Flames From The Ashes [Ashes: 18]
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by William W. Johnstone
Category: Historical Fiction
Description: The evil Jesus Mendoza Hoffman, descendant of one of the most infamous Nazis of all time, and his fanatical New Army of Liberation pose a dire threat to the new world-and Ben Raines's rebel forces. With his massive army crushing everything in it's path, Hoffman is spreading his chilling doctrine of death and destruction from Mexico to the Canadian border. Outnumbered and out-armed, Raines and his men are no match against the black-shirt guerrilla forces. And when Raines is captured, the Nazi exterminator gives the rebels and ultimatum: surrender or Raines dies. Against impossible odds, Raines's followers must infiltrate Hoffman's troops and put an end to his brutal reign of terror ... before Ben Raines and his dream of freedom are annihilated forever!
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1993
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [467 KB]
Reading time: 279-391 min.
* * * * ONE
Ben Raines stood outside his Hummer. A lot more gray showed at the temples of his black hair; more than a decade of combat accounted for that. His jaw had lost none of its firmness, nor had the square cut of his chin diminished. His eyes squinted as he looked over a wide expanse of rolling landscape that had once more filled with undulating fields of amber waves of grain. This wheat had been planted by farmers living peacefully under Rebel protection. Big fists on hips, Ben turned to study the land. He and his headquarters team, Ben knew, were situated not far from what used to be Concordia, Kansas.
Their Humvee was parked along the cracked two-lane U.S. Highway 81. They had just come off old I-135. Ben stood alone, except for Jersey, on a knoll overlooking the rippling prairie. Somehow it ... calmed him.
He needed the calming, considering what Intelligence had compiled in their latest summary. It consisted of three items, none of which pleased him. Carefully, he combed through them again.
First, Field Marshal Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman had rallied his demoralized troops in eastern Oregon and northern Idaho. The mountain valleys and passes to the east were held by the fanatic survivors of SS Brigadeführer Hans Brodermann. Something new had been added: reinforcing Brodermann were the American SS counterparts under SS Hauptsturmbannführer Peter Volmer, who led the ambitiously named Leibstandarte Hoffman. Volmer had been a neo-Nazi skinhead before the Great War, raised by Nazi-loving parents to hate since infancy. Peter had sworn a sacred oath on his SS dagger to bring to his commander the head of Ben Raines.
Second, General Frederich Rasbach was reported as having taken ship from South American seaports, destination unknown. It had taken him only six weeks to reorganize an army.
And third, what scattered meteorological data were available indicated that unseasonably early storms were building in Canada and the Pacific Northwest. They could threaten to close the passes in the Rockies and Big Horn Mountains.
"We can't afford that," Ben said aloud at this last reflection.
"Sir?" Jersey prompted, no longer surprised at Ben starting a conversation in the apparent middle.
"If we're compelled to wait until spring to dig out Hoffman and his Nazis, we'll have lost the campaign. I have an uncomfortable feeling that Jesus Hoffman is not going to wait for warmer weather."
"Yeah," Jersey agreed. "Like now he has all these homegrown scumbags to help him. We've been in the Pacific Northwest before, General. For my part, he's welcome to winter in Oregon." Jersey shifted the M-16 in her hands to give an impression of severe shivers.
Ben's thoughts returned to how things had once been around here and how they had become that way again under Rebel rule. No, not rule, exactly, more like guidance. Only now the Rebel troops had left, called up to fight Hoffman and his New Army of Liberation. Ominously, the fields were abandoned, void of people. A faint brush of cold crossed Ben's heart. Chaos could return again.
Too bad Hoffman had chosen to pass this way. Too bad there had been so many Americans willing to follow him. He wondered which ones were responsible for the missing farmers, their wives and families. Static crackled from the backpack radio Corrie had sitting on the seat of the Hummer, its antenna stuck out a window.
"Roger that, Far Eyes." She shot a hard expression toward Ben. "Scouts on the horn, sir."
Ben sighed. He never had time anymore to look at the beautiful and peaceful. With measured, catlike strides, Ben returned to the Humvee. He filled his hand with the mike. "This is Eagle, go," he announced, using his longtime call sign.
"Eagle, this is Far Eyes. We have contact with the local citizens from around this area. At least those who didn't join the Nazis. Over."
"I copy that, Far Eyes. What is their Twenty? Over."
"It's bad, Eagle. A mass, open grave, just outside Bellville, over."
Ben's brows knitted. He had dreaded something like this since first becoming aware of the emptiness and quiet of this farming region. "We'll join you ASAP, Far Eyes. Oh, any fix on those homegrown Nazis?"
"Ah, yes, sir. Right across the line in Nebraska. They seem to be holding some sort of rally. Over."
"We'll tend to them soon enough. Eagle out." To Cooper, his faithful driver of so long a time, "Fire it up, Coop. You have maps that show Bellville?"
"Yes, General." Coop delved into a map case, not unlike those once carried by airline captains. "Here it is. Thirty miles north of where Concordia used to be."
"Good. Take us there, and don't waste time on the scenic route."
"You got it, General," Cooper sang out.
Jersey was last to enter the Hummer, her dark hair abristle, eyes cutting from point to point. Her small stature made her a hard target for anyone over three hundred meters off, but her superb marksmanship could easily outdistance the 350-meter maximum effective range of the M-16. And do it by a good 175 meters. Her round, firm bottom had barely touched the seat when Cooper made the Humvee roar to life and spirited motion.
"Maniac!" Jersey shouted at him as she tumbled against the backrest.
Field Marshal Jesus Dieguez Mendoza Hoffman sat behind the wide ironwood expanse of his conscripted desk, his feet up on an open drawer and his tunic unbuttoned. A fire crackled cheerily in the large, fieldstone fireplace of a large, rambling, ranch-style house that had miraculously escaped the ravages of time and turmoil. It had the good fortune of being located on the shore of Wallowa Lake outside Enterprise, Oregon. Isolated in the Wallowa Mountain Basin, the small horse ranch had been by-passed by the plunderers, creepies, and even Ben Raines's Rebels. Field Marshal Hoffman listened with intense interest to the reports of his staff. Personnel came first. Col. Rupert Herd, the G-1, stood in place at his chair and consulted a sheaf of papers in his hand.
"SS Brigadeführer Brodermann has been reinforced with three thousand American Party members, they call themselves the SS Leibstandarte Hoffman regiment." Everyone effected not to hear the snicker from Maj. Karl Richter, Hoffman's senior aide. "They are commanded by Hauptstandartenführer Peter Volmer."
"Ah, yes, the ambitious and idealistic American who has kept the flame of our Führer's dream alive in this country. I must say that I am impressed by him," Hoffman added the praise generously.
"There are reports that some four to five thousand more American Nazis or sympathizers are en route here as we speak. Not counting them, we have an effective force of somewhat over ten thousand fighting men. Ten thousand three hundred ninety-seven, to be exact. There are, of course, the usual support elements and air."
Hoffman gestured to his most junior aide to refill his teacup. Thank you, Herd. You have greatly restored my vigor for the continuation of this contest with that barbarian, Ben Raines. Now, what can you tell me, my old friend, Joaquin, to make my day even better?"
Col. Joaquin Webber rose and dusted his palms together. He spoke from memory. "Indications are that morale has disintegrated in Mexico. The scorched-earth policy of both sides has left the peons starving. They are ripe to join whoever it is that first offers to fill their bellies." He paused, eyed the delicate bone china teacup, and wished it was filled with schnapps. "The Rebels, under Ben Raines, have completed the eradication of those pockets of resistance south and east of Kansas."
"Where is Ben Raines?" Hoffman coldly asked his G-2. His short stature, puffed-out chest, Hitlerian mustache, and lock of black hair over his left eye made Hoffman a ludicrous caricature of the former master of the Third Reich. Although no one would dare to tell Hoffman that.
"In company with a reinforced battalion, screened by scouts, Raines has outstripped the main Rebel advance, General. He has raced a third of the way across Kansas and then turned north. It is believed that concentrations of our American allies can be found in what was Nebraska and South Dakota, headed our way. Reins must be after them."
"Well, he can't have them," Hoffman snapped petulantly.
"He won't, sir," the G-2 assured him. "Peter Volmer has departed your headquarters to make personal visits to these American units. He will contact you by secure radio net following this staff meeting."
"By our best estimates, the Rebels have broken off contact with General Payon to the south, and are spread on an entirely too thin line across the Midwest and Plains states. It is our estimate that they now constitute no immediate threat to us, nor in the near future."
Hoffman cut him a gimlet eye. "You're sure of this? Your predecessor made the mistake of underestimating Ben Raines too often. You know the near disaster that caused."
Webber bristled. "I made a careful study of Ben Raines, Herr Feldmarschall. I am certain I know his quirks far better than the officer who held my post previously."
"Then pray continue," Hoffman said coolly.
"There is little more," Webber advised, and launched into the minutiae of the intelligence analysis.
The G-3 came next. He gave information on the status of training and condition of equipment. He also suggested tactfully that Hoffman announce his strategic and tactical requirements soon so that plans could be drawn and orders cut. Hoffman said he would, after he talked with Brodermann and Volmer.
Food supplies and fresh water were the subject of the G-4. He noted that the stripping of farms had provided ample fresh meat for all troops, as well as eggs, butter, and milk for the staff. In all, Hoffman felt quite pleased with their accomplishments. Smiling, he passed around the plate of fancy tea cakes.
A strident beep-beep! on the command net advised Corrie that she had an incoming message. The Hummer whizzed along the cracked, uneven surface of U.S. 81 at an acceptable speed of 45 mph. Corrie keyed the mike and spoke quietly.
"This is the Eagle's Nest, go."
A built-in scrambler unit converted the twitters and chirps into understandable language to which Corrie listened for five seconds before switching on the speaker unit. "It's Overseer," Corrie identified the Headquarters Company Intelligence radio-intercept van. "They're picking up a lot of traffic on Nazi freqs, General," she explained before the voice of the distant radio operator cut into the rumble of the Humvee.
"...seem to be gathering in large numbers along a line from Geneva to Silver Creek. Best estimate, if they ever got together, some five thousand. There's more to the north, in old South Dakota. Over."
"What's the nature of the traffic? Over," Ben queried.
"Mostly pep talks. There's something about some big wheel coming to give them the word from on high. We haven't been able to figure that one out as yet, Eagle. D'you want a verbatim?"
"Not at this time, Overseer. I'll get a briefing from the Two Shed later," Ben dismissed. "Anything hot comes along, bump me like yesterday."
"Roger that, Eagle. Oh-oh, have something priority one coming in now. There's a fix on it, seems to be coming from somewhere around close to you."
FMJ rounds rattled off the armored sides of the Hummer to emphasize the words of the radioman from G-2. "There seems to be some hostile intent--"
"That's a rog-O, Overseer," Ben said dryly over the trashcan-lid clangor of the light auto fire.
Yellowish flickers spurted from the weapons in the hands of camo-clad figures on the ATVs that raced across a pasture toward the highway and the Hummer that made so tempting a target. Already Jersey had her M-16 pointed out the window and cut off crisp, three-round bursts. More of the snarling, balloon-tired little vehicles appeared on the opposite side of U.S. 81. Ben unlimbered his old faithful .45 Thompson and let go on full rock-and-roll from the fat drum magazine.
Flame rippled from the slots of the compensator as the subgun spit fat .45 slugs at a line of five advancing ATVs. Ben watched one Nazi get flung away from the back of the three-wheeler as he and the driver took rounds that ripped and tore. Undirected, the racing all-terrain vehicle crashed into the one on its left.
It upset, the gas tank ruptured, and the hot engine did the rest. A huge balloon of red-orange flame engulfed both rigs. A screaming human form, wrapped in a blanket of fire, ran from the conflagration. Ben ended his agony with a quick three-shot burst.
"Awh, shit, there's more of 'em, General," Cooper advised as he crested a low swale and saw a roadblock of old, rusted cars ahead.
Ben checked it out, gritted his teeth. "Crash through it, Coop."
"Yes, sir." Cooper didn't question the ability of the beefed-up Humvee to do as General Ben Raines wanted. He'd done it all too often before.
Bullets splattered against the thick windshield and Cooper gave brief thanks for the R&D staff at Base Camp One who had come up with a passable substitute for Lexan. Only trouble was that after a month or so in the field, it tended to pit and spider web when hit by fast-moving slugs. Now he would have to look around the edges and guide the hurtling Hummer in the bargain.
Some bargain, Coop thought as another slash of incoming opaqued the whole right side of the windshield. "Everybody brace; we're gonna hit hard," he sang out a moment before the welded I-beam that had replaced the usual bumper slammed into corroded metal. It yielded like a willing woman to her lover. Back when they were producing these things, Cooper thought frivolously, the Japs must have made the body panels out of old beer cans.
Then the obstruction that flung jagged bits into the air gave a lurch and screeched past. Beside him, Beth had her window down and cut off precise bursts with her H&K 7.62x42 assault rifle. Behind her, Jersey's .223 M-16 chattered steadily. Already corpses, the results of their efforts, did grisly dances of death.
Ben let the thunder roll from his Thompson, the muzzle oscillating in an upward-right oval. Impacted by two, sometimes three 230-grain .45 slugs, bodies flew to left and right. A tiny corner of Ben's mind kept note of the uniforms this unexpected enemy wore. So very like the camo gear of his Rebels. A short distance further to the west of the highway, Ben watched a man rise to a kneeling position, a long, flat green tube over one shoulder. RPG!
Before the Nazi could trigger the rocket-propelled grenade, Ben swung his Thompson to blitz the blitzkrieger into eternity. The Chicago piano chopped out five rounds and the bolt racked back in the open position. Empty. Ben Raines fought against time, a battle he was certain he would lose, to slide the drum from its keepers and insert a fresh one. He had wound up two before departing from the reinforced battalion that traveled with his headquarters. That might prove the deciding factor.
Sharp barks from the front seat halted Ben's hand. Cooper, his window down, fired an H&K P7M10. Chambered for the S&W .40 Magnum round, it spat a nasty slug. "Jeez, it's bad enough I got to drive through this mess, I've gotta do the shooting, too," Cooper complained with a quick wink over his shoulder to Ben.
"Thanks, Coop," Ben said tightly. "I owe you one."
"All in a day's work, General," Cooper said brightly, steering blind down the highway while he checked his handiwork with the rocket gunner.
The cammo-clad Nazi lay sprawled in the weeds and sunflowers. His unfired weapon rested across his chest. Ben inserted the magazine and rested the muzzle on the window frame in the sudden silence that washed over the Hummer. He noticed Jersey staring at him, openmouthed.
"What are you gawking at?" Ben asked in mock irritation. "Can't a man load his weapon in peace, without the distaff element of this team commenting?"
"Ben--General, that Nazi creep almost blew us away," Jersey squeaked.
"Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, Jersey," Ben admonished jokingly.
A radio voice squawked in Corrie's ear. "Overseer wants to know if we made contact, General."
Ben chuckled softly. "Tell that mother hen that his warning wasn't quite timely enough. Those jokers made a mess out of my Hummer."