secede we will be broken into smaller states. It'll be like when West Virginia broke away from Virginia during the Civil War."

Locke stared at Mills for a second with a mildly surprised look on his face. "Chief," Locke said. "I never took you for a history buff."

* * * * *

Governor Tucker surveyed the ever-growing crowd in front of him. The protestors were eating out of his hands. He knew he would have to weave his words carefully to get the desired effect. He did not want to incite an incident quite yet. Tucker wanted to ratchet up the heat slowly so he could get the majority of the Texans on his side before he committed the state to actual secession.

The governor could not help but notice that there were very few officers hanging on the fringe of the crowd. Their few patrol cars were flashing their lights as a reminder for everyone to keep it civil. If Tucker was not careful, the officers would easily be over run by a rioting crowd and the backlash could be devastating to his plans. Especially, seeing as how there were actually more news crews than police officers.

As Governor Tucker wound down his speech, he noticed that the crowd was shouting for more. The governor smiled. He was getting the desired effect. Just a few more speeches across the state like this one, and everything would be in place.

The governor stepped down from the podium and nodded to his special guest, former Vice President Kimberly Watson, one of Ramirez's most vocal critics. The middle-aged soccer mom smiled and proceeded to take her place on the podium. The crowd instantly started to wildly applaud and shout.

Tucker and Watson made special plans for today's event. They knew the stakes were high and that they had to be careful in their approach. Watson looked down at her hand where she had written some last minute crib notes.

"Hello, Texas!" Watson smiled to the boisterous crowd. Her audience roared back in approval. "Don't ya think its time we showed Washington that enough is enough?"

Governor Tucker smiled more broadly as he sat in the metal folding chair behind the podium. Watson may have single digit approval ratings up north, but here she was a star. She was playing the audience perfectly.

"How do ya think we should do that?" Watson asked rhetorically.

The crowd shook their signs and shouted various answers. They were eating up every word.

"Maybe we should take back our country from that Marxist in Washington!" Watson shouted feeding off the energy the crowd exuded.

Governor Tucker suddenly started to frown. This was beyond what they had planned. The former vice president was going off script and she could instantly ruin their plans.

"Yeah, let's do it!" shouted some. "Kill the spic!" shouted others. However, most people just shouted "Texas, Texas!"

Kimberly jabbed her right arm into the sky and shouted, "Texas forever! Texas the free! Down with Washington, D.C! Let's start the revolution!"

Tucker cursed. It was too late the crowd was now in full riot."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 9

By Dwayne MacInnes

Chief Mills grabbed the mayor as the situation quickly started to dissolve into chaos. The police chief shoved Mayor Locke towards one of the squad cars. The chief pointed to a young female police officer in riot gear and shouted, "Get the Mayor to Fort Hood immediately. They have to be warned!"

Locke was shoved into the passenger seat and before he could really understand what was going on, the policewoman had the squad car roaring down the street. Behind them, the crowd burst over the thin police cordon like an ocean wave smashing into a small sand castle. The riot police were instantly overwhelmed.

As the squad car raced towards the military base with its sirens blaring and lights flashing, a police antiriot tank sped towards the crowd of angry protesters. The tank fired off canister after canister of tear gas from its turret into the rushing mass of protesters, yet the angry crowd continued to riot. They only occasionally stopped to cover their faces with pieces of cloth.

"Mayor, sir," the officer said to Locke without taking her eyes off the road. "There is a shotgun in the rack between us. You had better arm yourself. Those people do not look rational right now."

Mayor Locke snatched the shotgun out of the rack and looked it over.

"Sir, do you know how to use a shotgun?" the young woman asked stealing a glance towards the mayor out of the corner of her eye.

Mayor Locke smiled, asking a Texan if he knew how to use a weapon was like asking a fish if it knew how to swim. "Yes, I think I can handle it."

The squad car turned down various streets on its way toward Fort Hood. Fortunately, there were very few vehicles on the road. Everyone was at either the protest rally or hunkering in his or her home. Only the occasional fire truck or ambulance raced passed the police car in the opposite direction.

Suddenly, something slammed into the hood of the police cruiser. Locke noticed a hole in the hood a second before the report of a rifle shot punctuated the air. The policewoman grabbed Locke with her right hand and pulled him down.

"Sir, we are taking fire!" she exclaimed without taking her eyes off the road. "You need to get down!"

Another bullet shattered the safety glass in the rear driver's side door spraying glass around the interior of the cab. Mayor Locke tried to cram himself under the dashboard on the passenger side of the vehicle. He covered his head with his hands.

"Officer…" the mayor began before realizing he did not know her name "ah…officer, are you alright."

"Yes, sir. It's Officer Hughes, Amanda Hughes," the policewoman said in a deadpan voice. Her total concentration was getting the police car through the gauntlet of gunfire safely.

* * * * *

Lieutenant General Albert K. Groves was the commander in charge of Fort Hood. Ever since President Roberts placed all military installations on high alert before he left office, the fort was more or less cut off from the public. The military had escorted off the base all private employees and relieved them of duty until further notice.

The army now had to do its own laundry, cooking, security, and a million other jobs that the military usually outsourced. Moreover, the general did not waste any time in strengthening the perimeter fence's defenses. The fort was huge and there was a great deal of area that needed to be covered. However, Groves made sure to place his tanks and armored vehicles where they would be of the most use.

"Sergeant how is the protest rally going?" the general asked a nearby sergeant who was listening to a newscast on his compu-phone.

"Not good sir," the sergeant shot back. "Those Teabaggers…I mean Tea Partiers are in full riot. It looks like they are headed our way."

"Great," LTG Groves muttered to himself. "Sergeant, sound the alarm. I want every man and woman manning the defenses. Oh, and sergeant make sure you pass the word that everyone is to hold their fire. We have strict orders on that from President Ramirez."

"Yes sir!" the sergeant saluted before relaying the general's orders.

* * * * *

The sentries at the front gate of Fort Hood were surprised to see a wailing police cruiser racing towards the gate. Bullet holes riddled the squad car and one of the lights on the roof was missing. Steam shot in the air in a huge cloud from the perforated radiator.

The police car slid to a stop a few yards from the gate. The soldiers armed with the M-18 assault rifle stared in wonder as a man dressed in a suit and tie, and armed with a shotgun stepped from the passenger side of the car.

Mayor Warren Locke looked over his shoulder as he jogged towards the gate. He was relieved to see Officer Hughes step from the driver's side of the now dead police car. She had her pistol from her holster as she ducked behind the squad car looking down the road in the direction that they just came.

"I need to see the general," Locke shouted to the sentries. "There is a mob on its way and it is armed!"

"I'm sorry you cannot pass," a lieutenant said in a matter-of-fact voice. "This base is closed to all civilians."

"Look, I am not here to visit," Locke shouted back as he stopped in front of the officer. "Alert the general that the NTTP and the SOTA are on the warpath and they are headed here."

"Sir, you will have to stay here," the lieutenant said. The officer then looked back towards one of his men. "Get the general on the line. Let him know we have a situation at the front gate." The soldier saluted and then proceeded to speak into the microphone that was part of his helmet.

Mayor Locke waited impatiently as the soldier spoke to some party on the other end. The only sound that he could hear in the tense air was some soldiers murmuring to each other and the hiss of the bullet-ridden police car's radiator. The lieutenant turned back to Locke.

"Who are you, sir?"

"I'm the goddamn mayor of Killeen and you are about to be…"

Before he could finish his sentence shots rang out into the air. Locke spun around to see Officer Hughes firing her service pistol into a mob that were armed with shotguns, rifles, and handguns that were in turn firing at the police woman. One round managed to clip Hughes on the shoulder grazing her riot armor but spinning her around until her legs collapsed under her.

When Hughes fell, the mob moving at a trot broke into a run and soon overran the police car. Locke wasted no time and raised the shotgun to his shoulder as he pumped a round into the chamber. The mayor in desperation fired shell after shell until the shotgun was empty. The mayor was oblivious to the bullets whizzing past his ears.

The lieutenant tackled Locke to the ground as the soldiers opened fire into the mob. Several people fell to the ground, even more retreated in a dead run. A few continued to fire taking cover behind anything they could. The first battle for Texas Independence had just begun.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 10

By Dwayne MacInnes

Governor Tucker wasted no time in assembling the state legislature for an emergency session. The clash between the soldiers of Fort Hood and the protesters the press had dubbed the Killeen Massacre. It was still being webcasted live over the net by various news crews. The governor was able to salvage some of his plans from the fiasco started by former Vice President Watson. The launch of the riot earlier in the day nearly ruined everything. The images of police officers overrun by an angry mob did not look promising.

However, with the soldiers firing into the crowd marching towards Fort Hood, the public sentiment for secession soared. Tucker quickly ordered that the state legislature assemble before the "feds" shut them down. Many calls went out, and Tucker expected to hear from the legislature any time now.

The governor sat behind his desk and ordered the computer to call up the local National Guard commander. The connection was instantly completed.

"Hello," a voice said over the speaker in the desk. The image of a man in military garb came into view on the holographic screen on the desk.

"I need to talk to Lt Peebles," the governor said to the unfamiliar soldier.

"I'm sorry sir, Lt Peebles is unavailable."

Governor Tucker nearly exploded when he heard this, "What do you mean he is not available? I told all commanders in the state to be ready at a moments notice!"

"You must be Governor Tucker," the man said flatly.

"Where the frick have you been?" Tucker screamed. "Of course, I'm the goddamn governor! Who the hell are you?"

The man seemed to grow larger on the screen as he stared into the camera of the compu-phone. His eyes were steely and his gaze stern. "I am Captain Brooks."

"I don't give a frick who you are," Governor Tucker said in a barely controlled voice. "You are in the National Guard and you will follow my orders to call out the guard."

"No sir, you are wrong," Brooks stated.

"Are you violating a direct order from the governor to call out your units?"

"Sir, you do not understand. I am not from the National Guard. I am Captain Brooks of Delta Force. I take my orders from the President of the United States."

Tucker suddenly felt very cold as he hit the disconnect button. It appeared that former President Roberts or President Ramirez had in fact had Special Forces units stationed around the state to take over various strategic buildings. He should have spent more time investigating these rumors.

An aide suddenly ran into Governor Tucker's office. Tucker did not look up at the excited aide. "They did it sir!"

Tucker turned towards the aide with a quizzical look on his face. "What are you talking about?"

"The legislature, sir. The state legislature voted to secede."

Tucker shortly forgot his new worry. "Texas seceded from the Union?"

"Well everyone voted for it except the western districts. But it was overwhelming in favor. We are free!"

The governor smiled weakly. "No, not yet. We still have a war to win."

* * * * *

"Well, things have come to a head," Todd Schneider briefed President Ramirez. The Hispanic president sat at his desk in the Oval Office and listened to his advisors as they briefed him on the situation that was quickly getting out of hand in Texas. "All federal military installations are under siege and most of the National Guard installations remain under our control."

Ramirez shot a troubled look at his friend. The president appeared to have aged a good twenty years in the last few hours. "What do you mean most of the National Guard installations remain under our control?"

Todd looked around uncomfortably. "Well, the special forces Roberts had moved into Texas clandestinely were able to secure most of the Guard bases. However, some were either overrun by the protesters or the Special Forces did not arrive in time."

"So you are saying that some of the rabble in Texas is now armed with military grade weaponry?"

"Yes, a few. Most bases are still under our control," Todd replied defensively.

"Exactly, what are we looking at as far as material that is now in the rioters hands?" Ramirez pressed.

"Well, as far as we can tally about 20 F-16 fighters, 12 M1A1 Abrams tanks, some support vehicles, and an unknown quantity of M-16 assault rifles, machineguns, grenades, LAW rockets and the like."

"This is not good," Ramirez replied in a forlorn voice. "We have a rebellion on our hands and it looks like many of them are armed with some of our own weapons."

"Well, fortunately it is not the top of the line stuff. Just the castoff equipment that the army or air force no longer use and has been handed down to the National Guard."

"That is small comfort to the military forces I am now going to have to order into Texas to put down the rebellion."

General Richard Slater the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stepped forward. "Sir, we have a very ticklish situation here."

President Ramirez nodded his head, "Yeah, we can't just send our military into Texas and just stamp out the rebellion. We have to be very precise and specific with our targets. Many of those people still consider themselves American or at least do not fully support the rebellion. If we make a mistake we only strengthen our opposition's hand."

"That is correct, sir," General Slater replied. "However, if I may advise the president it would be a good idea to federalize the National Guard in Texas and the surrounding states. Or any state that may be showing significant sympathy towards the rebels."

"What you are proposing is tantamount to martial law," Ramirez stated.

"Yes sir," General Slater answered in a deadpan voice.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 11

By Dwayne MacInnes

Ramirez looked over the reports his advisors had seen fit to bring to the staff meeting. It looked like the U.S. military forces were able to retain control of their bases. However, many were now under siege. The rebels overran a few more National Guard bases. In most cases, the various Special Forces that were holding them destroyed the military stores before pulling out.

The borders to New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mexico were now essentially closed. The president wasted no time in rushing regular troops to closing off those borders. Thousands of refugees flooded the checkpoints and had to wait many hours before the guards allowed them through as they checked the refugee's credentials and meager possessions.

"Mr. President, we can knock out their power grid if you would only authorize it," a pudgy balding aide said.

"No, Andy. As I said before, if it looks like we are harming civilians, we only help the rebel's cause."

"Sir, let me point out that the rebellion has been going on for a week and we have not shown any significant gains. All we are doing is holding on by our fingernails," Andy Pickens shot back.

"General, could you enlighten us to current intelligence in Texas," Ramirez nodded towards General Slater.

"Sir, we are still strengthening our noose around Texas. They are completely hemmed in by land, sea, and air. There was an attempt to force their way through with some boats, but the Coast Guard, with the help from ships belonging to the Fourth Fleet, easily repelled them.

"As to the rebels, well sir, it is complete chaos. The governor and former Vice President Watson are bickering over who is in command. Many members of the New Texas Tea Party and Sons of the Alamo refuse to acknowledge either one. There is an advantage here if can mass our forces for a big push through Texas."

Ramirez nodded in agreement. "Yes General, but we must have a good plan to minimize the damage and civilian deaths. I will not budge on that issue."

"Mr. President," Todd Schneider broke in. "The rebellion is gaining in popularity across the United States. Many militias, freeman, and other super patriot groups have snuck into Texas. Not mention there is a good arms smuggling ring operating out of Mexico."

"How would it look if we bombed a hospital, or if we killed a bunch of nuns at mass? Do you think our cause will become more popular?" Ramirez shot back.

The door to the presidential wardroom suddenly shot open, an aide in a blue suit and red tie burst into the meeting. The man had obviously been running for his flushed face matched the color of his tie. Before anyone could object the aide blurted out, "Sir, check out the news!"

Ramirez nodded his head towards Andy Pickens who was closest to the video display controls. With a touch, a screen mounted on the wall in the back of the room flickered to life. A news channel had already been preset.

A journalist sat behind a desk with a projection of a holographic display of Texas behind him read from his teleprompter. "Again, it looks like the western districts of Texas have left the New Republic and are proclaiming themselves as a new state called West Texas. They swear that they are loyal citizens of the United States and will not aid the rebels."

Ramirez looked over towards General Slater. "General, I want military units into West Texas immediately. I want those people protected from reprisals."

General Slater stood up and saluted the president, "Consider it done."

"Andy, see if you can get Congress to accept West Texas as a new state."

"It'll be close in votes. Many Republicans are not openly pulling for the rebels, but there is a growing sympathy from them. We'll need to get the few remaining moderates onboard."

* * * * *

"It now looks like our dictator and chief has now been able to rally the liberals in the western part of Texas to form their own state," Limbeck said forcefully into the microphone in his studio. "It did not take the liberals in Washington long to acknowledge and form the new state of the Socialist Republic of Texas or as they are calling it, West Texas."

"Come on people. We need to wake up and support our brothers in arms in the New Republic of Texas. If we all can overthrow our communist president in Washington, D.C. we can have our country back."

Limbeck's studio manager rushed into the studio occupied by Limbeck. He made a furious slashing motion across his neck beckoning Limbeck to cut off his rant. Flash looked at his manager and frowned.

"I'm sorry folks. It looks like Gene -- my manager -- believes I have gone too far. I will assert that we haven't gone far enough…" before Limbeck could finish his statement, Gene flipped off the broadcasting switch.

Flash furious threw his headphones onto the broadcast control panel. "Dammit Gene, you have no right to pull the plug!"

"Are you trying to get us thrown into prison for fomenting a rebellion?" Gene yelled back. The slight man rarely disagreed with Flash, but when push came to shove the studio manager could hold his own.

"What are you talking about? The First Amendment protects free speech," Limbeck replied more calmly.

"You are not protected if you ask people to take up arms against the president."

Flash smiled, "I never said for people to take up arms against the president. I am not seditious if I have not advocated any immediate and specific act of violence."

"You are picking nits my friend and the FCC could revoke our license if you do not tone it down. Plus, you did make a threat directly towards the president of the United States. I suspect we will be getting a visit from the Secret Service pretty soon."

"Oh, great. Now the Gestapo is going to come after me," Limbeck said rolling his eyes.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 12

By Dwayne MacInnes

The military convoy moved slowly through the back roads of New Mexico, winding its way between desolate rock formations and barren hills. The Army and Army National Guard have been shuttling supplies into the new state of West Texas for days now. The convoys rarely repeated taking the same routes at the same time to make it more difficult for rebels to lay an ambush.

Lt White rode in the front truck hauling crates of the M-18 assault rifle and boxes of assorted ammunition. The five other trucks also were loaded with various cargoes. Some were hauling food, some medical supplies, and others just basic supplies needed to keep an army going. One venerable Ultra AP vehicle rode along to protect the convoy.

Music played from the small MP5-keychain dangling from the truck's ignition. If one wanted, they could even depress a button and a holographic video projected from the MP5-keychain. However, the military frowned on such things while on maneuvers.

"Say Loot, we could sure make better time if we could use the interstate," Corporal Martinez stated as he drove the truck over the rough gravel road.

Every bump caused the driver and the passenger to hop into the air; sometimes leading to an irritating connection between the soldier's head and the cab's roof.

"You know the orders," Lt White stated coldly. "We are to move through this area so that the rebels cannot ambush us and steal the valuable supplies we are carrying."

Martinez snorted, "Are you kidding? The rebels would have to make their way through West Texas and into New Mexico and back with our supplies. That would be highly unlikely."

"I don't think the rebels would be wearing signs that say, Look! I'm a rebel. Remember there is a lot of support for their cause across the country."

Corporal Martinez opened his mouth to reply when an explosion rocked the truck. Martinez slammed on the breaks as the Ultra AP, now a flaming wreck coasted off the dirt road to stop when it collided with a piled of rocks.

"Holy shi…" Martinez started before a bullet exploded his head against the driver's side windshield.

Lt White hit the button activating the mike in his helmet as he exited the cab. "This is convoy Echo Bravo! We are under attack!"

White continued to broadcast his message as he slid underneath the truck. Bullets ricocheted off steel and rocks all around him. He watched as other soldiers jumped from their trucks only to be sawed down by a machine gunner located somewhere in the hills to their right.

"Repeat: this is convoy Echo Bravo! We are under attack!" White continued to broadcast. He noticed that the firing had now slacked off. He halted his transmission as he heard voices and footsteps approach the convoy. Occasionally, a pistol would bark as someone finished off a soldier.

Finally, a pair of black military boots stopped in front of White's face as he pushed himself back further under the truck's frame. A head looked down under the truck and smiled ominously.

"Well, well. What do we have here?" the man with a face full of stubble and wearing a cowboy hat grinned. "It looks like we missed one."

"No, no…" White protested holding his hands out in front of him as he pleaded. "This was not the plan."

The man grinned even harder as he held an old Colt .45 Peacemaker threatening towards White. He pulled the trigger only once. The pistol barked one last time before he pulled himself up straight and looked back towards the men mounted on horses behind him. "Okay, boys we need to get these supplies loaded up and we need to vamoose immediately."

Colt 45 Peacemaker

The growing numbers of people joining the Oath Keepers were almost unmanageable for Fred Wilson to control. He constantly needed to find bigger and bigger areas to host his meetings. Thankfully, Sheriff Gracen was always able to secure a location.

With the military presence in Littleton constantly growing, the people of the small New Mexico town were in near riot. However, it would not help anyone if another massacre happened here. The main reason was that the military was prepared to hold onto all states that even thought of seceding.

Sympathetic states' legislatures and U.S. Congress people all protested the heavy-handed way they felt President Ramirez was dealing with the rebellion. Some people were angry because they felt that the Federal Government had no justification to stop Texas from seceding. Others felt that the president was taking too long to respond.

Wilson could feel that soon there would be enough people and sentiment of support for the New Republic of Texas that the U.S. government would have to bow to the people's will and sue for peace with the new country.

The meeting was another long and vehement affair as people vented their anger and frustration over the whole situation. Many people called for the assassination of Ramirez or another armed rebellion. However, Wilson knew that the time was not ripe for either.

Sheriff Gracen, a man straddled with maintaining the peace of the small town and making sure that the military did nothing to violate the Constitutional Rights of his people, wanted to speak to Wilson after the meeting. His concerns grew nightly about the growing animosity being displayed at the meetings. They needed a better and more productive approach. That is, unless Littleton and his people in New Mexico wanted to leave the Union and therefore, suffer the chaos and carnage that was raging across the New Republic of Texas.

Gracen stepped up to the stage where Wilson had for two hours railed against President Ramirez and the Federal Government. He noticed that Wilson was speaking to a wiry young man in his mid-twenties. The young man was wearing his military fatigues as Gracen approached the two.

"Hey Bernie!" Wilson waved to the sheriff. "Have you met Ted Morrel?"

Sheriff Gracen nodded towards the young man. "Ted was recently discharged from the army for his views on the rebellion," Wilson added.

Sheriff Gracen smiled and looked towards Wilson, "Fred, I have a few things to discuss with you."

"Of course, Ted was just enlightening me on an interesting idea of his that very well could end this whole debacle a lot sooner."

"Really?" Gracen said arching an eyebrow.

Fred Wilson motioned for Ted to step aside, "Ted, I'll be back. We'll discuss your plan further. Now Sheriff what can I do for you?"

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 13

By Dwayne MacInnes

Governor Tucker reclined in his office chair with smoldering cigar in his hand. Former Vice President Watson also sat in the room, as did several members of the New Texas Tea Party and the Sons of the Alamo. Smoke filled the room and a fly buzzed in a window vainly trying to get out.

"Well, people," Tucker said finally opening the meeting he had called. "We need to hammer out a government.

"This bickering is not helping us out at all. It is only a small miracle that Ramirez lacks the intestinal fortitude to invade us or this whole rebellion would have been put down weeks ago."

Several people nodded their heads in agreement, as Kimberly Watson stared at Governor Tucker with an icy glare. She did not like the fact that Tucker had jumped upon calling this summit before she did. This put him completely in control of the situation and allowed him to direct where the dialogue would go rather than her.

Tucker ignored Watson as he continued with only the constant buzzing of the fly competing with his words.

"We have lost a third of our country already to the Democrats in the west. We lost it without firing a single shot! Yet, to make it worse, because of the lack of leadership, we could not even pose a threat to take it back! Now it is too late.

"We cannot afford to let this happen again. Therefore, I propose that we form a government before we leave this office. We also need to discuss forming a real army instead of the mob we have keeping the Federal forces under siege in their bases. We need to seek allies, form treaties and come up with our own currency -- just to name a few items."

Now the mood in the room started to change to a more positive affair. Former Vice President Watson's face started to brighten. She realized everything Tucker said was true and if she wanted to play any part of it, she would need to contribute.

* * * * *

The young Air Force sergeant sat at his terminal situated deep inside Malmstrom Air Force Base located in Great Falls, Montana. A screen sat before him in the dark room that was his workstation. He listened to a headset positioned on his head as he toyed with various dials, switches and buttons on his terminal. He hit a button and spoke into his mike that radiated off the headset.

"Captain," Sergeant Wilcox said in the mike. "You better get in here."

Captain Richardson wasted no time in responding to the young man's request. She stepped into the dark room making sure to secure the door behind her.

"What is it, sergeant?" she asked.

"I'm getting some very good stuff that I think the brass may be interested in," Wilcox responded as he punched a button that brought the large screen in front of him to life. The image flickered briefly before coming fully into focus. There at an odd angle was an interesting image. A camera caught the images of Governor Tucker, former Vice President Watson, and a various number of other people sitting in the governor's office.

"Can you give me audio?" Captain Richardson asked.

Wilcox flipped a switch and turned a couple of dials before sound began to emit from the speakers in the terminal.

"…so we call up all veterans and have them start training our mob into a real army." Governor Tucker's voice stated.

"I want a sweep of those faces so we can give intel the images so that we can get an idea of who we are dealing with," Richardson ordered Wilcox.

The sergeant grabbed a joystick in one hand and a control panel that resembled and old 'Tracball' mouse in the other. The camera began to bob around the room and the faint sound of a buzz filtered into the background of Tucker's conversation.

The image floated surrealistically as the camera panned the room. The camera captured all the faces and recorded into the central computer banks located in the base's heart. One man swung a hand towards the camera and Sergeant Wilcox scrambled to move his device out the hand's way.

"Damn, fly," the man muttered before Wilcox parked the camera back on the window.

* * * * *

"Okay, loyal listeners," Flash said into his mike. Gene monitored Limbeck closely from the other side of the studio's window. Limbeck's tirade the previous week nearly cost the station its FCC license and even some harsh criticism from their benefactors. "It looks like Comrade Ramirez has appointed General Powell Davis to lead his assault into Texas."

"You all remember Powell Davis from his work with the U.N. inside Chile last decade as the Argentines threatened to invade.

"Well, it looks like the New World Order of the United Nations has gracefully allowed our dictator to borrow Davis to bring the New Republic of Texas to heel.

"Where will this all end my friends?" Flash stated as his voice started to rise to his usual fever pitch. "I'll tell you where. It'll end when every freedom loving person in this country is rounded up and deposited inside one of Ramirez's concentration camps."

Gene frowned. Limbeck had always carefully stayed away from the New Tea Party's ideology of concentration camps inside the United States. However, now in the heat of his tirade, Flash was now reinforcing the idea put forth by the fringe element of the right.

"No my friends, we have waited too long. I have held myself back too much for fear that Washington may take away our broadcast license. If we broadcasters cannot operate freely under this administration, it is a dictatorship. We must send a message to Der Fuhrer Ramirez and his Gestapo and SS cronies in Washington. Even if that message has to come from the end of rifle it needs to be done."

Gene was too slow in shutting down the show. However, the phone started ringing immediately after Gene cutoff Limbeck. Gene swore to himself as Flash angrily left the studio to confront his station manager.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 14

By Dwayne MacInnes

Sheriff Gracen drove his patrol car down a back road towards Littleton. The broadcast studio Flash Limbeck operated from was a good 50 miles outside of town. Gracen's prisoner sat in the backseat fuming over his incarceration.

"What exactly have I done wrong?" Flash griped.

"I have told you before," Gracen said in a tired voice. "You threatened the life of the President of the United States."

"How so? I did not give anyone a gun, I did not order people to kill him," Flash stated.

"You have incited a riot," Gracen told his prisoner.

"What? Where?" Flash said in an innocent voice. "You mean everyone who is upset with the president and then decides to riot is my fault?"

"The National Guard and the military across the nation are now being forced to restore calm in several cities because of your broadcast," Gracen said.

Flash Limbeck sat back in the seat. Gracen was kind enough not to use handcuffs and was even kind enough to pick him up instead of the military. Limbeck doubted if the Military Police or the Secret Service would have treated him kindly had they picked him up. It was lucky for him they were not available and Sheriff Gracen was.

"You know," Gracen started to say to his prisoner. "I really don't like this stretch of road."

Limbeck could hardly care what Sheriff Gracen liked or did not like and only listened half-heartily.

"Yep, you know that military convoy had been ambushed on this road not too far from here."

Gracen peered into his rearview mirror to see Limbeck's reaction. The overweight man in his 60s sat in the backseat with his arms folded pouting to himself.

"Well, as I was saying," Gracen continued. "If my car broke down I'd be out here in the middle of nowhere and at the whims of any rebel that may come across me. Hell, they may even kill me just because I'm a law officer."

Suddenly, as if just speaking about it caused it to happen the patrol car started to sputter. Gracen swore under his breath as the car lost speed and coasted to a stop on the side of the barren road.

"Dammit," Gracen said as he opened the door and placed his hat on his head. "You stay put now. I have enough problems."

Limbeck flashed Gracen a dirty look. Where the hell was he going to go? Gracen had him locked in the back of a squad car. As the sheriff exited the car, his arm accidentally hit a button on the front door's control panel. Flash heard an audible click on his door.

Sheriff Gracen popped the hood on the car and started working on something. Flash realized that this may be his best chance to avoid a Federal prison. The Texas/New Mexico border was only a couple of miles to the east. Flash tested the door and it swung open. The sheriff must have unknowingly unlocked it when he exited the car.

Limbeck could hear Gracen swearing to himself as he fiddled with the car's engine. "Damn thing. Is it this?" The sheriff asked himself too engrossed in his work to notice Flash stepping up behind him with a rock. Limbeck slammed the rock into the back of the sheriff's head and a loud clang rang out as Gracen crumpled to the ground.

Limbeck did not take the time to make sure the sheriff was still alive as he ran off towards the border. The road was leading to the Texas panhandle. He had never been a fugitive before. He ran on as the fear of capture and having a murder rap added to his record was enough to propel the large man to new speeds.

Flash did not get too far before a man on a horse rode up to him. Limbeck stopped in his tracks and huffed as he stared up at the man on the horse. He wore a cowboy hat and had a Colt .45 Peacemaker on his hip. Flash also noticed half a dozen men armed with hunting and assault rifles riding with the cowboy.

"You must be Flash Limbeck," the cowboy said his smile breaking across is stubble-ridden face.

Limbeck did not know what to say and only stared at the man dumbfounded. His brain could not fathom how a posse could have been there so quickly. Limbeck could still see the unconscious sheriff and the patrol car over his shoulder on the horizon.

"Zeke," the cowboy said. "Mr. Limbeck is going to need a ride."

A man wearing blue jeans and a military jacket rode up with an extra horse and held it out to Limbeck.

"I don't know how to ride?" Flash stated.

"You better learn fast, because the Feds are going to be on our ass all the way back to the New Republic of Texas," the cowboy said.

* * * * *

Fred Wilson walked into the sheriff's department and entered the sheriff's office. It was no secret that the two men were good friends. Therefore, the rest of the department allowed Wilson free rein. Wilson sat into a chair across from Gracen's desk.

"How's the head?" Wilson asked.

"Sore," Gracen replied holding an icepack on the back of his head. "It was a good thing I wore that steel bowl under my hat or my melon would be gracing some rocky back road."

"You did good work," Wilson said. "Limbeck is important to the Texas cause. His broadcasts are very popular amongst his listeners."

"I thought the Oath Keepers were supposed to be neutral," Sheriff Gracen stated.

"We are," Wilson answered. "We had to protect Limbeck's Constitutional Rights."

"You know he did break the law," Gracen pointed out, "even under the Constitution."

"Now, let's not split hairs," Wilson said with a smile. "The important thing is that everyone is alright."

"Speak for yourself, asshole," Gracen said repositioning the icepack on his head.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 15

By Dwayne MacInnes

Buck Dubois sat in the pilot's seat aboard his prized possession the B-29 Superfortress he named the Yellow Rose. The old forgotten runway teamed with other vintage aircraft ranging in service dates from World War II to the Gulf War. Buck had deliberately chosen this field for its remote location and forgotten origins.

Buck waited for over a month and a half as the forces in the New Republic of Texas consolidated. Furthermore, as Ramirez dawdled, Buck, along with the nearly two hundred fellow pilots and crewmembers, awaited word for their service. Today they received the word, Operation Snakehead was to begin.

Fuel, armament, and supplies had been smuggled to their airfield. No one left to go to town lest they raise suspicion. Only a few heavily bribed smugglers brought them their supplies.

Now as the venerable piston engines roared to life along with the heavy whine of the more contemporary jets, the airfield was alive with action. The tall yellow grass swayed and buffeted in the artificial windstorm produced by the aircraft.

Buck, being the flight leader, proceeded to run the Yellow Rose down the old cracked runway. The bomber laden with tons of bombs eventually defied gravity and gracefully climbed in the morning sky. Soon, other bombers and their myriad of fighter escorts joined the B-29 in the air.

Buck smiled to his copilot and gave a thumbs-up. By the end of their mission, they could very well end the war against the New Republic of Texas.

* * * * *

LTG Groves still held Fort Hood. The siege at first was nothing more than a band of rabble encircling the huge military base. The rebels made a few attempts to charge the perimeters with cars, trucks and an old Brinks armor truck. The M-3 Schwarzkopfs easily obliterated any threat that approached the outer defenses.

The remains of those vehicles now littered the fields around the base. Groves prepared his troops to be ready at moments notice to sally forth and push their way through Killeen.

However, the order as of yet still had not been given. Groves also made sure that he had whatever air cover that was available. He needed whatever he could have provided to Fort Hood. This unfortunately entailed a few Blackfoot attack helicopters. The air force bases across Texas, though still valiantly resisted to succumbing to the rebels, were in no position to mount an offensive or lend any air support.

Airdrops and helicopters were resupplying bases like Fort Hood. As of yet, the rebels were not successful in posing any challenge to the United States air superiority. The problem was that Ramirez feared an errant bomb hitting a school or hospital. The political backlash that such and event would bring him and his supporters was not wanted. Therefore, there were no air support strikes.

Groves never liked politics, never liked any of the major parties and did not give a damn about political backlash. Right now, his forces were under siege and they awaited the orders to spring forth to wipe off this stain on the honor of the United States of America.

Before Groves could proceed to make himself any angrier, the air sirens across the base started to scream. Groves ran toward his office window and was surprised to see the entire sky filled with aluminum foil balloons. There had to be thousands, no hundreds of thousands of them. He suspected that the balloons were shadowing the entire perimeter of the base.

Groves raced out of his office and started to organize his people as the sky continued to fill with more and more foil balloons. Officers scrambled to their posts and readied their troopers.

"Sir," a master sergeant ran up to Groves and saluted. Groves returned the salute as the sergeant continued, "The radar has been rendered useless by the balloons. There are even latex balloons with strips of aluminum foil inside them. When they burst they act as chaff."

Groves felt the impending attack. He just did not know where it would come from. It could come from the sky, the land, or even both.

Without further notice, one of the Schwarzkopfs exploded in a bright fireball that washed across the base. Groves looked up in time to see an F-16 loose another missile at his tanks. Soon another M-3 burst into flames and debris.

The F-16 did not get far before a shoulder mounted SAM raced towards the old jet fighter. The burst of white near the jet's tail sent it spiraling out of control. However, there were more jets racing out of the sky to attack the base.

Missiles from ground defenses, helicopters, and soldier shoulder mounted systems raced towards their targets in the sky. In the same minute, missiles launched from F-16s, F-15s and a few relics from previous wars going back nearly a hundred years headed towards the ground.

The sky around Fort Hood blazed into fire, as did the ground. Soon, debris was raining down on the defenders. Great clouds of dirt, metal, and fire covered the horizon. However, through it all a new sound made its way through the cacophony of combat to reach Groves' ears. The sound tank treads bearing down on the defenders.

Groves yelled orders to have the remaining tanks and armored vehicles meet the new threat. Soon from all directions, that Groves could survey every design of tank converged on Fort Hood. From old Soviet T-34s, and M-4 Shermans from World War II, to some M-48s from Veitnam, to M1A1 Abrams that were decommissioned twenty years ago.

Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon

Sheriff Gracen walked into Oath Keepers headquarters, which right now was a hotel room occupied by Wilson. As Gracen entered the room, he saw Wilson talking to a soldier whose arm was in a sling.

"Thank you Lieutenant, I have already passed the information on to the right people," Wilson said shaking the soldier's good hand. "If what you told me last night is true you have done a great service for democracy."

"Sheriff, good to see you," Wilson said joyfully when he noticed Gracen at the door. The soldier nodded towards the lawman as he vacated the hotel room.

"Today could mean certain victory for the New Republic of Texas," Wilson stated proudly. "Ted is waiting for General Davis at the airport. He'll make sure he gets to the Army Reserve Center in time."

Gracen frowned; lately he was starting to become disillusioned in the Oath Keepers by Wilson's lack of neutrality. "You mean Davis is coming here?"

"Yes, and if the reports are correct he is going to set up headquarters in Littleton," Wilson stated sternly. "We must protect the Constitution at all costs."

"What are you talking about?" Gracen asked as worry began to work its way into his stomach.

Wilson looked at his watch, "You will find out in approximately two hours. That should be plenty of time for the new commandant of New Mexico to be at the Army Reserve Center."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 16

By Dwayne MacInnes

He was the former governor and now President of the New Republic of Texas. Lester Tucker reclined in a large leather chair of his old office. Until Texas built a proper capital, the old Governor's Office would have to suffice. The assault on Fort Hood was still well on its way. The resistance was better than expected and the losses suffered by the New Republican Army were heavy.

The training was starting to tell. The army was now an organized affair with good officers and a growing number of recruits. Tucker knew that if he could hold off for another week, President Ramirez would have to call back his army. This was because the War Powers Act only allowed him 60 days before he had to seek a declaration of war. A declaration that had to go through Congress and right now Ramirez lacked the votes.

A fly buzzed annoyingly in the window. Insects were thick this time of year and one just learned to live with it. Even with the multiple pest control sprays used around the office the flies kept on reappearing.

A knock on the door brought Tucker back to business. He grumbled an 'enter' and a young female aide walked in.

"Sir," the woman said. "We have received some replies to your recognition of the New Republic of Texas."

Tucker sat up straight. This was important. If enough world powers recognized the New Republic as a country, the international community would force Ramirez to recognize Texas as a new and sovereign country. Tucker rubbed his hands in anticipation, "How many did we get?"

"Just three, sir," the aide replied. "However, it is still too early for most foreign countries to reply."

Tucker waved his hand in annoyance. It was well into the 21st century one could make decisions instantly. "Well, which countries recognize us?"

The aide turned slightly red before she stammered, "Ah -- North Korea, Iran and -- um -- Venezuela."

* * * * *

Ted Morrel had no problem getting into the airport. The military had secured every airport in the south and it would normally be impossible for a civilian to get inside without a thorough search.

Fortunately, Ted still had his army uniform and his military I.D. card. Luck smiled when Ted joined the ranks of some soldiers marching into the facility. The MPs standing guard only looked at everyone's I.D. with a cursory glance.

Once inside Ted worked his way over to the proper gate. There he would receive the military plane that was bringing General Powell Davis to New Mexico. Ted, with clipboard in hand started making an inspection of various things like outlets, light fixtures, chairs. He would then pretend to mark them off a checklist on the clipboard. No one bothered him because a private doing a checklist obviously was under orders.

It was not long before the large cargo plane pulled up to the ramp. A few soldiers marched out of the gate, as did some officers. Last, to depart was General Davis who was talking to some aides.

"Look, I want security tightened around here," Davis spoke to an aide. "Anyone could get in here and sabotage the airport."

"Yes sir," the aide replied.

"Well, right it down!" snapped General Davis.

The aide looked embarrassed as he searched his pockets for a pen. Davis rolled his eyes before letting them fall on Ted.

"Private," Davis said to Ted.

Ted pointed to himself in askance. "Yes you, dammit!" General Davis snapped. "Let the captain borrow your pen."

Ted's mind raced. This opportunity was too great. He could end the whole show right here and now. He would be a hero. Even if he died in the attempt, Texas folklore would immortalize him.

Ted walked over too the captain with his pen held out in his extended left hand as he reached behind his back for the knife he had hidden there. The captain reached for the pen but before he could grab it Ted dropped it. As the aide bent down to get it Ted kicked the officer in the face knocking the man back. He then whipped his combat knife out and slashed at General Davis.

Davis instinctively blocked the slash with his right forearm. He did not immediately feel the blade slice through his shirt and across his arm. With his left hand, he smashed Ted in the nose with the heel of his open hand. The private staggered back as blood gushed from his broken nose and then Ted fell over a trashcan. Before he could recover, various soldiers all with their assault rifles aimed at his chest surrounded him.

"Do I have to do everything myself?" Davis grumbled.

"Sir," a corporal nodded towards the General's arm. "You are wounded."

The blood ran down his sleeve and onto the floor where the unconscious captain lay. "Somebody please help Captain Gregory out," Davis said dryly as he clasped his left hand over the bleeding and burning wound.

* * * * *

Mike Farr was not happy. He was late for work because his son forgot his lunch. They were nearly to the grade school when his son noticed that he had left his lunch at home. Therefore, Mike had to turn the car around grab the lunch box and again start to take his son to school.

"I'm going to be late because of this," Mike lectured his son for the hundredth time. Charlie only hunkered down in the backseat hoping that he could endure his dad's tirade.

"It's bad enough that traffic is a mess with the damn military marching all over the place. But to have to turn back for your lunch really burns me up," Mike continued. "Next time you can starve young man."

A large roar split the sky as Mike turned his car down a street that led to the grade school across the street from the Army Reserve Center. "Damn," Mike cursed as traffic now came to a standstill and people jumped out of their vehicles to look towards the sky.

Mike rolled down his window and looked up to see what all the commotion was. The roaring increased as Mike noticed what must have been a hundred vintage aircraft flying over Littleton.

Then a disturbing whistle broke through the heavy roar of the big engines and bombs began to plummet towards the earth. The ground shook as explosions rocked Littleton.

Mike watched in horror as the school at the end of the street exploded along with the Army Reserve Center. After a few loud and chaotic minutes the bombs stopped falling. With tears in his eyes Mike turned towards his frightened son, "Thank you God," Mike prayed aloud, "and Charlie, you can forget your lunch anytime."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 17

By Dwayne MacInnes

Staff Sergeant Murphy walked over to George Murdock. His expression belied that something was troubling him. The elder Murdock was good at reading people's expressions. That was what made him so good at business deals as well as poker.

"William," Murdock said as the soldier walked over to his desk. "You look like the cat ate your canary."

"Sir, in a manner of speaking it was your canary," the Delta Force operative replied.

"I'm sorry you lost me," Murdock shook his head. "I pray none of my oil facilities were attacked by some of the rebels."

"It is nothing like that. However, your accounts are being drawn upon," Murphy replied. "We have frozen your assets until we can figure out what or who is to blame."

George snorted, "How much was being withdrawn?"

"At first, a hundred thousand a week."

George smiled, "That would be my almost useless son. I allow him one hundred thousand a week for 'expenses'."

"Well, he requested a few hundred million just today," stated William flatly. "We declined the request."

Murdock's face went from white to red to a deep purple. "Why that no good son of a bitch. He can't even organize his sock drawer and he wants to run this company! Thank you, sergeant for declining his request," Murdock said finally regaining his composure. "Oh, you can go ahead and decline all of his requests from here on out."

F22 Raptor

The timing of the attack on Fort Hood was no coincidence. They sent every combat plane the New Republic of Texas could spare to assault the military base. In fact, the United States would have to send its own warplanes to meet the threat. That meant every airbase in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas had to respond.

So, when the squadron comprising of bombers and fighters from World War II through the Gulf War attacked Littleton there were few jets available to stop them. However, it did not take long to recall some of the jets sent to Killeen to find the squadron led by Buck Dubois.

The United States Air Force was also monitoring the route the squadron was taking with a satellite. This allowed the recalled jets to intercept the squadron before it could sneak back over the border into Mexico.

Buck knew it was a long shot that they would be able to return unscathed. He was happy to know that with the bomb run on the Littleton Army Reserve Center his mission was a success. The United States' great hero sent to suppress Texas was more than likely dead now. Only a divine miracle could have spared General Davis's life after Dubois's squadron leveled the southern half of Littleton.

So, it was with no great surprise when he heard the pilot of the F-20 Tigershark announce enemy bogies approaching. The combat jets in the squadron raced off to meet the threat. There was no illusion that a handful of F-86 Sabers, F-4 Phantoms, F-14 Tomcats and one F-20 could hope to defeat the overwhelming strength of the F-22 Raptors and the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter. They only prayed they could take some of them out before they destroyed the ad hoc squadron.

Bombers continued to race for the Mexican border only keeping the piston driven fighters as cover. Buck listened to the fight over his headset. The combat was over before it even began. The F-22s and the F-35s could fire missiles from over the horizon and their missile jamming electronics were light-years ahead of anything the vintage fighters could boast.

As steel and a few lucky ejected pilots descended towards the earth, the might of the U.S. Air Force bore down on the bombers with a vengeance. Any pilot in the U.S. jets who may have felt any regrets for shooting down such rare and beautiful war birds did not have those feelings now. They were after blood, revenge for the lives of the innocent schoolchildren bombed by these heartless demons claiming to be patriots.

Buck caught out of the corner of his eye the explosion of a B-17 Flying Fortress that had been flying off the Yellow Rose's port wing. With the sudden loss of the bomber, the gun crews instantly opened up with the .50 machineguns in the Superfortress. However, Buck knew that the men were shooting at nothing. The fighter jets wisely chose to hang back and let their missiles do their talking.

Cowards! Buck Dubois thought the instant before the B-29 he was piloting completely disintegrated in a fireball.

Several missiles locked onto the big bomber's profile and exploded in almost perfect unison.

F35 Joint Strike Fighter

LTG Groves continued to issue commands as his troops soundly resisted the combined might of the Texas army and air force. Occasionally the general feared the New Republic of Texas forces would overrun the base. However, it appeared that President Ramirez finally allowed the U.S. Air Force to give some air support to the beleaguered base.

The F-22s and F-35s quickly cleared the skies of all opposition aircraft. Once the warplanes removed the threat from the air, Groves was able to direct his remaining tanks to confront the Texas armor. Between the United States Air Force and the soldiers of Fort Hood the army of the New Republic of Texas felt compelled to pull back leaving the bulk of their armor and jets wrecked and burning across the landscape.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 18

By Dwayne MacInnes

President Tucker listened to another fly buzzing in the window. He was half-tempted to open the window to let the pest fly off and explore Austin. However, the president was still waiting to hear the news about the raid on Littleton. If they were successful, there was a good chance the U.S. would sue for peace.

Tucker shot up at his desk when he heard the knock on the door. "Enter," said the president with his excitement barely controlled. A young female aide walked in with a handful of papers.

"Any word about the raid yet?" Tucker asked anxiously.

"Not yet, sir," the woman said placing the papers on the desk before the president. "Here is some legislation before the congress you may want to look over."

Tucker looked over the papers. His face exhibiting disappointment that there still was no word about the raid. The look of disappointment turned to downright anger as the president reviewed one of the sheets of papers on the desk. He read and reread it twice before confronting his aide.

"Sue Ellen, what is this bill here?"

The woman walked over behind the desk, looked over Tucker's shoulder, and read Bill 187: Supreme Rights. She pulled herself up straight and answered in a neutral voice. "Sir, that is the bill being pushed by the Klan."

"I know that!" snapped Tucker. "I've told Congress we can't have this type of trash being debated in the congress."

"Sir, the white supremacists have a number of seats in the House and Senate."

Tucker knew that and it angered him. He wanted a new republic that was better than the United States. However, too many whites either feared or thought they were superior to minorities.

Bill 187 wanted to expel all Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Catholics, and other undesirables from the Republic of New Texas. Tucker had seen several similar bills in the past month and a half. So far, none had passed congress. However, as the economy of the New Republic failed to really take hold, in large part thanks to the embargo and blockade being enforced by the United States, more people were looking for scapegoats to blame their problems on. It was a good chance this bill may pass this time.

"You tell them in Congress that if they pass this bill I will veto it," Tucker grumbled. The last thing he needed was to have the New Republic of Texas equated with Nazi Germany.

"Sir, there was another incident here in Austin," Sue Ellen stated.

Tucker knew what she meant. The attacks had been becoming more frequently across the country as time went on.

"What were they this time?" Tucker asked in a sullen voice.

"Six Hispanics, two Jews, a homosexual and a Catholic."

"No blacks this time?"

"Well, sir the homosexual was an African American."

"Great," grumbled Tucker. "I guess they figured it was two for one."

Before Tucker could say anything more on the topic, another aide walked into the office. "Sir," the excited man said as he placed his compu-phone on the desk atop the papers Sue Ellen brought in earlier. "We have finally received word on the raid."

"Well, it is official my friends," the voice of Flash Limbeck said from the compu-phone. Retrieving Limbeck proved to be a major coup, his broadcasts were still popular amongst his listeners in the States. In addition, it was a great embarrassment to the U.S. to have lost such a high-profile prisoner. Now in Austin, Flash continued to broadcast his show and Tucker made sure he embellished how great things were in the New Republic.

"Yes, it looks like 'Operation Snakehead' undertaken by Buck Dubois against our aggressors has been immensely successful. Although, our raiders were armed with old fighters and bombers, it looks like the United States was unable, with their superior forces, to stop Buck from carrying out his mission.

"What was that mission? You ask. Well, friends it was nothing short of destroying the Army Reserve Center in Littleton, New Mexico that General Powell Davis just recently occupied. It is uncertain if the General had been killed at this time, but at the very least, he would have been severely wounded. Therefore, the snake's head has been removed.

"Now, on a sad note, Buck Dubois and his brave raiders were all shot down. There has been no word if Buck survived. In any event, he will be remembered as a hero to Texas and her people. However, I want you to hear this from me first, the United States is claiming that Buck's raid bombed a school and destroyed several homes and business. I can assure you that this is just propaganda by the Ramirez administration to smear the New Republic of Texas and to make themselves look good.

Tucker looked at the aide who owned the compu-phone. "We bombed a school?"

"Ah, yes sir. In our haste to map out the raid on the Army Reserve Center no one noticed the school on the map across the street from the center."

President Tucker sat back in his chair and put his head in his hands. No matter how Flash spun it, the New Republic of Texas had just bombed a school and killed a number of children. The raiders could have done nothing more to ensure the wrath of the United States against the New Republic of Texas.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 19

By Dwayne MacInnes

Even after Texas had seceded from the United States, many areas remained under U.S. control. For example, all U.S. military bases remained under the control of the various U.S. armed forces. It was of utmost importance that none of these fell to rebel forces, especially those bases housing nuclear arms. This did not pose too much of a problem for the United States, for its military was by far better armed than those of the New Republic of Texas.

Other areas that remained under U.S. control were the oilfields and refineries belonging to those companies that were cooperative and remained loyal to the U.S.. Even President Tucker forbade attacks on any of these areas. Mainly because he felt that once the 60 days allowed Ramirez under the War Powers Act were up, the U.S. would finally recognize Texas as a new nation and would have to turn over all her territory. However, there were a few skirmishes between the rebels and the U.S. military.

West Texas quickly removed itself from the New Republic of Texas and became a new state within the United States. The U.S. government was quick to move in large numbers of military forces to help protect the new state's borders. Clashes between the U.S. and New Republican forces were frequent but hardly drawn-out affairs.

Finally, some of the larger coastal cities, especially those with ports like Galveston and Houston remained under U.S. control. Local partisans would attack the occasional occupation force, but these too were infrequent for neither side wanted to harm the local citizenry.

T.J. thought about all this and more as he waited in a dark corner of a local parking garage in Houston. He knew his father would be here for business, and T.J. wanted to speak to him without anyone else present. The younger Murdock had not spoken with his father since the beginning of the secession.

It was common that the two would not see each other for long lengths of times. George Murdock would sometimes use his son to set up and manage business meetings. It was mainly as a test as well as training to prepare T.J. for taking over the company someday. However, since the war broke out, business meetings for the oil companies in Texas were few and George had little time to worry about his son.

After waiting for what felt like an eternity, T.J. heard the footsteps of a man walking down the concrete ramp. T.J. pulled himself back into the shadows lest he reveal his presence to the wrong person. The younger Murdock smiled as he recognized his father walking alone and tapping the keypad on his car to unlock the door.

"Father," T.J. said as he approached behind the older man.

George stood up straight and slowly turned around. "I wondered when I would hear from you," George stated flatly. "You miss your allowance?"

"We need to talk."

"Indeed we do," the elder Murdock replied as he motioned for T.J. to enter the passenger side of the vehicle.

T.J. quickly glanced around the garage before he entered the vehicle. George seated himself in the driver's side and spoke to the car's computer, "Ignition."

The electric motor hummed to life. Almost every car made in the world today was either electric or a hybrid. George Murdock preferred the hybrid models.

"Well, what is it you want?" George asked as he pulled out of the garage and onto the city street.

"Why did you cut off my access to our money?"

"I guess that is just it. It is not 'our' money, but mine."

"Father, be reasonable. It will be mine someday and I was trying to set up a deal that would secure our company's future."

George arched an eyebrow as he stole a glance towards his son's face. "Really? I'm interested in hearing the details. If you can convince me it is a good plan, you will have access to all the funds you need."

"We are in a unique position," T.J. started. "We can use this war to our advantage."

"How so?"

"If we can successfully win our independence from the United States and if we help back the cause, we could end up with a number of new oilfields within the New Republic of Texas." T.J. noticed the scowl on his father's face and quickly started to lay out his case before his father could interrupt him.

"Think about it. The oil companies that stay with the United States are going to lose their lands and facilities once the Republic wins its independence. Those new properties will be redistributed amongst those companies that were loyal to the cause, especially to those that helped win the war."

T.J. noticed that his father's knuckles were white from gripping the steering wheel so hard, as his face turned deep red. T.J. knew he had failed in convincing his father and now he would have to endure the inevitable tirade that was about to ensue.

"You stupid halfwit!" George yelled. "Did you think about what would happen to our assets outside of Texas? If we back Texas and win this little war as you claim and we do pickup some new properties, it would hardly cover those lost to us in California, Alaska, Louisiana and others scattered across the globe! Do you think the United States is going to sit idly by as we pour money into this stupid cause of yours and then let us keep all our fields and refineries within their borders?"

"But father…"

"No, you listen to me," George said forcefully. "You quit yourself of any notion of helping out the rebels in this war. It will bring us all down."

"Father it is too late. I have made a large order with an arms dealer and I need $700 million or else," T.J. blurted out frantically trying to move his father toward compassion.

George pulled the car over to the sidewalk and slammed on the brakes. As the car squealed to a stop, the elder Murdock stared into the eyes of the younger. "You will get nothing," George said in a cold voice. "I am being watched by the U.S. government and I will not have you ruin my company. I do not agree with this independence nonsense and you are a fool to think Texas will win this war."

"All we have to do is wait for Ramirez's 60 days to expire and we will be free. It is just another few days."

George pushed the button to unlock T.J's door. "You obviously did not hear what happened earlier this morning. After what went down in Littleton there will be an official Congressional backed declaration of war and your little political enterprise will be dead. Much like you now are to me. I am going to report you and your actions to the United States. You may get out."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 20

By Dwayne MacInnes

T.J. walked up to the entrance of the Texas Hold 'Em. Billy Jones, one of the establishment's largest bouncers stood at the darkened glass doors with his arms folded over his western shirt. Now that the Gentleman's Club was also a brothel, the club tightened security.

"Howdy," Jones said tipping his cowboy hat towards T.J. "What's your order of business?"

"Come on Billy, I set this meeting up with Dave Richter your boss days ago."

"That may be true. But you still need to pay to get inside," Billy replied holding out a beefy hand.

T.J. sighed and reached into his back pocket for his wallet. As he retrieved it, he flipped it open and began to count out some bills.

"Wait, none of those useless 'slickbucks'," Billy cautioned. The New Republic of Texas had issued its own currency called Oil Dollars or OD for short. However, they proved as useless within the country as they did outside of it. Gold, silver, and the good old U.S. dollar were the only forms of currency recognized by anyone in the New Republic.

T.J. scowled and pulled out a couple of hundred U.S. dollars with the face of Benjamin Franklin and shoved them into Billy's greedy hand. Then T.J. shoved the hundred oil dollar bills with Sam Houston's face back into his wallet.

"Welcome to the Texas Hold 'Em," Billy said holding the door open for T.J. to enter.

T.J. entered the dark smoke filled foyer. He noticed many new faces inside the establishment. Some were servers, others were prostitutes, and others were patrons. With the country's economy in shambles the only means of employment for many women was in the sex trade. In fact, the only businesses that were really making any money were the ones in the sex trade, even here in the U.S. controlled Houston.

T.J. noticed many minorities amongst the scantily clad women bustling around the room. It had to be especially hard on them considering the restrictions and threats issued by the white supremacists that were growing in number inside Texas.

"Can I help you relax, sir?" a young Asian woman said rubbing her small body against T.J.

T.J. pulled back and shook his head.

"Lula, you leave T.J. to me," a brunette said as she walked up and took T.J's arm.

"Hello, Sally," T.J. smiled finding someone he recognized. Sally smiled in returned.

"Say, Sugar, we have the boardroom prepared as usual," Sally said leading T.J. to the boardroom.

T.J. took the opportunity to have a few drinks before Mr. Vargas arrived. Murdock could not help staring at the two brief cases before him on the table. He only hoped it would be enough to satisfy Mr. Vargas.

The room was set up the same as their previous meeting. A half dozen nude woman waited in the room patiently for their clients to make demands. So far, the only demands made were for the woman behind the bar to make T.J. another Scotch.

T.J. did not have to wait too long before Mr. Vargas accompanied by two large men stepped into the room. Mr. Vargas smiled when he saw T.J. sitting at the table and pulled up a chair across from the oilman.

The two men stood behind Mr. Vargas their eyes hidden behind their dark sunglasses. Their faces bore no expression and they made no noise.

"Good to see you again, Mr. Murdock," Vargas said smiling when he noticed the briefcases in front of T.J. "I take it you and your government were happy with your shipment."

T.J. smiled, "Yes, they were most pleased."

"Ah, good. It always makes me happy when we can please our customers," Vargas smiled. Mr. Vargas then snapped his fingers and the two men behind him started to move. "Ladies, we won't need you tonight. Thank you."

The women began to leave the room. However, before they reached the door one of the two men would give each hostess a U.S. $500 bill. The women smiled and then left the four men alone in the room.

Once they were alone Vargas spoke again still with a friendly smile on his face. "I think this time we should conduct business alone."

T.J. took another sip of his Scotch. The liquid warmed his insides, but it did not fill him with the strength he needed.

"Now, as agreed you will provide me the money for this shipment and we can discuss another order, no?"

T.J. frowned and Vargas noticed it. "Mr. Murdock what is the problem?"

"I don't have all the money. But I can get it if you give me more time," T.J. babbled quickly.

"How much do you have?"

T.J. pushed the briefcases towards Vargas. Vargas motioned for one of his bodyguards to open the cases. One case held U.S. currency all bound up neatly. The other held Texan oil dollars also neatly bound.

"There is about $40 million U.S. and another 300 in oil dollars. I can get the rest from the government in a few days…"

Vargas frowned deeply and held up a hand to forestall T.J's constant babbling. "Look here Mr. Murdock," Vargas said in a bloodless tone. "I will take the U.S. money and consider it a down payment for services rendered. However, your oil dollars are useless to us.

"I don't care how you get the rest, but it must be in U.S. dollars, gold, diamonds or the like," Mr. Vargas said snapping shut the briefcase with the U.S. currency. "Your government's money is not even worth anything in your country. So ask your father, your politicians for the rest of the money. I will give you twenty-four hours, or…well, you really do not want to find out," Vargas concluded with an evil smile before leaving Murdock alone in the room.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 21

By Dwayne MacInnes

Colonel Malloy looked around the cockpit of his B-52 bomber. The huge plane still constituted a significant portion of the U.S. Air Force's bombing force, even though the giant bomber was nearly one hundred years old.

His copilot smiled back and gave him a thumbs-up. The venerable bomber was now only crewed by two, the pilot and copilot. The rest of the crew duties the computer situated behind the two men would run.

Malloy was flying mostly by instruments because of the nature of the night mission over the panhandle of Texas. Their bombing group consisted of twenty B-52s escorted by a variety of fighters. Some were flying on the deck as Wild Weasel, which meant they were flying very low to the ground and jamming all radar and radio signals coming from ground installation.

Colonel Malloy was also flying his bomb group a lot lower than he would have liked. However, the mission called for them to put the fear of God into the people of Texas below them. A score of huge bombers screaming through the night would do that to anyone.

Further south in the interior of Texas other bomber groups were doing the same. However, over Austin a group of B-2 Stealth bombers were carrying-out a similar mission, but without the noise.

"Okay, Mike," Malloy said to his copilot over their headset. "Get the computer set on my mark."

"Roger," Mike replied.

"Three…two…one, mark," Malloy counted down.

"Mark," Mike replied. "Computer bombardier is set. We will release in precisely ten minutes."

Boeing B-52 Stratofortress

T.J. finally exited the Texas Hold 'Em a few hours after Vargas left that afternoon. Murdock was in a serious funk and did not know how he would get out of it. He had scraped together all the money he had access to in order to help pay for the arms Vargas had already delivered. President Tucker was kind enough to grant T.J. a loan of oil dollars. However, he would not relinquish any actual useful funds.

The real kicker and yet the worse blows for T.J. were his father disowning him, removing him from the company, and turning him over to the U.S. authorities. T.J. hoped that his father would regain his senses in the morning and reinstate T.J. into the company -- and family -- as well as forget about turning him into the authorities.

T.J. had spent the remainder of the night getting seriously drunk. He still had a few thousand dollars left and he intended to use a little of it to help forget his troubles. The problem is that it did not work. Even with several women asking if they could help him out of his mood, T.J. had to decline.

T.J. climbed into his Corvette and started the engine. It was an old internal combustion vehicle from the previous century. The engine purred as T.J. pulled the Corvette onto the main street as he headed for Austin. He hoped that maybe he could convince President Tucker to help him secure real funds to pay off Vargas.

It was well past 2 O'clock in the morning when T.J. entered the outskirts of Austin. He noticed some colorful objects slowly descending from the sky. The objects coasted down into the street and would occasionally bounce off his vehicle.

There were few cars on the road at this time so T.J. pulled the Corvette over to the side of the street and stopped. T.J. then opened the door and reached down to retrieve one of the mysterious objects that were still raining down from heaven.

The object was nothing more than a plastic Easter egg with a small parachute attached. The falling objects were mainly in bright primary and pastel colors. With the door still slightly ajar to allow the interior dome light to remain on T.J. cracked the blue egg open. Inside, he found a slip of paper.

T.J. unfolded the paper and squinted to make out the words typed on it. It took several seconds for his inebriated eyes to decipher the message. As the blurry letters finally came into focus, T.J. was able to read, 'Next time it will not be Easter eggs!'

The drunken oilman did not think things could get any worse, but that was until he read that ominous message. T.J. crumpled the paper into a small ball and tossed it out the still open door. He then slammed the car's door shut before he spun the wheels in an effort to return to Houston and get to the Texicorp corporate headquarters. He hoped that maybe he could hide out there until things blew over

T.J. pulled onto the highway just as the emergency sirens started to wail across Austin. A few sporadic shots of antiaircraft fire also climbed into the air. However, it was just for show. The bombers were now long gone and the New Republic had very little ammo for the limited numbers of antiaircraft guns it could boast.

* * * * *

Military officers from all the branches sat in anticipation in the old high school auditorium. There was a low murmur as the crowd conversed with each other. It was in the middle of the night and there were still recovery missions going on around the bombed town of Littleton.

Finally, a sharp voice cried out, "Atten-shun!" All the men and women in the room instantly snapped to attention as General Davis walked on to the stage. His right arm was in a sling and two aides closely followed him.

"You may be seated," Davis instructed the crowd and instantly every officer proceeded to take his or her seat.

"There are not as many of you here as I would like," stated Davis in a grave tone. "Yesterday's bombing mission was meant to take out me and any officers who would have been at the Army Reserve Center. I am sorry that, although I was missed, there have been no survivors found yet at the Reserve Center. Fortunately for you people, you were scheduled for a later briefing." General Davis pushed a button on the metal podium before him and a holographic map of Texas instantly displayed itself behind him.

"As of this minute we are beginning our invasion of Texas. This will be called Operation Texas Wildfire. In three days, we will begin our land advance beginning in the panhandle and swing south toward Austin."

As the general continued to lay out his plans for Operation Texas Wildfire in the last row of the auditorium, an officer in the back of the room was taking extra special notes. He furiously wrote down every word General Davis spoke despite having one arm in a sling. When the briefing was over the officer slipped out of the crowded auditorium and exited the old high school.

General Davis watched the crowded auditorium empty itself after he finished the briefing. He noted many smiles on the faces of the officers as news reached them that they were finally going to move into and retake Texas.

An aide walked over to the general and spoke softly in his ear, "The weasel is away." Davis broke into a rare smile, "Good. Good, give him two hours and then reassemble everyone for another briefing."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 22

By Dwayne MacInnes

Fred Wilson was not pleased. General Davis was not at the Army Reserve Center when the bombs fell. In fact, the very person, who Mr. Wilson had instructed to make sure the General arrive on time, foiled the whole plan by trying to kill the General on his own.

Wilson stayed inside his hotel room the entire day. He was so upset he did not want to leave. The news was playing up the destruction of the grade school, and the residential area hit hardest by the bombs. So now, the populace had lost all appetite for the Oath Keepers.

Only a handful of people called up Wilson to gloat about the bombing of the Army Reserve Center. However, far more people called up to say that, they were no longer going to support or be in the organization. A few even cursed the organization and held him personally responsible for the deaths of the children.

How little did any of them really know how involved Wilson really was. Wilson went to the little refrigerator in the hotel room and grabbed a beer. He was about to take a long drink from the bottle when he heard a knock on the door.

Wilson, now displeased that someone had disturbed him while he was trying to drink, marched over to the door and swung it open without even looking out the little peephole.

"Yeah," he grumbled as the doorway revealed a man in a uniform with arm in a sling.

Wilson broke into an instant smile, "Sorry about that Lieutenant. My nerves are a little raw right now."

The soldier stepped into the room and shut the door.

"I have some very important news that we need to get to the rebels."

Fred Wilson offered the lieutenant a chair and a beer. The soldier gratefully accepted both.

"Okay, this must be big. What is it?"

"This could easily make up for the bombing disaster," the lieutenant stated.

Wilson sat down on a couch and drank his beer as the officer related everything he knew of Operation Texas Wildfire.

"This is big. Very big," Wilson said after the Lieutenant finished his story. "I'll need to get this off ASAP."

The officer stood up and put the empty beer bottle on the coffee table.

"I have to be getting back before I am missed," the lieutenant stated as he headed towards the door.

Wilson stood up and smiled genuinely towards the lieutenant.

"You know you will be remembered as quite the hero after all of this is over. First, the successful ambush you miraculously survived. Second, the information on General Davis. Finally, the data about Operation Wildfire. Yes sir, when Texas is finally free from the United States tyranny, everyone will remember the great service provided by Lt. White."

White smiled in return before he exited the room. After the officer left, Wilson wasted no time contacting the rebels and relaying all that White had told him about Operation Wildfire. The rebels were excited to receive the news.

Feeling much better, Wilson grabbed another beer and was prepared to drink it when another knock on the door interrupted him. Wilson still smiling opened the door to see Sheriff Gracen standing in the hall.

"Come in," Wilson said excitedly. "I am glad you are here."

However, Wilson's smile disappeared when Gracen did not return his affection. Before he could ask what was wrong Gracen reached out with a pair of handcuffs.

"Fred Wilson, you are under arrest for the bombing and the murders of many of the citizens of Littleton," Gracen said as he spun the stunned man around.

The cuffs were on before Wilson could inquire what was happening.

"Are you crazy?" Wilson finally blurted out. "You are part of the Oath Keepers."

"Yes, I was," the sheriff replied. "However, I never planned to partake in any terrorist or treasonable acts. You can count on this as my resignation."

"You'll never get away with this!" screamed Wilson as Gracen handed him off to two deputies waiting in the hallway.

"You may be right. I may even end up in a cell with you. However, I will have you arrested first and I have already been talking to a lawyer about what I should do next."

Gracen knew that there would be an investigation. He prayed that the fact he thought he was joining a neutral organization, whose only purpose was to protect the Constitution, would come to light. He also knew that there were many other law enforcement officers in Littleton and across the United States in a similar situation.

* * * * *

As Lieutenant White left the hotel, he planned on heading back towards the officer's quarters located in a motel further down the road. However, White did not even get the keys in his car when he noticed two Sheriff patrol cars with their emergency lights flashing. They pulled up in the parking lot next to him.

All the blood ran from White's face as he stood there watching as deputies stepped out of the car. White recognized Sheriff Gracen as he walked past the soldier. The deputies were close behind the sheriff and none of them seemed to take much notice of White.

White wiped his brow and was about to unlock his car again when a man walked up behind him.

"Lieutenant White?" the man said.

White spun around to notice four Military Policemen behind him.

"Yes," White said sheepishly as he knew what was coming next.

"You are under arrest for treason and the attempted assassination of General Davis."

Lieutenant White dropped his keys and put his one good arm on his head. The MPs roughly cuffed him and White yelped in pain. His shoulder protested as it was still sore from the old bullet wound he took when the rebels ambushed his convoy.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 23

By Dwayne MacInnes

President Tucker stormed around his office. He glared at his cabinet who had assembled in the room. Even the fly that was a constant irritant, with its buzzing around the room, seemed to fall silent.

"We could do nothing about last night?" Tucker spat out towards the men and women in the room. "Almost every city was hit with those damned Easter eggs and we could not even scramble one jet to stop them."

"Sir, practically every plane we had we used in the assault on the U.S. military bases yesterday and they were almost completely lost," said one aide.

"Do you think I want excuses?" Tucker yelled.

He stomped over to his desk and pulled a pile of papers off its top.

"Do you know what this is?" he asked.

No one ventured to speak up.

"I'll tell you. These are the reports from the northern counties. They are returning to the United States and our military is so shaken that we can do nothing to stop it."

"Sir, what about Operation Texas Wildfire?" a woman asked.

"Oh great! We know when and how General Davis is going to hit us. We could have really done some damage on their advance if we now didn't have to worry about reclaiming the north!"

"Sir," a man wearing the uniform of the New Republic of Texas army said. "I have a plan."

Tucker sat down at his desk and nodded towards the soldier.

"General West if you can salvage our plans from this fiasco I will grant you everything you need."

"Good sir, we will need it," the general stated. "Losing the northern territories may not be so bad. Our army is stretched thin as it is. If we can recall all available units from the north, we can prepare for the United States assault. Plus, it may buy us some time if the U.S. army is tied up trying to restore order to the north."

President Tucker nodded his head as General West returned to his seat. His anger had lessened with the hope that West could work some kind of miracle. Tucker then looked around the room and his eyes locked with Vice President Watson. The two could barely stand each other and it was quite obvious to all in the room that there was no love lost between them.

"Why don't we hit the United States hard," Watson chimed in.

Tucker heard it all before and he did not really want to hear it again.

"We can assemble a dirty bomb or launch a chemical attack on the states bordering us."

"We wouldn't stand a chance," Tucker said in an exhausted voice. "The U.S. could retaliate and wipe us off the map. We have to be careful in our response. Our best bet is to win international recognition or wait until Ramirez exhausts the terms of the War Powers Act."

As Tucker was speaking, a soldier quietly entered the room and he went over to General West and spoke softly in his ear. The general then left the room with the soldier. It was a few minutes later when an obviously agitated West returned to the room.

"Sir," General West interrupted. "I have some very grave news to share."

Tucker could not begin to think what could be even graver than their situation now. However, he nodded for the general to continue.

"Sir, there is chaos breaking out across the country. It appears that the midnight bombing has shaken up the populace. Some are rioting, some are planning anti-government protests and some are just trying to flee."

Tucker sighed deeply. How ironic that nearly two months before these same people were holding anti-government protests against the United States. Now, they were protesting against their new government.

"How are the police and the military handling it?" Tucker asked.

"It is almost beyond our control," West replied. "This will greatly hinder our plans against the U.S. advance from the north."

Tucker wiped his brow, "Okay, this should have been expected. Try to retrieve as many troops as possible from the northern counties and have them begin setting up defenses."

"I'm afraid that there is more news, sir," General West continued. "The panhandle and the northern counties next to the southern border of Oklahoma to the eastern border of New Mexico have proclaimed themselves the new state of North Texas and they have been readmitted into the Union."

Everyone in the room shared the surprised look on Tucker's face. Normally it would take longer for the Congress to admit a new state. Even West Texas had to wait a couple of weeks. This was unheard of, yet it was not a complete surprise.

"Okay, we expected to lose 'North Texas' as they are calling themselves. General West we must get those troops moved ASAP before any other territories decide to break off. If only they could have waited a little longer before voting in a new state," Tucker mused aloud.

"Ah, sir," General West began in a solemn voice. Tucker's eyes widened, he could not believe there was more yet to come. "The United States Congress has declared war on the New Republic of Texas half an hour ago."

Everyone broke into shouts of disbelief and panic as chaos spread across the room. Tucker slammed his fist upon his desk in renewed anger; his last major hope for independence had just vanished up in smoke. They should have never tried to bomb the Army Reserve Center in Littleton, New Mexico. With the deaths of the schoolchildren, the wrath of a nation had instantly turned against Texas. Even those people in the United States sympathetic to the New Republic's cause were now demanding blood.

President Tucker knew that Texas's only hope of independence would be to defeat the United States military in battle. It would have to be a complete and crushing defeat. The only problem was that the army of the New Republic stood a very slim chance of success.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 24

By Dwayne MacInnes

President Ramirez stood in the dark room deep inside Malmstrom's Air Force Base. Officers surrounded him as he watched the sergeant at the terminal deftly move some controls. The image on the screen in front of the audience showed the interior of the old state governor's office in Austin.

"Amazing," Ramirez said fascinated by the image playing out before him. "You can pick up audio as well?"

"Yes sir," Captain Richardson answered.

"Don't they sweep the room for bugs?"

"Three to four times a day," Richardson replied. "However, our device, which resembles and acts like a fly has a very low electronic signature that can switch frequencies randomly. This makes counter-surveillance very difficult. In fact, only the very best sweeping devices have a slight chance of detecting it.

"The main source of power is in the internal battery. It is charged from the wings , which happen to be solar panels. The eyes are micro-cameras and the body acts like a microphone picking up any surrounding sounds."

"Impressive, very impressive," Ramirez repeated. "How many of these do we have in operation?"

The captain looked towards General Lowell who was in charge of the project. He nodded his head allowing the captain to answer the president's question. "Well, sir we only have the one."

"One, really?" Ramirez asked incredulously.

"Yes sir, this was only a prototype for testing before the whole war broke out. So, we received authorization to 'test' it out over in the governor's office."

Ramirez turned towards the general and asked him straight out, "What other little devices do you have like this?"

"I'm afraid at this time all other research is still highly classified, sir. I do not even rank high enough to know," he replied.

Ramirez arched an eyebrow as he studied the general. The man remained stone-faced so Ramirez dropped the line of questioning.

"Does this thing have any internal recording devices?"

"Yes, sir," Captain Richardson continued. "The fly can store up to 72 hours worth of images and sounds that we can dump later into the mainframe via the satellite in geosynchronous orbit above Texas. Once there, we can set teams working on the recordings and in a matter of hours have it broken down and readied for further intelligence work."

The president nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Have there been many cyber attacks on this installation?"

General Lowell smiled, "No sir. Very few people know of this. There have been some attacks on other military computers. However, we have been leading the hackers into false files allowing us to back track to their base of attack."

"You make it sound easy," Ramirez said with a smile.

"It is actually very complicated and involved, sir," Lowell continued. "However, this has allowed us to place some viruses into their network. When the word is given, we'll activate the viruses which will essentially shut down all communication in Texas. It is called Operation Whiteout."

"That is getting above my head, general," the president laughed.

President Ramirez continued his tour of the top-secret installation. As far as the world knew, Malmstrom's Air Force Base was the main hub for the nuclear missiles dotting across the plains of eastern Montana. As far as the world knew, President Ramirez was still in Washington, D.C.

With the recent bombing of Littleton, Ramirez's popularity soared to a 95% approval rating. Most people wanted Texas to pay for the deaths of the schoolchildren whose bodies the rescue workers were still pulling out of the rubble. The fringe elements of the right and left were the only ones who did not approve of the President. The right felt that Ramirez had orchestrated the bombing in order to gain approval for the war and the left thought the war with Texas was a waste of resources and lives.

After another half hour of touring the base, Ramirez felt it was time to leave. The president and his retinue left for the trip back to D.C. General Lowell, Captain Richardson and Sergeant Wilcox had the dark room to themselves. They continued to monitor the governor's office even though Tucker and his staff had long ago left.

* * * * *

Vice President Watson entered the president's office. She knew everyone was now gone and she and one aide had the room to themselves. She went over to Tucker's desk and activated the computer built into the desk.

"Ma'am, should we be doing this?" the young aide said with a slight quiver in his voice.

"Yes," she replied. "I need to find those raiders near the New Mexico border. I have a very important mission for them to perform." Watson continued to search through the president's files on the computer until she found what she needed. She then gave the command to the computer that in turn put her through to the raiders.

The holographic image of the cowboy with the .45 Colt Peacemaker came into view. "Yeah?" the man said in a slow drawl.

"Is this Cobb?" Watson asked.

"What if it is? Who are you?"

"I'm your vice president and I have an important mission for you," snapped Watson.

"Yes'm!" Cobb said forcefully as he regained his composure.

"You are to follow Plan Stampede," Watson said. "Repeat, Plan Stampede."

"Immediately," Cobb said.

"That is all!" Watson said in conclusion before shutting down the computer.

"Ma'am, what is Plan Stampede?" the aide asked.

"They are to cross the border into New Mexico and terrorize the populace."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 25

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Lowell watched between Captain Richardson and Sergeant Wilcox's shoulders at the conversation between Watson and Cobb. He had Wilcox replay it again so that he could make sure he heard everything correctly. The room was deathly silent for a few minutes before General Lowell finally cleared his throat.

"Sergeant," Lowell said in a firm voice. "This may take us some time. Please, go get us some coffee."

The sergeant knew that the general wanted to speak to Richardson alone so he stood up and left the room to get three coffees. After the noncommissioned officer left the room, the general walked over towards the terminal. He looked toward the captain and motioned for her to take the chair recently vacated by Wilcox.

As the captain took the chair, General Lowell typed a code into the terminal. Displayed on the screen was "RK-1: Activate (Y) (N)". Captain Richardson looked at the general with surprise on her face. She had heard of RK-1 but did not know that it actually existed. The official title was for 'Remote Killer'; however, the true name was for Rimsky-Korsakov, a little black humor from the engineers.

General Lowell reached over and punched the 'Y' key. A new image came to replace the one transmitted by the fly on the screen. The images of a mob of people protesting and being contained by police. Also in the image were New Republican soldiers which keyed Richardson in to the fact that the RK-1 was located outdoors.

"I assume you know how to handle the controls," General Lowell stated.

"Yes sir," Captain Richardson replied. She wiped the sweat gathering on her palms onto her uniform before gripping the controls.

"The RK-1 is located outside the governor's office. You will wait until Watson leaves the capital building before you commence your attack," the general ordered.

The captain swallowed hard before issuing a, "yes sir."

Richardson sent the RK-1 into flight and had it maneuver around so that she could watch the front door to the governor's office. People were jostling and chanting while waving protest signs as police and soldiers kept the entryway to the governor's office clear. In all the chaos, Richardson thought she would miss catching Watson exiting the building.

However, Captain Richardson did not have to wait long before the vice president of the New Republic of Texas walked out with the aide still in tow. A police officer escorted the pair down the steps. Richardson flipped a switch and then activated the automatic targeting system. With the crosshairs locked in place, the captain only had to make minute adjustments as the RK-1 moved in.

* * * * *

The aide listened to Watson, as she again expounded on how weak President Tucker was. Further, she stated that if she were president, the United States would have already been negotiating a peace treaty. The aide only listened with half an ear for he had heard it all before. He knew that Watson tended to be egotistical and often over inflated her accomplishments.

As they exited the building and started to walk down the steps towards the sidewalk the aide noticed a large bumblebee float through the crowd of protesters. Suddenly it buzzed by him. As Watson made her way through the escorting soldiers, she absentmindedly brushed at the flying insect that headed towards her. She was in midsentence when the large bee landed on her neck and instantly stung her in the jugular. Before Watson could swat the bee, it was already flying away.

"Ouch!" Kimberly Watson exclaimed as she collapsed onto the sidewalk.

The aide and several soldiers quickly knelt down next to the vice president and noticed the large welt where the bee had stung her. The aide realized that Watson had stopped breathing.

"Get help!" the aide yelled towards the crowd gathering around the vice president. He immediately began to administer CPR. However, Kimberly Watson was already dead. The RK-1 contained a super-concentrated venom that it had injected into the vice president. She was dead before she hit the ground.

* * * * *

Captain Richardson's hands shook uncontrollably. She had never killed anyone in her life. She trained for it, but now that she did it, she felt cold and numb.

General Lowell then proceeded to shut down the RK-1. Immediately the screen and controls returned to the fly in the governor's office.

"Well, done soldier," the general said in a flat voice. "You did your country a service."

A few minutes later Sergeant Wilcox returned to the room with three hot cups of coffee. The general took one and sipped at it. However, Captain Richardson only stared at her cup. Wilcox noticed even in the dim light that she had lost her color and was slightly shaking.

"Captain, are you okay?" Wilcox asked.

"Captain you look ill," General Lowell stated noticing for the first time how faint she appear. "Return to you room and take the rest of the day off."

Without saying a word, Richardson left the room. As she slowly made her way to her quarters, she played and replayed the assassination she had committed only moments before through her mind.

Once she was in her room, Captain Richardson found a bottle of wine and proceeded to drink two glasses before she made her way into the bathroom. She turned on the shower and let the hot water steam up the small room.

Richardson looked down at her hands and noticed how they shook uncontrollably. She made them into fists and tried to will them to stop. However, they continued to shake.

As if in a trance, Richardson left the bathroom with the shower still running and proceeded to gather up her pajamas, a robe, towel and a few other things. She then returned to the bathroom.

She surveyed herself in the fog free mirror and barely recognized the wraithlike visage that returned her gaze. The captain then undressed. She neatly folded her uniform and placed it on the counter next to the sink alongside her large fluffy bath towel.

As if for the first time, Richardson noticed her small travel bag also on the countertop. She always took it with her and she kept all the necessities she needed because the military could send her on a trip in a moments notice.

The captain unzipped the bag and pulled out the .45 automatic Colt pistol. It used to belong to her grandfather and she always traveled with it. Like a salve it had always soothed away her fears and worries in the past.

Richardson looked at the black pistol and then looked at her naked form in the mirror once again. Then in one smooth motion, she pulled back the slide and placed the gun under her chin.

* * * * *

An alarm sounded in the barracks shortly after the pistol shot echoed down the hall. It took the security detail less than two minutes to have the door kicked in. The airmen found Captain Richardson's twitching body on the moist bathroom floor. The condensation in the room mingled with the blood pouring out the back of Richardson's head.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 26

By Dwayne MacInnes

T.J. Murdock's head was pounding when he awoke inside his Corvette the next day. T.J. sat up and blinked his eyes as the bright afternoon sun shone through his windshield. He did not know how he wound up at the Texicorp headquarters building in Houston. In fact, he vaguely remembered something about an Easter egg while in Austin.

T.J. groaned as his scrambled brain started to reassemble the previous day. Then as the memory of his meeting with Vargas materialized, T.J. jumped up. He needed money and he needed it fast.

Cursing himself T.J. stepped out of the car. Why did he return to Houston? The U.S. government would surely be looking for him. Vargas's men would be looking for him. In fact, in all of Texas, Houston was the worse place for him to be. T.J. remembered that it all made sense when he was drunk. Now, in the light of day, with a raging hangover, things appeared the complete opposite.

For the first time, T.J. realized that the parking lot was empty. Only his blue Corvette occupied the huge lot. Slowly T.J. realized that he was alone at the building and that he still had an access key. If his father had not changed the security code, there was still a chance T.J. could get inside. Moreover, maybe he could find something of value to exchange to Vargas for his life.

Hope started to rekindle itself in his heart as T.J. started to walk briskly across the asphalt to the building's entrance. He was only a hundred yards away from the building when he heard the sound of an airplane's engine. It was growing louder. T.J's curiosity got the better of him. He stopped and looked in the sky behind him.

Shielding his eyes with a hand, T.J. watched as a civilian propeller driven private plane grew larger.

"Damn, fool!" T.J. grumbled, "he's flying too low."

The airplane continued to grow in size as it approached closer to where T.J. stood. The plane did not relent in its descent. Cursing loudly, T.J. dove to the ground as the plane flew over him. As quickly as that it collided with the building. A great fireball mushroomed into the air as the Texicorp building began to burn.

Showered in debris T.J. stood up and brushed off his clothes. The explosion did not help his splitting headache. Perhaps that was the reason why he at first did not hear the jubilant cries of the crowd marching down the street.

A large group of people holding signs (and guns) marched down the street towards the building. T.J. realized that the pilot was not aiming for him but instead the Texicorp building. Panic seized his heart. If the angry mob recognized him as a Texicorp executive, albeit a former one, he could be in serious danger. Without a second thought, T.J. sprinted in the opposite direction.

Running down the street, T.J. found that a few other people were running away as other mobs converged on the burning building. Chaos was now the rule in Houston. Fear compelled T.J. to run even faster.

Ducking down a side street, T.J. noticed police in riot gear approaching him. T.J. stepped into a doorway of a shop to let the police pass. A couple of officers stopped momentarily to look at him. They obviously did not see him as a threat, so they continued on their way.

T.J. moved more cautiously through the downtown area of Houston. More rioters were torching buildings and more police and soldiers marched to meet the new threat. Tear gas permeated the air. Furthermore, the smell of burning alcohol and gasoline from homemade Molotov Cocktails came to T.J's nose. The bottles were shattered against walls and spread their fiery fuel all over.

Soon gunfire could be heard in the distance. T.J's panic renewed itself and he desperately looked for some place to hide. Buildings were being torched, cars were being overturned, and even dumpsters were set ablaze. None of these could offer any security so T.J. just kept running.

* * * * *

Tucker looked out the window of his office. The protesting mob was now a chaotic mix of rioters and looters. Law enforcement personnel and soldiers fought desperately to restore order. The fact that all communication systems were down hindered the efforts of the various parties to coordinate their efforts.

President Tucker sighed as he noticed more flames and smoke lick the horizon. More sounds of gunfire and sirens filled the air. It had been a long day. It started with the U.S. bombers flying over nearly every city in Texas and delivering an ominous message. That, in turn, led to the antigovernment protests that now were a full riot. In addition, the breakaway nation lost some of the northern counties. These counties became the new state of North Texas. In addition, the United States Congress officially declared war on the New Republic of Texas. Finally, in between these events, the vice president had an unfortunate accident. She was fatally stung by a bumblebee.

"Tell me again why we lost communication?" Tucker said as he turned towards his staff.

"Sir, in an effort to hack into the U.S. military's computers, we stumbled upon some dummy accounts," began an aide. "We thought they were legit, but it was a ruse so that the U.S. hackers could backtrack to us. They managed to infest our network with every type of malware you can think of. The various viruses have shutdown all our computers, including compu-phones."

"How long before we can fix it?" the president pressed.

"We don't know."

"How about the old phone lines? Surely we can use those."

"Sir, the computers that operate the phone lines are also out of service. We are down to sending messages through radio or good old-fashioned couriers."

"Radio?" snorted the president. "You gotta be kidding me."

"No, we have some old radios, walkie talkies, CBs and the like that we are distributing to our government and military forces."

"Radios," President Tucker said derisively under his breath as he returned to his vigil at the window.

He flicked at a fly with a finger and watched it buzz away.

"Might as well send smoke signals. We seemed to have plenty of that on hand."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 27

By Dwayne MacInnes

Flash Limbeck was surprised when a small squad of soldiers arrived at his apartment. Flash decided it was best to stay indoors on a day such as this. The streets were dangerous and unless his building ended up torched, there was little reason to go out.

However, according to the soldiers, the government still had uses for him. Limbeck puzzled over how they could use him. He could not make his usual webcasts because all the computers and communications devices were inoperable. Naturally, they did not work because of the viruses implanted by the United States. However, the armed men convinced him it was in his best interest to follow them. They promised him a safe and secure journey. Flash worried about how much he could trust them.

As the men left the building, Flash witnessed firsthand the chaos overrunning Austin. Smoke and flames filled the horizon. The smell of teargas and smoke permeated the air and the sound of gunfire, sirens and voices echoed off the buildings. As the soldiers escorted Limbeck to an armored vehicle, something caught Flash's eye. The pundit halted and focused on the object, or rather objects.

The squad stopped a few seconds and looked to see what it was that had brought Limbeck up short. A slight breeze had cleared the air enough that the men could see the bodies of four people swinging from a lamppost. Flash dropped to his knees when he noticed that it was a Hispanic man, woman, and two girls hanging by their necks. Pinned to the dead man's chest was a note that read simply, "Spics".

Flash vomited into the street as tears ran down his cheeks. Even though he had railed against minorities and illegals in the past, he never wanted any to come to harm. He could not help that maybe his own broadcasts may have influenced the maniacs responsible for this atrocity.

"Come on," a major said softly to Flash. "We have work to do."

Flash regained his feet and entered the vehicle. The soldiers started to pile in next to Limbeck. However, before the last men could climb in, the major stopped them.

"For God's sake. Cut them down," the major ordered.

The soldiers spent less than five minutes in lowering the murdered family. They laid them on the sidewalk, removed the rope from their necks and the sign from the father's chest. When that was done, they reverently covered their bodies with a blanket from the back of the armored vehicle.

No one said a word as the vehicle wound its way away from the building and through the debris-laden streets. It was a good twenty minutes later that the vehicle pulled up to a building with a large red and white tower on its roof.

The soldiers silently escorted Limbeck into the building. A man obviously waiting for them hurriedly approached.

"Damn, you guys are late," he cursed.

"Sorry, we had some important business to attend to first," the major replied tersely. "We have delivered Limbeck as ordered."

The man looked at Flash and extended a hand. Flash returned the handshake although the image of the hanging family still played through his mind and robbed his grip of any strength.

"My name is Brian Wilson," the man stated. "I will be your production manager."

Flash looked at Brian dumbly. "I assume you expect me to broadcast. But how? There probably isn't a working computer in all of Texas."

Wilson smiled, "We still have radio. The citizens of Texas are rummaging through their attics as we speak and are finding those long forgotten appliances from decades past. They are waiting to hear word of how we are fairing."

"Not very well," Flash said flatly.

"Wrong!" Brian smiled. "We are coming together as a nation to oppose our aggressors the United States of America and we will stand strong."

"Are you crazy?" Flash yelled. "We are falling apart. Have you looked outside lately? Have you seen the flames? Have you seen the bodies?" Flash choked as he spat out the last word.

"We must not let people smell fear or panic or all is lost," Brian said in a firm voice. "Your job is to say what the government tells you to say. After all, facts have never concerned you before."

The barb from Wilson's last remark caused Flash to flinch. "I will not do it," Flash said stubbornly.

"I'm afraid you will do it," Brian stated as he nodded towards the major. The major pulled an automatic pistol out of his holster and chambered a round. Then he pointed the gun towards Limbeck.

Flash, already pale from his experience with the lynched family turned even whiter. He merely nodded his head and followed Brian into the recording studio. The pundit sat in a chair and put on an old headset as Wilson worked on an archaic broadcasting board.

"We are on the air in three…two…" Brian pointed towards Flash.

"Hello loyal listeners," Flash began. "The U.S. has tried to silence our voice but they have failed."

* * * * *

Cobb surveyed the men he had gathered for his next raid. There were over one hundred of them and all were armed and mounted on horses. They had discussed using vehicles but given the terrain, the raiders wanted horses.

Cobb checked his compu-phone again. The damn thing still did not work. He had heard a rumor that a few minutes after the vice president ordered Plan Stampede she had died. Even worse was the fact that none of the raiders' compu-phones worked.

The cowboy swung into the saddle of his horse and looked back towards the men all mounted. "Okay boys," Cobb shouted. "Today's the day you have been waiting for."

The men screamed in excitement as Cobb continued to speak. "We do not go against military convoys; we are not rescuing fat web-jockies. Today we will strike terror into the heart of the citizens of New Mexico and the United States. There are no rules today. We have been working hard for the New Republic of Texas and today we have been given a furlough. You will find the women across the border there very…ah, accommodating."

Rough and coarse laughter broke through the ranks of the raiders. Some passed a few crude jokes amongst each other.

"When we are done," Cobb continued. "We will burn those towns to the ground. Those citizens will come to know true fear."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 28

By Dwayne MacInnes

Colt 45 Peacemaker

The sun was nearly behind the western horizon when Cobb lowered his binoculars. The small town was quiet. His men spread out several yards behind him in the rocky hills. They sat waiting for him to give them the go signal.

Cobb made his way back towards where his men hid. The horses stamped and neighed in anticipation as the raiders comforted their mounts. Cobb swung up into his saddle.

"It looks like they won't be expecting a thing," Cobb stated as he checked his .45 Peacemaker. "We'll wait until sundown and then we'll give them hell."

The men started to prepare themselves for the raid. They checked their rifles, pistols, grenades, and bombs. They would raze this town. They felt that this action would force the United States to spend some precious resources. Resources in trying to pin them down. If they were lucky, they could keep the U.S. off balance long enough for the New Republic of Texas to defeat the U.S. armed forces now gathering in North Texas.

"Remember we ride in, raise hell and ride out the other side," Cobb reminded his raiders. "We'll try to hit another town across country. That should keep the New Mexican law enforcement and the military scrambling."

"Did you see anything that should give us concern?" asked one of the raiders.

"Nothing," Cobb replied. "It looks like everyone went to bed early tonight. Well, we'll give them a wake up call soon enough."

"What about loot and women?" another raider asked.

"Not in this town," Cobb cautioned. "We want to draw whatever cops and soldiers in the area here -- to this town. In that way, the next town should be that more vulnerable. We can take some time there, but not too long."

"Shouldn't take Charlie long," one man joked.

Everyone started to laugh except Charlie.

"Okay, one last weapons check," Cobb said. "I want you to use those Molotov cocktails to lighten up the town. Throw a couple of hand grenades in a house and shoot anybody who gets in our way. We stay off the roads and head out overland. That should hinder pursuit.

"Remember to keep an eye out for barbed wire and fences. This is mostly open land but there is always the danger. I believe everyone has a buddy so keep tight."

The sun's final dim rays vanished over the horizon. Cobb stood up in his saddle and raised his pistol in the air. "Okay boys, let's go!"

The men behind him screamed like a horde of wild banshees released from Hell. They rode their horses hard as they neared the sleepy town. There was not a car even on the road as the men rode into the outskirts. The raiders started to shoot their weapons in the air.

However, the air above them soon took on a whoop-whoop sound. Cobb wheeled his horse around and glared into the night sky. It was still dimly blue with the vanishing light of the sun. The waning light still allowed him to see the forms of several Blackfoot attack helicopters bearing down on him.

Cobb cursed aloud and shouted towards his men, "It's a trap! Scatter!"

Several men broke off in different directions. Their elation had quickly evaporated and now fear took hold. Some of the raiders tried to fire their guns at the hovering helicopters. However, their bullets merely ricocheted off the armored hide.

Soon, the helicopters aided with infrared optics opened up on the scattering raiders. Machineguns spat steel bullets and chewed man and beast alike into a bloody pulp. Cobb's horse reared up dumping the cowboy onto the ground. Normally Cobb would not have lost his balance, but with all the chaos breaking out around him, he ended up on the concrete road.

It turned out to be a mixed blessing. As Cobb's mount tore off for the surrounding hills, a rocket exploded and scattered the poor beast's carcass across the New Mexican landscape. Cobb wasted no time in seeking cover behind a building.

The firefight between the raiders and the helicopters was one sided and short. The helicopters broke out of formation to attack the fleeing raiders. Cobb realized he only had a few moments before one of them found him. He frantically searched for a place to hide.

Cobb noticed that there was a nearby manhole cover in the road. As the helicopters finished their grim business of gunning down every last raider, Cobb ran to the steel cover and was able to get his fingers under it. The pure adrenaline racing through his veins granted him the strength he needed to lift the cover and jump down the hole. The steel disc slid back into position the same time Cobb's feet landed into the wet muck in the storm sewer.

He could still hear the occasional scream of a dying man or horse above him. The constant staccato of machinegun fire and the explosions of missiles rocked the subterranean tunnel. Chunks of concrete fell around Cobb's head and dust infiltrated his eyes. The cowboy in the dark tunnel started to run as fast as he safely could. He managed to find his small keychain flashlight to help aid him in his escape.

Map of Texas

General Davis looked over a map inside his base in North Texas. Several officers joined the general and were in the midst of discussing their attack into the New Republic of Texas when an aide walked in and handed a sheet of paper to the general.

"Sir, you said you wanted to sign this personally," the aide stated.

Davis looked at the paper; it was the military tribunal's verdict against Lieutenant White, court-martial and a death sentence. "Well," Powell Davis said to those within earshot as he signed the paper, "he should have stayed at the Army Reserve Center when the bombs fell. At least then, he would have died with his rank and honor."

Davis looked up at the gathered officers, "I don't enjoy signing the death sentence for a soldier. However, this White really put us on to him when first, he miraculously survived a raid on his convoy and then he happens not to attend an officers gathering at the Reserve Center. I lost a lot of good men in that bombing run and his hands are red with theirs and every citizen who died in that raid."

General Davis handed the paper back to the aide and returned to the map. He looked it over and finally asked one of his officers, "Major Owens, how is Operation Whiteout working?"

"Very well, sir," the major replied. "The Texans have been reduced to using radio. We can easily listen to their transmission. I don't think there is a working computer in their country."

"Great," Davis said. "Okay, I want every occupied town -- like Houston -- closed off. I don't know why we did not impose a curfew or why people were allowed to leave and enter it so freely. I'll find out later. But now all occupied areas will be closed off. Is that clear?"

The officers nodded their understanding. General Davis looked again down at the map. "I don't want the enemy getting wind of Operation Back Burn."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 29

By Dwayne MacInnes

F-105 Thunderchief

The U.S. army pushed its way south through the panhandle region now known as the state of North Texas. Many bridges were sabotaged and demolition teams had to work constantly to disarm the IEDs. The New Republic of Texas soldiers had left these as they retreated back across their new border.

This caused the U.S. military to move at a snail's pace. There were some opportunities for the U.S. forces to rush forward, but General Davis always ordered the military to continue its slower rate. Many officers doubted if Davis really wanted to win this war because the slower advance was allowing the Texans to reform and gain more reinforcements.

The combat tended to be one sided with the better-trained and equipped U.S. forces easily pushing aside the Texans. Davis also warned against the harsh treatment of civilians. Only if there was solid proof that a civilian was aiding and abetting the enemy could the military make an arrest

There were a few partisan forces; however, most of the citizens of North Texas looked upon the U.S. as liberators. It meant a return to stability, something that Texas lacked every since it seceded.

At night when most of the combatants on both side opted to rest, many U.S. G.I.s would listen to some old radios that they found along their trek south. The music was a mixture of rock and country, the popular hits from the last half a century. It originated from Austin.

The voice of Flash Limbeck played on the radios as he introduced the music. Limbeck knew that the U.S. forces listened to his broadcasts so he always tried to make it something personal for them.

"Hello there, to our aggressors from the north," Limbeck broadcast. "It appears that your government is forcing you to fight in a futile war against the peace-loving people of Texas. We are not your foes but your friends. I have a special song here for you. It's that old classic tune from last decade called, 'A Soldier's Dear John' performed by Billy Jackson. As you enjoy the music, please listen to the lyrics and remember that your sweetheart could right now be in the arms of another man."

No one really paid much heed to Limbeck's propaganda. In fact, the music selection was so good that many soldiers looked forward to the nightly broadcast. The officers allowed the men and women to listen to it because it actually raised morale instead of lowering it.

F-104 Starfighter

The old governor's office again was crowded with aides, top military advisors, and fellow politicians. President Tucker looked at an old highway map laid out on his desk. It was irritating that they had to resort to using old style maps because there was not a single computer available in Texas that could project the usual 3D holographic ones everyone knew.

"General," Tucker asked as he pointed to the new border of the New Republic and North Texas with an unlit cigar. "How are the reinforcements coming along?"

"As best as could be expected, sir," General West replied. "We are still forced to use old radios for communication. Plus, there are still some pockets of rioters and protesters that we are dealing with.

"We are damn lucky that General Davis appears to be in no great hurry to head into Texas. That may be our one advantage. It is allowing us to mass our forces for one climatic battle."

"General, I want all the stops out," Tucker said in a stern voice. "I want every available piece of military hardware that can be spare thrown into the fray. I want anything that may offer us an advantage available. This will be the last showdown and we have to win." Tucker emphasized his last point by slamming a fist onto the map.

"Do we have any aircraft left at all?" Tucker asked.

"Yes sir," an aide replied. "We have a handful of F-105 Thunderchiefs and F-104 Starfighters. They weren't ready for combat when we assaulted the military bases. However, they are ready now and hidden away for the moment we need them."

"Good," Tucker said. "I want any volunteers to fly anything that can get airborne across the country. Be it a civilian plane, a blimp, a flipping kite -- I don't care. I just want the U.S. Air Force distracted so that those fighters have a chance to aid in the final assault."

General West nodded his head, "We will start recruiting immediately."

"General, I will leave the timetable to the assault in your hands," Tucker gravely stated. "However, General, do not wait too long or all is lost. Is that understood?"

"Yes sir," West replied.

"Do we have any intelligence on what the U.S. is planning?" Tucker turned to an aide who was holding a briefcase.

"I'm sorry sir. But, the U.S. military has closed down all borders and with the loss of the computers we can’t get any reliable information. However, it appears that from our spies in North Texas that General Davis is going to continue his drive south towards Austin."

"Well, let's hope he continues to move slowly and predictably. If we can continue to lull them into a false sense of invulnerability they will let there guard down. That, gentlemen, may be the chance we need to end this war once and for all."

General West did not want to correct the president about his forces lulling the U.S. military into a false sense of invulnerability. The truth of the matter was that the United States simply outclassed them in military hardware and experienced soldiers.

However, there was a chance that Davis may become careless and that would be the best time to strike. General West knew that as soon as this meeting was over, he would need to head north and prepare his troops for the last assault President Tucker wanted.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 30

By Dwayne MacInnes

T.J. ran from one ruined building to another. A heavy rain fell from the night sky The clouds obstructed any moonlight that normally would have filtered down onto Houston. This was both a blessing and a curse. The blessing because the city had a strict curfew and anyone found outside after 9:00 P.M. would be arrested. It was a curse because T.J. could not see much in the darkness.

To make matters worse, all lights had to be blacked-out by nightfall as well. The military was not taking any chances in allowing the rebels any aid in assaulting the city. The city was now completely cut-off from the surrounding countryside.

T.J's foot splashed into a large puddle. The former oil executive cursed under his breath. He dearly needed stealth. The U.S. military were not the only ones after his hide. The Venezuelans were also interested in him. He owed them a lot of money and now he was sure that they were tracking him.

The soaked man dressed only in a dirty and torn business suit shivered as he finally huddled inside an old overturned dumpster. The U.S. military and local law enforcement were able to reestablish law and order only a few days ago. However, by that time, many buildings had been set ablaze. It was in these ruins that T.J. had stayed. He was hiding amongst the debris and constantly on the move. He had to stay ahead of the Venezuelan hit squad that Mr. Vargas had after him.

T.J. buried himself inside the garbage that was still partially inside the dumpster. He shoved wads of paper down his wet shirt to help towel himself off. Then he wrapped himself inside a mysterious fabric. It could have been a tablecloth or even a bed sheet at one time. It mattered little to T.J. he only wanted to use it to help keep warm.

Sleep did not come easy anymore. Between the shivering cold, the fear of a hit squad shooting him, and the U.S. armed forces arresting him, T.J. could only close his eyes after extreme exhaustion finally overcame him.

In a fitful dream, T.J. could hear voices speaking in Spanish. T.J. awoke shuddering in fear. He listened intently praying it was only his mind messing with him. Then he heard something fall over and crash onto the ground.

"Maldita sea!" a voice swore above a whisper.

"Cállate!" a second voice whispered harshly.

A third man's voice whispered, "Dónde esta el hombre?"

"No sé"

T.J. cautiously poked his head out of the dumpster. He could see three men in the early dawn light working their way through the burned-out building. They were carefully walking towards his hiding spot.

Fright overtook T.J. and he bolted from the dumpster. He ran through the soggy charcoal littering the street. He did not have any idea of where he was going to go, but he needed to flee before the three men captured him.

"Allí!" one man shouted as he pointed towards the fleeing oilman.

T.J. did not waste time to look over his shoulder. He let the adrenaline in his system carry him onward. He heard a pistol fire behind him. The bullet slammed into a steel girder near T.J's head with a metallic clank.

Another shot whistled past T.J's head as he ducked behind a brick building. T.J. gained the street and wasted no time in crossing it. He could hear the footsteps of the men pursuing him. T.J. ran down an alley.

As he passed broken wooden crates and dented garbage cans, T.J. found himself in a dead-end alley. A tall brick wall prevented him from exiting the far end. Another shot flew past and lodged itself into the brick wall. Chips of broken brick pelted T.J. as he stopped in his tracks.

T.J. raised his hands and quickly turned towards his pursuers. The three men laughed as they slowly walked towards the younger Murdock.

"Señor Murdock," one of the assassins spoke with a heavy accent. "You owe our employer a lot of money. I do not suppose you have it on you. Because if you do and you hand it over to us we might let you go for another day."

The assassin's companions laughed at this. T.J. slumped to the ground on his knees. His hands shook in fear above his head.

"Please," Murdock begged. "I do not have the money. It is utter chaos out there. Once things return to normal, I'll get the money."

"That is enough Señor Murdock," the man said with a sneer as he took another slow step towards T.J. "Your begging only sickens us. However, I suppose Señor Vargas would enjoy it."

The man turned towards a companion and spoke in rapid Spanish. The companion laughed and pulled out his compu-phone. Then he proceeded to record T.J. on his knees shaking.

"One more time with the begging, por favor, for the camera."

T.J's mind went blank. A cold dread seized his heart. He knew that he had finally reached the end. These men would finally kill him and he was utterly helpless to prevent it. Tears began to roll down his cheeks.

"Sirs," T.J. sobbed. "Show some mercy. If you let me go I'll give you more money than you can imagine."

The leader laughed, "I do not know. Señor Vargas, you see, has paid us a lot of dinero. This we have, you have nothing to offer us in exchange. Muy triste, Señor Murdock," the assassins raised and pointed their pistols towards T.J's head.

T.J. was thankful that his clothes were still soaked as he wet his pants. He closed his eyes and turned his head away with his hands shaking uncontrollably above his head. He flinched as three shots rang out in the alley.

It took a few seconds for T.J. to realize that he did not feel any pain. His brain raced for an answer and the only one that came to mind was that the assassins were toying with him.

"Mr. Thomas Jefferson Murdock?" a voice asked in an American accent.

T.J. opened his eyes and looked up at a squad of soldiers with smoking rifles. A sergeant walked forward and stepped over the bodies of the dead assassins.

"I am Staff Sergeant Murphy," the man said. "I am here to place you under arrest."

T.J. smiled and then he laughed as he lowered his hands. "Sergeant, those are the most beautiful words I have ever heard."

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 31

By Dwayne MacInnes

George Murdock entered the sterile hospital room. There were guards outside guarding the room as well as some inside. The man in the bed with I.V. tubes in his arm was barely recognizable. The gaunt and unshaven man in the bed vaguely resembled his son.

George would not have known his son was at the hospital if it was not for Staff Sergeant Murphy. The sergeant stood near the bed where T.J. lay recovering from his excursions.

Murphy nodded towards George and stepped away from the bed. "We were close to losing him to some Venezuelan assassins."

"Thank you," George responded sincerely as he approached the bed.

T.J. looked up at his father with hollow, haunted eyes. Although the hospital staff had cleaned him up, T.J. still showed the effects of being on the run for days. He was a lot thinner than the last time the two had met and he sported a four-day scruff of beard on his face.

"Father," T.J. smiled when he recognized his dad standing next to him.

"Take it easy, son," George gently assured his son. "You have had quite an adventure I hear."

T.J. chuckled a bit before replying, "More like a damned fool of a mistake. You are too kind."

"Well, some of life's lessons we have to learn the hard way."

"It looks like I'll have plenty of time to continue my education," T.J. smirked as he nodded his head towards the soldiers.

"Did you talk to the lawyer I sent down here?" George inquired.

"Yeah, if I cooperate with the feds on Venezuela's involvement in arming the Texans, they'll cut me a sweet deal. Probably only have to do a year or two."

"I pray you took the deal."

"Maybe a couple of weeks ago I would have laughed the man out of the room, but not today. The past week really drove home some harsh lessons. You'll find me a changed man from now on. I'm sure you'll even say I've grown up.

George smiled again as he squeezed T.J's shoulder, "You'll have your old job back when you get out."

"Wow, it must be my lucky day," T.J. joked. "I am rescued in the nick of time, I may get off lightly for my stupid mistakes, and now I'm reinstated back in the family and the business."

"Well, we've both learned a couple of things," George acknowledged. "Hopefully, this madness will end soon. There are some nut-jobs out there who are bombing the properties of any business they think is cooperating with the United States. That is what happened to our headquarters. Thank God, no one was there."

"I was," T.J. said frowning as he remembered the suicide pilot plunging his aircraft into the building.

George Murdock looked down at his son with a puzzled expression on his face.

"I'll tell you about it later," T.J. said. "But right now I need some sleep. I haven't been in a real bed for nearly a week."

* * * * *

Military vehicles rushed by the armored command vehicle where General Davis made his headquarters. Around the cramped compartment, officers stood staring at a 3D holographic image of Texas.

"Okay, it looks like the Republican forces are gathering here near San Angelo," Davis stated as he pointed at the city with his laser pointer. "If our intel is correct they have rushed nearly every piece of equipment and personnel they could spare to stop us at this location."

A colonel spoke up, "Sir, if we know that they are there, certainly, we could move around them leaving a token force to tie them down."

"No, colonel. We are going to hit them with everything we have with us."

Several officers broke into small conversations. They could not believe what they were hearing.

"Sir,"a major broke in. "We need to move swiftly to get to Austin. We should not tie ourselves down with a battle that could last for days or even weeks."

General Davis smiled, "I can personally assure that it won't last quite that long."

* * * * *

The scouts came back to announce that the U.S. military were taking the bait. It would not be long now before battle commenced between the United States and the New Republic of Texas. General West only prayed that the ancient museum pieces they were using would be enough to slow down and even defeat the U.S. military.

Soon small arms fire broke out in the distance. That would be the advance guards firing on the advanced elements of the U.S. forces. Shortly there after, artillery pieces from both forces started firing at each other.

General West was in a reinforced command post dug into the ground a few miles back from the front lines. He had his officers assembled and ready to relay any orders that they needed to send. Malware from the United States still infected most of the computers in Texas. Therefore, the Texans relied on ancient radios for most of their communications. Very few of these had scramblers.

"The air units from the United States are headed towards us," the communications officer stated.

"It's now or never," West sighed. "Send in all of our air units."

* * * * *

In the air above the battlefield outside San Angelo, old Cobras, Apaches, Little Birds and UH-1 Hueys battled against the more modern U.S. helicopters. Missiles streaked across the air as the choppers dove and jinked to gain an advantage over their opponents. Soon, the sky was ablaze with helicopters and missiles exploding sending the burning debris crashing into the ground below.

Higher in the sky the F-104s and 105s battled the U.S. F-22s and 35s. The older jets were no match for their more nimble and modern adversaries. However, they did not go down with out taking a few of the newer fighters with them. Fire, scrap metal and bodies rained down from the heavens into San Angelo and the surrounding area.

On the ground, the infantry fought each other. The defenders were greatly outnumbered. However, they had laid down some stout defenses and they took a heavy toll on the invading U.S. forces. Both sides brought in support vehicles, tanks, and artillery fire.

The final battle for Texas independence had begun.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 32

By Dwayne MacInnes

The night sky was pitch-black as the heavy rain clouds still obscured the moon. The cargo planes continued to make their runs to resupply the U.S. forces still garrisoned in Texas. Fighters, as well as radar jamming planes, always escorted the cargo planes. The Texans learned long ago never to try to shoot down the crafts. They never could hit any planes with their antiaircraft guns and rockets. Furthermore, the projectiles from the guns and launchers tended to fall back to earth inflicting more damage to the Texans than the U.S. forces.

So, it was without the knowledge of the Texans that these planes were actually dropping off paratroopers. These soldiers were sent to reinforce the garrisons at the military bases as well as those guarding the oilfields. All night long airborne troops parachuted into Texas in the black of night. They were carrying some arms and ammunition, but little else.

M1-A1 Abrams Tank

The next morning General West witnessed another of his venerable M1A1 Abrams tanks go up in flames as an M-3 Schwarzkopf fired upon it with the plasma Gatling gun atop its turret. The main gauss-gun fired its projectile at an armored vehicle. The solid shot from the gauss-gun penetrated the light armor of the vehicle and proceeded to exit out the other side. The vehicle, other than two gaping holes in its side, was relatively undamaged.

Some sappers from the New Republic of Texas managed to disable the M-3 by knocking off one of its tread with an old RPG-29 Vampir. However, the tank could still fire its guns and it did. At least, until another round from the Vampir penetrated the reactive armor near the tanks fuel tank. Soon smoke and flames were now billowing from the M-3 Schwarzkopf.

West adjusted his field glasses and surveyed the carnage around him. Trees were felled and burning amongst the wreckage of vehicles, homes, and bodies. Much of San Angelo was burning and there was little either side could do to contain the conflagration. Fortunately, the wiser inhabitants had left the city before the battle began.

"Sir," interrupted a major. "Our left flank is starting to falter. Do you think we should send in some reserves?"

General West frowned as he shook his head. He had committed all the reserves he could spare earlier that day to strengthen his center. Only his right so far seemed to be holding its own. He did not dare ask for more forces from the garrisons remaining in the south.

The general cursed when he thought about it; he had lost all of the remaining combat aircraft that Texas had in the air battle the previous day. He was down to a handful of helicopters, and his tank forces were dwindling rapidly. The only bright spot was that the U.S. forces were not trying to outflank his troops and instead opted to fight the final battle here.

West turned towards the major, "See if General Howe can spare some troops on the right flank to help out the left. We will need the remaining reserves to plug any holes or to use in a break out if the enemy surrounds us."

The major saluted and hurried off. The officers did not dare use their radios with the U.S. forces so close. Thus, they had to resort to couriers. West yearned for an old-fashioned telephone -- or better -- military grade radios.

But, he knew he had to make due with what he had. San Angelo was at the hub of U.S. Highways 67, 87, and 277 as well as State Highway 208, the Houston Harte Expressway, Loop 306 and FM 2288. This strategic significance alone determined San Angelo as the place of the battle.

It was important that the Texans did not lose 87 southern route so that if worse came to worse they could pull back and set up another defensive position. Another point of fortune was that the U.S. forces were either not mindful of this or just did not care.

Map Showing San Angelo

An aide ran up the stairs and arrived into President Tucker's office winded. The man took a few deep breaths before he began to speak. However, even with those breaths the man still huffed and wheezed before he could make his report.

"Calm down, lad," said the president from behind his desk.

He was pleased that the tech-boys had finally fixed his desk computer. A few others were now functioning as well. Nevertheless, the process was taking longer than anyone would have liked -- except the United States of course.

"Sir, the Americans are headed towards us," the aide finally said between deep breaths.

"What?" exclaimed Tucker. "I just got off the radio with General West and he claims that he has them tied up in San Angelo. In fact, I've ordered some more troops and materiel to San Angelo to offer assistance."

The man shook his head as he finally brought his breathing under control. "No sir, these troops are flowing in from West Texas. There are also rumors that the United States is moving troops in from the occupied port cities as well as Louisiana."

Tucker put his head in his hands. This was always a possibility that they considered, but they figured that the United States would like to minimize their impact in Texas and only send one force. "We better get West on the line," Tucker said in a demoralized voice.

"Sir, all of our radio signals are being jammed," the aide continued with his bad news.

"What about that superstation that we have Limbeck broadcasting from. Certainly the megawatts that are coming out of there could blast through anything."

"I'm sorry sir, we are completely cut-off."

"Do we have any eyewitness accounts of these armies moving through Texas?" asked the president.

"Yes sir, but we don't know which ones to believe. We are getting hundreds of accounts. Some say the forces will be here in an hour, and some say in a day."

"How about our garrisons? Are they not putting up a fight?"

"Some are. But they are easily overwhelmed. The sad thing is that most are simply surrendering their entire forces."

Tucker did not know if he could take any more bad news. He would have to hurry if he wanted to get out of Austin before the United States military entered the city.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 33

By Dwayne MacInnes

Mayor Warren Locke and Officer Amanda Hughes walked hand in hand through the ruins of Fort Hood. If one were to look at the military base from the air, it looked like one giant pockmarked debris field. There was not a building undamaged and several burned out tanks, cars, helicopters, and trucks littered the grounds.

However, the base was still firmly within the United States Army's hands. All personnel, not on guard duty, were hunkered within the underground bunkers around the perimeter. For every day since they seceded, the Texans had fired artillery rounds and missiles into the base. They also made a few direct attacks -- all to no avail. LTG Groves refused to give in to the Texas rabble, and his expertly laid defenses were able to keep even the most fanatical attackers outside the perimeter.

However, today a new turn of events happened. There were no artillery or missile attacks. There were no snipers or suicide bombers. In fact, for the first time in months, one could hear the sounds of birds singing in the morning air.

The only other noise was that of tanks, U.S. tanks, rumbling into the base which were followed by trucks and other vehicles. Soldiers were also marching in through the battered gates in a seemingly endless number.

Locke knew that the tide of the siege was starting to shift when an element of Airborne Rangers parachuted in the previous night. A night drop was a dangerous thing; however, from the news Locke received, these drops were going on all over Texas.

When the sun rose in the morning, the rebels had pulled out of their defenses and by all accounts had left Killeen. Many had left their arms, uniforms, and vehicles strewn across the broken landscape.

Locke and Hughes, both wearing borrowed military fatigues, walked over toward General Groves who was speaking to another general. Groves noticed the two people approaching him, and he motioned for them to come over.

"These, General Burns, are our lovebirds from Killeen," LTG Groves said as he introduced the two. "They have been a guest here since the whole situation began. Locke here was the mayor of the city and if I remember right, a sworn bachelor."

Mayor Locke smiled, "Well, I guess the stress of combat brings people together. Plus, I owe Amanda my life. She brought me here and managed to get herself shot."

General Burns looked at the young police officer and smiled, "I'm amazed that everyone hasn't been shot here."

"Sir, I was wearing riot gear at the time," Hughes offered.

"So is the war over?" Warren asked.

"We have three different armies sweeping through Texas. Most are experiencing very light resistance. A fourth army in the north has the reb army pretty much tied down," stated Burns.

General Burns looked around at the wreckage strewn across the base. He noticed a lot of tanks and military vehicles from the previous century blackened and burned dotting the landscape.

"What the hell!" he said. "It looks like the rebs emptied every museum to arm their army."

LTG Groves laughed, "That is exactly what they did."

* * * * *

Flash Limbeck frantically looked for some way out of Austin like most of the military and civilians. The streets were more chaotic than when the riots took place a couple of weeks before. Cars were stuck in gridlock, people were carrying what few possessions they could carry, and a few fights were breaking out.

Limbeck knew that when the United States military entered into the city they would begin looking for collaborators. Being an escaped prisoner from the United States as well as a propaganda tool (many were calling him Texas Rose) he would be lucky if he was not shot on sight. Limbeck did not know where he would go, but he knew he could not stay in Austin.

Rumor had it that President Tucker had fled earlier in the day leaving his staff behind. What little military and law enforcement that remained in the city were completely overwhelmed with the task of restoring order in Austin. Fires broke out around the city and this time they were burning unchecked.

A man ran into Limbeck, and in the process, lost an armload loot. He had rings of gold, bracelets of silver, and pearl necklaces. The man had obviously looted a jewelry store.

"Watch where you are going!" yelled the man as he scrambled to pick up his ill-gotten gains.

Horns, shouts, and gunfire punctuated the air as the social order of Austin continued to break down. A man ran into the crowded streets with panic plastered on his face. Another man soon followed and proceeded to gun the first man down in front of everyone.

"Dirty bastard!" the gunman shouted. "He tried to steal my suitcase."

The gunman then realized that he was no longer carrying his suitcase and must have dropped it in the chase. The man spun around and tried to retrace his steps as he disappeared into the crowd of humanity jostling on the sidewalk.

Flash had to get off the street. It was more dangerous out here than in a building. Even with the risks of fire, Limbeck realized he prefered the relative safety of some department store or apartment building to the anarchy in the streets.

Flash ducked into a recently looted electronics store. The mesh grating over the windows lay bent on the sidewalk. The shattered glass window offered Flash the means to enter the building.

Limbeck walked into the store. The lights flickered above and revealed empty and overturned shelves. The cash register lay on its side on the floor. The till was empty save the Oil Dollars that remained untouched inside the tray.

Flash cautiously wove his way through the debris and found a back door. Limbeck tried the knob. It turned freely in his hand and the door opened to reveal a set of stairs leading down into a basement.

As Limbeck descended the stairs, he realized the cacophony of the streets receded. He flipped a light switch and a single light above offered him some illumination. The basement had not escaped the notice of the looters. Again, overturned shelves and broken electronics littered the floor.

There was a door in the far wall of the basement. Limbeck crawled over the broken shelving and made his way to the door. He tried the knob, but it did not turn. Flash noticed the keyhole in the door. He tried the knob again this time shaking the door as if he could unlock it with force.

"Go away!" shouted a voice from the other side of the door.

"You have to let me in," pleaded Limbeck.

Two gunshots burst through the wooden door and the bullets penetrated Limbeck's chest. As Flash slumped onto the floor trying futilely to staunch his spurting blood the voice on the other side of door replied, "The hell I do!"

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 34

By Dwayne MacInnes

General Davis was in his command vehicle when he got word that General West of the New Republic of Texas wanted to seek terms for surrender. He immediately called a cease-fire. Within minutes, the constant crack of rifle fire and the deep thud from the artillery and tanks with the resulting explosions came to a sudden end. The silence was almost deafening.

It was less than an hour later when an old Humvee carrying a white flag escorted by a U.S. light armored scout vehicle drove into General Davis's camp. The vehicles stopped short. The U.S. soldiers exited the scout vehicle and stood at-ease until General West with his entourage exited the Humvee.

General West followed the U.S. soldiers toward the command tent where Davis stood in anticipation. The U.S. soldiers stopped at the door as did General West's aides. General Davis extended his hand towards West.

"General if you would join me inside," Davis offered as West returned the handshake.

The two men entered the command building followed by one soldier from each side and the door closed behind them. Inside there was a small folding table with a holographic computer built in. Right now, the computer was off. There were two chairs around the table.

"General," Davis said offering General West the chair opposite of him.

The soldiers from both sides stood off to the side.

"If you do not mind I have been recording the event with the mini-cam," Davis stated motioning to the small camera in the corner of the command tent.

A tech had placed it there only a few minutes before. General West solemnly nodded his head, "Sir, I thank you for your kindness."

"Think nothing of it. So, let's get down to brass tacks."

"First, if I may beg a question," said General West.

Davis nodded his head.

"Is it true that President Tucker and most of his cabinet have been captured?" asked the general.

"Yes, it is. If you need confirmation I can get you a direct line to the president who is currently under guard behind our lines."

"I believe you," West stated. "It is not becoming for two old war dogs like us to lie to each other."

"No, it is not," agreed General Davis.

"Well, sir what are your terms?" West asked General Davis in a matter-of-fact voice.

"President Ramirez has instructed me to be very lenient," General Davis said as he turned on the tabletop computer.

Both parties could read the terms on the holographic screen. "All enlisted personnel in your army are to be paroled. They may return to their homes, but they must surrender their arms accept any personal arms allowed under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. All officers are to face a military tribunal to determine the extent of their role in the rebellion. Most will end up with the same terms as the enlisted personnel."

The two generals continued to read the terms laid-out on the holographic tabletop computer screen. After another hour of haggling over the finer points, General West finally accept the terms offered by General Davis.

The two men stood and shook hands again before they departed the command center.

"Sir," said General West. "I will address my men and we will begin to disarm immediately."

"Thank you, General," Davis replied. "I am glad that this unfortunate event has finally ended."

West turned and saluted Davis, "Unfortunate event indeed. Where did the dialogue end?"

"I don't really know," General Davis replied pensively. "If people were quicker to use dialogue than guns, we could have spared a countless number of lives and an unknown amount of damage."

General West nodded and exited the command tent. His aides stepped in line behind him as they approached the Humvee. One soldier from the United States army started to sing The Yellow Rose of Texas. Soon another joined him and then another until all the assembled United States soldiers joined in. General West with tears in his eyes stopped and saluted the soldiers before he entered the Humvee.

* * * * *

Cobb had made his way to Sante Fe when he heard of the defeat of Texas. He found a secluded alley and broke down in tears. His dreams and the country he loved instantly vanished. Now, at best, he was a drifter -- at worst, a war criminal.

He still had his Colt .45 Peacemaker tucked inside his light jacket. He also had a small amount of plastic explosives that he carried in his leather satchel. Inside were a blasting cap, a timer, and a remote detonator.

After a few minutes, Cobb recovered himself. He looked at his reflection in a dirty window. The face that stared back at him was sunken, sporting a small growth of facial hair, and a goodly amount of dirt. He realized he looked more like a homeless man than a soldier from Texas.

Cobb finger-combed his greasy black hair and put his dirty cowboy hat on his head. The first order of business, Cobb determined, was to clean himself up. He did not have any money -- at least, nothing that would be of use in Santa Fe or any where for that matter. So, he walked around until he located a homeless mission.

Cobb had little problem gaining admittance. He could spin a pretty good tale when he needed to. So before long, the mission accept a Roger A. Pyle into their roster, a recovering alcoholic and roving homeless person. Cobb shared a room with another man, a man that kept to himself, which suited Cobb just fine.

Cobb needed time to think, a job to find, and a plan. Texas may have surrender, but Cobb had not. He knew that he could still deliver one last blow for Texas independence.

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Texas Wildfire

Chapter 35

By Dwayne MacInnes

President Ramirez had aged significantly since he took office about a half year before. His hair was now almost completely gray, wrinkles now lined his eyes and brow. Not to mention, he must have lost a good fifty pounds.

Despite all this, Ramirez was happy. The war was finally over. Most people felt that he had handled the war correctly. The United States military was reestablishing order inside Texas. Once the situation stabilized, work would begin on reconstruction. Ramirez stressed that the work be done by the local Texans, especially since most were now unemployed. He also stressed that the military would not harass the locals but instead work with them.

The president had flown into New Mexico to tour the bombed sites in Littleton. The citizens hailed him as a hero and the president, under extremely heavy guard by the Secret Service, mingled and shook many hands. The Secret Service finally convinced Ramirez that it was for his own safety that he should return to the armored limo after touring the sites.

Inside the limo, Ramirez sat next to his old friend and chief of staff, Todd Schneider. "Did you enjoy yourself?" Todd queried as he took some notes on an electronic notebook.

"Yeah, you know what? I did," Ramirez said waving to the crowd outside the limo. "I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that the war is over."

"The war may be over, but we still have to pay for it," Todd replied as he looked up from the notebook.

"Yes, I know that, but for now let's enjoy the victory."

"Humph," was all Todd replied as he looked down at the notebook again. "Okay, you have a school play to attend in Santa Fe. You will meet your wife and daughter there tonight."

"Ah, yes, the domestic life. How sweet it is to enjoy it again," Ramirez smiled.

* * * * *

Cobb rode in the back of the taxicab on his way to work. With his new name of Roger Pyle, he found work as a janitor. It was of the utmost importance that he arrive on time.

As the cabby weaved through traffic, Cobb reached into his satchel and pulled out a small ball of plastic. He placed the plastic ball underneath the front seat of the cab. He then pulled out some wet hand wipes and proceeded to wash his hands. Then he slid the bag with the wipes under the driver's seat.

"Did ya hear the president is going to be in town today?" the cabby said making small talk.

"Yeah," Cobb said as the cab pulled up in front of the school. "Say, I would like to have a cab available when I'm done with work." Cobb slipped the cabby an extra $50.

"Yes sir, I will be in the area all night. I will do my best to respond. You can reach me at this number," the cabby replied giving Cobb a business card. "Call me when you are ready."

"Thanks," Cobb said as he entered the school's rear entrance. A Secret Service agent searched Cobb and checked his ID before allowing him to enter. Once inside Cobb headed towards the basement boiler room.

* * * * *

Ramirez sat in the balcony seat with his family enjoying the school play. The children often missed their lines or delivered them in a stilted voice. Still, the president enjoyed every minute of it. He almost forgot that the Secret Service surrounded him and that they were constantly monitoring the halls.

In the basement, Cobb tended the boiler. A Secret Service agent would enter and occasionally watch him work. However, the agent would soon leave and patrol another area of the school.

The Secret Service had gone over the school with a fine-tooth comb looking for explosives and guns. Having found none, they determined that the school was sufficiently safe for the president. They also searched every person who entered the building.

Cobb went over to an old metal washbasin, pulled out some bottles of bleach, and poured them into a mop bucket. He placed an old dirty mop into the bucket and proceeded to mop the floor around the boiler.

A Secret Service agent checked in and watched Cobb mop the floor for a few minutes before returning to his patrol. The smell of bleach was not out of the ordinary for cleaning a school.

Once the agent left, Cobb rummaged through his tool kit and found his small remote. Cobb then reached into his pocket, pulled out his compu-phone, and dialed the cabby's number. After a quick conversation, Cobb disconnected and waited.

It was five minutes later that the cabby called Cobb to let him know that he was waiting outside the school. Cobb picked up the remote and smiled as he pushed the button. Immediately after he depressed the button, the school shook as the cab exploded outside.

Secret Service agents immediately sprung into action and sprinted either outside to the wreckage of the cab burning in the streets or to the defense of the president. In either event, they left Cobb alone in the basement by the boiler.

Cobb then walked over to a large gray plastic garbage can next to the boiler's intake vents and removed the lid. A strong odor of bleach wafted into the air as he poured the contents of the mop bucket into the garbage can that was now half-full of bleach. Next Cobb grabbed several yellow bottles from his cleaning supplies and walked over to the large mop bucket. Putting a wet rag to his mouth and nose Cobb proceeded to pour the bottles of ammonia into the garbage can and watched the fumes as the heating vent hungrily sucked them up.

* * * * *

Secret Service agents instantly surrounded Ramirez and his family once the explosion rocked the building. People in the audience were screaming in fear and the children on stage ran back and forth as teachers and parents tried to reestablish order to the chaos breaking out.

No one notice the strange vapor pouring out of the vents until people started to cough. The balcony above the auditorium soon had the noxious fumes of chlorine gas enveloping it as the heating vent in the balcony blew the deadly gas out.

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Texas Wildfire

Epilogue

By Dwayne MacInnes

Terrorist Attack Kills President and 132 others

AP: Santa Fe - The terrorist attack at the Ridgedale Elementary school in Santa Fe, New Mexico yesterday killed President Ramirez, and 132 others. Included in the list of the dead are the first lady, Amanda and their 5-year-old daughter, Renee. The president and his family were in New Mexico to commemorate the victims of the Littleton bomb raid and to celebrate the victory over the New Republic of Texas. The activities included attending a school play in Santa Fe. The exact nature of the attack is still under investigation by the FBI. However, the Secret Service reported that they had completed a thorough search of the school building before the president's arrival and did not turn up any bombs or guns.

What investigators know is that shortly before the chlorine gas attack inside the building, a taxicab exploded in the streets outside the school. It is unknown at this time if there were multiple people involved in the attack or if it was the result of a lone operator. There is speculation that a dissident group from Texas may have been behind the attack.

An investigator who asked to remain anonymous due to the ongoing investigation believes that the chlorine gas originated in the boiler room in the basement. In the basement, investigators found the body of the janitor, Roger Pyle near the boiler. The FBI is looking to the cause of death and as to whether Mr. Pyle may have been a terrorist. A garbage can with a mixture of bleach and ammonia was located underneath the main air intake for the boiler. According to experts, the fans of the boiler would have been sufficient to pump the deadly gas throughout the school

Experts also state that there was enough chlorine gas produced to cover the three stories of the school building and to incapacitate everyone inside before anyone could escape or open a window. Rescue workers had to enter the building using breathing apparatus to pull the bodies of the victims out of the school. The only survivors so far have been three Secret Service agents who were near the front door when the taxi exploded. Two are stable condition and a third is in critical condition at Community Hospital.

Vice President Alexander Lloyd was in Canada for an economic summit meeting with the Prime Minister. On his flight back to Washington, D.C., the vice president underwent a quick swearing in ceremony as the new president. When asked if he would seek reprisals against Texas for the attack if there were a link he commented, "It is too early at this time to start talking about retaliation. It appears at this time that the attack was the action of a single person or a small group. As it stands, President Ramirez did not want any further actions taken against Texas so as to allow its readmission into the United States as smoothly as possible and I intend to follow the same policy."

In the aftermath of the bombings in Littleton last month, President Ramirez's approval rating soared from a dismal 19% to 95% with a 3-point margin of error. There were polls still being conducted gauging the public's opinion of the victory over Texas when the attack took place at Ridgedale Elementary.

The president and the first family will lie in state in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. and already huge crowds of people are lining the streets mourning their deaths. Thousands have been holding vigils outside the White House and leaving cards, small gifts, and burning candles outside the White House gates.

In New Mexico, the victims have been also receiving a similar reaction. People from across the nation have been pouring into the state to attend the funeral services planned for later in the week.

The nation already emotionally tormented by the attacks in Littleton and the war against Texas are now mourning the deaths in the recent school attack. Many people have likened Ramirez's death to those of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. Some have pointed out that he had successfully concluded a war and will be the first to have a 52 star flag draped over his casket.

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