Authors: William W. Johnstone
Tags: #Science Fiction
OUT OF THE LOOP
Ben knew the instant he put eyes on Paula Preston that she was going to be big trouble.
“I am the only remaining official from the United States Consulate left in this city,” she told him, sticking out her chin. “What happens here in North Africa is my business.”
“We’re not from the United States of America,” Ben said.
“Of course, you are. Where is the American flag? Why aren’t you flying it?”
“I am Ben Raines, Ms. Preston. Commanding General of the Armed Forces of the Southern United States of America. The SUSA.”
“You don’t know what happened in America, do you?”
“We’ve been cut off here for years with no electricity, no communication. We knew there was some sort of civil war, but…”
“The SUSA won. The United States is broken up into four sections now, Ms. Preston. I have nineteen battalions here in Africa. We’re stretched out over the entire continent.”
“I fear that Field Marshal General Bruno Bottger has you outnumbered, sir. Even with your nineteen battalions.”
“The Rebels are always outnumbered, Ms. Preston. We’re used to that.”
“The … Rebels? The Southern United States of America and the Rebel army? Then you fly the stars and bars of the Confederacy?”
“No. We do not. We fly the stars and stripes, Ms. Preston. We just don’t have as many stars as before.”
3 WILLIAM W. JOHNSTONE THE PREACHER SERIES
ABSAROKA AMBUSH (0-8217-5538-2, $4.99/$6.50)
BLACKFOOT MESSIAH (#7) (0-8217-5232-4, $4.99/$5.99) THE FIRST MOUNTAIN MAN (0-8217-5510-2, $4.99/$6.50)
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William W. Johnstone
Pinnacle Books Kensington Publishing Corp.
5 This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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6 A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.
The loading for the long voyage had begun.
A dozen ships, heavily laden with equipment and supplies, had already set sail, half a dozen tanker ships with them, filled to overflowing with fuel for the Rebels’ vehicles. They would loaf along until the rest of the convoy caught up with them.
Ben’s One Batt would be the first Rebels to set sail, and the first ashore in Morocco … after Ike’s SEALs went in to check things out.
Ben paced the docks all day, day after day, until his ship was ready to go and his One Battalion was on board. He stepped up the gangway and turned to look back at Ike and the other Batt Corns, standing on the dock. He tossed them a very sloppy salute; they returned the salute in like manner. Ben turned away and stepped on board.
The deck was filled with lashed-down vehicles, from pickup trucks to Hummers to deuce-and-a-halves. Many of the Rebels would sleep in the trucks on the way over.
The factories in the SUSA had been working overtime for a year, gearing up for this voyage, working around the clock producing bullets and grenades, boots and bras, field rations and mortar rounds, uniforms and socks, notepads and maps, spare parts for every piece of equipment the Rebels used, headgear and bandages,
and ten thousand other articles that the Rebels would need long before this campaign was over …
This ambitious campaign to Africa that no one, including Ben, had been all that anxious to undertake.
But it had to be done. The Nazi, Bruno Bottger, had to be stopped; he could not, must not, be allowed to grow any stronger, to establish any further inroads in territory.
Ben looked down at the docks as the lines were freed and his eyes caught those of President Cecil Jefferys, staring up at him. Ben lifted a hand in farewell and his long-time friend returned the gesture. Both of them knew this campaign might take a year, it might take five years.
No one knew.
For the Rebels were sailing into the unknown.
Nineteen oversized battalions were sailing, each with their own backup of tanks and artillery; thousands of combat-ready men and women under the overall command of Ben Raines.
Dr. Lamar Chase, die Rebels’ Chief of Medicine, walked up to stand at Ben’s side as the tugs began to ease die big ship away from its slip along the docks.
“How’s Cooper?” Ben asked.
“Already suffering from seasickness,” Lamar said with a smile. “It’s going to be a long voyage for Coop.”
Cooper, Ben’s driver.
“I’m sure Jersey is giving him a very bad time of it.”
Jersey was Ben’s diminutive bodyguard, part Apache Indian.
“She had her head stuck in a book about Africa when I passed by her a few minutes ago.
Beth, the statistician of the team.
“Should be in school and you know it. However …” The doctor quickly held up a hand. “… I know she would have defied you and stowed away had you tried to insist on that.”
Anna, Ben’s adopted daughter. Eighteen years old, beautiful, and one of the most deadly guerilla fighters ever to put on a uniform. Ben had found the dirty-faced little waif in Europe and taken her in.
“Fiddling with her radio equipment.”
Corrie, Ben’s radio tech.
Corrie, Jersey, Cooper, Beth, Anna: Ben’s personal team.
The huge engines of the ship began grumbling; Ben could feel the vibration under his boots.
Chase pointed. “Another ship moving away from the docks.”
“That’ll be Therm’s Headquarters Batt. Ike’s 2 Batt will be shoving off a few minutes behind Therm. The rest will be moving out in numerical order after that.”
Chase glanced at Ben and smiled but said nothing, knowing Ben’s reply had been automatic. Dr. Lamar Chase had been through all this before. Lamar had been one of the original few to follow the dream of the Tri-States philosophy of government. He had been there when the dream was born, and had survived the federal government’s almost successful attempts to smash it into oblivion.
But the dream would not die; the philosophy lived on and grew and flourished despite everything the federal government did to kill it. And the government did much to kill the dream, including character assassination of many of the followers of the Tri-States philosophy, false accusation of crimes, bankrupting followers by punitive measures through the IRS, and sometimes
even killing a too-vocal follower of the Tri-State movement.
The biased and left-wing controlled press did their part, too, in attempting to destroy anyone who did not roll over and kiss the ass of Big Brother Government. Anyone who spoke too loudly against the government was called a whako, a gun-nut, a right-wing conspiracy freak, and if anyone dared join a group that had the courage to speak openly against the government, the press called them government haters.
Finally there was what was called the Great War among the nations of the world, followed by a devastating worldwide depression. In America, there was a revolution by followers of Ben Raines and the Tri-States philosophy of government.
Then there was anarchy all over the world; that is, anarchy in every area not controlled by the force that had become known as Ben Raines Rebels.
But through it all the Rebels prevailed, until finally they formed their own nation: the Southern United States of America, the SUSA. And with the emergence of a new nation came the mightiest army on the face of the earth: the Rebels.
Ben Raines and his Rebels had roamed all over North America, clearing the nation of gangs of lawless punks and thugs and street slime. They had helped hundreds of thousands of American citizens, who either could not or would not help themselves, to stand up and face reality and start the process of rebuilding. And for that, the Rebels had received very little in the way of thanks. They had traveled to many countries of Europe, helping to restore order in that part of the world. Now they were on their way to Africa to see what surprises that huge continent held in store for them.
“Ben,” Lamar Chase broke a long silence between
them. “This could prove to be the costliest campaign in terms of human life the Rebels have ever been on.”
“I know, Lamar. Believe me, I know. I vacillated a dozen times on this decision.”
“Let me explain, Ben. I wasn’t speaking in terms of combat alone …”
Ben looked at him.
“We’re going into a hotbed of exotic diseases; diseases that the men and women of the CDC-when there was a CDC-were fighting day and night to find cures for. For weeks, I’ve had my people studying everything they could find on Africa, trying to stock up with as many types of vaccines and medicines as I could think of. Ben, before the Great War and the revolution, you spent some time in Africa as a mercenary. What was your impression of the country?”
Ben Raines had never denied his employment with the CIA, sometimes working as a mercenary for the Company. “A land of many contrasts, Lamar. Some parts of it lush and beautiful, some harsh and totally unappealing. Personally, I never liked Africa. And I’ll be honest with you: if Bruno Bottger and his people were not there, we wouldn’t be sailing for that continent.”
“Ben, I’ve known you for a long time. I’ve seen you risk your life dozens of times to save people of all colors. So I know that hesitation isn’t based on race. What is it?”
“Some writer, some philosopher, once wrote that it is always five minutes to high noon in Africa. People much more intelligent than I have tried to figure out what he meant by that. I think he meant that somewhere in Africa, at any given time, it’s showdown time; a crisis is about to explode. Lamar, there are hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects in Africa. There are old hatreds between tribes that go back countless
centuries. And we re not going to heal those rifts; no white man has ever managed to come close and I’m not even going to try. If these people want to kill each other off, let them. I don’t care. I’m going to deal with Bruno Bottger and once that is done, we’re out of there as fast as we can board ship and get gone.”
“But we are going to try to form some working relationship with various countries?”
“I’m going to make a very perfunctory effort, Lamar. Look, you don’t understand African politics. I can make a deal with the ruling government of some country today, and before the ink is dry, some of the other tribes in that country will immediately begin plotting against it. In a week or a month or a year there will be a coup, or an attempted coup, or an assassination, and the agreement won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. I’ve seen it happen too many times.”
“So we just do what we can for the people, the Band-Aid solution, if you will, and walk away?”
“That’s about it, Lamar. They’ve got to work out their own internal problems.”
“While countless thousands die from hunger, disease, and warfare?”
“They’ve been doing that for centuries, Lamar. Seems to me the more technology we pour into that continent, the worse it becomes. A few benefit, the masses suffer. Maybe it’s time to say, ‘We’re out of here. Somebody will be back in a hundred years. I hope you’ve solved your problems by then. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.’ “
“And the continent continues to be exploited.”
“Of course. The U.S did, France did, Germany did, Belgium did, England did. Every nation that ever ventured there had a hand in raping the country and screwing the people.”
“Because of the greed of various nations.”
“And the ignorance of the people who were in power at that particular time.”