#9: Liberation begins
Sunday Morning, 5 am Local time, the fifth of May: In Ciclos de Ladrón south of Tomé hill across the river and north from Belén, New Mexico
It was chaos in the bike shop. Manny didn’t know whether to be angry or delighted. Colonel Pablo Santiana had showed up at 2:00 am with 25 more of those incredible black trucks, plus his command Hummer. Manny had known something was up, but now that the men had put on their uniforms it was clear. Outside, over 300 trucks had arrived in the past hour and they were still streaming in. The newly arrived trucks had the Aztlan seal on the door. He just didn’t know what his position was in all this.
Manny looked up at the sound of his name. Lupe was standing on the little balcony in front of his offices on the second floor of the workshop. He always reminded Manuel of those chain-sawed Smokey Bear sculptures carved out of Ponderosa pine logs. They were the most common souvenirs down in the Texan boutiques of Ruidoso, New Mexico in the Sacramento Mountains east of Alamogordo and Holloman AFB. Lupe looked like what Manny imagined Geronimo would look like if he were carved like that—short but bulky, ropey muscles, black hair in a long, thick braid, with a leather strap around his head above his ears, and able to move like a puma—but more deadly.
Today he was wearing his usual jeans and brown cowboy boots with a Cyclos de Ladrón T-shirt. The presence of his black leather hunting vest showed there was serious trouble brewing this morning. Lupe was motioning him to come up.
What is happening? He thought as he jogged over to the steps and took them two at a time. “Yea, Lupe. Whatcha want?”
There was a little smile on his leader’s face, but none in his black eyes. “Come inside with me, my brother. We have work to do.”
That particular, wonderful jolt of adrenalin hadn’t been felt since before he was drummed out of the Seals for killing those brats in Iran back in ’92. Those little raghead spawn hadn’t deserved to live anyway. That’s all we needed was more starving kids, growing up angry enough to blow themselves up for a promised hope of heaven. Maybe I was a little aggressive. But there was no cause to toss me out like discarded trash! He’d been trying to rein it in. Gettin’ drummed out had almost killed him. Part of the core of his being had missed the action. Maybe he’d get to kill again. That forbidden thought burst through and his whole body felt like he was lifted on wings of strength. He was ready!
Manny walked through the door with Lupe Llano’s hand at his back. In Lupe’s huge office stood Col. Santiana with at least a couple dozen troops. All of the soldiers were sharp, dressed in black, with guns and knives on their hips. All that was needed were the tactical vests and armament of choice to rock and roll.
Lupe swung around to Manny’s side and introduced him. “Colonel, this is the man I told you about. Manuel Cisneros set most of the charges in New Mexico. He knows this state like the palm of his hand and anything you need to know about the area, he knows. Plus, he’s a SEAL.”
Colonel Santiana stepped forward with his hand out. He had a huge grin on his face, displaying his white teeth that were perfect except for the two square blocks of gold where his top front teeth used to be, “Senor Cisneros, congratulations! All of your charges worked exactly as planned. The canyons are closed. This is a proud moment and I need a man of your talents. Are you ready to help me?”
Manny grabbed his hand hard, prepared for the pain that arrived as expected in the crushing grip. “Yes, sir!”
“Come back here with us then.” The Colonel turned and led Lupe, Manny, and three of the Jaguar Captains back to the large table on the east side of the room. It was made from two–4×8 sheets of one-inch plywood on a strong 2×4 frame. It was held up by 6×6s in the corners and middle. It was edged with whitewood 1x6s neatly mitered at the corners. On the wall was a large window that was showing the sun rising over the Manzano Mountains 15 miles east.
The table itself had a large 3D relief map of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, West Texas, and Northern Chihuahua in the middle. The mountains stood about two inches high. The rest of the table was scattered with maps, stats, and diagrams.
Manny saw that the Colonel was a serious piece of work. He’d obviously been through a lot and represented the best of professional warrior leadership. You could see it in the way he stood—confidently but ready to respond to whatever happened. There was a gleam in his eye like Manny had seen one time when he was hunting in the mountains and had come upon in a puma ready to leap on the back of an unsuspecting deer. It was so good to be under a professional again.
Lupe was good, but he was no warrior. Lupe was more of a street brawler—very deadly, street wise, but totally unconcerned about military appearances, weak on tactics, and planning.
Colonel Santiana was a traditional warrior. His black uniform was starched and creased. The gold buttons gleamed. The Epaulets shone. The medals were missing this morning, and Manuel imagined that the epaulets and buttons would go also as they got to work. But, he was sure that his black shirt under his TAC vest would be starched and pressed.
The black knee-high boots reflected his surroundings. The black hair was cropped tight with that typical Chihuahuan officer affectation of the carefully trimmed mustache and goatee. No extravagances here other than the slightly waxed curl to the black ends of his mustache. His eyes were as black as his uniform.
The Glocks in the black holsters on each hip were a dull black, well used, with what looked like hand-fitted manzanita handles. The purple of the manzanita wood glowed in the morning sun as the Colonel strode to the back of the table and faced them silhouetted in the sun.
“Men, it’s started.” Pablo’s voice was gravelly with emotion. “As you know, El Patron and I have been planning for this day for many years. We finally arranged for the help we needed. Señor Dominguez tells me that it is up to us. If we can take and hold central New Mexico by noon today, his people in California and Texas will move on our behalf.
“As you can see, the passes are closed. Thanks to our warrior friend here,” and he gathered Manuel into their plans with a sweep of his arm, “the mountain barrier between East and West has been sealed. Cimmaron, Apache Cañon, Tijeras, Abo, Carrizozo, Cloudcroft, and Guadalupe passes are cut off. I have men in those locations finishing the work. I think you all knew about these plans. What you didn’t know is that I-5 has been similarly sealed off at the Oregon border and Triad troops from Chinatown in San Francisco have blockaded the coast highway north of Eureka. These Chinese troops have also blockaded all the roads coming down through California from Oregon.
“We have promises that there will be no response from the United States Army, Navy, or Air Force until at least noon. If we can secure Kirtland in Albuquerque and Holloman in Alamogordo by then, El Patron assures me that this non-response will become permanent.”
Lupe and the captains shouted and pumped their fists in the air. “Viva, El Patron!” “Viva, Aztlan!” Manny was a little confused, but he liked the energy of the room.
Pablo Santiana noticed Manny’s confusion and motioned the rest to silence. “Manuel, the day has come! If we do our part, Aztlan will be a nation on the world stage by tonight. Governor Chavez of New Mexico has accepted the offer of the presidency. He only awaits the go-ahead from Chihuahua. Our day is here!”
Pablo’s teeth sparkled even in the shadow of his silhouette. The two gold teeth shone in the wide, perfect grin. “Señor Cisneros, I need you to tell me something.”
“Whatever you need, sir.”
“We are having a little fight of it in Albuquerque. I need a way to get onto the base from the back. We’ve taken the front gates and destroyed the command center. We have a Chinese jammer that has cut off all of their communication, as far as we know. But we have a problem. Come here.”
As Manny came over to the table, around back next to the Colonel, he saw a map of southeast Albuquerque and the base. The Colonel continued, “ We have taken all the gates on Gibson, plus the Wyoming and Eubank gates. We’re fighting hard for the South Gate in Tijeras Arroyo. Their forces are sealed inside. But they are fighting hard, even though there are not many left. If we could come from back here, we could run up the runway, capture the control tower, and eliminate the resistance.”
“No problem, sir. See this road here?” Manuel pointed to a straight dirt road angling directly southwest from the base up to the edge of the Manzanos where it stopped just short of the northern Isleta Reservation boundary. “Do you have a map of Valencia County and the reservation?”
Pablo motioned to Lupe who slid that map over to the two men by the window. “Look here, sir. On the northeast corner of the eastern Meadowlake extension is a gate—right here.” Manny pointed. “It’s not on the map, but I have been up there many times—scouting the terrain for Lupe, making sure there are no threats to his ranch. One couple owns this whole corner of the development. He works for Sandia Lab and I have seen him go through the gate in the morning. It looks like he has permission to use a seldom-used fire trail that winds at the base of the mountains the entire way across the eastern edge of the reservation to go to work. He drives a big blue Dodge Ram truck—same size as yours. So, I’m sure the road goes the whole way through up to the base.”
“There are several fences to break through, but they shouldn’t slow us much. In fact, we’ll need to be fast. There are machine gun and missile emplacements back there on the base protecting the old nuclear storage in the foothills. The nukes are supposedly gone, but the defenses remain.”
“That’s not a problem, Manuelito. I know about them. One of my men in base security got me one of the old construction maps from the 1950s, plus a current map. My trucks will take them out fast.”
Manny swelled with pride. “Manuelito!” He hadn’t been called that since his tough old Marine grandfather had died ten years ago. He always associated that name with his course of life as a man—living to please his grandfather. He was a tough ol’ buzzard and Manny wanted to make him proud—too bad he couldn’t see him now.
“Have any of my men showed you what’s inside the backs of those trucks?”
“You’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m pleased my men were so careful. But when you get to look at them carefully you’ll see they are armored personnel carriers. We have worked to camouflage them, and it appears that we have done our job. They may not have tracks, but the tires are tough, off-road, run-flat monsters. These are our tanks. They all have two Chinese 9 mm machine guns mounted over the front wheels exiting through the headlight openings. The lights fold in and down, out of the way to fire. About half of the bed covers blow off with explosive bolts to reveal two standard configurations: dual 25 mm machine guns plus three anti-aircraft missiles or an anti-tank missile battery that can fire up to eight missiles at a time. Each of the missile batteries has six reloads or forty-eight missiles. The rest carry four men and a half a ton of armament each. There are now over five thousand of them throughout the state. Three thousand crossed through Juarez this morning and they will be reinforced by nearly ten thousand more headed up from Chihuahua that left at dark last night to avoid the satellites.”
“I’m impressed, sir.”
“You’ve not seen anything yet. The Americans think that those factories built by the Chinese in our state are to build appliances and tools for Wal-Mart. Half of those factories are underground. We have some nice new toys. Wait ’til you get to use them—right, men?” There were enthusiastic murmurs of agreement from the rest of the troops in the office. “We’ve been training on them for a couple years now. Lupe taught us much in the 90s, and we’ve been adding skill upon skill since then.”
Santiana looked around the office with sudden curiosity.
Lupe answered, “He’s up at the ranch. He, Raul, and José were blind-sided by what seems to have been some sort of wild woman in Belén a couple months ago. She cut him pretty bad. We had the wound cleaned and stitched up, but it has developed into a raging infection that we have not been able to contain. We may lose him.”
The colonel’s eyes narrowed.
“A woman!? What the hell were you guys doing?”
José stepped forward from the back of the room. “We were just playing with a gringo and his wife. This woman came around the back of the truck, flying through the air, feet first. Hermano went down and never got back up. I tried to grab her so Raul could get her with his chain, but she grabbed the chain, almost crushed my throat with her other foot…”
“Enough! I never thought any of my men could be pussy-whipped.” The rest of the men burst in to raucous laughter. “Let’s mount up. Get your gear. Suit up, Manuelito. We leave in fifteen minutes. We’ve got work to do.”
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- Free serialized novel: Black Sail, Invasion: every Tuesday (bergsland.org)
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