Destiny in the Ashes [Ashes: 32]
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by William W. Johnstone
Category: Historical Fiction
Description: Ben Raines and his army won a war on two fronts, bringing law, peace, and prosperity to the Southern United States of America. But SUSA's northern neighbor and erstwhile enemy, the United States, is in chaos. And when a ferocious invader attacks the soft and crippled nation, Raines has no choice but to act! Courageous warlord Abdullah El Farrar has risen up from the humiliated regions of the oil-rich Near East Unleashing a stunning attack against the once proud northern United States. No one in the Southern States is surprised that USA cannot defend its own land. But with northern citizens defecting by the thousands to El Farrar's forces, Raines can see the handwriting on the wall: his brave armies must go to war to save their enemy from itself.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [371 KB]
Reading time: 241-338 min.
Ben Raines sat at his desk, drinking his third cup of coffee of the morning, as his team members filed into his office. He'd called a staff meeting to discuss the latest intel on recent happenings in the USA.
Mike Post, his XO and Chief of Intel, took his customary seat next to Ben's desk, while Buddy Raines, Ben's son and heir to his command, sat on his left.
Cooper, known as Coop, was the next to enter, followed closely by Jersey, Ben's bodyguard. Coop had his left arm in a sling, courtesy of the final shoot-out in Mexico City a few months before.
The rest of Ben's team filed in and took seats around the large office, sprawling in comfortable chairs and sofas in no particular order.
After they were seated, Ben glanced at Coop's arm, then at Dr. Larry Buck, who'd taken over the previous year for Dr. Lamar Chase.
"Buck," Ben said, a wry smile on his lips, "how's Coop's arm coming along?"
Buck looked over at Coop and shook his head. "I can't understand it, Ben. All of the tests show the arm to be completely healed, but Coop still complains of stiffness and pain."
"Coop?" Ben asked, his eyebrows raised.
Coop assumed a pained look on his face. "I don't know, Ben," he said, moving the arm around in his sling. "It just doesn't feel right yet."
"Hah!" Jersey exclaimed, a look of derision on her face. "Coop's just playing it up to the hilt, Ben. He knows you've ordered us all to undergo extensive training exercises to keep in shape between hostilities, and he's using that old wound as an excuse not to run the obstacle course."
"I think a little refresher course in hand-to-hand combat might be just the thing to get the stiffness outta that arm," Harley Reno said, smiling at Coop.
"Aw, Ben," Coop complained, looking injured. "They're not being fair. I think it just needs a little more physical therapy and it'll be good as new."
Jersey's eyes narrowed. "Is that what you call it?" she asked. "Having that big, buxom Swedish nurse over at sick call rub around on you all day?"
"It is therapy," Coop said, glaring at Jersey. "Just ask Dr. Buck."
Buck shook his head, grinning. "I guess you could call it therapy, after a fashion," he said, "though Helga tells me the arm seems pretty strong to her, especially when she's trying to keep it away from various parts of her body."
"That settles it then," Ben said, laughing. "The sling comes off and Coop will take the physical training with the rest of the squad from now on."
Coop shook his head. "Traitors," he mumbled, removing the sling and stretching his arm, as if in pain.
"Now, Mike," Ben said to Mike Post. "Tell us about the latest intel from the USA."
Mike took his pipe from his mouth, tamped the tobacco a little with his index finger, then snapped a Zippo lighter and fired the pipe up.
As clouds of cherry-scented tobacco wafted upwards, he began to talk. "So far, President Claire Osterman has been too busy trying to rehabilitate her country to get into any more mischief. The plague organisms she unleashed in concert with Bottger and Perro Loco last year have caused quite a bit of illness in the states bordering the SUSA."
Ben glanced at the doctor. "Buck, have we sent her an ample supply of medicines and vaccines to help stamp out the epidemic?"
Buck nodded. "Yes, sir, as well as a couple of hundred corpsmen and medical team members to help with the treatment protocols."
"Anything else going on up there we ought to know about?" Ben asked Mike.
Mike shrugged. "Just the usual aftermath of another unsuccessful attempt to take us over," he answered. "Claire has made a major change in her command structure, getting rid of General Stevens and replacing him with a General Maxwell Goddard."
"What do we know about this Goddard?"
"Pretty reasonable sort of fellow from what my men on the inside tell me. Not at all the usual 'yes-ma'am' type Claire usually assigns."
"You don't mean to tell us he actually tells her the truth about her hare-brained schemes to take out Ben Raines?" Jersey asked, a look of incredulity on her face.
Mike laughed. "I wouldn't go that far, Jersey, but he seems to give her fairly good advice. At least he has so far."
"Is there any report of widespread unrest among the citizens?" Harley asked. "I would think after all Claire's failures and what it's cost the country, the common people would be standing in line to get rid of her."
Ben laughed out loud. "You underestimate the greed of what is laughingly called a citizen of the USA nowadays," he said. "As long as Claire keeps the welfare state pouring money out to the scum who never think they ought to have to work to earn it, the bums will keep her in office over the objections of the masses who pay taxes."
Mike nodded. "That's about the size of it, Harley. So far, there've been some scattered pockets of rebellion, but nothing so big Claire's Army couldn't handle it."
"Damn shame," Harley said.
"Oh, I don't know," Anna, Ben's adopted daughter, chimed in, glancing at Harley, whom she adored, sitting next to her. "At least with Claire, we know what we have . . . an idiot who couldn't plan a major war if her life depended on it." She shrugged her shoulders. "Who knows? The person who replaced her might even give us more trouble than Claire has."
Ben smiled. "Anna's right. Claire's been a huge pain in the neck, but she's also been so incompetent that each time she's moved against us, we've come out on top."
"At the cost of thousands of lives," Dr. Buck said.
"Thankfully, more thousands of USA lives than SUSA lives," Hammer Hammerlick reminded the doctor.
"So, to sum up, nothing north of our borders to worry about?" Ben asked Mike.
"Not from the USA, but there are some happenings across the ocean I've been monitoring rather closely.
"What in particular?" Ben asked.
"The situation in Iraq is becoming increasingly unstable," Mike said, pulling a pouch of tobacco out of his pocket and adding a pinch of brown leaf to his pipe, again tamping it down with his finger. "A man over there is raising all kinds of hell."
"Who are we talking about?" Ben asked.
"Abdullah El Farrar," Mike said. "He's the son of one of the richest oil families over there... at least they were rich before the United Nations took over the oil fields in that part of the country after the big war."
"You've lost me," Harley Reno said.
Mike glanced at him. "After the big war, when the United Nations started to try and put the pieces of the old world economy back together, there was a shortage of oil -- that is, gasoline, etc. -- just about everywhere. With the agreements of most of the Middle Eastern countries, which were devastated by the destruction of the war, the United Nations took over all of the oil fields, refineries, and most of the shipping facilities so that oil and gasoline could be transported around the world to the Third World countries that needed it."
Ben interjected, "Of course, this ruined many of the ruling families in those areas who'd grown immensely rich on the backs of the common people of the region."
"Not to mention what it did to the governments of those countries involved, including Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Jordan," Mike added. "Most of them became little more than figureheads, with the real power in the countries being the United Nations."
"And that pissed this El Farrar off?" Harley asked, grinning.
"Yes," Mike said. "He was pulled from his expensive schools in Europe and sent home, just another poor rag-head who used to be rich and powerful."
Ben leaned back in his chair. "So, what is he up to now?"
"He's become almost a folk hero to his countrymen. He calls himself the Desert Fox now, and has gone up into the hills of Iraq and has been recruiting an army of fanatical followers dedicated to taking back what they consider was stolen from them."
"You mean he's trying to retake the oil fields?" Coop asked.
"Not only that, but he has declared himself the rightful heir to the throne of Iraq, as well as the other countries in the Middle East."
"Sounds like just another egomaniac on the loose," Ben said.
"Yes," Mike agreed, "but he seems to be very appealing to an entire continent of people who feel their heritage and lands have been stolen from them by white, non-Muslim interlopers. My intel says he's developed quite a following."
"You can't be too worried about a bunch of Arab types riding around in the desert on horseback, can you?" Jersey asked.
Mike shrugged. "We weren't, until we found out that El Farrar has acquired huge stores of weapons and war matériel that the previous leader, Saddam Hussein, had stockpiled. There's even some talk that he may have some nuclear missiles in his arsenal."
"How large is his army?" Ben asked, leaning forward and putting his elbows on his desk, interested now.
"Over a hundred thousand at last count," Mike said, "and still growing. Intel has information that his forces are spreading out across the entire area over there, absorbing more and more matériel as they overrun the United Nations forces and confiscate their weapons and ammunition."
"What does Jean-François Chapelle think of all this?" Ben asked, referring to the Secretary General of the U.N.
"He didn't seem too worried, until El Farrar began to widen his sphere of influence. Now, he's biting his nails down to the quick. Word is, he's tried to reason with El Farrar, to no avail."
"Any idea of just how big El Farrar's ambition is?" Ben asked.
Mike nodded. "He's telling his followers, which includes just about every fundamentalist Muslim in the Middle East, that he plans to take over the USA, then Europe, and eventually the entire world."
Harley Reno laughed out loud. "At least he doesn't think small."
"Surely he can't be that naive," Ben remarked.
Mike glanced at Ben. "No, he doesn't think he can storm the countries involved. He knows his army is too small for that, and must know the other countries in the U.N. wouldn't allow that. However, he has a huge terrorist network of fanatical members devoted to his ideals. My guess is he plans to institute a pogrom against the USA by infiltrating terrorists into the country a few at a time, and at some later date, set them loose to use terrorist tactics to destabilize the government up there."
Ben pursed his lips. "And with the growing resentment of many of the citizens against Claire Osterman and her welfare state, he'd find plenty of converts to his cause."
Mike nodded. "You got it, Boss."
"Well," Ben said, "continue to monitor the situation and keep me apprised of any new developments."
"Now, back to the more mundane," Ben said. He turned his attention to his team seated before him. "Now that we don't have any active hostilities facing us, it is imperative that we don't let the men and women in our Armed Forces get stale. I want the training exercises increased so that if push comes to shove and we have to intervene anywhere in the world, we'll be ready."
Ben glanced at Mike. "And with this new information from Mike, we'd better be doing some extra training in desert-warfare tactics."
Harley Reno nodded. "Well, our last little outing down in Mexico certainly gave our forces some experience in fighting in the desert."
Ben smiled. "Good, then use the men with experience down there to help train the ones who didn't serve in the desert."
He stood up. "That's all for now," he said.
His team got to their feet and began to file out.
Jersey gave Coop a little shove from behind. "Oh, Coop," she said, "I'll see you out on the obstacle course right after lunch."
He grinned over his shoulder at her. "I think maybe I'll go get one last physical therapy session before my workout."
"Good. I'll go with you," Jersey said, a malicious gleam in her eye. "I want to give the Swede the good news that your arm is all better now."
Coop's face fell. "You don't have to do that, Jerse."
"No problem," she said. "Glad to help out."
Copyright © 2001 by William W. Johnstone