The beginnings of a plan
Sunday Morning, the fifth of May: 11:15 am Local time, On Meadowlake Road heading east out of Los Lunas
nearing the foothills of the Manzano Mountains
Jakob looked over at his daughter. She was doing well as he had expected. It had been a different story at The Living Way this morning. Rachael had been at her best—encouraging, comforting, and strengthening her sheep. Attendance had been huge. All anyone wanted to talk about is the black trucks and the Mexican soldiers. Then of course, there was the cell phone problem. You would have thought some of them had lost a child. Mary Beth had been nearly out of her mind with worry—because she couldn’t get in touch with her daughter in Santa Fe.
Judging by the conversations, all phones were out from Highway 60 at Bernardo and I-25 south of Belén to north of Bernalillo—the entire metropolitan area of Albuquerque. No one lived farther away than that. The Romero’s kid, Carmine, lived in northern Bernalillo and had come down on the freeway to check on his parents when the phones weren’t working. He had said the freeways were clear, though there wasn’t much traffic. All the TV appeared to be local, unless you had a dish.
Rachael had gotten them calmed down. The morning worship service had begun right after the normal Sunday school classes started. People simply left the classes to go to the sanctuary and pray.
Rachael had gotten Martha to the piano to play worship songs quietly in the background. Before too long people began singing softly while they tried to put their trust in the One who is able.
By the time the normal ten o’clock service started the songs, praise, and worship had slid into communal prayer. A hush developed over the congregation that had been too precious to break. The Lord spoke through Rachael into that hush of expectation. “Do not be troubled. I have told you beforehand that you will have troubles. This is part of your training and discipline. Be not afraid, I have overcome.”
Under the anointing, this developed into a marvelous exposition by the pastor of the power available to believers in the midst of trial. She was still there, serving her sheep, comforting her flock. She’d probably be there until late this afternoon.
It had been Rachael’s idea for Jakob to get Deborah out of there and take her back home. They had left Deb’s Cruiser at church for Rachael to drive home when she was done. They were riding in Rach’s purple Hummer with the dark red crosses on the doors and hood. It had not seemed wise to drive Jakob’s deep blue, Dodge RAM pickup this morning after what they had seen headed for the base.
They hadn’t seen even one of the black trucks in the valley this morning. As Jakob turned left off Meadowlake Road onto Foothill Drive up next to the Manzanos he looked northwest toward the base twenty miles north. They had ascended until they were on a high shoulder of the out slope at the base of the Manzanos. He could see entire airport, the runways, the whole base, and much of the secret tech area development of the eastern parts of the base where he worked.
There were a few areas still smoking, but they were obviously not the vigorous growing towers of black smoke that had been visible on their way to church three hours ago. It was hard to tell exactly where the fires were—it was just too far away.
It always seemed like you could see forever from up here. You could clearly see distant mountains in three directions on the far side of the cottonwood forest or bosque running along the Rio Grande in the near foreground (only fifteen miles away). It wasn’t just the distant peaks either. You could see a lot of the ground, too.
Sierra Blanca just west of Socorro sixty miles south was in the mid-distance in front of the Black range of the Gila Wilderness in southwest New Mexico. Mount Taylor north of Grants was 80 miles west. Looking toward Kirtland, the base was in the foreground, with Rio Rancho and the Intel plant clearly visible on the far side of the Rio Grande over fifty miles to the north. Behind Rio Rancho, the Jemez Mountains made beautiful overlapping mounds of gray a hundred miles north. However, by this time of the day the heat waves rising from the ground destroyed any hope of clear vision even over the short twenty miles to the base and airport.
Jakob spoke to his daughter. She had been very quiet ever since they had left the valley. The normal chatter did not seem appropriate this morning. “Well, Stones, looks like the questions about the trucks are answered.”
“Yea, no wonder those guys I jumped seemed to be in pretty good shape. Like Gerry suggested, they must have been soldiers biding their time—taking out their frustrations on the local Anglos. I was just thinking how lucky I am to be alive. I was really in bad shape.”
“Luck had nothing to do with it, babe.” Jakob smiled over and got a little grin in return. “I’ve been assuming that you are staying with us until this is over or at least calms down.”
“I hadn’t really thought that far ahead, but you’re right. I need to move back. I’ve been working at the house so much lately that I keep enough clothes to keep me going for a few days, but maybe Denzell could come with me to pick up a few things.”
Suddenly, Jakob saw a brilliant red-orange flash on the base. Within a second a mushroom cloud of black smoke started rising from the center of the base. “Hey, Stones, look! On the base, it looks like someone got the propane storage by the motor pool.”
Debbie peered around the front of her dad. By the time she saw what he was talking about, the cloud from the explosion had risen a couple hundred feet. At its base were flames large enough to be seen up at the base of the mountains, where they were driving, nearly twenty-five miles away. “Wow, that’s quite an explosion. I wonder what happened? All the rest of the smoke is almost gone.”
“I imagine it was an accident during cleanup. My guess is that the base is under Mexican control by now. They probably were eliminating some final resistance and didn’t know about the propane tanks in that metal building in the motor pool yard. It’s the only fresh…”
The sound of the explosion reached them almost two minutes later. It was strong enough to rattle the Hummer a little. Both of them jumped at the sound, but quickly realized it was from the base.
“That was a big one.” Debbie commented. From their house they had regularly heard booms coming from the base for years. Normally, they were from experiments run by the Lab. Jakob himself had been responsible for some of those explosions. But the noise was much louder this time. It must have been an immense explosion. They hadn’t even been able to hear the fighting this morning on the way to church.
Jakob swung right through a shallow cut in the rocky gravel that made up the shoulder of the mountain. It was obvious that a lot of traffic had been through here recently. Normally the road looked almost completely untraveled. The gravel was heavy enough to cover the Jackson tracks.
But the Mexican trucks had left a clear trail—both wide and deep. The sun was flashing off the mica and quartz veins that laced the rocks up by their home. As they swung left, on the other side of the little cut, they could see the hacienda spread out on the shoulder of the far side of the arroyo about a quarter of a mile north.
Jakob saw his ambulance parked out front of the house before they dove down the gravel slope to cross the arroyo. Denzell had borrowed it overnight to test out his new transmission. “It looks like Denzell got my message and got my truck back in one piece. I hope Bebe made it.”
“What message is that, Dad?” Debbie perked up a little.
“I sent them an email asking them to meet us here after church.” Jacob pulled the Hummer to a short sliding crunch in the gravel next to the ambulance.
He hopped out of the car and walked over to Denzell pulling him into their normal hug, “Hi Denz, seen Bebe yet?”
“Hi Jake. Nope, not yet. At least he wasn’t on the reservation this time. I got an email saying that he was up in the Jemez Mountains camping with his family. They were hopin’ for a little family time before it all broke loose. We should have known—Cinco de Mayo. I’m expecting him about now, in fact.” He looked back at his boss. “That was a scary email, boss. What about that explosion?”
“I was just trying to get your attention with the letter. That explosion is just a small part of it as far as I can tell. My guess is the propane storage at the motor pool.”
“Good guess, I’ll bet. You got my attention.”
“Let’s go inside and get some lunch while we wait for Bebe.”
Just then the apache’s bike came sliding around through the gate to a perfect stop next to the purple Hummer.
“Hi Bebe! We’re just going’ in to get somethin’ to eat.” Jake replied with a broad grin. “You just made it.”
“Just luck, huh?” Bebe exclaimed. He led the four of them to the house. They attacked the refrigerator, piling meat, cheese, rolls, salsa, and whatever they could find on large platters they took into the living room.
They ate a delicious lunch of leftovers gathered in front of the plasma screen at the end of the room. Jacob turned on FoxNews, but all he saw were talking heads. There were no live reports. Nothing seemed to have changed. The talk turned serious.
Suddenly, Jacob’s eyes were caught by a news flash announcement on the screen. He picked up the remote and raised the sound.