Battle in the Ashes [Ashes: 17]
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by William W. Johnstone
Category: Historical Fiction
Description: Chilling rumors of a new Nazi movement reach the rebel camp of Ben Raines and his freedom fighters. Led by descendants of Hitler's Third Reich, Commanding General Jesus Mendoza Hoffman has assembled a massive army in the mountains of South America. Estimated at more than 200,000 strong, Hoffman and his New Army of Liberation terrorists will stop at nothing to spread their doctrine of evil across the free world. Striking northward, they march into Mexico, where the Mexican Army--under the command of General Payon--is no match for Hoffman's invaders. And now, as the doomsday forces turn Texas into a beleaguered battleground, Raines and his troops must fight to prevent America from erupting in a holocaustic bloodbath of atrocity and death.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1993
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [343 KB]
Reading time: 220-308 min.
Ben Raines stood alone--as alone as the Rebels would ever let him be--looking south from his temporary CP in Texas. Everything was packed up in Hummers and cars and trucks, and his personal company of Rebels were ready for him to give the word. Ben was dressed in denim work shirt, jeans, and lace-up boots. Gone were the famous tiger stripe BDUs of the Rebels. Every Rebel now dressed in civilian clothing. Their uniforms had been laundered and packed away in plastic bags and stored in the Rebels' many underground bunkers, located all over the lower forty-eight.
For the moment, Texas was clean of any members of Hoffman's goose-stepping, black-shirted NAL. But Ben knew that was about to change, and that change was more than likely only moments away.
This upcoming fight came as no surprise to Ben, for he had always predicted--even years before the Great War, back when the world was more or less stable--that the final action was going to take place on American soil. Only who they were fighting came as any surprise to him.
Ben stood and clenched his big hands into fists. "Goddamn you mealy-mouthed politicians," he swore, smoldering anger behind his words. "Goddamn you all. You brought us to this. Everything that happened is your fault. Everything that we now face is your fault. I should have gone along with the plan years back and toppled you bastards in Washington. I regret now that I didn't."
That those hated political leaders were long dead in their graves held little consolation for Ben. He wished they would all rise up from the ground so he could personally shoot them.
"Only a handful of you had the good of the tax-paying, law-abiding majority in mind," he muttered darkly. "I hope you bastards are burning in hell with hot pitchforks jammed up your asses!"
"The general is pissed," Cooper, Ben's driver, said, standing with Ben's personal team a few yards away.
"No kidding, Coop?" Jersey, the diminutive dark-eyed, dark-haired little beauty who was Ben's self-appointed bodyguard replied. "Here we are, about to be attacked by several hundred thousand goose-stepping Nazis--who only have us outnumbered about two hundred to one. The entire Rebel army is spread out over four or five states, and with all of us dressed like people getting ready to go to a rodeo, or a country music honky-tonk. We have the supplies for a long operation but getting to them is going to be a bit of a problem. He knows the Rebels are going to take a lot of losses over the months ahead. Intelligence says about fifty to sixty percent of us are going to die, Coop. And that's weighing heavy on his mind. In addition to all of that, General Raines knows that none of this would be happening today if the damn politicians of America had paid attention to the demands of the majority of citizens back umpteen years ago and let the Constitution be the road to travel instead of their own stupid mumblings. And you think the General is pissed, Cooper? Naw. Why would you think that?"
Cooper winked at her and tilted her ball cap down over her eyes. Jersey laughed and took a mock swing at him.
Corrie stood wearing a light backpack radio, earphones covering one ear to catch any messages. Beth, the historian and records-keeper of the team, had Ben's Husky, Smoot, on a leash. The animal had filled out and matured, now nearly a full-grown Siberian husky of about seventy pounds. She would get bigger still. The husky got her name because, as a pup, she made sounds that sounded like she was saying, "Smoot! Smoot! Smoot!"
Suddenly Ben's team, to a person, stiffened when they realized just what they were seeing. Ben was once more carrying his old Thompson SMG, the old Chicago Piano slung over one shoulder. And belted around his waist were two Colt .45 auto-loaders.
"Son of a gun!" Corrie said. "We haven't seen those in a long, long time."
Ben heard and turned around and looked at them. "I carried this old dinosaur when it all began, years back." He sighed. More years than he liked to think about. So many good friends dead. Hundreds and hundreds of men and women who gave their lives for the Rebel cause. "So I'll be carrying this old Thompson when it ends ... one way or the other."
Actually, the Thompson had been reworked so many times by Rebel armorers there was not an original part left in it. It was still a slow-fire weapon when compared to an Uzi or HK, but that monstrous slug it spit out would inflict horrible damage upon a person.
All of Ben's team knew that just the sight of those .45-caliber monsters would be a great morale boost to all Rebels, and that was probably one of the reasons General Raines had done it.
Ben had put aside the old Thompson a long time back, because many people--including a lot of his own Rebels--were beginning to think the legendary old submachine gun had magical powers, and many of them wouldn't touch it. They were just as much in awe of the SMG as they were of Ben. Ben had convinced most of his people that he was not some sort of God. But there were many living in the battered nation who felt he was just that, and no amount of talking would ever make them believe otherwise.
"What's the word on Thermopolis and his bunch, Corrie?" Ben asked.
"All set up and dug in deep and tight in Arkansas, sir."
"Did he take Emil with him?" Ben asked with a smile.
"Very reluctantly, sir."
"At least that will keep the little con artist out of trouble for a while."
Thermopolis and his band of hippies made up part of Ben's HQ's Company. It would be their job to keep track of all units of Rebels. A demanding and nerve-wracking job. Ben had handed that to Therm because he was a fine detail man and had never liked the killing involved in fieldwork. Thermopolis had a staff of just over 250 men and women. And the finest communications equipment known to exist in the world.
"Latest position of Herr Field Marshal Hoffman and his New Army of Liberation?" Ben asked, contempt thick in his voice. Then he spat on the ground.
"About five miles south of the border, sir."
General Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman was the commanding general of the NAL. Spelled Nazi. He was the grandson of a very infamous Nazi SS general who escaped to South America after the Second World War. Hoffman had been schooled from birth to despise America and everything Americans stood for. His sole purpose in life was to destroy the very last vestiges of America and establish a new Nazi order that would ultimately rule the world.
But first he had to kill Ben Raines and the Rebels, and that was something that thousands had been attempting to do for years, with no success. Yet.
Field Marshal Hoffman was looking forward to mixing it up with Ben Raines and his Rebels. He paid little attention to his advisors when they warned him not to become overconfident. True, he had suffered some minor losses shortly after the Rebels returned from Hawaii, but those were only very unimportant skirmishes. There was not a doubt in Hoffman's mind that this upcoming campaign would be a short one. There was simply no way the Rebels could stand up to his mighty army. No way. That was so ridiculous a thought it was laughable.
"All of General Payon's people over the border, Corrie?" Ben asked.
"All that's coming across."
Ben again turned to face the south. The Rebel commanders had looked over, discussed, and rejected dozens of plans on how best to confront the Nazi hordes fast approaching what had once been called the United States.
"Loosely united," Ben muttered, disgust in his voice. "And ruled by federal judges."
Even before the Great War cast its long darkness over the land, Ben had written that the United States was no more than a slightly benevolent dictatorship, and anyone who believed that the American people had any real power over their own lives was living in a dream world.
"General," Corrie called. "Buddy wants to know why in the hell you are still here with Hoffman's scouts less than five miles away?"
Buddy Raines, the powerfully built and brutally handsome son of Ben.
"I'm surprised that Tina hasn't put in her two cent's worth, as well," Ben said.
"She has," Corrie told him. "And so has Dr. Chase. I just didn't tell you. What do I tell Buddy?"
"Tell him to worry about his own ass. I'll take care of mine."
"Rat," Corrie whispered Buddy's code name, "the Eagle says to thank you for your concern and that he will be along presently." Corrie was forever rewriting and rewording Ben's remarks from the field.
"I'm sure that is exactly what he said," Buddy responded.
"Would I lie?" Corrie replied sweetly.
"Tell that middle-aged Rambo-type to get his butt out of there!" Dr. Chase thundered over the air.
Dr. Lamar Chase, Chief of Medicine, a man well into his seventies, had been with Ben since the Rebel dream of true liberty and justice for all law-abiding citizens began, years back.
"Yes, sir," Corrie acknowledged the transmission.
"That must be Dr. Chase bitching about me being here," Ben said, without turning around.
"Ah ... right, sir."
"Tell him to clear the air and leave it open for emergency transmissions only."
"The Eagle says we are bugging out of this area very soon, sir," Corrie radioed.
"I just bet he did," Chase snorted. "You're a sweet girl, Corrie. But you're a terrible liar! Chase out."
"Feels funny not being in uniform," Jersey said.
Ben heard her. "We are in uniform, Jersey. From this moment on. But I know what you mean. Does feel odd. The Hummer all packed and ready to roll, Coop?"
Ben walked back to his group and knelt down, petting Smoot for a moment, rubbing the husky's head. "You're going to Arkansas, Smoot. You'll be safe there." He stood up. "Take Smoot to the airstrip, Beth. Coop, drive her there. Smoot will be safe with Therm and his bunch."
Ben had cut his personal detachment down to his small team and one platoon of Regulars, all of them hand-picked by Ike McGowen, the Russian, General Striganov, Dr. Chase, the mercenary, Colonel West, the former SAS Officer, Colonel Dan Gray, and Ben's children, Buddy and Tina. That one platoon had the fighting capability of approximately a full company of any other soldiers in the world.
Ben squatted down in the shade of a truck and rolled a cigarette. "We're all standing on the darkened and scorched edge of history," Ben muttered. "Waiting for the flames to destroy it all."
"Beg pardon, sir?" Corrie said.
"Nothing, Corrie. Just talking to myself. When is that damn Nazi son of a bitch going to make his move?" he said irritably.
"General Ike says if you don't get your butt in gear and get out of here, he's going to come down here personally and kick it for you," Corrie said, after ten-fouring a transmission.
"Tell Tubby to watch his own ass," Ben replied. "He's got a lot more to look after than I do."
Ike was a bit on the stocky side. The ex-Navy SEAL was another who had been with Ben since the beginning.
"Shark," Corrie radioed, "the Eagle is just about to fly."
Ben smoked his cigarette, thankful that Dr. Chase was miles to the north and not standing here bitching and raising hell about Ben's few cigarettes a day.
"General," Corrie's voice held a different note. "Scouts report Hoffman's Blackshirts are moving north. All columns on the roll."
"Tell the Scouts to bug out and rejoin us here," Ben said quietly, standing up. "Tell them to push it." When Corrie had radioed the orders, Ben said, "Advise all units Hoffman is moving. Tell Ike to blow everything from San Diego to El Paso. We'll make those goose-stepping bastards work for every damned inch of American soil they choose to be buried in."
"Is anybody going to say, 'well, this is it?'" Cooper asked.
"You do, and I'll hit you, Coop," Jersey warned. "I swear I will."
Herr General Field Marshall Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman stood several miles south of the Mexico/U.S. border, felt the ground tremble beneath his polished boots, and watched the huge clouds of dust rise into the air. The dust clouds stretched for as far as the telescope-assisted eye could see. The Blackshirts of the NAL could all accurately guess what had just happened.
Hoffman was not impressed. His cold black eyes were startling to see beneath his very blond hair and pale skin. Many of the NAL were a mixture of Spanish and German blood. Hoffman lowered his binoculars and let them dangle from a leather strap. "Bridges and roads," he said. "So we will be delayed for a few days in crossing. Does the famous General Ben Raines think this action will strike fear into our hearts? Nonsense. What are the very latest intelligence reports from our friends north of the border?" he asked an aide.
"Still very confused, Field Marshal. No one seems to know just what Ben Raines is planning. He has spread his forces all over several states, from small units to large ones."
"I personally think it is some sort of trick," a senior aide spoke up.
"What kind of trick? Be more specific, Karl."
"I don't know, sir. But his actions make no military sense. They run contrary to every rule of engagement."
Hoffman smiled. What Raines was doing made perfect sense to him. He was going to wage a campaign of terror and harassment against the NAL. A purely guerrilla action just as soon as they crossed the border. No matter. They would amount to no more than a stinging bee.
But what Hoffman didn't know was that the Rebels were pure killer bees, not for the most part docile honey bees. The NAL was about to learn a hard lesson concerning Ben Raines's Rebels.
"Order patrols across," Hoffman said. "Let's see if the famous Ben Raines has the courage to face us."
But Ben was heading straight up Interstate 35 toward a preset destination some sixty miles from Laredo. Ned Hawkins and a contingent of his New Texas Rangers had laid down a trail a drunken city slicker could follow, heading up Highway 83 toward Carrizo Springs. Buddy and his people had taken off toward Freer, and Tina and a contingent had left quite a trail as they headed toward Hebbronville.
Twenty miles away from each of their positions, other contingents of Rebels lay waiting. Twenty miles further on, yet another ambush was lying wait ... and so on for a hundred miles in all directions.
Hoffman's patrols reported back by radio. "We are across into North America. No resistance. Both cities are deserted."
"Surely everything is booby-trapped?" Hoffman questioned.
"Nothing is booby-trapped," his people radioed. "We have found nothing. But large forces of Rebels have scattered in all directions, using all the highways leading out."
Hoffman smiled. "Oh, Ben Raines. You are a devious devil, you are. You want me to head straight up your Interstate system and then you and your Rebels will fall in behind us and attack from all sides. I see your plan. It is a good one, but I am too smart for you."
All his aides and flunkies and gofers smiled and nodded their heads. Field Marshal Hoffman would never fall for something so obvious.
"Four battalions across the river," Hoffman ordered, picking up a map. "Each battalion to be backed up by armor."
"Gunships, Field Marshal?"
"No," Hoffman said drily. He had sent a dozen gun-ships across the Rio Grande a few days before to harass the Rebels. He discovered then that the Rebels had the most sophisticated surface-to-air missiles known to the world. Even better than his own. Everything from Stingers to the SA-14 Gremlin. None of his gunships had returned. "We shall keep them on the ground for the time being."
The Rebels had reached their destinations and were working furiously to get into position, hoping that the Blackshirts would fall for this ruse.
Hoffman had his trailer pulled up, and he sat with his boots off, feet up, sipping tea and relaxing. His people were resting, all certain that in a few hours, the battalions would report back--victorious, of course.
Miles down each road, Rebel Scouts lay concealed, waiting to signal their friends of the approaching Black-shirts.
"Hoffman may be a jerk-off," Ben said to his team, as they waited for word of pursuit. "But his troops are seasoned veterans. We don't ever want to make the mistake of selling them short. What happens on this day is going to make the rest of his people very cautious."
Ben had ordered his people to ground several miles outside of the deserted town. This was brush country, at one time the site of many ranches and farms. Now it was all grown up. The Blackshirts would be expecting an ambush in the towns; they would not be expecting Rebels to pop up out of the ground in open fields and meadows and start hurling rockets at them--Ben hoped.
The Rebels had the finest rocket launchers, everything from the German Armbrust to the American TOW. They had AT-4s, Carl Gustafs, and Milans. And they were skilled in their use.
"Everyone is in position," Corrie reported. The ambush sites were all approximately the same distance from Laredo, the furthest one being sixty-eight miles, the nearest one fifty-six miles. But the nearest one was located on the worst road, so the Blackshirts should arrive at all sites within a couple of minutes of each other.
At least that's the way Ben planned it.
The Rebels were still outside their hastily dug holes, and Ben looked over at Jersey and smiled. She had turned her ball cap around, bill to the back, and looked about fifteen years old.
These kids, he thought--and they were kids, at least to Ben--have seen precious few moments of joy and peace in their lives. Take those guns and knives and grenades and battle harnesses from them, and they'd look like young people on their way to a square dance. But Ben knew these young men and women were among the most brutal, savage and skilled fighters in all the world. And their loyalty toward him borderlined on the fanatic.
Cooper was chewing on a weed. "Coyote probably came along right before we got here and peed on that thing, Coop," Jersey told him.
Cooper spat out the weed and gave her a dirty look.
Beth was writing in her journal, and Ben knew it would be in the neatest handwriting he had ever seen, and very concise. Corrie was dressed in jeans and pullover shirt, an earth-tone bandanna tied around her head. She felt Ben looking at her and smiled at him. He winked at her.
"Jersey," Ben said. "What time is it getting to be?"
She grinned. "Kick-ass time, General!"
"Damn right," Ben said.
The Rebels were dug in 250 meters from the interstate. Their vehicles hidden about a mile away. Ben did not want to risk hiding them in the town, for fear the Blackshirts would first shell the town.
Ben looked across the way and chuckled softly. Those Rebels who were in sight certainly did not appear worried about facing a force of Blackshirts that would outnumber them ten or twenty to one. Several of them were sleeping, their ball caps or cowboy hats over their faces. Others were reading old paperbacks or hardcover books. Several were working crossword puzzles.
"Large force, approximately battalion size, just passing by the Scouts' position," Corrie said.
"Head's up!" Ben called to his people. "Give it all to me, Corrie."
"Open and canvas-covered trucks, deuce and a halves, escorted and trailed by main battle tanks."
Ben looked over at Jersey. "Kick-ass time," she said.