Authors: Joe Nobody
Secession III: The Surge
Joe Nobody & P. A. Troit
Copyright © 2016
Kemah Bay Marketing, LLC
All rights reserved.
E. T. Ivester
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.
Other Books by Joe Nobody:
The man known as El General studied the oversized, high definition video monitors with an emotionless gaze as a specialist made final adjustments to the sound. Not to be hurried, the conference leader strode confidently, deliberately to the middle of the comfortable theatre seating area. After selecting a perch, he casually crossed one leg over the other and leaned back for a better vantage. Staring back at him were 12 faces, each separated by a thin, computer-generated frame. It was as if he were viewing a narco-photo album of some of the world’s most powerful criminals.
Unlike traditional collections of family snapshots, this setup came complete with real-time audio and video and was protected by the planet’s most sophisticated encryption technologies.
The impressive high-tech arrangement that enabled this secure virtual conference had been developed to thwart the United States, an unintended consequence of the superpower’s global war on terror.
A series of leaks, whistleblowers, and defectors had resulted in headlines that had exposed the tremendous capabilities of the American intelligence community. Neither friend nor foe was safe from the vast arrays of supercomputers, satellites, microphones, and intrusive software hacks employed by the NSA and other clandestine U.S. government institutions. The Yanks could see and hear everything, everywhere, every second.
The world’s best and brightest hackers suddenly found their talents were in demand from an entirely new clientele.
No one wanted the Americans knowing their business. Governments, terrorist organizations, and criminal syndicates paid far better than criminal activities like breaking into a bank’s mainframe or stealing a retail giant’s database of credit card information. Before long, there was an international hunger for software that could keep even the mighty NSA’s nose out of the world’s business.
The Mexican cartels were no exception.
The video conference, as opposed to a face-to-face meeting, was necessary for a variety of reasons. First of all, none of the 13 men attending the event trusted any of the others enough to reveal their locations. Such a breach of security would surely invite an assassin’s bullet, or worse yet, capture by a competitor.
Even if that well founded distrust could be overcome, there was still no chance that the 13 criminal overlords would ever step foot on the same soil at the same time. An assemblage of wanted desperados would be more temptation than the pious gringos could resist. The U.S. would deploy drones within minutes, and those little flyers carried Hellfire missiles. Their military helicopters were always within striking distance. Their Special Forces were known to attack with deadly force.
The adoption of a high-tech solution was part and parcel of El General’s reputation. His name hadn’t been earned as a result of military service or training, nor was he known as a fearless combat leader. No, the leader of the Gulf Cartel had risen to the top of the potent criminal enterprise because of his meticulous planning, brilliant grasp of strategy, and creative thinking.
“We are losing money,” El General announced, kicking off the meeting with a subject near and dear to all 12 hearts. “Since Texas now welcomes all of the sheep into her fold, my coyotes grow hungry. After the secession, the U.S. moved many of her border patrol resources to Arizona and California. Now, these agents intercept more of our goods moving north and seize our cash coming south. The Republic of Texas military creates havoc with our distribution channels along the Rio Grande. We have been forced to expand our operations into West Africa and Europe. And while those markets remain strong, the financial gains are far from what we have all enjoyed in the past.”
As he scanned the dozen faces on the monitor, El General was pleased to see most were nodding their agreement. Only a few seemed reserved in their non-verbal responses.
“To make matters worse,” he continued with conviction, “we seem determined to fight amongst ourselves. We waste valuable resources slaughtering each other, assets that could be used to expand international territories and increase profit margins. All of us … myself included … have devolved into nothing more than packs of wild, rabid animals who seek territory and dominance at any cost.”
Again, he assessed the facial expressions staring back at him. Fewer agreed with him this time. He prayed that would change.
“How is it that we have arrived at this juncture? Why do we fall upon each other like ravenous wolves? We are all of the same blood. We all grew up breathing the same air, warmed by the same sun, and drawing life from the same land. Why is it that Mexican kills Mexican as if our lives were worthless … as if we truly believe our race lacks value? Is inferior to others? Why do we turn on each other like this?”
No one answered El General’s questions, and for a moment, the leader of the Gulf Cartel thought his passionate words were falling on deaf ears. Would they consider him weak? Would the truth make him vulnerable?
It does not matter
, he thought.
We are all dead in a few years anyway. If these sharks smell my blood in the water, so be it.
“Consider this, my friends. None of us were the heads of our respective organizations three years ago. Our own internal treachery coupled with the evil that calls itself our government has resulted in the demise of our leadership. The men who once guided us have all been captured, executed, or murdered one by one. Our organizations have been infiltrated and weakened. Our loyal employees die by the scores, either battling Mexico City’s armies or each other. Do any of you really expect to live long enough to experience gray hair or grandchildren?”
No one spoke, nor did any of them show the slightest sign of emotion. Only the man everyone knew as Z-44 spoke, his tone thick with impatience. “What is it that you propose, El General?”
“Before I answer that, I ask one small favor. Could you explain to our comrades why you are called Z-44?”
The clean cut, military-looking man seemed both puzzled and angered by the request. Across the high-speed internet connection, El General noticed his competitor’s head tilt slightly. “All of you already know why. Do you find the recent passing of my brothers humorous? Does it give you some sort of sick pleasure to hear about the death of good men?”
“No,” came the instant, honest reply. “That was not my intent. I think it is important to this conversation that everyone has this information.”
Z-44’s sigh broadcast through the digital sound system as clearly as if he were sitting across the table. “Los Zetas Cartel was formed by 38 men who served with the Mexican Special Forces. Each member was given a radio call sign of Z-1 through Z-38. I joined the organization later, and thus, I was number 44.”
“Of the original 38, how many still walk this earth?”
“None of them have survived. All are dead,” stated the leader of the Zetas.
“And that, gentlemen, is my point,” El General stated with a solemn tone.
After a pause to let his words sink in, he continued. “Not only has an independent Texas served to choke our primary revenue streams, but also the pool of available manpower from which we can recruit is shrinking. Our world is changing rapidly, and if we … and I mean each and every one of us … don’t adapt, we will die like so many before us. It is for this reason that I propose we call an immediate ceasefire and end the hostilities between us. Furthermore, I have outlined a plan that I believe will bring all of us riches and control beyond our wildest dreams. I sit before you, gentlemen, convinced that together we are stronger. It will be difficult to eliminate the factors that divide us, but I firmly believe it can be done.”
All 12 faces tried to speak at once, some of the voices angry, others loudly grumbling their protests. It was several minutes before the bedlam quieted, one of the attendees so frustrated, he left the call. El General sat calmly, observing the chaos and catching the occasional sentence here and there. The reaction of his colleagues had been anticipated.
El Teo from the Tijuana Cartel was using the forum to complain that the Sinaloas were trying to encroach on his territory.
The leader of the Knights Templar Cartel, Bolas de Toro, was frothing over a rival’s supposed collaboration with the Mexican government.
On and on, the verbal sparring continued – accusations, threats, and promises of revenge.
Throughout the confusion, El General sat and observed as first one furious crime lord disconnected, then another. He smiled upon taking note that two of his competitors weren’t raving like lunatics. After 10 minutes, the turmoil had quieted, and there were only six faces left staring back at the Gulf Cartel’s honcho.
We have a beginning
, he thought.
Only six, but it is a start. The others will either eventually see the light or wither in isolation.
After an extended silent pause, El General began again. “Gentlemen, Texas is the primary source of our decline. I think it is only fitting that they provide the solution. This is my proposal….”
For over 20 minutes, El General delivered a high-level overview of his scheme.
When he had finished, he knew that at least three of the listeners were committed, the same number showing a strong interest in joining his consortium. All agreed to attend a second electronic conference in two days.
After the technician nodded to confirm the meeting had been disconnected, El General turned to a man sitting off-camera. “What do you think?”
The question was directed at the only non-Latino in El General’s inner circle, an Arab who had only recently joined the criminal network. His malevolent reputation was the food for rumor and innuendo, so those who spoke of him did so in hushed tones, referring to him only as “Ghost.”
“You did an excellent job. It’s clear to me how you rose to the top of this organization,” the Syrian replied.
El General waved him off with a gesture of humility. “It was your design that sold them. I merely repeated the words.”
“Don’t sell your contribution short, Jefe,” Ghost countered.
“That’s what I like about you,” the drug lord nodded. “You don’t seek fame, desire glory, or demand unearned respect,” he paused as he stood to stretch and make eye contact with his collaborator. “However, I must tell you that after working side by side with you for over two months, I’m still not sure what motivates that devious brilliance that sparks inside of your head. And that does puzzle me.”
Ghost spread his hands in innocence and smiled, “I want revenge, sir. I owe Texas a debt. Allah, through his grace, has allowed our paths to intersect. We are fortunate that both of our needs can be satisfied by the same campaign.”
El General nodded his acceptance, but it was a feigned gesture of sincerity. Men in his position never took anything at face value.
He had found Ghost while shopping for arms in Pakistan, the character introduced by a mutual friend as the “most sophisticated strategist of mayhem on the planet.”
After weeks of background verification, reference checking, and personal meetings with the Syrian, El General had invited Ghost to join his organization.
“You will have your vengeance, sir,” the cartel boss stated with certainty. “And I will have Mexico.”