Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Tenth chapter of my new novel. Thanks for reading, and all comments are welcome. 
Wayne C. Grantham


      Several miles off the west coast of Freestate California, an old aircraft carrier, the CCGS Davis, once the USS Constellation, taken out of mothballs from the Bremerton shipyard and refurbished in San Francisco, led a convoy of military ships in the open sea, roughly paralleling the coast. There were also a cruiser, four destroyers and four troop ships. They flew the flag of the California Republic. California had restored and reactivated several ships from museums, and bought a few from west coast shipyards effectively abandoned by the remaining United States. The Republic of the Pacific was only too happy to rid its shipyards of several derelict, abandoned military ships.
      As planned, four pairs of ships peeled off from the convoy, each pair consisting of a destroyer and a troopship. One pair turned northerly toward Tijuana. The second pair went westerly toward Ensenada. The other two continued south toward San Carlos and Cabo San Lucas.
      On the bridge of the Davis, crewmen were at their flight ops stations. Captain Hillary Cousteau was in the command chair.
      “Turn her into the wind, Lieutenant,” she ordered. “All ahead flank.”
“All ahead flank, Captain,” the helmsman repeated the order, while manipulating the controls. “Coming about to heading two-four-four.”
      “Flight Deck Commander, commence launch.”
The carrier turned and moved away from the accompanying cruiser. Two surveillance planes launch, one after the other.
An hour later, the radioman in the carrier’s bridge slid an earphone back and addressed the captain. “Still no word from the surveillance planes, Ma’am. Their chatter faded out a couple of minutes ago and now I can’t raise ‘em.”
“Mr. Mills,” Cousteau turned the command chair in his direction. “I didn’t work my ass off for the past twelve years to be called ‘ma’am.’ I’m addressed as Captain.”
“Sorry, Captain.”
“Keep trying to raise the planes, if you please, Mr. Mills.” Captain Cousteau turned forward. “And order Boxer to coordinate with the other troop ships so that they all attack together.”
      CCGS Boxer drifted, blacked out, not far from the beach near Ensenada. In the late evening, landing boats, filled with uniformed, fully equipped troops, moved off toward the shore at the four beach cities.
      On a blanket on a beach in Ensenada, a young man and woman were making love. The muffled sound of diesel boat motors gradually increased.
      Ethel pulled away from Fred’s kiss. “Mmmmf! Don't those boats sound kind of close?”
      “So what?”
      He kissed her again. She responded for a moment, and then broke away again.
      “They sound really close!”
      The landing craft ran aground at water's edge. Troops spilled out and ran toward the first row of buildings on the boardwalk. Fred and Ethyl lay on the sand in the dark, naked, unnoticed by the troops as they ran past in the dark. They would never know how they were not noticed by the California invading force.
      One hundred-fifty yards beyond the blanket upon which Fred and Ethyl lay huddled together, now shivering more from fear than from the slightly chilly evening, the dim lights of a beachside restaurant were now partly obscured by the running soldiers.
Eduardo Caldwell and his wife were part of a party of eight enjoying wine and appetizers, along with several other groups and couples were enjoying a late dinner in the expensive restaurant. Others were in the lounge drinking and enjoying conversation. No one noticed the approaching horde until they broke through the doors and windows and started shooting into the ceiling.
A lieutenant shouted over the confusion. “Everyone raise your hands and back toward the wall....”
Eduardo and at least half of the other revelers dropped to their knees and drew handguns of many kinds. Eduardo immediately took aim at the Lieutenant. The shots from at least a dozen handguns were not fired into the ceiling.
      The lieutenant's head disappeared in the reddish fog of its liquefied contents. Even more men and women quickly produced sidearms and simultaneously started shooting and diving for cover. The firefight caused the soldiers to duck behind whatever they could find. Several individuals were killed and wounded on both sides. The Lieutenant's helmet clattered, spinning to the floor in front of a young grunt. The helmet still contained the bloody upper skull of the unfortunate lieutenant.
      The employees and patrons of the restaurant kept firing on the soldiers as they retreated from the building.
      At approximately the same time, landings also took place in Tijuana, San Carlos and Cabo San Lucas. Freestaters at the scene of the other locations learned of the attacks by means of their cuffs or other kinds of communication devices.
California troops advanced through the streets and beachside buildings, and into the towns. Freestaters fought as they retreated before the better equipped California Guard troops.
Casualties mounted on both sides.
After two days of sporadic fighting against armed civilians, the landing force established defensible perimeters within the four cities of the invasion.
      Before morning, the California forces began setting up command posts on the captured beachheads near Tijuana, Ensenada, San Carlos and Cabo San Lucas. In Ensenada, Major Storch commanded the landing party and now was setting up his office in a captured bank building while his troops set up fortifications, sleeping tents and a mess, using a nearby fast food cafeteria, in the surrounding area.
Unable to operate the Freestate computer that had been built into the desk he had chosen for himself, the Major was busy setting up an older California laptop computer thereon. The major’s aide, a lieutenant, was trying to set up a printer on a nearby table. A noncom stepped up, stood at attention and saluted.
“Corporal Smith reporting, sir!”
“Your report, corporal?” Major Storch returned the salute.
“Unable to make radio contact with the Coast Guard, sir.”
“Have you checked out the radio?”
“Yes, sir. The radio is fully operational.” The corporal said apologetically. “All I can get is a hissing static.”
“Er, well....Keep trying, corporal. Dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir!” Corporal Smith turned smartly and left the office.
A radio tech addressed Captain Cousteau as she observed the movements of her fleet from her command chair on the bridge of the Davis.
“Captain, Yosemite reports that her shelling is being disrupted. Her radar shows dozens of small aircraft, probably drones, flying patterns between us and the beach. Our shells explode in the air in their proximity.”
The captain turned her chair to face the radioman. “Give Yosemite my compliments and advise her to pause firing, if you please.”
      “Aye, aye Captain.”
“If they surrender at the sight of your weapons, hold fire and we’ll take them into custody,” the platoon sergeant ordered over their internal radios as they stepped off the troop carrier. The vehicle lifted off immediately as the last of the dozen battle-suited militiamen stepped off the ramp. “If they resist, defend yourselves. Be careful, and best of luck!”
The platoon marched off toward the enemy encampment.
An hour or so before reveille, there was a feeling of uneasiness among the California troops. Many were awakened without realizing why. It began as an unidentifiable stir that sounded far away. Soon, it became obvious that it was the sound of slow marching, but in no regular step. Before the noise got much louder, many of the soldiers were dressed and armed. Some of them moved up to fortify the lines occupied by the perimeter sentries, unsure of what they faced.
There was a light fog, accentuating the sparse lighting in the hastily-erected compound, and it was mildly damp and chilly to those having to be out in it.
No one could have expected what rounded the corners of several of the abandoned and battle-damaged buildings into the invaders’ view.
The thunderous sound of a loudspeaker drowned out other sounds. “You have an opportunity to surrender now,” boomed the voice which seemed, in the fog, to come from all directions at once. “Lay your weapons down and walk toward the Militiamen with your hands in full view.”
Some of the soldiers stood wide-eyed, searching in every direction for the source of the voice. Others covered the now-standing forms facing them, with their rifles. They waited for orders.
Major Pennice, the commander of the San Carlos garrison, came striding up to the fortification nearest the middle of the array of Freestate Militiamen. He couldn’t believe what he saw in the early light of dawn.
The Freestate Militiamen were over eight feet tall, fully secure in armor colored in various ways, apparently to each individual’s own taste. One was white, styled to look like a very large Star Wars Imperial storm trooper. Another looked like a Sioux warrior. A third looked like a Keystone Cop. Others were painted to resemble other characters.
“Fire on them!” ordered the major. “Fire at will!”
Immediately as the first volleys were fired on the armored Militiamen, hell was unleashed. Most Militia armor had short-barreled mini guns mounted at the hip. Some had a mortar or a grenade launcher on a shoulder. A few militiamen opted for a rocket launcher, also on the shoulder. The difficulty with these last three was that they couldn’t carry much ammunition. Thus, the mini was the weapon of choice for the militia.
Although the battle suits could be damaged if hit in small spots in the elbows, ankles, knees and hips, a rifle bullet couldn’t pierce the armor. The Freestate militia returned fire with small bursts. The California Guard suffered severe casualties. The troop carrier above repeated its order to drop weapons and surrender. Seeing how heavily they were overpowered by the Freestate militia, the remaining California troops complied.
Two of the Freestate Militiamen had fallen and were struggling to get up, but had non-functioning limbs, caused by lucky hits. One was helped to his feet by others. The second had a malfunctioning leg and had to be picked up and carried away to the troop carrier, which had landed nearby.
“We’re getting something on the radio finally, Captain,” the radioman said, looking up from his console.
Captain Cousteau turned to face the radioman. “Proceed, if you will, Mr. Mills.
      “The caller is from Freestate, Ma--er--Captain. A Leftenant Houston, I think he says. He wants....oh, shit....”
“Please, Lieutenant!”
“He says they have captured all of our troops in the four invasion beachheads. There are casualties and many wounded. As partial reparations, they’re going to confiscate all their weaponry and equipment. We’re told to send in unarmed landing craft for the surviving soldiers, and coffins to pick up the dead. They want an answer in an hour.”
Captain Cousteau paused for several seconds in thought. “Ask the Leftenant what assurances we have that our landing craft won’t be confiscated, as well.”
After relaying the message to the shore, he listened for a moment and answered the captain. “According to him, you have his word as an officer and gentleman that we’ll be allowed to reclaim our troops. Wait. He further states that they have no need for our equipment. It would be sorely obsolete in their militia.”
“Bastard!” Captain Cousteau spat out. “Tell him the boats will be sent after they are refueled.
“Radio Redding, Alarcon, Cranston and Boxer to ready their landing craft for the pickup. Order them to keep all armaments out of sight and not to even show them unless attacked.”
 “One more thing, Captain. He must insist, he says, that the boats must arrive, and depart during full daylight. Uh, further, he states that there should be an officer with each landing group. He assures you that the wounded are being cared for as if they were their own.”
After the injured California troops were treated and stabilized, they were kept comfortable until the next morning, when the CNG landing craft arrived to pick them up.
After the pickup craft groups were docked, the Freestate Militia officer at each of the four sites advised the California Coast Guard officer of the surrender terms.
“All of your weapons and equipment are to be surrendered, as spoils of war. That will, of course, include the two pilots you sent to invade our airspace, and their aircraft. The Governor of the Republic of California is to be billed for the cost of the damages, as soon as they are quantified. This warrant has been sworn out for the arrest of Governor Fred Ballou for multiple counts of murder, the exact number yet to be determined.”
Copies of the warrant and the terms of surrender were handed to each of the four CCG officers at each of the four landing sites.
“Freestate California sincerely hopes that future dealings with the Republic of California will be conducted in the letter and spirit of free trade and good will.”

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