© Copyright Joseph A. Hughes 2004, 2005, 2006. No part of this webpage can be reproduced or used by others in any way, shape or form unless by express written permission of the copyright holder.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

The old man sat back in his chair, and smiled as he looked at his grandchildren. He knew it had been only a short time since the Great War. It was the war of all wars, the war between good and evil. To his grandchildren it was some distant story of long ago, and they knew nothing of these things. However, their grandfather was determined to make them understand what had happened. He never wanted anyone to suffer through something like that again, and telling the stories would remind them not to make that mistake.

 

The children sat at his feet waiting to hear the story. He reached over and turned the old oil lamp down as he announced, “It was before the time of the Mark, and two years before I was borne. Your great-grandmother Mandy and great-grandfather Steve lived on a small farm not to far from here. It started early on a Saturday morning when the phone rang. Steve was sleeping next to Mandy, and waited for her to pick it up, but she just laid there. He thought she must want him to get it, so He picked up his head and looked at the clock. Through the blur, he saw 5:13. Darn who is calling this early on a Saturday, He thought. He sat up and answered the phone. With his head resting on the pillow He mumbled, "Hello."

 

“Steve, this is Ray.” He didn’t recognize the voice, and had to think. Still in a half-dazed sleep, he was thinking, Ray? Who the heck is Ray?

 

“This is Mandy’s Uncle Ray.” He had never talked to him on the phone before; as a matter of fact he never met him. All he knew was that Ray lived back east somewhere, and worked for the government. Ray went on, “Now listen close! The government has put a plan into place that will take over everything, and I mean everything! They’re going to brake down the supply chain, and use it to control all the people.”

 

He sat strait up in bed, and Mandy opened her eyes and looked at him. Then in a sleepy voice she asked, “Who is it?” He waved his hand at her and listened intensely to what Ray was saying. “In two weeks you won’t be able to get anything unless it is through the government. This Wednesday is the day it all comes down, but it is happening now. All the people that work in warehouses are seeing the lowest stock levels ever and some might be putting the pieces together. Now go, get all the money you can out of the bank. Use credit cards or what ever you have, and stock up the best you can. Don’t go to any big city like Portland or Seattle. It might already be starting to happen there. Good luck you guys.” Then He heard a click and the phone was dead.

 

He was sitting there looking at Mandy with a bewildered look on his face, as she asked, “What is wrong?”

 

Steve replied, “The guy on the phone said he was your uncle Ray, and was rattling on about some crazy stuff.”

 

“Why didn’t you let me talk to Him?” she asked.

 

“Because he hung up,” He replied. “He was talking crazy anyway, something about the government shutting down all the supply chains, and not being able to buy anything.”

 

Mandy sat up in bed, and gave Steve a look he had never seen in all of their years of marriage. A strange feeling came over him, and it was not good. She looked straight in his eyes and demanded, “Tell me exactly what he said!" He told her the best he could what Ray had said, but he hadn’t had any coffee yet and was not wide-awake. Mandy jumped out of bed and tour off her nighty, by the time her feet hit the floor it was off. Turning back and looking at Steve as she pulled some close from the drawer she yelled, "Get dressed Steve! We got to go!”

 

He got up, walked over to the dresser, and pulled open the sock drawer. Slowly he pulled out a pair of socks, and felt Mandy’s hand on the collar of his nightshirt. Giving it a jerk, she pulled his head so his face was right in front of hers. Then in a stern voice she scolded, “Listen to me Steve! This is no joke. This is the call I never wanted to get, but it came and now we have to deal with it. My Uncle Ray works for the government. I don’t know what he dose, but he has been doing it for thirty years. If he didn’t know something, he would have never called. This isn’t about the Christmas presents he sends every year, or the cards he sends me from around the world. This is about something he told me when I was about 15 years old. He would take me on a fishing trip every summer. It was about that age when I asked what he did for the government. He told me he could not tell me about his work, but he would tell me this. He got a serious look on his face and I thought he was looking right through me. I will never forget that look as long as I live. Then with my eyes staring into his he said, “Mandy when you grow up and are living on your own. If I ever call you day or night, and I don’t care if it is two in the morning. You do just as I tell you. Now promise me you will do that.” “I swallowed the lump in my throat and promised.”

 

She let go of his shirt collar and insisted, “Now get dressed were going to Tri-City’s. I’m going to go get the Pathfinder, and you better be getting in by the time I back it out.”

 

Going down the highway, he could see the Columbia River come into view. The wind was blowing a good clip, and the river had white caps rolling like waves at the beach. He knew they would be bucking a head wind most the way up the river. The last thing he wanted to be doing was getting jerked around on an empty stomach, and he knew that going down Interstate 84 would be that way. He told Mandy he needed a cup of coffee before they got on the freeway. She told him they would stop in Bigs and get something.

 

She pulled in to the truck stop, and parked by the door. He looked at the parking lot for the trucks, and there was only about ten trucks parked in the lot. He thought this is strange there should be three or four rows of trucks, but He didn’t want to think Mandy’s uncle was right. He thought there must be another reason. He went into the store and walked back to the coffee counter. There was a funky sign that said, “Out of coffee decaff only.”

 

He went up to the counter and asked, “What is up with the coffee?”

 

The young kid behind the counter told him that they ran out because their shipment didn’t come in. He went on to tell him that the manager sent someone to The Dalles to buy some, but it would probably be an hour before they had any. Then he told Steve that they had some at the Quickie Mart across the street the last he knew. Steve turned to look for Mandy, and saw her coming to the counter carrying some sweet rolls. He told her that they were out of coffee, but they had some across the street. She paid for the rolls, and they went across the street. Steve went straight to the coffee counter. Mandy told him that she never heard of a truck stop running out of coffee, as she poured a cup. He snapped on the lid and watched Mandy. She was putting chocolate flavored creamer in her coffee. He took a drink, and gave her a smile. Then told her you had better stock up on chocolate when we get there. She snapped on her lid, and told him she was more worried about things like toilet paper and soap. He shook his head as went up to pay for their coffee.

 

In Boise, Ray was having his own problems. After leaving the Pentagon the day before he took a flight to Denver where he hired a private pilot to fly him to Boise. Once there, he made the call to Steve and Mandy. Then he took a taxi to Bill’s place. Bill was a retired CIA agent, and Ray had worked with him all his life. If there was anyone he knew he could trust, it was Bill. Ray paid the taxi driver, and walked the last two blocks to Bill’s house. It was a quaint little cottage on a tree-lined street in Caldwell, just out side of Boise. Ray rang the doorbell, as his heart pounded with anticipation. A big smile came to Bill’s face as he opened the door, and saw Ray. “Well don’t just stand there, come on in,” Bill said, as he opened the door wide. “Tell me you finely retired, and come to collect on that fishing trip I promised you.”

 

“No not really,” Ray responded. “I need a favor.”

 

Walking into the kitchen and taking a cup from the cupboard, Bill asked. “Cream and sugar right?”

 

Having a seat at the kitchen table, Ray replied, “Just like my women sweet and blond.”       

 

With a chuckle Bill asked, “What do you need Ray? I knew you weren’t dressed for fishing anyway.”

 

Pulling a folder from his briefcase, he slid it across the table to Bill. Taking a sip of his coffee, he opened the folder, Top Secret, Shadow Eyes Only. Bill’s eyebrows went up, “Maybe I shouldn’t be looking at this.”

 

“Maybe you should,” Ray demanded.

 

Bill thumbed through the file, pausing from time to time to look at Ray. Closing the file, and pushing it to the center of the table. He leaned back in his chair, took a drink of his coffee and said, “This isn’t the kind of fishing trip I was talking about, and where in the hell did you get this anyway.  

 

“Some young thirty-two year old computer geek at the pentagon slipped me a card with the file number on it, and a note. The note said save my family, my wife and I have a code incase something like this happened. It’s the apple fell from the tree. I looked up his file and he has a wife and two kids in Seattle.”

 

“Well Ray, I know about five agents I can trust out of the hundreds I’ve trained, not counting you and Wiley. So what is your plan?”

 

“To not get caught or killed.”

 

Bill laughed and said, “I think we should put together our own shadow government right inside theirs. Have them take them self’s down.”

 

“So where do we start?” Ray asked.

 

“Wiley of course,” Bill replied.

 

 

On the freeway, heading east Steve was thinking about this whole thing. He gave some thought about the truck stop, and why there were only a few trucks there. Truckers have radios, He thought, and would tell each other about the coffee. Then there was Mandy’s uncle. How much could he trust what he said? Steve was not sure about that. Mandy seamed so sure, but he thought it was just over the edge for him. That’s ok, he thought, I have two hours to calm her down.

 

About an hour down the road, his coffee was gone, and Steve was wide-awake. He thought about saying something. When it hit him like a slap in the face. He had only seen Mandy pass one truck. He asked, “How many trucks have you seen?” She told him, only the one I passed and one going the other way. He stared at her for a minute. Then asked, “Do you think your uncle was right, and it is already happening?

 

“I did not talk to him you did,” she said. “All I can tell you is that if he called to warn me about something. I would bet my life on it happening, and not think twice about doing what he told me. Another thing I have been thinking about is getting things home.”

 

“What do you mean?” Steve asked,

 

She took a deep breath and continued. “We can’t fit very much in our Pathfinder, and if we buy enough toilet paper to last a year. That would fill up the backend and not leave room for anything else.”

 

Steve never thought about what it would take to last a year without shopping.

 

“Darn! A year! What are you thinking about?” He questioned.

 

“You know I was thinking this might be the beginning of the mark of the beast.” She replied and went on to ask, “What do you think it would mean if you could not buy anything unless it was through the government.”

 

Steve’s head was spinning, and He could not keep a straight thought. He never gave the whole God thing much thought, and always thought if it was true. That all the God people would disappear, and that would be the sign this was your last chance. He thought about what I knew about this kind of thing, and came to the realization he knew nothing about it. He never read the bible, and didn’t even know what it said about this kind of thing."

 

He asked Mandy if she really thought this might be the beginning of the mark.

 

She responded, “I don’t know, but are you willing to take a chance with your life to find out?”

 

In Boise they took Bill’s old 89 Ford, and headed down town. They both knew the place; an over night shipping company that never shipped a thing. It was a good cover for a CIA office. Walking in the door the desk clerk knew them right away. “Hi Bill, Ray, sorry but Wiley isn’t in yet.”

 

“That’s ok, we’ll wait in his office,” Bill replied.

 

They went around the counter, through the door, and down the hall to Wiley’s office. After waiting about twenty minutes Wiley walked in. looking at Bill he said, “I figured this nuke thing would bring you in, sorry I don’t have much info to tell you. We’re just in watch mode waiting for an assignment.”

 

Wiley sat at his desk and turned on his computer, as Bill tossed the file on his desk.

 

“What is this,” Wiley asked.

 

“Something you need to see,” Bill replied.

 

Opening the folder Wiley looked up and said, “I can’t look at this, it is on a need to know bases.”

 

At the same time Bill and Ray said, “You need to know!”

 

Turning the page Wiley muttered, “Oh shit!” Then turning another page he said, “Holy crap!” Soon he was cussing so much; a drunken sailor would have sounded like a nun.      

 

Wiley closed the folder, sat back in his chair, and stared at them. Then he finally said, “This is big, this is really big. Damn it, now what?”

 

“I think they might be looking for me,” Ray responded. “I left the Pentagon yesterday, and didn’t show up for work today. Now with that folder missing it won’t take to long for them to put two and two together.”

 

 “Damn, I’m getting to old for this kind of shit,” Wiley replied.

 

Ray stood and looked Wiley in the eyes and said, “You still owe me a new pair of boots for the ones you burned.”

 

Shaking his head Wiley said, “Damn it Ray that was twenty years ago, and it did save our lives, didn’t it.” Then he pulled open a desk drawer and took out a gun. Handing it to Ray by the barrow he said, “Shoot me.”

 

“What! Damn it Wiley get yourself under control,” Ray scolded.

 

“I am under control, you dumb ass. I’m wearing one of those fancy bulletproof vests; I can’t just let you walk out of here you know. Besides, you need someone on the inside. Oh and by the way, take out that weasel son of a bitch up front on your way out. Damn bastards in Washington sent him out here to spy on me.”

 

Ray took the gun and informed Wiley, “Now don’t chase us with anyone you don’t want to lose.”

 

“I know that! Now shoot me, and get that file out of here.”

 

Bill walked to the door, and stepped into the hall. Then pulled his pistol from his shoulder holster, and looked at Ray with a nod. Boom! Wiley rolled back and hit the wall. Boom! The computer monitor blows up. Boom! The phone flew off the desk. Wham the hall door flew open. Boom! The weasel flew back out the door. Ray picked up the file and walked out with Bill. Walking to the car Bill said, “Just like the old days Ray. Don’t ya think?”

 

“I think you shot the bastard dead in the middle of the forehead. That’s what I think, but we still need to come up with a plan.” Ray replied.

 

“Already got one,” Bill informed as they got in the car. “I have a friend that owns a trucking company, and I have some stuff stashed there. We’re going to do good, I got everything we need.”

 

“Great, last time you told me that, we almost blew-up on an oil tanker in the middle of the ocean,” Ray teased.

 

On the freeway, Mandy turned off on to interstate 82, and headed north. Steve knew they were only about 15 minutes away, and told her to stop at a phone booth. He needed to look up a U-Hall place, so they can rent a truck. As soon as they got into the first populated area, she took the exit, and found a phone. Steve looked up U-Hall and made the call. After getting directions, they were off to get a truck. After they got the truck, they went to the bank and drew out the max $300. They would use the debit card, and credit cards to buy everything. This would leave them with some cash.

 

They went to Cost-Co first, and got one of those big flat carts. Then they went straight to the toilet paper. He looked and saw there were 36 rolls to a case. Ten cases would be 360 roles, and that would be about a roll a day for a year. He thought that would be more than they would ever need, so he stacked them on the cart. They made three trips into the store, because they didn’t want anyone to know what they were doing. About $800 later, they were off to another store.

 

In Bosie, Wiley Come too. He looked at his smoking monitor, and put his hand to his chest. Crap that hurts worst than being shot, he thought. Staggering to his feet, he walked to check the weasel. There he was lying behind the counter in a pool of blood. With a small hole right in the middle of his forehead. Wiley took out his cell-phone, “We have a problem, Ray and Bill were just here. The damn bastards tried to kill me, and took out one of my agents.” There was a Pause. Then, “Yes sir, we’re on it.” He made another call, “Code red, at the shop now. Assemble the team.” Looking up he saw a police car parked out front, and two cops coming in the door.

 

“We got a report of shots being fired. Is everything ok?” One of them asked.

 

Wiley looked down at the puddle of blood next to his feet, as one of the officers looked over the counter. Seeing the dead man lying in a puddle of blood he jumped back and pulled his gun. “Don’t move!” He shouted.

 

Outside a black SUV with tented windows skidded to a stop. Two men wearing black suits and dark sunglasses rushed the door. ID’s in hand they barked, “CIA, we’ll take it from here.”

 

“I don’t know,” the senior officer replied. “We have a dead man here. I think I need to call the Sergeant on this one.”

 

Frozen in place with a gun still pointed at him, Wiley commanded, “Would you have him put his gun down, so I can show him my ID.”

 

In no time, Bill and Ray had driven halfway across town, and pulled up in front of Lost Lake Trucking. Walking in the door the receptionist asked, “May I help you.”

 

“We’re here to see Ken,” Bill replied.

 

“He is not seeing anyone today,” she announced.

 

“Just call him and tell him Bill is here,” he argued.

 

Picking up the phone, she pushed a button and said, “There is a man here that says his name is Bill, and he wishes to see you.” Looking up from the phone she informed, “He said come on back.”

 

They walked down the hall to the corner office on the end. Inside was a big office with windows on two walls. There was a chubby gray haired guy putting golf balls across the room. Looking up at Bill he asked, “Are you ready for our game next week?”

 

“Think I will have to take a rain-check on that. I got a job to do for a while, and I need a couple of trucks.” Bill replied.

 

“Not a problem right now Bill,” Ken whined. “Damn computer is all screwed up, and half my trucks are in the yard. I have my drivers calling me ten times a day wanting a load, and we don’t know where to send them. Got a computer guy working on it now, but he told me we lost it all. Hell, I think it was easier when we dispatched the trucks from a logbook.” Then he asked, “Am I billing this to the company?”

 

Swallowing the lump in his throat Bill said, “No, you are reporting them stolen.”       

 

“Oh really, Ken affirmed. “So just when is it that I’m supposed to notice these trucks are missing? Not that I would notice with half my fleet in the yard.”

 

“Tomorrow morning,” Bill whispered. “I want to get my stuff out of the garage out back too.”

 

Ken walked to his desk and pushed a button on his phone and said, “Linda would you send someone to fuel two trucks, and take them out back to the garage.”

 

“Will do Mr. Lake,” came over the speaker.

 

Pushing the button again he asked, “Do you need to use a forklift to load some stuff up?”   

 

“Yeah, I’m going to be loading it all on to a truck.” Bill replied.

 

“Then I want to ask you something, and I want you to be as honest as you can. This virus messing up all the trucking industry, it is not just a coincidence is it?”

 

Bill looked at Ray as he put his hand on Ken’s shoulder, and walked him to the door. Whispering in his ear, “You remember in the sixth grade when I told you about Marry Lou? Well it is like that happening to everyone at the same time.”

 

Opening the door to the shop, Ken stopped blocking the door and suggested, “Maybe I should do some shopping, and take a vacation to my hunting cabin.”

 

Looking Ken in the eyes Ray finally spoke, “Hope you have enough wood to keep warm through the winter.”

 

Ken’s eyes opened wide and he yelled, “Jason!” One of the two mechanic’s working on a truck came walking over. “These guys need to use a forklift, and I’m going to spend some time at my cabin. I’m leaving you in charge of things well I’m gone. Now give these guys what ever they need, and make sure the computer guy gets things working.”

 

“Yes Sir Mr. Lake, Jason replied. Grabbing a key off the wall, Jason waved his hand and said. “Come on guys it’s out here.” He set them up with the forklift, and they went to the garage where Bill had his stuff stored. One of the trucks was already waiting, and the other was just pulling up. Bill directed him to park the truck to block the view of what he was loading. Taking the keys from his pocket, he unlocked the padlock and rolled up the door. A voice echoed, “You have ten seconds, nine, eight, Bill put a key into a panel and gave it a turn. The count down stop, and announced, “You have thirty seconds.” Then it started counting down again. Bill put his eye to a little window on the panel then stepped back. Aloud, “Retina scan identified, system disarmed, welcome Mr. Thomson.”

 

Looking at pallets of caned goods Ray marveled, “Kind of sophisticated to protect some caned goods.”

 

“It’s what is behind the caned goods that I’m protecting,” Bill informed. “I have a complete def-con package back there and an assault package for twenty men.”

 

Ray’s mouth dropped open, and he stared in disbelief. Finely he responded, “You mean there is stuff back there we can use to take over, listen to, or send anything we want to any satellite.”

 

Opening a laptop sitting on top of a pallet, Bill responded, “If it is happening at the Pentagon we will be able to see it, and we can do anything they can.” Then bringing up a box on the screen he typed a message, “The end of the world as we know it,” and clicked send. “There, Rick will be showing up soon.

 

In a coffee shop five miles away Rick was waiting for his latte, “beep, beep,” Rick looked at his text pager. One glance and he was running out the door. “Hay! You forgot your latte,” the clerk shouted. Rick didn’t even look back; he jumped into his car and peeled out of the lot.

 

    He pulled up and saw Bill and Ray loading the truck. He knew at that moment that all his worst fears had come true. Bill and Ray stopped as Rick walked up. “Say it ant true!” Rick demanded.

 

With a serous look on his face Bill replied, “All those conspiracy theories you been telling me for years are happening as we speak.”

 

Stomping his foot and throwing his head to one side Rick growled, “I knew it, damn it, I knew it. Damn bastards think they’re gods.” Shaking his head at Bill, “I told you this would happen! Didn’t I? Well didn’t I?” Rick waited for a response.

 

“Yes, for years, but we don’t have time for that now,” Bill barked back. “I need you to put the team together, and the tipster has a wife and kids in Seattle. You need to have them picked up. It was part of the deal.”

 

“This tipster, is he on the inside? Rick requested. 

 

“The Pentagon,” Ray replied.

 

“Can we use him?” Rick asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Ray responded. “I hardly know him. All I can tell you is he fixed my computer one time, and we talked a little. Well, he really didn’t fix it. He just gave me another computer then setup my passwords and access to the network. The next day all my stuff was back on my computer, and he stopped by to make sure everything was working fine. I thanked him for doing a good job, and getting on it so fast. He told me he was just doing his job to serve his country. I told him that was what we all were doing. All we can do is the best we can to protect our families, and the families of the rest of the country.

 

“That was until yesterday, he stopped to check something on my computer. He knelled down next to me and took the mouse. Then he put his hand in my pocket. Damn, for a minute I thought he was gay. Then he told me my overseas connections were working fine, and if I had any problems just give him a call. Then he told me he had to call the wife and kids, and tell them they canceled his leave. He gave me a wink and walked off. I waited until lunch, and in the restaurant bathroom, I checked my pocket. I found a card with the file number on it, and a note. The note said, “Save my family, my wife and I have a code incase something like this happened. It’s the apple fell from the tree.”

 

“When I got back from lunch I found an old case file that had a number close to the one he gave me, and went to the file room. I hoped if I was caught, I could say I must have written the number down wrong. I found the file, saw it said shadow government, and paused for a moment trying to decide what to do. Then the words on his note rang through my head, “Save my family.” I started thumbing through the file. I was scared as hell, and slapped the folder closed. I went and pulled the file I looked up on the computer, and stuck it inside of it. When I left, the clerk didn’t even chick the file, just entered the number and told me to have a nice day. When I got off work, I went straight to the airport. That’s it. That’s all I know. The file is on the seat of the truck if you want to look at it. As for wither you can trust him or not, if you have his wife and kids what do you think.”

 

“I don’t need to see it Ray, maybe later,” Rick replied as he pulled out his cell-phone, and started making calls. Ray and Bill went back to loading the truck. Soon they were down to the can goods they had set aside, and one small box way in the back. Bill walked to the box and opened it slowly. Then took a deep breath, and pulled a wire hooked to a black box with a green flashing light. “Woo,” Bill sighed and sat back, as Ray walked up.

 

“The truck is loaded,” Ray informed. “Son of a bitch! I never saw that much plastic in one place before.”

 

“Yeah it was hooked to that alarm on the wall,” Bill divulged. “Enough here to level everything for a half-mile, but it’s safe now. We just need to get this in the other truck. I’ll be driving that one.”

Rick walks up, “Ok, I’ve put the team together, but we are going to need man power. You got any ideas on that?”

 

“That is my job, Ray replied. “I just need one good man.”    

 

“Ring, ring,” Rick answered his phone, “Yeah, ok, I’m thirty away.” Throwing his phone to the ground, he started stomping on it. “Well I’m like you now. They’re putting together a team to bring you down. We better get going, or they will be on us like fly’s on a cow-pie.” 

 

Bill picked up the box of C-4 and carried it to the empty truck. Setting it on the floor of the passenger side he said, “You take the lead Rick, and I will follow you.

 

Ray climbed in with Rick, and they were off.

 

In the truck going down the road Ray asked, “So where are we setting all this stuff up at?”

 

“There is a church camp over in Washington that’s not used this time of year,” Rick pointed out.

 

“Have you come up with a plan to get across the border? You know they will be inspecting all the trucks, and you know there’s an all points bulletin on us by now.”

 

“Got it covered,” Rick replied. “We’re going north and taking a logging road. I hunted up there with my dad for years, and know the roads well.”

 

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Ray inquired. “How in the hell did you and Bill end up with a Def-Con package?”

 

Rick began, “There is a big chemical plant north of here. Under it is the bunker from hell. It was supposed to be one of five backups for the Pentagon. They built it incase of a full-scale takeover by China or Russia. I’m not sure, how it all came down but some high up people set it up. There were two convoys, one had the real stuff and the other was a decoy. Bill and I were driving the decoy, so we thought. We arrived at the plant a few minuets after the first convoy. The truck was backing up to the dock when there was a large explosion, and a fire broke out. It took off fast, and there were things exploding all over the place. Then we got a call on Bill’s cell-phone. We were told to take our load to a safe place, so we took what we thought was the decoy to Bill’s friend.

 

“That is the guy that owns Lost Lake Trucking. That’s when we found that we were not the decoy, and had the whole ball of wax. In an open box on the back of the load was the alarm system, a manual for it, and the C-4. Bill and I unloaded everything into that garage, and setup the alarm. Then programmed it for the two of us, and took back the truck. The next day the fire was still burring. They were not even trying to fight it, because it was to dangers. It was three days before it burned out, and was in all the papers. When they finely got into check things out it turned out one of the chemicals was an accelerant, and it made the fire burn hotter than normal. They say it not just melted the steel, but boiled it into a gas. There was no trace of anything left, and they thought the def-con package went with it.

 

“That was five years ago, and no one has contacted us sense then. After a year, Bill got worried every time he would go to check on the stuff, so he bought the case goods to put in front of it. That way people would only see food when he opened the door. Well now you know as much as we do, and can think all kinds of strange things like us.”

 

Back at the over night shipping company, the place was filling up with people. Local police, FBI, Home Land Security, and the CIA were all there. They all were demanding their peace of the pie, but Washington knew they had to take down this cell of defectors. There were growing to fast and knew too much to cover up. Which was becoming more apparent by the second, as they viewed the surveillance tapes at the Pentagon. “Right there, stop the tape,” the General ordered. “What the hell is he doing in the file room? Can you zoom in on that file he’s holding?” The General requested.

         

“Yes sir,” the Marine answered. Then he picked a box around it, and it came up full screen for all to see, “Top Secret Shadow Eyes Only.”          

       

“Fast forward that now! The General barked. The tape fast-forwarded to the point where Ray left the file room. The General picked up a phone, “Mr. President, the tiger is out of its cage! Did you hear me! The tiger is out of its cage!”

 

“You better get it back in its cage! I don’t care if you have to kill it with your bear hands, and drag it back in there yourself. You get it back in there whatever the cost. Do you understand!” The President demanded. 

 

“Yes sir,” the General vowed.

 

The General stepped into the control room and announced, “Gentlemen we have a situation!” He barked, “There is a terror cell forming at this very moment, and it is being lead by one of our own, Ray Gunderson. He’s top notch CIA, and knows how things work around here. You will need to think out of the box on this one. Now I want to know every step he made sense he left the Pentagon yesterday. Don’t look at me men get with it!

 

Ray sat quietly thinking before responding, “Wow, I don’t know what to think, but it would be good to know we had some people in high places, and they set this up knowing what was coming.

 

“I know what you mean,” Rick replied. “Bill and I have thought about that many times over the last five years.”

 

Pulling into a rest stop outside of Weiser Idaho Rick informed, “We are picking up two men here. Two more in Try-City’s Washington, then we have two that are coming from Seattle. They will meet us at the church camp with the package. That will give us a team of nine, but we need a team of about thirty to get this equipment setup. Now open your door and let those two guys walking over here in.”

 

Ray opened his door, and scooted to the middle of the truck. The first guy climbed over the seat and into the sleeper. The next guy through a bag over the seat to his partner, and climbed in next to Ray. No sooner than the door shut, Rick was pulling the truck out. Then checked his mirror for Bill to make sure he was behind them. About thirty miles north, they turned on to a logging road, and headed for the border.

 

The Pentagon, “Sir we have traced him to Boise.” A Marine announced.

 

Sarcastically the General barked, “No shit Sherlock, he shot up the CIA office there.”

 

“No, I mean the private air port where he landed, and it looks as if he made a call from a pay-phone.” The Marine responded.

 

“Do we have a copy of that call?” The General demanded.

 

 “Loading it now sir,” the Marine replied. The General stepped behind him at the control panel as he pushed play. “Steve, this is Ray. Mandy’s Uncle Ray. Now listen close! The government has put a plan in to place that will take over everything, and I mean everything!"

 

“I want to know who this call was made to! The General ordered.

 

From across the room, “I have it sir, it’s a couple in central Washington State, a Steve and Mandy Hartmann.”

 

“I want to know everything about them,” The General demanded. “I want to know what makes them so importune he would break protocol to call them. Come on men I want to know what toothpaste they used this morning.”

 

Then another shout came echoing across the room, “Think I have something sir. Mandy’s maiden name is Gunderson, and they have been using credit cards in Tri-Cities Washington.”

 

A big smile came across the Generals’ face as he thought, Got ya. Oh how sweet, he has a little girl out there, and he doesn’t want anything to happen to her. “Ok, lets get an APB on whatever they might be driving, send a team to check out their house, and find where they went shopping.”

 

At the CIA Office in Boise Wiley answered his phone, “You need to move your team to Try-City’s Washington, and wait for further instructions.”

 

“Have we located the target there?” Wiley inquired.

 

“The target has changed, you are to bring in Steve and Mandy Hartmann,” his commander replied. “Alive! Do you understand that! They must be alive.”

 

“Yes sir, we will do our best,” Wiley responded.

 

“No! His commander shouted, “I don’t want you to do your best. I want you to bring them in alive!

 

“Yes sir!” Wiley replied, and ended the call.

 

At the Pentagon, Jason closed the access panel, and walked out of the control room. Back at his little workshop, he sat at his computer just past the workbench. Thinking, Well Ray, let see if you are smart enough to figure this out. He typed on the keyboard, but nothing was happening on the screen. His message was going strait into cyberspace. On a computer half way across the country, it would turn into a post on a board.

 

Three and a half-hours to go a little over forty miles, but they had made it. They were across the border, and on the highway heading for Try-City’s. Ray had briefed the men on the way, and they passed the folder around. It was almost unbelievable, twenty years in the making, and it was all coming down at that very moment.

 

Pulling into the truck stop Rick looked for a parking spot. The place was packed, and trucks were parked up and down the street. Finely he found a spot three rows back, and Bill stopped his truck in the aisle behind the other truck. They all got out and met at the back of the truck.

 

Mandy and Steve spent the rest of the day driving from store to store. They were buying things by the case a little at a time. By 4:00 PM, they were starved, and the back of the Pathfinder and truck were full. Their bank account was down to $60 and one credit card was maxed out. Mandy looked at Steve and said, "We have a little left on the other credit card. I think we should use it to get something to eat. You know one last fling kind of thing. I have some friends that live a little ways from here. I was thinking we could invite them, and tell them what is going on. They might think we are crazy, but at least we could try."

 

She called her friends and we setup a meeting place. They drove to the restaurant, picked out a table, and waited for their friends to show up. Steve looked up and saw Tom open the door for his wife Sue. Mandy gave a wave, and they walked over to the table. Tom sat down and asked if they heard about the guy in the CIA. They told him no, and he told them they just heard about it on the radio on the way to the restaurant. This guy got all pissed off because he didn’t get a promotion, so he hacked into the personal records of all the top officials. Then he took all the names and phone numbers of their family members. He spent all night calling them and telling them some crazy story about the government. All the government agencies have been flooded with calls all day about it. They say he called over 300 people maybe more. Anyway, they said he was still making calls when they arrested him.

 

A strange feeling came over Steve as he looked at Mandy. He saw a tear start to run down her cheek, and knew she felt like a fool. He looked over at Tom and said, “We just went and bought a years supply of stuff. You know things are so uncertain these days. We thought we should prepare for what ever is to come. That is why we asked you here. We wanted to know what you thought.”

 

With a big smile Tom said, “Welcome to the club. We have been doing that same thing. It is just that you never know if you should tell someone about it. You know it is just as scary being prepared, as it is to think about all that is going on these days. What I mean is you never know who you can trust and who you cant, but when it all comes down we’ll know then.”

 

Sue looked at Mandy and said, “Chin up girl, it is nothing to cry about. It is not that hard, and I have learned a lot about storing things. I’d be glad to help you any way I can.”

 

At The Truck Stop Rick spoke first, “I need to go inside and find Dave and Tom.”

 

“Think I should find a place to park this truck,” Bill announced. “I can’t leave it parked in the aisle.”

 

Ray looked around making eye contact with everyone. Then pointed to the truck with the Def-Con package in it and pointed out, “This truck is all that separates us from a free country and a communist one. We will protect it with our life, because without it we have no life. At this very moment, we have the best they have being thrown at us. They could be on top of us at any moment, so if any of us are taken down the rest have to keep going.” Then looking to Bill, Ray nodded.

 

“Ok men,” Bill responded, “Let’s get some fire power.” He pulled open the back of the truck and climbed in. pointing to Mark he said, “Come on up and give me a hand.” Picking up a pry-bar from the floor of the truck Bill handed it to Mark. Then had him climb on top of the pallet of can goods, and instructed him to open the crate with the blue pain on it.

 

“I’ve been thinking,” Rick said to Ray, “This guy in the Pentagon, how do we contact him. Then it came to me. If you need to tell someone something, but didn’t know where they were. How would you send the message, so they could get it no matter where they were at?”

 

Ray’s eyes lit up. “The web?” He questioned.

 

“That is just what I was thinking,” Rick responded. “The only thing is the web is a big place, and you could search for years and never find it. He must have given you some kind of a clue.”

 

Mark handed Bill the rocket launcher. He wrapped his coat around it, and handed it out the back of the truck. Andrew looked around to make sure it was clear and took it to the cab. Then he did the same with the rockets. Mark set an M16 on top of the can goods, and then another. He did this until he had one out for everyone. Then set ammo and clips next to them, and climbed down. Andrew came back and handed Bill his coat and three cell-phones. “Their throwaways and numbered one, two, and three, use them in that order.”

 

Bill took the pone marked one, and put the battery in it. Then he informed, “I’m going to find a place to park the truck.”

 

Rick nodded and Ray informed, “Rick and I are going inside to find the rest of the team, and a computer.”

 

 Bill took the truck to find a place to park it, and Rick and Ray went inside. Rick spotted them drinking coffee at a table and walked over.

 

“Are we ready?” Tom asked as Rick and Ray walked up.

 

“Yep, but Ray and I need to find a computer first, and pickup a message,” Rick replied.

 

Getting up from the table Dave asked, “Where is the truck?”

 

“Third row back,” Rick responded. “It is the blue one with Lost Lake Trucking on it.”

 

“I’m going to the truck,” Dave informed. “I’ve been sitting here for two hours, and need to stretch.”

 

“Come on,” Tom instructed. I’ll show you where the computers are.”

 

Tom led them to the computers, and Rick had a seat at one. Then looked at Tom and demanded, “Give me your credit card.”

 

“What, don’t you have one,” Tom asked.

 

“Yes, but my card has hit its limit, and will blow like a fog horn if I put it in there,” Rick implied.

 

“Oh, I see,” Tom mumbled as he handed Rick his card. Rick got it going, and logged on to the web. Then typed, “Save my family,” into the search engine. It read one million six hundred thousand hits. Shaking his head, he hit the back button. Ray whispered, “The apple fell from the tree.” Rick typed it in, five hundred and forty-two hits. Ray pointed to the third one down, “The apple fell from the tree story board.” He clicked on it. The top post was, “Save my family.” Before Ray could point at it, Rick picked it. When it opened up, they all read it.

 

   “The pretty little girl was being hunted by the big bad wolf. Little did she know that her cell-phone was giving her up. It was making a sound that only the big bad wolf could hear, and was leading him right to her.”

 

Ray got a scared as hell look on his face, as Rick looked at him puzzled. “Close that down, and let’s go,” Ray demanded.

 

Rick logged off the computer, and they all went out side. Looking around to make sure it was clear Ray blurted out, “Damn bastards are after my neice. If I call to warn her, I will give us up and it’s all over.” Ray was looking for options.

 

Pulling his cell-phone from his pocket Tom pushed a button and said, “Here,” handing Ray the phone. “When it stops ringing you will get a dial-tone, and you can make your call. They will trace the call to my house in Portland.” Ray got the dial tone and made the call.

 

 

In the Restraint the cell-phone rang in Mandy’s purse. She pulled the phone from her purse, “Hello.”

 

“Hi sweetie. Listen close! Things are getting out of control, and the word is leaking out. All the top people are trying to save their families from this, and the Government is in damage control big time. They are on to you two, and you need to get out of there. Go north on 82 for 12 miles to the truck stop and find a blue truck that has Lost Lake Trucking on it. Now! Get rid of the phone, and get out of there! Now! Click.”

 

In Washington D.C. at the Oval Office a tall dark haired man in his forties walks in the door; “I have an up date Mr. President. The cover story is going good, and the virus we’ve released on the trucking industry has almost brought trucking to a stop.  We are ready to start the next stage of the plan.”

 

“Good,” the President replies, then we are ready to release the news that the terrorist smuggled nukes into the country.”

 

“Yes sir, we are, and I can tell you that my people are very pleased with the way you have been handling things. They can assure you that there won’t be another election. Now, we have a news conference set for 9:00 P.M. and you can make the announcement you are closing all the borders to search all vehicles at state lines. This will bring trucking to a standstill, and we can put the next stage of the plan in place.”

 

“Ok, I need to go over the speech again. We need this to go without a hitch.”

 

In The Restraint, Mandy dropped the phone to the table with a thud, and jumped to her feet. In a panic-stricken voice, “We have to go!” Grabbing Steve’s shirtsleeve and giving it a firm tug. “That was my uncle, and we have to go now!”

 

Heading for the door Steve said, “Wait you forgot the cell-phone.” She grabbed his arm as he turned and said. “Leave it!” Then drug him to the door.

 

Out side the door Steve asked, “What is going on?”

 

“We have to get out of here now!” she replied as she ran to the Pathfinder. Looking back into the restaurant, Steve saw Tom and Sue giving them strange looks. He was just climbing into the truck as Mandy squealed out of the parking lot. Pulling around the corner, he saw her about a block ahead. Then two black SUV’s with dark tinted windows past him going the other way fast. Looking in the side mirror, he saw two police cars coming up behind him. Then they skidded into the parking lot they just came from, followed by the two black SUV’s. Wild thoughts were racing through Steve’s head as he watched another Black SUV pull in through the mirror. Oh for merci sake’s, what have we done to our friends, he thought. He looked up just in time to keep from hitting a car. He slammed on the brakes, and saw smoke roll from the tires through the mirror. Great, nice job, he thought. That is all I need, draw a bunch of attention.

 

He saw Mandy slow as she went on the on ramp, and look to see if he was sill behind her. They drove down the freeway to a truck stop. There were a lot of trucks at this one, so many in fact they were parked up and down the road. She started driving up and down the rows of trucks. Three rows back she stopped at a blue truck. The doors were open on the back, and there were three guys waiting. One walked to her window and another waved for Steve to get out. By the time he got to the back of their Pathfinder they were already putting the stuff into the back of the truck. Looking into the back, he saw it was half full of canned goods, and two more guys were stacking the stuff. One of them bent down to pick up a box, and he saw the but of a pistol under his jacket. “Come on Steve get this stuff on the back of the truck,” one of them ordered. Opening the back door of their Pathfinder, he started unloading the stuff from the back seat. Thinking, how dose he know my name? No sooner than the Pathfinder was unloaded, one of them got in and took off. Another jumped in the U-Hall and pulled it up. Then they all went to work, loading it into the truck.

 

The guy that took their Pathfinder showed backup, as a trucker walked over. “I see someone got a load.”

 

He looked up and said, “You got to do whatever you can around here.”

 

“Tell me about it,” he replied. I’ve been here over a week without a load. The office keeps telling me it’s a computer problem, and they don’t know where to send me. Some damn computer virus or something like that.

 

“I know all about it,” Rick responded. “That’s why I’m taking this load. It will get me home.”  

 

“Well I had better let you get your truck loaded. I was thinking of calling the wife to come and pick me up, and just leave their truck here.”

 

“Can’t do that,” Rick replied, “owner operator you know.”

 

“Yeah must be tuff for you independents,” he replied as he walked off.

 

Steve watched as one of them slid the last two cases of toilet paper to the back of the U-hall truck. One of them turned to Mandy and told her to get into the back of the trailer, and told Steve to help him with the doors. One of the guys helped pull Mandy into the back, and the other two climbed in behind her. They closed the doors, as he told Steve to get in the cab. Steve climbed up into the cab of the running truck. Just in time to see him climb in beside him. Putting the truck in gear, and slowly pulling out he said, “I’m Rick, I work for your wife’s uncle. I’ve been doing that for fifteen years, so when he came and told me what was going down. I had no choice but to help; I wanted to save my family too. Now let’s see if we can make all this inside info work.

 

They were about a hundred feet from the onramp when Steve saw a stream of black SUV’s with dark tinted windows, and police cars coming up the off ramp. “Looks like their just one step behind us. Let’s see if we can keep it that way. Reach behind you and grab that black bag. Steve turned his head and looked into the sleeper. There it was, a black leather bag sitting next to a rocket launcher and four rounds. Grabbing the bag he whispered, “What in the world am I doing?”

 

“Saving your life,” Rick replied. Now pull out one of those phones, and dig around in there and find a battery.”

 

Opening the bag, he saw it was full of cell-phones. He got one out and found a battery.

 

“Put in the battery, and hand me the phone,” Rick demanded.

 

He made a call and said, “In five.” Then he took out the battery, and through the phone out the window. “Old analog phone, they can’t track them with out the battery in them,” he said with a smile. “The new ones are a different story. They have a passive circuit and don’t need a battery to be tracked.”

 

They were slowing and taking an exit. Looking across from them, Steve saw a truck just like theirs going up the on ramp. Taking a right and heading up an old country road, Rick said, “Give them hell, Bill.”

 

Watching the daylight drift away, Steve thought of what was happening to Mandy and him. A million things were going through his head. Like who are these people? What have we gotten into? All these questions and no answers were eating at him. He finally asked, “Where are we going?

 

Pulling off onto an old one-lane dirt road, Rick laughed and said, “That’s on a need to know bases, and you don’t need to know. It is better for all of us if you don’t.” Then looking at his watch he said, “It’s 6:00 here, and that would make it 9:00 in Washington.” Reaching down he turned on the radio. From the speaker blared the announcement, “The President of the United States. Good evening, at 7:15 this morning Home Land Security intercepted a terrorist cell out side Chicago. Along with the terrorists was a highly sophisticated nuclear weapon. This apprehension lead to another out side Denver, where we apprehended another terrorist cell and another highly sophisticated nuclear weapon at 2:30 this afternoon. I must stress that these were not dirty bombs, or small nukes. Each one was capable of the worst disaster this nation has ever seen. We have determined that millions of life’s were saved today, but it is not over. We now have learned that there are as many as five more out there in the back of semi-trucks. Working with Home Land Security we will be searching all vehicles at state lines, with special previsions for boarder city’s. We ask that you keep your eyes open, and report any suspicious activity in your area. Working together we can over come this threat. Now I turn you over to the head of Home Land Security.”

 

Rick reached down, turned off the radio, and then stopped the truck.

 

Back on highway 82 a swarm of state police and black SUV’s came up behind Bill. He pulled the truck over to the side of the highway and stopped. Climbing down from the cab, he was met by a half dozen men waving guns. “Get down on the ground!” One of them shouted.

 

Looking through the crowd, he saw a man in a dark suit walking up. He was rugged looking with a scared up face and black hair. He carried himself as if he was a god and had no fear. Sticking out his hand, he used the back of it to push one of the men’s guns up in the air, as he stepped in front of them. Shaking his head he said, “Bill, what the hell are you doing? You are supposed to be retired.”

 

“You know how it is Wiley, you never retire from the CIA,” Bill replied.

 

Wiley put his hand on Bills shoulder and walked him to the front of the truck, as two men jumped up into the cab. “All clear,” one of them shouted from the cab.

 

“So, what do you have in the back of this thing,” Wiley asked.

 

“Nothing you want,” Bill answered.

 

“Check out the back of the truck,” Wiley shouted.

 

All the men went to the back of the truck, guns drawn and pointed at the back of it. One of them reached up and pulled up the latch to the door, as Bill grabbed Wiley’s caller and pulled him to the ground in front of the truck.

 

In The Woods Steve walked around to the back of the truck with Rick, as they open the door to the truck the sky lit up with a flash, and what sounded like thunder echoed through the mountains. “What the hell was that?” Steve asked.

 

“I don’t know,” Rick replied, “But I think they pissed old Bill off.”     

 

On the highway, Bill watched the burring truck trailer crash to the ground on the other side of the freeway. He climbed to his feet in time to see a state patrol car blow. Pulling himself up by the bumper, Wiley asked, “What the hell did you do!”

 

“I told you there was nothing you wanted in the back of the truck. I can’t help it if you don’t listen.”

 

“Damn it Bill this is a mess, what the hell am I going to do now?

 

“I don’t know, but you will come up with something,” Bill replied as he walked to the edge of the road. Pulling his gun, Wiley pointed it at Bill and commanded, “Stop right there, Bill!”

 

 Pausing for a moment, Bill looked over his shoulder and said, “I had some bodies from the morgue in the trailer, you need to cover up that too. Maybe you could say they were suicide bombers and blew themselves up.” Then he turned his head and walked out into the field.

 

“Damn it Bill! Get back here! I don’t care if you saved my life twice, I’ll shoot you in the back if I have to.”

 

“Then do it,” Bill yelled as he stepped into the tree line.

 

Wiley let his gun down, as he looked at the cars backing up on the freeway. “This is bigger than both of us, you bastard,” he mumbled, as he took out his cell-phone.

 

In the woods everyone gathered around the driver’s side of the truck, as Rick opened a compartment on the side. “Let’s cover this truck,” Rick barked as he pulled out a camouflage net. We drug it to the front of the truck. Then two of the men climbed up on top of the truck. We handed them the ends, and they pulled it back to the trailer. We continued to unroll the net as they moved to the top of the trailer. The truck was covered and we all gathered in front of the truck. “What do we do now?” Steve asked.

 

“We wait,” Rick replied.

 

“For what?” Steve asked

 

“They all laughed,” and in unison said, “That is on a need to know bases.” 

 

Steve smiled and said, “Yeah, I know, and I don’t need to know.”