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In which the U.S. is invaded from Mexico. (Illegal immigration, sort of.)

- - - - - -6:00 pm, Monday, December 31, 2012- - - - - -

“Anybody who hasn’t made food arrangements for supper yet? Last chance before we get to work. Everybody got drinks and whatever supplies they’re going to need? We’re expecting a long night. Okay Pearl, that’s the whole order.”

“Sheesh! You’d think we were going to be under siege or something. This isn’t the Alamo.”

“No but the Alamo is just a few miles from here. Just make sure your gear is functioning right and hope you’re bored all night long.”

“Yes, Mommy. Anything you say, Mommy.”

“Shut up back there, Barney. Now we’ve done dry runs, and we think we’re on top of things, but in every major operation like this things always go wrong. Be sure you go over what you’ll do if one or more crucial pieces of equipment fail... or if you or somebody in your group messes up big time.”

“Why is he looking at you, Barney?”

“Shut up, you little creep.”

The dim light in the windowless room was complemented by a complete lack of decoration on the walls and only a minimum of decoration on the desks and cubicles arranged around most of the wall space of the former hotel ballroom. It all looked thrown together because in many ways it was. On the other hand, the wiring was orderly which spoke volumes for the efficiency of the organization. The several desks in the center of the large, high-ceilinged room were arranged back-to-back so that the several people seated at them were facing each other. Each desk had at least three 20-inch flat panel monitors.

The occupants of the room were casually dressed, though none would have been said to be badly dressed. Each was wearing a headset and microphone. Those who were typing at their keyboards typed quickly, almost as if they were unaware of what their hands were doing. Most of the monitors were showing either street scenes from fixed cameras or overhead shots from cameras mounted in pilotless aircraft.

“Barbara, do you have plenty of reserve staff for tonight?”

“Yes, sir. I have 20 at the home office ready to go and about 300 on one-hour call at their homes. With three-hour notice I can have about 6200 in hardened sites with full satellite and cable access. Do you think I might need them, Ray?”

“No. I really expect that there’ll be some extra people coming across expecting free food and stuff but the local people can deal with them. No, I expect tonight to be very dull. But if something goes wrong and we’re not ready for it, you know we’ll be blamed.”

“Carlos, do we have confirmation from all the local police?”

“Yes, Ray. They’ve all said they’d keep us informed of any problems they have, even if they seem innocuous.”

“Ivan, have your spotter programs got the latest listings of suspected terrorists?”

“Yes, sir. I have it set to update in real time. If someone is added, it won’t wait until the morning to add it to the database. In fact, if we see somebody suspicious tonight and we can get a close-up, I can put them on the list within about three seconds and track them.”

“Excellent.”

“Sir, we’re not getting confirmation from the National Guard units yet. In some cases they don’t even have their phones turned on. Should I not contact them until they turn the phones on or go ahead and break cover?”

“No. Keep the security. I haven’t been authorized to let them know the phones are live even when off.”

Time passed slowly, with only the occasional reveler adding interest to a few of the screens. From time to time the personnel would go on break, but as the hours passed there were more and more casual comments... and chatting at the desks.

“What have you got for me?” Ray said, staring over Barbara’s shoulder. He listened intently for a few minutes. Then he said, “Thanks. We’ll take care of it.”

“Carlos, alert the police in El Paso that there’s a large convoy of cars and trucks leaving Chihuahua headed north on highway 45. There are at least several hundred people. No word on who they are.”

Carlos tapped his keyboard and after a few seconds was talking to the Chief of Police in El Paso.

“Who’s got the spotter planes around El Paso?”

“Andrea, here.”

“Jackson, here.”

“We’re expecting a large convoy of vehicles coming from Chihuahua on highway 45. Pass me the best feed when you get something but don’t go to sleep on everything else. This could be a feint or an opportunity for a terrorist.”

The casual chatting ceased for a time and there was little to be heard other than the hum of the air conditioning and the clicking of keyboards.

“Ivan, how are things at the crossing points?”

“Not too bad. I got a camera down at a bridge in Laredo but other than that we’re well within our limits.”

Time passed. “Got ‘em, sir. Headed straight for El Paso, all right.”

“Jackson, where’s this spotter plane? It looks like it’s at least a couple of miles over the border.”

“Yes, sir. Just a couple of miles. I don’t think they’ll be able to spot it at this altitude.”

“Get it back to our side.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Jackson, how can you tell the convoy from regular traffic?”

“It’s easy, sir. The cars aren’t gaining on the trucks and nobody’s trying to pass. They are staying with the trucks. Also, there are several motorcycles traveling at the head of the parade and a big gap between them and the car ahead of them.”

“Jackson, keep your eye on them.”

“Sir, they’re turning. They took Highway 2. They’re headed out into the desert.”

“Andrea, stay on the route to El Paso. Jackson, move along the border with them. Cross if you find it necessary to keep them in view. Try to stay high enough to make it hard for the radars to pick you up.”

“Carlos, what’s out that way on our side of the border?”

“Practically nothing, sir. There’s one little town in New Mexico and nothing else until they get to Arizona and not much even there. The only big town out that way is Tucson and that’s hours away.”

“What’s the town in New Mexico?”

“Ah… looks like Columbus, sir. Barely more than a spot in the road. Just a couple thousand people. Not much of anything.”

“See if they have police there and let them know they may have visitors in a little while. Then contact the New Mexico State police and see what they can do for us.

“Barbara, tell your people to get ready to call the residents of Columbus, New Mexico. You’ll probably need to have Spanish speakers for a lot of them. Problem?”

“No sir. My staff all have at least English and Spanish fluency and third languages are desirable.” She typed for a second or two, then spoke quietly. “Mabel, wake them up. We’re calling in the one-hour folks. Warn the section heads on the six-hour people that we may need them and to check the equipment. Give me Jack… Jack, we need all the phone numbers for people living in Columbus, New Mexico right now. Get them on speed dial and conference options for our ready reserve. We’ll probably have to cover about 750 to 1000 homes, so get what information you can, to group people who live close together and who speak the same language. We can use broadcast with Dopey if we have to but it’ll go better if we can have live people doing the talking. When you get that set up tap for the next task… Mabel, here’s the situation. We have several hundred vehicles coming up the highway from Mexico, I see that’s highway 11 in New Mexico. We don’t know what their intentions are but it doesn’t look good. I’ll give you feed from here of the situation. You’re going to have to create groups on the fly when we see what we need to do. Use the tactical operations feed and we’ll treat it as a code yellow for now. We need to alert the people of Columbus without scaring them too badly.

“Here’s what we want to get across:
1) May be no problem but could be serious.
2) We’ll keep you informed of just what’s happening.
3) Do nothing without telling us first.
4) Help is on the way.

Finally, if things start to get bad, tell them that we will help them to defend each other.

Questions…? They’re in the middle of nowhere. If they left town they’d be out in the open: in the cold and dark, and defenseless. Evacuation is our last resort. If there’s anyone with a medical emergency now they’ll have to get out really quickly because time is something we don’t have… Okay. Break.”

Time continued to pass but whereas before it dragged, now it seemed to fly.

“Sir, they’re turning North on Mexico 23, that’ll be New Mexico Highway 11, if they cross the border.”

“Andrea, what about the back end of the column?”

“The last of them turned to follow the others. Looks like they all are headed to the same place.”

“Carlos, has the Border Patrol reported anything on Highway 11?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Carlos, did they believe you when you told them the situation?”

“He said he did but he wasn’t at the border himself.”

“Carlos, can you talk to the guys at the crossing point yourself?”

“Not part of my book, sir. Perhaps Barbara can do something for us.”

“Barbara?”

“Yes, sir… It should be in Carlos’ book now.”

“Got it… This is Homeland Security. Have you been notified of the convoy of vehicles headed your way on the Mexican side?… Have you been given orders as to what to do?… Well, ask for them and be quick. Unless they stop they should get to you in about 30 minutes. I’ll call back in 10 minutes. If you’re still there, I’ll have more word for you.”

“Carlos, listen to his call.”

“Andrea, have you got any resources you can direct to Columbus?”

“No, sir. The Border Patrol has several for that area but I don’t know what they have airborne.”

“Ivan, can you help us on this?”

“Yes, sir. I can give you overhead view from as close as 150 yards night vision. The vehicles show up quite nicely on the satellite shot. I can’t do much in the way of identification but I can tell you where their cars and trucks are at least.”

“Ivan, give Andrea and Jackson a feed each. The one to Andrea should be of the area around and South of El Paso. Jack needs the area South of Columbus if you can find it.”

What seemed like just a few seconds later…

“Carlos, the crossing on Highway 11?”

“I’m calling now, Ray… Homeland Security here. The convoy still seems to be headed your way. They’re about 20 minutes out. What are your instructions?… You’re to close the border and leave? Sounds like a good idea. Where are you to go?… That’s good. You should be safe there. Now move!”

“Carlos, what about the local police in Columbus?”

“There’s only one guy on night duty. I had him wake up the other two officers and the city manager. They’ll be at the office in about 10 minutes.”

“There’s nothing much they can do with the number of people who’ll be dropping in on them so have them close the office and take any guns there home with them. We want the place to look like a ghost town when those guys get there. If they want property we’ll ignore it, but if they seem to want to hurt folks we’ll shoot back.’

“Barbara, get your phone squads organized by neighborhood. Those who have guns should get them, load them, and find firing positions. Remind them to open windows a little so they won’t have to shoot through the glass. Have those homes with no guns on separate controllers. Keep the lights out. We want the whole town dark and seemingly deserted when they arrive.”

“Already done, Ray.”

“Ivan, any word on who these people are and what they want?”

“No sir. I’m contacting other agencies now with inquiries. Our database search shows nothing relevant.”

“Barbara, tell us about Columbus.”

“Isolated town in Southwest New Mexico. Mountains in the area but town is in the plain. There are about 1700 people and about 750 residences. The population is young and working-class. The town has one bank and one service station. The Pancho Villa State park is right downtown. There are two highways, 11 going North-South and 9 going East-West. Nearest town is Deming North on Highway 11 with about 10,000 people.”

“Barbara, I want you to get your reserves into their sites and begin to contact the good people of Deming. I suspect that’s their real destination, but there’s a good chance at least some will stop in Columbus.

“Carlos, see if the State police can set up a roadblock a few miles South of Deming. We want it at a good ambush spot if they can find one. Also, see if they have a National Guard unit there. If so, we want that equipment manned. We either will want to use it ourselves or keep it out of these raiders’ hands. Has the Army got any resources in the area that could help us out?”

“None that can move before about noon. They’re concentrating on the larger towns like El Paso, Laredo, and Tucson. If this is just a feint they have to be ready. Looks like we’re on our own for a time.”

“Everybody, the raiders are approaching the border. Carlos, are the border guards clear?”

“Yes, sir. They got out about ten minutes ago. They’ve cleared Columbus heading for Deming.”

“Barbara, warn the people of Columbus. We want a total blackout from the houses. Streetlights are okay but we want it to look like nobody’s awake in the whole town, especially the police department.”

“Lights out and expect the raiders in about ten minutes. Sir, we’ve had four families leave their homes. They say they’re leaving town. We’ve warned the others in their neighborhoods to not shoot at them. I think they’ll be clear before the raiders arrive.”

Time passes.

“Looks like they’re entering town. They seem to be grouping in the park. The trucks are lining up and parking there. Cars going down several streets. Looks like they’re headed for the bank.”

“Ivan, do we have any live feeds from the bank there?

“Barney, what have we got in the businesses of Deming? They may be going there next.”

“We’ve got the First Bank of New Mexico with any of six full power taps. We should be able to see and hear everything that happens inside. We also have several other businesses.

“Looks like they also want to get gas, several of them are parking at the gas station.”

“Okay, I’ve got one tap there but it’s on battery power so we only get about an hour full sound and picture. Anybody want that?”

“I’ll take it.”

“You got it.”

“Barney, give me the bank feed.”

“It’s yours. You want control, too?”

“No just the slave visual, no sound.”

“Roger.”

“Looks like they’re trying to break into the bank. They seem to have some sort of ram or something. There it goes. Door’s open. Boy, look at them come in. You’d think it was a candy store. That place is going to be a mess when they get through. What do you think they’re looking for?”

“Money, I’ll bet.”

“What for. It’s no good any more. As of about three hours ago it was just so much paper.”

“I still think they’re after money.”

“What are they doing?”

“Looks like they’re going to try to open the safe. Ivan, do we have anybody who knows safe cracking available to us?”

“Yes, sir. You want him online?”

“If he’s not busy. It isn’t important.”

“Anderson, what are these guys doing. Are they good or amateurs?… Anderson says they must be working from a textbook. They have a drill but they don’t know where to drill and they handle it like it was new to them… They’re putting in way too much explosive… He doesn’t think it’s going to work for them.”

“Well they’re running out of the bank.”

“Sir, we’ve got a group of cars pulling up in a neighborhood. Looks like they’re heading for the best house in town. Action?”

“If they approach a house, shoot. Otherwise, if they’re just looking, let ‘em.”

“Shoot if they step on a porch or look like they’re surrounding a house.”

“Got shooters for this block?… How many guns?… They’re getting out of the cars… They’re spreading out to surround the house… Aim… Fire. Get the driver. Anybody moving? No let them lie there. If they aren’t dead the cold will make them numb in a few minutes. It’s only about…

“They blew the safe! All our taps are gone.”

“Jackson, where are they going now? Any toward the house where the shooting was?”

“No sir. They’re all heading for the bank or the gas station.”

“Barbara, any citizens wounded?”

“No sir, we had some broken glass but only a few minor cuts. We had to remind them to keep the lights off, though.”

“Any of the group at the house still up and about?”

“No sir. They’re all down.”

“Barbara, how did they do that?”

“Well, sir there are lots of hunters in New Mexico and during the food shortages they’ve been hunting deer and rabbit quite a lot in the mountains around the town. We had eight guns on that block and put down seven of the raiders on the first volley. The other three got off a couple of shots but the second rounds had them quiet in about 5 seconds. Those hollow point bullets pack quite a wallop.”

“My compliments to your staff. Looks like good work on that one. Remind the others that we may have the same kind of thing in other blocks. Tell them all what happened so they’ll get more confidence.”

“Jackson, what’s happening at the bank?”

“Still lots of guys going in and out. They’re carrying in several boxes. My guess is more explosives.”

“Barbara, do any of the citizens who have homes near the bank have a picture phone that can give us a view of the bank?”

“I’ll ask. Mabel, ask the blocks near the bank if anybody has a picture phone that can show us what’s happening at the bank… Only two sir and they’ve got bad angles.”

“They’re running out of the bank again… Christ! There went all the windows. That must have shaken the whole town. Barbara, reassure the citizens that everything’s okay. It’s just a building. No one is hurt. Keep their lights off.”

“They’re going back into the bank.”

“Carlos, any word from the State Police on a reception committee for these guys if they head for Deming next?”

“Yes, sir. They’re setting up a roadblock near Waterloo about 15 miles North of Columbus. They’ve got some heavy equipment to use to block the road and some good cover on both sides of the road for a couple of miles south from there. They have some automatic weapons for their S.W.A.T. team and they’ve contacted some people with hunting groups in the area to recruit more shooters. They say the highway is higher than the ground on both sides so shooters on opposite sides of the road would not be able to shoot each other. They’re using cell phones to keep track of everybody.”

“Barbara, are your reserves ready?”

“We’ve got about 1000 in sites. It seems lots of them were up and dressed for New Year's parties, so they could get on-site pretty quickly. I think we’ll have over 3000 by dawn. Should I offer our services to the State Police?”

“Yes. Do for Deming what we’ve done for Columbus. It’s about ten times bigger but we’ll try to keep the raiders away from town so you shouldn’t have to talk to everybody.”

“Andrea, anything else big on the horizon?”

“No sir but the general traffic is beginning to pick up. It’s only a little lighter than usual for this time in the morning. About what we would expect for a holiday.”

“Okay, people, we wait to see what the raiders want to do. Think of various things they might do and how you’d deal with each.”

Time passed slowly again as the adrenalin left their systems. A couple of the operators grabbed snacks to replenish blood sugar. Hot coffee was popular among others.

“The trucks are lighting up. I think they’re getting ready to move. Yes, they’re starting up. The gas station is still busy. Looks like they got a hand pump and are pumping as much gas as they can from the underground storage tank. The motorcycles are heading north. Looks like they’re heading for Deming… Yes the trucks and cars are headed north, all right. Carlos, tell the State Police they should have business in about 10 minutes. Jackson, go North with the main body. Carlos, offer feeds from Jackson so they see what the raiders are doing. Then ask if they’re in position yet.”

“Sir they’ve got about half the men they wanted but the roadblock is just off the highway ready to be moved into place as the raiders get close. They’re waiting until they’re within a quarter mile or so to create the block, so they can get the main body in the ambush. The guys on the sides are still scrambling to get into position.”

“Carlos, tell them the motorcycles are getting too far ahead of the main body. Let them through and close the door when the main body gets close.”

Time passed.

“Sir.”

“Yes Barbara.”

“There are several cars of raiders still in Columbus. What should we do with them?”

“Watch, wait. If they approach a house, kill them. If they stay on the streets, just watch. Let’s see how the Deming affair works out. Keep in close touch with the local police. We may want to set up a roadblock to catch the remains of the raiders running from the ambush if there aren’t too many. If there are too many, we want Columbus still dark and empty-looking so they’ll just go right on through.”

Time passed.

“They’ve closed the roadblock behind the motorcycles. It looks like the cars have stopped about 300 yards short of the roadblock. The rest of the column is closing up behind the leaders… They seem to be conferring… They’ve turned one of the trucks around and are backing it toward the roadblock with several of the cars flanking it on both sides driving in the ditches on both sides. 200 yards, 100 yards, 50 shooting! Looks like automatic weapons from the back of the truck. Shooting from both sides of the road. What the hell? The truck just blew up. Carlos, find out what that was.”

“They’re busy, sir. I will later.”

“Looked like a rocket propelled grenade to me sir.”

“What do you know about it, Barney? You were never in the military.”

“Quiet back there! Some of the cars are trying to turn around. The ones that do are taking more fire. There goes one in reverse. Some are getting away. Looks like only two cars are leaving.”

“Barbara, any word from your Deming people?”

“Yes, sir. No casualties again. The firing has died down. They’re going to wait for dawn to move in.”

“Jackson, how many cars headed back toward Columbus?”

“You have two headed south but they’re getting beyond my range. I can’t monitor the main body and keep up with them also.”

“Barbara, have we got contact with the police officers of Columbus?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do they think they could set up a roadblock at the park in five minutes?”

“They say they could.”

“What about the handful that stayed in Columbus?”

“They’re headed north. They should run into the guys coming back South at any minute.”

“Ask them to get the roadblock set up just south of the park so they’ll have to stop with the park on one side and houses on the other.”

“Done, sir.”

“Have some good shooters join the people in the houses across from the park.”

“They’re on the way, sir.”

‘Barbara, is there enough light from the streetlights to shoot well?”

“It’s a clear night, sir. There should be plenty of light with the moon and the street lights.”

“Oh yes, have the police keep the roadblock dark, then turn on their headlights facing the park as a signal to fire.”

“Done sir.”

“I wish we could see where they are. Tell me when the roadblock is set.”

Time passes.

“Roadblock set, sir. And the raiders at the Deming block seem to be surrendering.”

“Nice feed. I can see the roadblock quite clearly. Whose cameras?”

“Those are cell phones, sir. We were able to move several to good vantage points. Notice how the shadows will be pretty close to the road on the park side. The police have set the roadblock cars to point toward those shadows. We’ve asked the shooters to fire when those lights come on. The local police will turn on those headlights on our signal.”

“There they are, just coming into town… Wait for them. They’re slowing. Just be calm. Barbara, do we have enough shooters if they stop a block or two before the barrier?”

“Yes, sir, we have secondary roadblocks on highway 9 out of sight until they get to the park. If they stop at the crossroads we have about 20 guns that bear on the cars. Shoot if they turn, sir?”

“Yes.”

“Sir, they are waving something out the windows of the cars. It looks like shirts or something. Could they be surrendering?”

“Could be. Tell everyone to hold their fire but stay under cover. Leave the lights on the roadblock dark.”

“They’re stopping. They’re getting out with their hands raised. Looks like surrender.”

“Have them lie down in front of the lead car, in full view of its headlights. Have the officers move forward well-spread, and search and handcuff them to each other in a long daisy-chain. How many bandits do we have here? I count eight, no nine. One looks injured. He’s not walking too well. Okay, keep the shooters behind cover until these guys are all secure.”

------Later, about 30 minutes past dawn------

“Shift change. All you new folks up to speed on what’s happened? Okay, first shift go get sleep. I’m proud of you. Yes I’m looking at you, too, Barney.”

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Next: Chapter 17