Two bullets and an election were all it took. That’s it. No invading army or military uprising, not even a coup from within. Sure, the globalization propaganda the press pumped out for the past how many years helped pave the way, but still, all it took were two bullets and an election. Some suggested the election was crooked because of the sudden deaths of three key opposition senators, but the FBI investigated and found them to be unfortunate, but unrelated, accidents. Rigged election or not, that’s all it took, that, and the two bullets that killed the former president and vice president.
The Speaker of the House, Ted Thompson, became President. Whereas the former administration felt the United Nations was a bottleneck in the war against terrorism, Thompson and his party in Congress felt just the opposite. Believing the U.N. was the only organization that could effectively fight terrorism, they pushed through the International Treaty on Terrorism, or ITOT as the press called it. This treaty gave full authority to the United Nations for fighting terrorists, whoever they might be and wherever they might attack. The world body, empowered by American technology and military assets, took this new responsibility seriously. A highly trained reactionary force was created. Soon, most terrorists were on the run. The nations that had supported them no longer did so, at least not openly.
With this newly empowered world body, the United States no longer needed a large military, and much-needed capital was channeled to more deserving domestic issues. The downsizing of the American military was gradual, hardly noticed, definitely not reported in a negative light by the press. Americans were lulled into complacency.
The Islamic terrorists had waited patiently for the right time. Now they struck with a vengeance. Terrorist sleeper cells across America woke as a bear disturbed from hibernation. Key sites across America were attacked. Road-side bombs popped up in major cities. A dirty bomb exploded in downtown Chicago, and a suicide bomber managed to sprint past security and blow a large hole in the Capitol killing seventeen congressmen.
ITOT gave the United Nations full authority in the war on terrorism. The administration, having pushed for the treaty, called upon the United Nations to send in thousands of their special forces to stop the violence. American military and civil authorities were ordered to cooperate with them.
The majority of Americans and the press approved. However, many people did not. Demonstrations and violence against the foreign troops soon erupted. The U.N. commanders declared the demonstrators to be terrorists and used harsh methods to counter them. They worked with President Thompson to impose martial law, set curfews, and restrict movement and public gatherings where needed. This led to more violence against U.N. targets and more foreign troops to combat it. Congress temporarily suspended the Second Amendment and ordered Americans to turn their guns in to the authorities.
The American government and the press proclaimed these actions as necessary to battle the terrorists. Public opinion turned against the demonstrators; most Americans just wanted peace.
Necessary or not, the U.N. occupation was harshest where the rebellion was greatest. One such location was Southwest Washington State where independent-minded men and women refused to give in to the mandates of the United Nations. The authorities reached deep to find a commander hard enough to tackle this trouble spot.
The harsh methods of Major Frank Simmons had proven themselves before. He had no doubt they would see him through again; that is, until he met Luke Tyler.
Luke Tyler stood in the darker shadows of a fir tree watching the U.N. soldier patrol around the outside of the old farmhouse. The quarter moon shining between the scattered clouds cast an eerie light upon the grounds around them. The home was occupied by Major Frank Simmons, head of the U.N. contingency assigned to keep the peace in the southwestern corner of Washington State. He had assumed possession of the property just outside Kelso right after the previous owner was arrested on terrorism charges.
The major was one of many American officers working with the foreign troops. Most of them were U.S. military men and women who believed the president and stayed to help the United Nations subdue the terrorists in America.
Not Simmons. He was a cheap thug in New York City when the foreign troops first moved in. He joined the U.N. military directly, hoping for power and wealth. He was ruthless in his pursuit of success.
Luke glanced south. A cloud bank slowly moved toward the moon. It wouldn’t be long now. He wondered if his wife, Carla, was already in position.
This was mostly her idea. He, being a part-time pastor and the owner of a small newspaper in Woodland, Washington, often spoke out in both the paper and the pulpit against the U.N. occupation. Carla knew the major wouldn’t put up with Luke speaking against him, so she came up with this plan. It was dangerous, but nothing compared to what they’d been through before with Abdul.
Luke looked to his right. There was no sign of his friend Ted, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t there. Time was short, and they had to hurry if they were going to steal the major’s old pickup and get to the headquarters building on time.
The clouds drifted over the moon, and Luke moved again. He was almost to the barn when he sensed Ted next to him.
“It’s as dark as the insides of a grizzly bear,” Ted whispered. “I didn’t see or hear you until you almost stepped on me.”
“Makes me wish I had some night-vision goggles from my army days. Did you notice anyone along the back lane?”
“I got a good look when the moon was out. It’s clear.”
“We might as well get this done then.”
As they moved toward the barn, a beam of bright light lit up the trees behind them. Both men dove to the ground and lay still, charcoaled faces pressed against the grass. The beam passed over them, but did not stop.
Approaching footsteps whispered in the night. Luke slowly slipped his knife from its sheath. He listened for any change in the man’s footsteps that might indicate they’d been seen. The steps remained even. They grew louder. The beam from the flashlight flickered over them again.
Luke tensed, but then the man turned slightly and the footsteps began to fade. The barn door creaked as the guard checked inside. Soon, he was back. The beam of light passed harmlessly to their right. The sound of the guard’s retreating footsteps faded as he plodded back toward the house. Only then did Luke realize he wasn’t breathing and let the air out of his lungs.
“That was close,” he whispered. “Let’s stay put until he rounds the corner of the house.”
“Might just as well,” Ted whispered back. “I’m too scared to move anyway.”
They watched the guard disappear around the corner. “Let’s move,” Luke said softly as he rose to his feet and walked to the truck, a 1949 Ford that the major had restored. Simmons loved the truck and liked to show it off.
“It’s backed in,” Ted said. “We should be able to push it out easy enough, and then it’s all downhill to the road. If we don’t crash into the fence along the lane, we just might survive this.”
Luke moved to the back of the pickup. “You steer and I’ll push. Whatever you do, don’t hit the brakes and make the lights come on.”
The truck settled slightly as Ted got in, then rolled a little forward when he released the parking break. Luke pushed.
It moved slowly at first, but he soon had the truck rolling fast enough he had to run to keep up. The small dot of light from Ted’s pen light led the way. A dog barked behind them, but there was no other sound of alarm.
Carla walked the last half mile to the Cowlitz County Fairgrounds. Her face itched from the charcoal Luke had covered it with, but as she watched the guards patrolling the grounds, she was glad she wore it. That and the dark sweats should help hide her.
Luke had argued with her about this part of her plan. Even though she had proven herself before, he still worried about her safety. That made them even. She worried about him.
They had cased the fairgrounds the night before and had a good idea of where the guards would be. They were careless and often stood in groups talking. That was the situation again tonight.
The headquarters building was just inside the gate. Two sentries stood talking at the front door. Others should be stationed at the back. Bushes lined the wall closest to her. She planned to hide in the bushes until Luke arrived, but first she needed to crawl under the fence and cross 100 feet of open ground to reach them
Her stomach knotted from fear; the same fear she had felt when she went after Abdul with her shotgun. It hadn’t stopped her then; she wouldn’t let it stop her now.
The clouds drifted over the moon. She rose from her hiding place, sprinted to the fense, and dove to the ground. Laying there a moment, she regained her breath and watched for any sign that the guards had seen or heard her. No one moved.
She eased open her trenching tool, shifted her position, and began to dig. The fairgrounds were built on Columbia River bottom land, and the digging was easy. The hole was soon large enough for her to crawl under the fence.
Setting the shovel to one side, she squirmed through the hole. She took one last look around. A man laughed in the distance. A lone guard stood fifty yards to her left, looking the other way. The clouds moved away from the moon.
Carla glanced at her watch. It was almost 2:00. The others should be here soon. Taking a fleeting look at the closest guard, she started to crawl. She was halfway to the bushes when the guard turned around.
Flattening herself against the ground, she held her breath. The guard took several steps toward her. He paused, listening, maybe searching for the source of some sound that had disturbed his consciousness. He came closer. The fear she’d experienced earlier again knotted her gut. Her heart wanted to flee, her mind said stay.
The soldier stopped sixty feet from her and searched the darkness. Then, evidently satisfied, he returned to his original station. Carla rose to her feet and ran to the building.