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The War – Episode 19

December 19, 8:22 PM Mountain
Tucson, Arizona

Alvarez jumped down from the back of the truck as soon as the tailgate fell down with a clang. Sergeant First Class Wilson handed down her pack and his own, then joined her on the asphalt surface of the street. The night was alive with the sound of radios and diesel engines.

“Where’re we supposed to be?” he asked as Captain Davis walked back from the cab of the truck.

“Not sure. Let’s find out who’s in charge,” Davis answered, “Alvarez, keep everyone together.”

Wilson and Davis walked over to a camouflage-painted trailer. Two people in black berets and tiger-striped camouflage uniforms, who were guarding its entrance, leveled their guns at them.

“Halt!” the taller of the two growled. Wilson stopped dead and put his hands out in front of him. Davis took another step, then saw the muzzles of their rifles staring at him.

“I’m Captain Davis from Fort Huachuca,” he said slowly, “We just got here.”

“Got ID, sir?” the other guard demanded, her harsh voice ringing out into the dimly lit night.

“It’s in my back pocket,” Davis answered.

“Use your left hand to get it out, sir,” the female ordered.

The tall captain reached across his lower back and awkwardly fished his wallet out of his pocket. He opened it and took out his identification card, holding it out to the guards. Wilson followed the officer’s example. The guards looked at both cards closely, with the female repeatedly shining a small flashlight on it and their faces, then both relaxed.

“Sorry, sir,” the tall guard said, lowering his rifle, “Orders are that nobody gets in without showing ID.”

“A couple of assholes tried to bluff their way into city hall in sheriff’s uniforms, then killed three deputies before somebody shot them,” the female said, nodding.

“No biggee, just stop pointing your rifle at me, OK?” Wilson replied as he and the captain stepped into the trailer.

Inside, they found several men and women working at computer terminals or looking at maps. An Air Force sergeant was holding a cell phone to her ear while she made marks on an acetate-covered map of the city.  At another desk, two men in sheriff’s deputy uniforms were arguing over something displayed on a laptop.

Wilson spotted someone wearing army camouflage, and he motioned to the captain. Davis nodded and walked over to the woman.

“… and that’s where we lost contact. The police helicopter broke off pursuit after taking a few hits from a machine gun, and we haven’t heard anything from that group since,” a man in jeans and a university sweatshirt was saying.

“So we’ve lost track of both groups?” the woman asked.

“Yes, ma’am. They’re still in range to mess with us on the police radios, though, so they haven’t bugged out,” the civilian replied.

Davis cleared his throat, and both speakers turned to look at him. The woman wore the gold oak leaves of a major on the front of her uniform blouse, and her nametape read “Chism”.

“Captain Davis, ma’am,” he said, drawing himself up to attention, “Just arrived with the QRF out of Huachuca.”

“Holly Chism, State Adjutant General’s office,” she replied, “How many did you bring, Captain?”

“A couple of squads, ma’am,” he replied, “We brought one of the Strykers we use for training, too. Other than that, just M-4’s and a couple nine millimeters.”

Wilson nodded, “We’ve got plenty of five-five-six, ma’am, but we’re kinda light on seven-six-two.”

Chism thought for a moment, “Well, it’s better than nothing, I suppose. Where’s the rest?”

Wilson said, “I think General Brown is going to send along a couple of UAV’s for you all in the morning, if they can be spared from watching the border. Everyone else is securing the post.”

“You’re all intel, right?” the Major said.

“I just finished transferring over from Cav, ma’am,” Captain Davis said.

“I’m former infantry, ma’am, and there are a few other combat arms types in the group,” Wilson replied, “but the rest are either instructors out of the schoolhouse or cadre in the test unit.”

Major Chism’s mouth turned down even further at that, but she motioned toward the man standing next to her.

“This is Gean Travis,” she said, “He’s former Air Force intelligence. He’s been helping me coordinate things here.”

“What are we looking at?” Davis asked.

Chism nodded at the civilian, who pointed to the map.

“We’ve got at least three small groups of men attacking the city. At first, they were killing civilians and drawing first responders into ambushes,” he said, gesturing at several red marks on the acetate hanging in front of the map, “Near as we can tell, there were about 10 shooters in each group, and they seemed to be coordinating their attacks to keep the police from getting organized.”

“For the past few hours, their attacks have been random. Drive-by’s at roadblocks, a couple of longer-range attacks with rifles or machine guns, that kind of thing,” he said, “One of the groups got wiped out when it sat on an ambush site too long and got overrun by armed civilians. The other two have broken contact, and we’re looking for them.”

“They’re uploading videos of their attacks as they happen, probably from cell phones. We’re trying to track them that way, but they never seem to use the same phone twice. That’s probably how they’re coordinating with each other, too.”

“How bad is it?” Wilson asked, taking in the constellations of yellow and red marks on the map.

“Tucson PD and Pima County Sheriff took huge casualties in the first couple of hours,” Major Chism said, “They’re down to maybe fifty percent strength, and that’s only because they’re putting every person with a badge out on the street, no matter their day job.”

“Fire and ambulance got cut up pretty bad, too,” Travis said, “They’re not going out without escort, and even that hasn’t stopped all of the ambushes.”

“Casualties?”

“Not sure. Hundreds, most likely,” the civilian answered, “Like I said, they’d kill some people to pull in the police, then ambush them. They’ve left bombs behind, too. That’s how a lot of the ambulance crews got hit.”

The two soldiers exchanged a look.

“What have we got?” Davis asked.

Major Chism thought for a moment, then said, “Not a lot. The police and sheriff departments are short on experienced officers after today. We have a few of them still working, but not a lot. The National Guard is starting to filter in, and we’ve got them and the police working roadblocks or guarding infrastructure.”

“Any air support?” Davis asked.

“There are A-10’s at Davis Monthan, but they can’t be used in the city,” Chism answered, “Too many civilians. If we catch them outside the city, well, that would change things. The Marines at Yuma are sending what they can, but I’m pretty sure the governor is going to keep them in Phoenix to guard the capitol.”

“Wonderful,” Wilson said under his breath.

“More federal troops are supposed to be on their way, but even if they sent the alert brigades from Campbell or Bragg, we won’t see them before tomorrow,” she continued, “The Air Force is securing their base and providing what personnel they can, but they’re not staffed to hunt bands of armed men.”

Travis nodded, “There’re also groups of civilians guarding their neighborhoods and providing assistance where they can,” he said, “That’ll free up a lot of the police and Guard to hunt for the bastards.”

“What do you need from us?” Davis asked.

“You’re the only real firepower we’ve got, Captain,” she said, “at least until the Guard gets their armor out of the motor pool. If we can fix these assholes to one place long enough, or even drive them into an ambush, you’re going to drop the hammer on them.”

“We’ll do our best,” Davis said.



Other episodes can be found here.  The rest of the story can be found in Escort Duty, available now at Amazon.

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