Author Topic: Steele Resolve  (Read 29172 times)

Goatdog62

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Steele Resolve
« on: May 09, 2009, 07:24:04 PM »
This is the opening chapter, a prologue really, of my novel "Steele Resolve." It is rather long, 8658 words actually. The prologue is set in Iraq in 2005. The protagonist has his epiphany moment there and resolves to not be unprepared should the time come. The 2nd and subsequent chapters are set slightly in the future and things start to unwind quickly (SHTF). While it is a "survival" novel, it is written in a techno-thriller format. I also chose to write it in the third person, not omniscient, and present tense.

The protagonist is not me, mostly anyway, but it is impossible not to draw from my own experiences.

I welcome all comments and suggestions, even ones that tell me to hang it up.

I am about half done with it. I have some editing to do to chapters 2, 3, etc. I have an outline and know where I'm going with it, but can always change my mind.

Goatdog
« Last Edit: May 09, 2009, 07:36:57 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2009, 07:25:03 PM »
                                                                                                              Steele Resolve

                                                                                                                 Prologue
Baghdad, Iraq
Thursday July 28th 2005
10:44 am


     “Echo Base this is Blackbird, we are passing Gray Seven.” Jesse Steele, Blackbird Shift Leader, used the dash mounted radio set on the command frequency. He reported the location of the Ambassador’s Protection Detail, codenamed Blackbird, to the Tactical Operations Center at the Embassy, located only a half-mile behind them. Using a coded brevity matrix, the teams called out their locations with a Gray code. When they arrived at their destination it would be coded Blue. The TOC would track the movement of Blackbird through radio traffic and via GPS-based tracking devices.  
     “Blackbird at Gray Seven,” the TOC acknowledged.  
     “Blackbird Advance this is Blackbird Shift Lead, five minutes out.” Steele released the push-to-talk switch on his handheld Motorola radio and took a quick swig from the plastic water bottle he kept nestled on the “Jesus” handle mounted above the glovebox. The handheld was set on Blackbirds internal frequency, it was their “talk around” channel and kept the command frequency clear for the twenty or more teams that would use it daily. Steele sat shotgun in the Follow, third vehicle of the motorcade, directly behind the Limo. He scanned left and right as the column snaked its way through the staggered, dirt-filled wire mesh HESCO barriers and concrete Jersey walls that marked Checkpoint 11. A desert tan M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank sat on the south end of the bridge that marked the southern edge of the Green Zone. Since 2003 the suspension bridge had served the same purpose as the drawbridge of a medieval castle, preventing the uninvited from crossing the moat, in this case the Tigris River. The landmark was painted green and stood out in the brown-tinged city of seven million.
     “Shift Lead this is Advance, copy five minutes out. Standby for site report,” Reggie Wilson, Advance Team Shift Leader, responded. His team was awaiting the arrival of Steele’s motorcade at the Daura Power Plant. Located just southwest of the Karada Peninsula, nicknamed “The Schlong” because of its resemblance to a phallus on their maps, the facility wasn’t very far away. Steele knew that nearby should not be misconstrued as safe.  
     “Advance this is Shift Lead, standing by,” Steele said as he waved at the four Kevlar-clad soldiers controlling access in or out of the modern fortress. “Defenders of the Castle.” thought Steele. A ruddy faced Private First Class raised his right fist, extending the thumb and pinky, and twisted his wrist back and forth like he was shaking a can of spray paint. The Hawaiian Shaka greeting had been adopted by lower ranked soldiers to let passing Americans know they were “cool.” Army supervisors had banned the unauthorized hand gesture, which only caused the signal to proliferate. When you stood in the July sun, wearing 40 lbs of sweat-soaked body armor, at one of the most dangerous checkpoints in the world, you really didn’t let threats of punishment bother you much. Steele remembered his Army days without much sentiment.
     “Zero press, one meet and greet, strong side drop, site secure,” said Wilson.
     “Copy zero press, one meet and greet, strong side drop, site secure,” Steele repeated, minimizing any chance of a miscommunication. The site report confirmed that there would be no media present and that one dignitary at the venue would be outside to greet the motorcade. It also told Steele that the Ambassador would exit on the passenger side and that there was no obvious security risk at the moment.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:38:51 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2009, 07:26:17 PM »
     When the Follow cleared the traffic circle south of the bridge, Steele reported, “Echo Base, Blackbird passing Gray Nine.”  The column then climbed up the long approach to the double-decked bridge leaving the south side of “The Schlong” and crossed the Tigris for the second time in as many minutes. Steele idly wondered if “peninsula” and “penis” originated from the same word.
     “Copy Blackbird passing Gray Nine,” replied the bored sounding dispatcher.
     The motorcade emerged from the lower level of the concrete bridge and approached a four-way intersection. A lone Iraqi police officer stood on a wooden pallet gesticulating at passing cars, his sky blue shirt sodden around the armpits. He was generally ignored by the chaotic traffic, but Steele knew he was grateful for the assignment; his peers were out kicking doors, supposedly in search of terrorists.  
     “In at six, out at three…pedestrians on the left corner.” Teddy Palmer, who rode in the Lead vehicle just in front of the Limo, called out the imminent right turn and a potential threat on the street corner. His job as Tactical Commander was to navigate and report pertinent information to the rest of the convoy. Palmer was second in the chain-of-command for Blackbird.
     “Screen left.” Steele ordered the Lead and Follow vehicles to physically screen the left side of the Ambassador’s Limousine in case an attack came from that direction. The Limo simultaneously shifted right to make room for the two escort vehicles. There was barely a foot between the three vehicles and the proximity could be unnerving when you first experienced it. After they passed the handful of pedestrians, the two screening vehicles shifted back to the default position of screening the right side of the Limo. At the same time, the Limo driver moved his vehicle back to the left side of the lane, all without prompting from Steele. This provided the best protection for their Principal, who was seated in the right rear seat. The opposite would be true if there were no threat from roadside bombs. Tagged by the military as IED’s, or improvised explosive devices, they had become the most common form of attack in the country. Steele nodded his head in approval of the well-executed maneuver. “Man, we are shit hot,” he said under his breath.
     Technically, the Limo was a black Chevrolet Suburban with Level B7 armor and some advanced electronic IED countermeasures. The Lead and Follow were slightly less armored. They each carried five heavily armed Personal Security Specialists. Not counting the Advance Team, Steele had 12 PSS members on his PSD, or Personal Security Detail. They were all private contractors hired by the State Department to move American diplomats around Iraq. The State required an extensive amount of prior experience from their contractors, and then sent them to three weeks of vetting to prove their resumes weren’t fabricated. They all possessed security clearances and all specialized in High Threat PSD. An assignment to Blackbird was the pinnacle position for a PSD guy. Their precious cargo was the most important American in the country, Stanley Kimbrough, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Losing him to a terrorist attack would be the ultimate propaganda victory for Al-Qaeda.
     In addition to the three SUV’s, Kimbrough’s status as the top U.S. diplomat warranted four heavily armored M1114 U.S. Army HMMWV’s to block intersections and provide overwhelming fire support should an attack on the Ambassador occur. Crewed by a Military Police unit from the Minnesota National Guard, they provided the heavy “punch” for the Ambassador’s Protection Detail. Bristling from the turrets of the wheeled “Humvees” were either an M2 .50 caliber or an M240 7.62mm machine gun. Both were capable of shredding a car in seconds.
     Additionally, two Hughes MD-530F “Little Bird” helicopters flittered overhead. Available to Kimbrough on all runs outside the Green Zone, they scouted for trouble ahead of the motorcade and provided an emergency means of extraction for him should the need arise. Invaluable for suppressing enemy snipers who lurked on rooftops, they were manned by the most experienced contractors in the world, former S.O.A.R. pilots. The elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment had a solid reputation in the Spec Ops community. A gunner perched in each open door. Hand-picked from the hundreds of PSS operators, their skills with a machine gun had been confirmed multiple times.
     It was fortunate that APD had all that firepower as there was nothing low profile about the signature they presented as they rolled out of the traffic circle. The seven trucks and two helicopters were the smallest package that the Blackbird Detail used when outside the Green Zone. Occasionally they were tasked with protecting a CODEL, a congressional delegation. It seemed every Senator and Congressman felt like they had to visit Iraq. The vast majority never left the relative security of the Embassy palace, except to fly in or out. How this made them a subject-matter expert in the prosecution of the war was beyond Steele. But invariably, within a few days, he would see them on CNN describing the “horrors” they had witnessed. Once in a while, a CODEL would actually go out to the Red Zone. Many times they were flown by U.S. Army Blackhawk Helicopters to another Forward Operating Base in another region of the country. If Kimbrough went with them, select members of Blackbird would go also. If their itinerary involved travel around Baghdad, they would just add vehicles to the motorcade package. This could involve three or more limousines, a media van, a van full of staff members, and sometimes a CAT Team. The Counter Assault Team consisted of several armored Mambas, manufactured in South Africa, which responded as a Quick Reaction Force, or QRF, to any State Department team that needed the firepower. There were many other State Department teams that were tasked with moving the many “lesser” diplomats assigned to the largest U.S. Embassy in the world. The CAT Team usually tried to escort as many teams as scheduling would allow. They were also the scruffiest looking contractors. No one cared what they looked like when the chips were down.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:40:19 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2009, 07:27:12 PM »
Constantly under scrutiny, it was Steele’s task to make sure the Detail made every effort to show professionalism and dedication. Anything less could be considered an international incident. “We are all ambassadors of the United States.” The Regional Security Officer, or RSO, would frequently tell them. He was the senior State Department official in matters concerning the safety of all Americans in Iraq. Steele liked to tell his team that only the best were assigned to “The Show,” but he knew the 10% rule applied to every group of men. Ever since the first cave men formed a hunting party, and one of them forgot to bring his spear, there had always been a weak link. When Steele found one, he quickly sent them back to the minor leagues, but that didn’t always happen before they embarrassed the Detail. Still, he felt pretty good about the current bunch.
      More local citizens gaped at them from an outdoor market to the right front of the motorcade.
“Three pax in the taxi at the market and a vanload of ninjas at the two,” Palmer radioed. The front of the convoy was always at twelve o’clock, two would be to the right of that. Palmer described the typical orange and white Iraqi taxicab, with three persons inside, and a van full of black burkha clad women. Shiite women dressed far more conservatively than Sunni Muslim women did. It was impossible to tell by looking what they might have under their flowing robes and was a concern in a country plagued by suicide bombers.
     “What a bunch of goofy looking fucks, they all stare at us like we got dicks on our faces,” Sean Kramer, Blackbirds youngest member commented from the seat behind Steele. The Iraqi citizens stared at every foreigner, Steele would worry if they didn’t, but the parade of vehicles and aircraft would draw attention in any country.
     “Last night you did have a dick on your face,” blurted out Josh Redmond from the rearmost position in the SUV, known as the “well.” Redmond had been an Army Ranger and Kramer was a former Marine, they bickered constantly while working but were inseparable off-duty.
     “the "f" word you man! Your mom did.”
     “Shut up and lick your windows,” Steele said, referring to their primary duty to watch their assigned sector. Derisively known as window licking, it was the normal first assignment for PSD members. Also called “shooters,” they could only hope to move up to driver and beyond with demonstrated competence.
     “Blackbird this is Ass Monkey… (static)…activity at venue appears routine. We’ll standby until Grizzly is secured inside then RTB, call us back with 10 minutes notice if you would.” The Little Birds generally returned to base to refuel when Kimbrough arrived at his destination.
     “Roger Ass Monkey and, as always, we appreciate the help,” Steele said.
     Nate Sutton, Steele’s driver, pressed the power door lock button for the fifth time since leaving the Green Zone moments earlier. The crew constantly harassed Sutton about having OCD. Whether it was true or not, Steele didn’t know, but he found it to be a useful affliction for a driver “I thought the RSO told the Little Birds to stop using the call sign Ass Monkeys over the radio,” Sutton said.
     “He did Nate, but unlike you, they aren’t easy to replace,” Steele teased. “Okay, heads up guys, time to embrace the suck.” He grinned at Sutton and keyed the microphone.
     “Advance this is Shift Lead, one minute out.”
     “Copy one minute, site still secure,” Wilson came back.
     The HMMWV’s peeled off to secure the outer perimeter of the Daura Power Plant. The motorcade raced down the dirt road and through the front gate, ignoring the hapless local national gate guard who frantically waved at them to stop. The dust from the flying motorcade enveloped the gray shirted Facilities Protective Services employee, who briefly raised the barrel of his AK-47 before realizing how suicidal that might be. He quickly transitioned to waving them in, trying in vain to appear like he was in control.
     “Haji is smarter than he looks,” blurted Kramer.
     “If you say Haji around one of the State guys, I won’t be able to help you Kramer,” Steele warned. He was referring to the RSO’s recent zero tolerance decree involving respect for the host country nationals.
     The facility was much larger than the normal venue the Detail normally visited, at least 200 acres containing four steam turbines, smokestacks, and transformers. The Tigris formed the east side of the complex. An orchard lay to the south and urban sprawl covered the north and west. About a third of the prewar level of 600 workers regularly showed up for work. Steele saw a lot of them scattered throughout the power plant today. They were mostly clustered in small groups, dressed in ill-fitting blue jumpsuits, and didn’t appear particularly busy. Threatened with retaliation to their families by diehard extremists, most employees never returned to work after the occupation. The fleet of SUV’s bounced along the dirt road, lined with chain link fences, for two more minutes before they could even see the parking area near the office complex.
     Steele pushed the PTT switch. “Advance this is Shift Lead, 30 seconds.”
    
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:42:42 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2009, 07:29:10 PM »
     “Copy 30 seconds, I have you visual, key on me.” Wilson stood in the gravel driveway in front of the administration offices of the huge facility. A middle-aged, and rather portly Iraqi man with a very thick gray mustache was standing behind him in a cheap black suit and black tie. He was the Iraqi Minister of Municipality & Public Works, the meet and greet Wilson had reported earlier. Wilson was holding his M4 rifle with his right hand, with the muzzle pointed at the ground, his trigger finger extended along the outside edge of the trigger guard. The rifle was attached to the right shoulder strap of Wilson’s Level IV body armor with a single-point sling. If need be, he could let the weapon dangle, freeing both hands. A Glock Model 19 9mm semi-automatic pistol was secured in the Safariland Level II retention holster on his right hip. Wilson waved with his left hand to make it easier for the motorcade to spot him. He then pointed to the exact spot on the pavement that the Limo driver was expected to park the right front fender.
     “Echo Base this is Blackbird, we have arrived at Blue 62.” The motorcade, which was now moving in a single file and spaced but a few inches apart, angled to the right across the wide road towards Wilson. Sutton hit the door locks yet again, this time unlocking them, so the crew could get out without fumbling.
     “Copy, Blackbird has arrived at Blue 62,” The TOC dispatcher, now a nasal voiced female, answered.
     “Slow roll, slow roll, slow roll.” Steele let the team know that they were about to stop. At the same time the passenger and both rear doors on the Lead and Follow cracked open. The Lead vehicle passed Wilson and the Limo stopped exactly on his mark.
     Overhead, the indigo blue Little Birds circled in a holding pattern. A gunner was standing on each skid wearing a dark-tinted flight helmet. They each held a M249 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon that was tethered to the airframe with a bungee cord. They stood ready to stitch a Z pattern on anyone that burped in the Ambassador’s direction.
     As soon as the Limo got within 10 feet of Wilson, the doors flew open and all but the drivers stood on the running boards of their respective vehicles. “Deploy, deploy, deploy,” Steele radioed needlessly as the vehicles all stopped as if they were welded together. The blast of July heat felt like the prop wash from Lucifer’s Learjet. Unlike the arid areas of Iraq, the regions along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were very humid. “Fertile Crescent my ass,” he muttered.
     As Steele stepped down to the pavement he glanced back to the rear of the Follow to make sure Redmond was posted to cover the six o’clock position. He moved toward the front fender, turning his head to the left just enough to verify that Tony “Doc” Ramirez was in position. Doc, a former SEAL medic, had moved from the seat behind Steele’s driver to the left rear door of the Limo. His role was twofold; to provide additional armor using his body on the vital rear seat region of the Limo and to keep any passengers from opening up that door prematurely. The Ambassador rarely traveled alone and Steele was responsible for anyone that came along. Irreverently known as “straphangers,” they were usually too busy sucking the Ambassador’s ass to pay attention to anything the Detail was doing to protect them.
     Assured that security was set on the rear and left, Steele took a quick peek at the front of the Limo. The two rear seat operators from the Lead vehicle were posted at each of the front fenders. Palmer had exited the Lead also and was protecting the area to the twelve o’clock. Wilson had moved from the front fender to cover the Ambassador’s door with his body. Kramer, coming from the seat behind Steele, had passed him to plant himself at the Limo’s right rear fender.
     Out of sight were at least two Designated Defensive Marksmen. Wilson had posted them to watch over the “drop”, the exact spot on the ground where Ambassador Kimbrough’s foot would touch the ground when he exited the Limo. If there had been any problems emplacing his men, Wilson would have let Steele know during the site report. Snipers in everything but name, they provided long-range precision fire and observation.
     Steele also knew that two K9 handlers had swept the venue for explosives. Both dogs were dual-trained, meaning they could be used for both bomb detecting and attack roles. It was likely that Wilson had placed them near the front and rear entrances to let their dogs screen anyone and anything entering the building. At least five other operators from Wilson’s team would be posted where he felt they could do the most good. Steele was sure that one would be waiting in the intended conference room to make sure it stayed swept. Advance Team Leader’s had to be free thinkers and work with little supervision. They also had to show a lot of tact and diplomacy. Moving into a foreign government owned building, locking it down and controlling all access had a tendency to create a little tension. Wilson was one of the best.
     Steele was satisfied that all his men were ready for the next step, considered one of the most dangerous. “Breaking the seal” and moving the Principal from or to his vehicle was always a moment of high tension. Ronald Reagan was shot by Hinckley in 1981 just prior to entering his limousine.
     Steele touched the finger switch running inside his sleeve to his cuff on the three-wire surveillance kit attached to his Motorola 5000 series radio. The miniature microphone clipped to the collar of his olive green Royal Robbins shirt picked up anything he said without requiring him to speak towards the concealed device. In his ear was a coiled ‘pigtail” earpiece that allowed him to hear everything transmitted without risk of eavesdropping. All State Department radios were scrambled, or loaded with a code, which prevented electronic interception of their transmission by anyone monitoring their frequency. Any member of the Detail could “zero” their radio with a certain combination of button pushes. This eliminated the crypto which would turn the radio into an expensive paperweight, rendering it useless if captured by unauthorized persons.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:45:51 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2009, 07:30:01 PM »
“Standby,” Steele spoke from the front fender of the Follow. This vantage point allowed him an overall view of what is best described as choreography.
     Keeping his back to the Ambassador’s door, Wilson used his left hand to bang three times on the right front door of the Limo. Then he flashed a thumb’s up signal through the glass of the same door. This gave an audible and visual signal to yet another member of Blackbird. This was Special Agent Clint Young, the only actual State Department employee on the Detail. Young was a well-trained Diplomatic Security Service operator, performing the role of AIC. The Agent-In-Charge was tasked to always be within an arms reach of the Ambassador. His duty was to remove the Principal from harm at the slightest hint of trouble, using his body to shield him as much as possible. Because of his proximity to the Ambassador he was usually only armed with a concealed pistol, a Sig Sauer P228 9mm in this case. This left his hands free should he need to grab the Principal in an emergency or, more routinely, open doors and shake hands.
     When Young received the signal, he exited the front seat. As Wilson stepped away from the rear door, Young moved to face it and opened the heavily reinforced door with his right hand. He used his torso to shield the “fatal funnel” of the door opening. As Ambassador Kimbrough stepped out of the back seat, Young moved to his left just enough to allow him to pass.
     Wilson turned and established eye contact with Kimbrough. “Sir, please follow me,” He said, loud enough to be heard over the din of the unmuffled helicopters.
     “Moving,” Steele told the Detail as Kimbrough stood up and stepped toward Wilson. The Iraqi Minister reached past Wilson and thrust his right hand towards the Ambassador. Steele winced as Kimbrough stopped and extended his massive paw in response. The Minister, typical of Iraqi dignitaries, seemed quite content to stand outside and make small talk for the remainder of the day. “Just like herding cats,” thought Steele. The delay was unfortunate but uneventful. It did allow the other Blackbird members to more casually move from their respective fenders and doors to form a defensive circle around Kimbrough and the Minister. Normally, they had to step quickly to catch their Principal. Doc Ramirez brought the one straphanger around from the left side. He was a vetted Arabic interpreter who had a chain smoking habit and smelled like an ashtray most of the time.
     “Grizzly is stopped, keep it tight,” Steele felt the usual sizzle on top of his closely cropped brown hair, as if the sun was focusing its beam directly towards him. Hats were authorized when outdoors, but Steele typically didn’t bother because the decorum of most occasions around Kimbrough discouraged it. He could already feel rivulets of perspiration flowing down his back, the body armor worked like a mini-sauna and the moisture had nowhere to go but into his clothing. A man could lose five or more pounds in an afternoon of sweating; heat stroke was a real concern here. At 5’10” and 170 pounds, he couldn’t spare too much weight.
     The Daura Power Plant had never operated at full capacity, even before the 2003 invasion. Since then, power rarely was available for more than eight hours a day. It was a major complaint of the Iraqi citizenry and Ambassador Kimbrough wanted to know how he could help.
     Kimbrough was a large, soft-spoken man. Easily 6’4” and 250 lbs, his movement and slow mannerisms reminded everybody of a late summer bear poking for berries in a grassy meadow. Choosing “Grizzly” as his call sign didn’t require much brainstorming.  
     After a moment, the Minister and Kimbrough began moving towards the office building. “Moving,” Steele said again. Detail members turned in the direction of travel and smoothly transitioned into the extended “K-Diamond” formation. This effectively provided 360 degree protection for their VIP while maintaining the flexibility to move in unexpected directions, tighten or loosen as needed, and react to an AOP. An Attack On Principal was the most rehearsed, and dreaded, drill the team members could execute. It involved shielding their precious cargo with their torsos while simultaneously moving him to the nearest safe haven. The operators nearest the attacker would deal with that threat by whatever means available. It was Steele’s job to monitor the diamond from his position to the rear, dictate formation changes, and designate safe havens as they moved along. The team was proficient at several different formations, from a single agent escort to their current fully manned diamond, and each member could flex into any position as needed. There were practiced drills for doorways, staircases, elevators, stages, and press conferences. Steele knew that PSD guys were stereotyped as “knuckle draggers”, and deservedly so in many cases, but he knew that Blackbird guys could actually think and chew gum at the same time.  
     The conference room was only 40 feet into the marbled foyer. Multiple other power plant employees and lower-level executives were clustered near the stairwell where one of the Advance Team shooters had sequestered them. He stood facing them now in a casual, but alert, stance. Steele was happy to see that. The best protection guys controlled their environment without creating anxiety or resentment.
     As the diamond moved into the conference room, Steele called “Peel” and everyone except AIC Young angled off left or right as they encountered the doorframe. Young followed the Ambassador inside and nodded to the Advance Team shooter posted in the corner, who subsequently exited the room after the Minister and nicotine-soaked interpreter had entered. Kimbrough sat when the Minister motioned him to a chair across from his own near the head of the ornate exotic Wenge hardwood table. The terp, already jonesing for a smoke, sat to his right. Young stood behind the left shoulder of Kimbrough. He would have to play “fly on the wall” during the meeting. It required a bit of acting ability to look disinterested in the historical conversations and negotiations that he was privy to.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:47:47 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2009, 07:31:05 PM »
“Doc and Kramer, take the door. Redmond, you take a break then rotate back and relieve your lover Kramer in 15 minutes. Don’t be a Blue Falcon.” Steele was referring to a “buddy fucker,” someone who didn’t pull their share of work or otherwise screwed their teammates. The Blue Falcon had been made into a patch featuring a gagging blue-colored bird of prey. It was quite comical and some of the guys had sewn it into the liners of their ceramic plated vests.
     “Fuckalllllyaalll!” Redmond gave the expected response as he headed back outside, mimicking the high pitched caw of a crow.
     Steele allowed himself a toothy grin after the tension of the last twenty minutes. South Baghdad wasn’t their favorite part of town, but none of the trips into the Red Zone could be considered milk runs. He walked over to where Wilson was chatting with his guy in the foyer. “Hey Smoke, how they hanging?” Steele asked.
     “One in front of the other for aerodynamic efficiency Jess.” Wilson removed his ratty baseball cap, a subdued American flag patch sewn on the front, and wiped his ebony forehead. Smoke Wilson considered his sweat-stained hat to be his lucky charm and wore it everywhere he went, apparently without ever washing it. “Who cares if a guy has a few quirks?” thought Steele. Wilson was a retired Special Forces weapons expert and Steele was happy to have him around. A Texan by birth, he saved every penny he could for a big house in San Antonio that he planned to buy when his contract ended.
     “Any trouble locking down this rat hole?” Steele asked. “Dude at the gate was shaking like a cat shitting on a block of ice when we rolled in.”
     “It’s just so damn big. I didn’t leave anyone at the gate because their asses would be hanging in the breeze if something happened. I knew the MP’s would post themselves there when you guys got here. I had the DDM’s watch both the gate and the drop. No one entered before you did,” Wilson explained.
     “Good call. There’s some cold Gatorades in the well of Teddy’s truck for your guys. The roof must feel like a skillet right about now.”
     “Yeah, even the dogs didn’t want to get out of the trucks,“ Wilson said, referring to the K9’s.
     “They’re smarter than we are Smoke.”
     “I hear you aren’t signing a new contract. It’s gonna suck if they put some turd in charge.”
     “I’ve been here a long time. My kids think the dog is their father. For what it’s worth, I’m recommending you to the powers-that-be to take over, Turd,” Steele said.
     “Shit, I thought you liked me,” Wilson said. “Tancy agreed to let me do one more year, then home I go. You going back to Tennessee?”
     “For starters, then look for some instructing gigs.” Steele looked outside and saw that Palmer had already repositioned the vehicles for a hasty departure, should that be necessary. The drivers remained behind the wheel of the idling vehicles and monitored the radios. “You know you’ll have to babysit the Milfman when he’s around the Ambo’s secretary?”
     “Palmer would the "f" word a camel if she winked at him.”
     “Who said it had to be a she?” said Steele.
     Steele made the rounds to check on all his guys, skipping the rooftop perched counter-sniper teams. The DDM’s had a thing about being invisible and Steele knew his silhouette standing against the cloudless sky would draw attention to their “hide” position.
     After a while, Young asked Steele for a “bump” so he could take a quick break. Steele spent a few minutes in the conference room and wished Young would hurry back the entire time. He tried to ignore the conversation while sipping the lukewarm chai brought to him by the stunningly beautiful receptionist. Steele didn’t like the sickly sweet tea but he was too polite to turn it down. She was wearing a black mid-thigh length skirt, a chocolate brown blouse with gold leaf embroidery, anthracite eyes accented with a whisper of mint eye shadow and hair as dark as Cleopatra. Obviously not a Muslim, Steele guessed she was one of the many Christians that populated Baghdad. She smiled when he thanked her, but did not look at his eyes. “Can’t bring Teddy up here, we’ll all be PNG’d out of here.” Persona non grata status wasn’t how Steele wished to end his tour. He managed to stop ogling her long enough to watch the official proceedings. The terp was translating something about the Minister needing more money to increase production. “What else is new?” Steele thought cynically.  
     After Young returned, Steele stepped out and immediately heard the call to prayer ring out from the nearest minaret. A drawn out male voice wailed “Allaaaaahuuuu Akbaaaar!” from speakers all over the city. “Shit, noon already,” Steele said to Ramirez, who had rotated back to standing his watch outside the conference room.
     Ramirez used his thumb and forefinger to smooth his bushy Fu Manchu mustache and said. “Alas Babylon, huh?”
     “Alas Babylon Doc. Great book, you should take up reading someday.”
     “I look like a pig staring at a wristwatch when I read. We didn’t take books with us when I was on the Teams. They got soaking wet when we locked out. We watched movies when we weren’t working out, ever seen The Bridges of Madison County?” Ramirez had a wiry 5’8” frame and didn’t look like he had ever been to a gym. Steele knew that was illusory, the Navy vet was one tough hombre.
     “Fucking SEALs…you guys are all the same.”
     “You love me and you know it or you wouldn’t have told me about Alas Babylon.”
     “I told plenty of jerkwads, you’re nothing special. Just make sure you bring a lot of that medical shit. You’ll be a rare commodity when the shit hits the fan.”
      “Interrogative?” Ramirez asked.
     “Is that SEAL gibberish for ‘I have a question? Why don’t you just say ‘question’ or better yet, just inflect your voice?” Steele liked goading the New York native, but his respect for him was sincere. Ramirez had some ugly bullet scars on his thigh, courtesy of the Panamanian Defense Forces. A bad night on the runway at Paitilla Airfield in 89’ had left him crippled for over a year.
     “Yeah, yeah very funny. Anyway, how would I get there from my house in Virginia Beach? Won’t the highways be clogged?” Ramirez hadn’t moved far from his last assignment at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek.
     “It’s pretty far from the East Coast, seven or eight hours I guess, but hopefully we would get worried early enough to give ourselves a head start.” Bring all your SEAL buddies, wouldn’t want you pining for them and bawling like the pivot man on a submarine.”
     Young stuck his head outside the door of the conference room and twisted it to the side to address Steele. “Looks like they’re wrapping it up,” He whispered. The interpreter snuck past Young and headed for the front door, no doubt driven by his desire to light up one of his unfiltered smokes before the ride home.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:51:29 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2009, 07:31:54 PM »
“All Blackbird elements standby for departure. Teddy call the Ass Monkeys back and load the terp when he’s done getting his fix.” Steele knew his team was pretty much ready but, just in case one of them was relieving himself or off his post for any reason, it was best to give them a heads up.
     “Wilco Jesse, the trucks are set for weak-side departure and the MP’s say its all clear at the gate.” Palmer let the team know that they would need to bring Kimbrough around the Limo to the passenger side.
     After a couple minutes, Kimbrough emerged in front of the Minister, Young off his right shoulder, and the Detail instantly re-formed into their well-rehearsed diamond.
     “Coming out Teddy,” Steele said.
     “Copy coming out.”
     It was relatively quiet outside because the Little Birds had not yet arrived for the return trip. Steele squinted his eyes long enough to flip the Oakley sunglasses down from where they sat on top of his head. He saw Palmer standing with his back to the driver’s side rear door, his left hand behind his back holding the door handle. It was precautionary; Principals were only loaded on the driver’s side in an emergency. Wilson lead Kimbrough through the gap between the Limo and Follow, then turned left and had the door open in time for him to climb into the back seat without breaking stride. The other members of the formation simultaneously moved to the original posts they had held when they arrived. Young, again shielding the big man with his not-so-big torso, closed the door behind Kimbrough and then he himself quickly jumped into the front passenger seat and closed the door. Wilson backed up and covered the Ambassador’s door one more time.
     “Recover, recover, recover,” Steele spoke forcefully to his lapel mike and, after taking a pregnant pause to make sure everyone was moving back to their seats, sprang into his and slammed the door. Immediately he heard “left up” from Ramirez, “right up” from Kramer, and “well up” from Redmond, indicating they were ready to go. Sutton hit the door locks. The cold air conditioning was invigorating, but was balanced somewhat by the musty smell of the five sweat-saturated contractors.  
     “Lead up,” called Teddy.
     “Roll motorcade,” Steele said. The dusty, black trucks lurched forward concurrently like the cars of a roller coaster.
     The Minister, his raven-haired assistant, and a handful of other employees stood on the front steps observing and periodically waving at the Limo. Steele doubted they could see Kimbrough through the black windows, it wasn’t called “limo tint” for nothing.
     “Echo Base, this is Blackbird, we are departing Blue 62.”
     “Copy Blackbird departing Blue 62,” The not-so-sexy female voice responded.
     Glancing to his right and over the river, Steele wondered where the Little Birds were. Kimbrough had departed a little quicker than his usual pace and the aircraft generally needed about 10 minutes to get airborne. “No biggie, they’ll catch up,” He thought.
     “MP’s are standing by and traffic is heavier than when we got here,” said the lieutenant they had nicknamed after the movie Fargo, his Minnesota accent bringing a smile to Steele’s face.
     “Roger MP’s, we’re about a minute out. Standard formation.”
     The motorcade was in single file as they raced back to the front gate. “In at six, out at three,” Palmer indicated a right turn. To keep the bad guys guessing, Blackbird made every effort to never run the same route back as they ran going out. Today they planned to move north on Highway 8, then east on the Qadisiyah Highway along the top of The Schlong into Checkpoint 12. This would take them for a short distance on the infamous Route Irish, the road that ran between Baghdad International Airport and the Green Zone.    
     Steele could see a Humvee on each side of the gate, facing towards the road on which they planned to depart. They would jump out just in front of the Lead as they passed through the gate. The Iraqi FPS security guard stood waving the motorcade through, vainly continuing with the pretense of authority. The other two MP vehicles were blocking traffic in each direction on the median divided boulevard. They would trail the motorcade for the trip home.
     The convoy emerged into the cleared lanes and accelerated as they completed their right turn. Off to the right side of the boulevard, Steele noticed a Sunni mother, recognizable as such because of her brightly colored scarf-like hijab, standing with her preschool aged daughter. She had a yellow duckling embroidered to the front of her ruffled blue dress. The little girl was waving at the passing Americans. “Pretty girl, looks about the same age as Chloe,” he thought, referring to his three-year old daughter, the youngest of four girls. “Can’t wait to get home.”
     When they reached the line of cars in the opposite lane that had been halted by the MP’s, a faded red Opel sedan, riding very low in the rear, jump the curbed median and accelerated towards the motorcade. A lone occupant was visible, a young male with a determined grimace and a white-knuckled death grip on the steering wheel.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:54:45 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2009, 07:32:42 PM »
“CAR BOMB!” screamed Steele. “SCREEN LEFT!” Sutton turned his head towards Steele as if to question Steele’s sanity, then snapped the wheel and accelerated towards the left side of the Limo. At the same time, the HMMWV they had followed out of the gate swerved left and rammed the driver’s side door of the compact car.
     The detonation was instantaneous, as if the impact had caused the 400 lbs of artillery shells in the trunk to go high order. Instantly, a shock wave moved outward with unfathomable velocity, followed by the negative wave, which brought the incredible pressures back to fill the vacuum. The overpressure, fragmentation, and incendiary thermal effects all combined to create horrendous devastation.
     Steele didn’t have time to marvel at that, the breath was knocked out of him from the shock wave and a blast of dust shot through the air conditioning vents into his face. The laminated multi-layered bullet resistant windshield was spider-webbed from the shrapnel of the suicide bombers car, flung at hyper-velocity in every direction. The Follow continued to roll forward until Sutton instinctively stabbed at the brake pedal. As Steele shook his head to clear it, he heard what sounded like hail pounding on the top of the car. He wasn’t sure if it was enemy gunfire from a nearby rooftop or more parts of the now obliterated Opel raining down. He received his answer when behind him one of the tail Humvees began firing the heavy barreled .50 caliber Browning “Ma Deuce” machine gun in a staccato pattern that actually made Steele feel better. “At least some of us are okay enough to fight back,” he thought, and then he saw that the heroic lead HMMWV had made its last run. The front of the armored beast was charred black and flames licked out from the around now grossly off-camber front tires. There was no visible movement from within the truck. The Opel wasn’t recognizable as such, its twisted steel carcass lay burning near the median, a sinister column of black smoke spiraling upward signaling more carnage in a land that needed no more. Smoldering chunks of debris dotted the pavement in all directions. Several cars in the opposite lane had suffered catastrophic damage; thin-skinned vehicles were no match for shards of metal flying at over 2700 feet per second. Steele felt the urgency to get these men triaged and the casualties evacuated as soon as possible. There were qualified Army medics in the MP platoon so he focused on getting the victims a ride out of there. A helicopter could deliver the injured to the 86th Combat Support Hospital near the Embassy in minutes.
     “All MP’s remain on scene and help your brothers; I’ll get the Ass Monkeys here for evac,”
Steele shouted into his lapel mike. In addition to the stress he was feeling, Steele was also semi-deaf from the event. The heavy armor had muffled the noise somewhat, but he wasn’t 50 yards from ground zero either.
     “We’re here Blackbird…We’ll assist with casevac,” The Little Birds had arrived shortly after the blast. Steele’s hearing loss had allowed that to go unnoticed. One of them was flying in a tight circle three hundred vertical feet over the scene while the other flared in over the smashed Humvee. It then pivoted counterclockwise just enough to allow one of the monkey-strapped gunners to spit a long burst from the SAW towards the second floor window of a sandstone house. A walled front courtyard concealed the lower floor. “Your 72 virgins won’t have much to work with after that Achmed,” he thought with vengeance.
     “Shoot that goose kisser!” Kramer yelled.
     Assured that the MP’s were in good hands, he turned towards his primary duty. Technically he should have just left the scene with Kimbrough as soon as he recovered from the explosion. But when you’d just had your bell wrung by a Vehicle Borne IED, it was difficult to make any decision, much less the perfect one. “Limo and Lead, can you roll?” Static filled his earpiece, which he assumed was a response from one or the other SUV’s. “All elements if you can hear me, drive through…go, go, go! Clint what is Grizzly’s status?”
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:56:52 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2009, 07:33:31 PM »
     Steele exhaled with relief when the Limo jerked forward, almost passing the Lead which took a couple seconds longer to start moving. He looked to his right and his throat tightened when he saw the Iraqi woman facedown on the shoulder of the road. The twisted body of the toddler lay across her mother’s bloodied torso. “Not the kid too…Jesus.”
     Ramirez growled at Kramer “Watch your side of the car Sean, get your shit together before I the "f" word you up!” His rapid fire Puerto Rican accent surfaced when he was stressed.
     “Grizzly is fine, Clint’s in the back seat with him,” The Limo driver, Ernie Belperio, finally reported. The standard Attack on Principal procedure called for the AIC to climb into the back seat, push the precious cargo to the floorboard and lay on top of him until safety was reached.
     “I can’t see that well out this windshield.” Sutton was leaning forward and peering out through an undamaged section of glass no bigger than a deck of cards.
     “Just make it happen Nate. We don’t have any other options right now,” Steele said.
     “Echo Base this is Blackbird, clear the net for emergency traffic,” Steele said over the command net.
     “All elements, command frequency is clear for Blackbird emergency traffic…go ahead Blackbird,” The TOC dispatcher fired back.
     “We were attacked by a VBIED and small arms just outside Blue 62. Grizzly is not, I repeat, Grizzly is not injured. At least one of the MP vehicles has been disabled and has casualties. Little Birds are on the scene and can advise further, they could probably use the CAT Team if they’re available. Units are still in contact by unknown number of insurgents.”
   “We’ll start Medevac assets ASAP. Can you advise number of casualties and status?”
     Steele thought for a second, he knew there were two or three seated inside the Humvee and one in the open-topped turret. He tried to avoid dwelling on what the blast had done to the exposed machine gunner. “Not sure Echo…At least four military and maybe a dozen civilians, possibly more. MP’s or Little Birds will advise soonest. Remaining Blackbird motorcade elements are RTB with Grizzly. We need you to call Checkpoint 12 and advise them that we will be coming in hot, also tell them our current package is three black Suburbans. How copy?”      
     “Copy all Blackbird, calling Checkpoint 12.” Sexy voice or not, she was competent.
Reggie “Smoke” Wilson took advantage of the brief gap in radio traffic to tell the TOC that he was almost to the scene with the Advance Team. Normally Wilson’s team would wait five minutes before departing and trail the Detail as a sort of QRF. That’s exactly what they were doing now, except they would stop and assist in the escalating firefight. Though lightly armed in comparison to the MP escorts, they did have 10 very experienced operators to include a seasoned former Navy Corpsman to work on the wounded soldiers.
     “Check on the locals on the east side of the road Smoke, saw a couple females down,” Steele felt no small amount of guilt about leaving the scene, but his role was clear and one he had sworn to execute.
     Steele realized he had not heard from his well gunner. “Talk to me Redmond.”
     “I’m good, Jess. Bumped my head a little, but I’ll be fine. It’d be nice if I had some way to shoot from back here” There was no provision for using weapons while inside the armored vehicles. Only if they were forced to stop would their tactics call for opening doors and protecting themselves. The curly-haired North Carolinian was born to carry the M249 SAW Light Machine Gun. In 2002 when he was with the 75th Ranger Regiment during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, he was inserted on Takur Ghar Mountain by a MH-47E Chinook helicopter.  They scrambled over 2000 feet and assaulted Al-Qaeda positions with small arms and grenades and rescued other Rangers who had been shot down by a fury of Rocket Propelled Grenades. Redmond nearly melted the barrel of his machine gun supporting his squad. He’d been all of 19 years old then.
     The motorcade weaved around a couple slower cars, which made every effort to get out of the way of the oversized SUV’s that rapidly filled their rear view mirrors. Despite his dulled hearing, and the sound-deadening effects of the armor, Steele could make out the obnoxious air horn that the Lead driver incessantly sounded. As they approached the snarled traffic that marked the T-shaped intersection with Highway 8, Palmer radioed “In at six, out at three, traffic stopped northbound.”
     “Go counterflow,” Steele ordered the motorcade to cross the median and drive against traffic on the wrong side of the road. Palmer’s truck didn’t hesitate and swung out heading northbound in the southbound lanes, air horn still blaring.
     Seeking as much protection for Kimbrough as they could give them, Steele called for “Change offset, screen off Lead,” The Follow moved left towards the curbside; the Limo nestled between it and the median. The Lead car shot forward and started playing chicken with any oncoming cars that didn’t immediately swerve away from the apparently deranged procession. To Steele, this dangerous maneuver was safer than the alternative of sitting in traffic without their usual screen of military HMMWV’s and helicopters. “Lesser of two evils,” he said to the visibly tense Sutton. Sutton replied by hitting the door locks. After a couple blocks of madness, the Lead juked right when that side of the road became viable again. The raucous vibration coming from the overworked 8.1 liter V8 made Steele’s jaw vibrate. “Take it easy Teddy, we’d be just as dead if we wrecked.”
     After merging onto Highway 8, they barreled towards the spaghetti-like interchange that merged Highways 8 and 12 with the Qadisiyah Highway and Route Irish. Palmer had one shot to pick the correct ramp, or they could easily be headed to neighborhoods that made LA’s South Central feel like Disney World. Palmer’s call of “First off ramp, loop right, then merge left,” reassured Steele that Palmer, whoremonger or not, was the best Tactical Commander he’d ever worked with. They’d worked together in Fallujah in a previous nightmare and it hadn’t taken them long to pool their talents here.
     When they were less than two miles from the safety of the Green Zone, Steele tried to think of what still needed to be done. There would be time later to wonder what he could have done differently, he was sure it would replay over and over again in his mind. So for now he wanted to focus on bringing everyone home. He monitored the radio traffic from Wilson, heard the “cease fire” from the Minnesota lieutenant, and saw both Little Birds whiz past in a beeline for the Army hospital. “Please take care of them,” he prayed. The selfless act of ramming a car bomb without any thought of personal safety was not lost on Steele. He didn’t know if he had enough juice to get them the recognition they deserved, but he knew that Kimbrough did and he was going to make sure it happened.
     Steele also said a quick prayer for the little girl and her mother. No child deserved that. The radical Islamists were using Allah as an excuse. No god could possibly justify that kind of hatred. He thought of Chloe and his wife Molly. “There but for the grace of God go I.” He felt so fortunate to be an American, to live in freedom and raise a family without worry of civil war. “I cannot ever let this happen to my family.”
     “Echo Base, we are one minute out from Gray Four, advise Checkpoint 12 that we’ll be approaching in the VIP lane.” The adrenalin having subsided, Steele felt weary and his voice reflected it.
     “Copy Blackbird, we’re on it…see you soon.”  
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 03:03:19 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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That's all of the Prologue
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2009, 07:34:40 PM »
Again, feel free to comment.

Thanks,
Goatdog

Also, some type of automatic censor built into the TSP Forum changed the real F word to"the f word". It didn't do it on other "f" words. Oh well, my original copy has it right. Sorry, that is the language used in the PSD world, I'm not using it to be crude, just real.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2009, 07:54:03 PM by Goatdog62 »

Offline theaccidentalsurvivor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2009, 07:34:16 PM »
Damn it why did u have to get me started? I want more! Very good!

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2009, 08:04:04 PM »
Thank You :P

That keeps me motivated to write more. Surely you also have some negatives to point out, or something I wasn't clear on.

thanks!
Goatdog

Offline theaccidentalsurvivor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2009, 08:40:58 PM »
Thank You :P

That keeps me motivated to write more. Surely you also have some negatives to point out, or something I wasn't clear on.

thanks!
Goatdog

Actually I don't...... I make it a point to never critique or criticize anyone elses creativeness especially when I've never done that kind of art..... I love to read, so anything new is welcomed..... Keep up the great work! You already have one fan!

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2009, 10:05:34 PM »
Thank You :P

That keeps me motivated to write more. Surely you also have some negatives to point out, or something I wasn't clear on.

thanks!
Goatdog
Goatdog that was good stuff & like tas, I too want more.

I'm a voracious reader & your writing flows as easy as anything I've read. 

f.uck ;)

It's the one word Jack has the filter set to censor.

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2009, 10:27:47 PM »
Wow DEV...you are too kind. I'm trying to figure out if all the names, the positions the characters move around to, the lingo, etc are easily enough understood. I have several more chapters pretty much ready. Will post soon. The remainder occur post 2008 election and build up to SHTF fairly quickly. Want to re-read (for the umpteenth time) and eliminate excess and edit.

Glad you enjoyed it. Other than spouse, you and TAS had first peek!

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2009, 10:50:55 PM »
I'm trying to figure out if all the names, the positions the characters move around to, the lingo, etc are easily enough understood.
Like I said, it flows.  It feels natural & logical, as I'd expect the scenario to play out, in other words the story isn't forced.  It really does have a natural ebb & flow to it.  It is indeed easily understood, the various qualifying descriptions you used were concise, not too wordy & conveyed the image quite well.

Good job, I can't wait to read more.

Offline theaccidentalsurvivor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #17 on: May 13, 2009, 08:42:54 AM »
Wow DEV...you are too kind. I'm trying to figure out if all the names, the positions the characters move around to, the lingo, etc are easily enough understood. I have several more chapters pretty much ready. Will post soon. The remainder occur post 2008 election and build up to SHTF fairly quickly. Want to re-read (for the umpteenth time) and eliminate excess and edit.

Glad you enjoyed it. Other than spouse, you and TAS had first peek!

I think the lingo is one of the benefits of the story..... Although I am a huge techno-thriller and sci-fi fan............. I guess people can look at technojargo/lingo differently.... I tend to view it as helping entrench me in the story..... I like to read to transport me from the real world into fantasy land.... I was never in the military, so this helps me understand what the small unit cohesion is like...... Keep it up!

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2009, 07:53:19 PM »
This is the first draft of the next couple chapters of Steele Resolve. I reserve the right to make changes of course. I will do that based on your constructive criticism. Also be aware that it is difficult to cut and paste the story directly into TSP as the forum isn't a Microsoft Word document. For instance, italics and boldness don't convert. I would have to go through and make those changes manually, you may have to wait for the book for that. Maybe I'll do an Acrobat version when I get time. Some typos may be related to TSP rules about language (no issue with that), though I'm perfectly capable of making plenty of my own mistakes.

I want to thank Heavy G for his encouragement and for his version of how an economic collapse could build up and occur. I was able to use that help to write a more rounded explanation of the troubles in Jesse Steele's world. I have a couple other chapters almost ready, they are full of action and techno-thriller freaks will hopefully love them.

I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Goatdog



                                                                                                           The Collapse Begins
     Most people that survived the fall of the United States from a world power to world of chaos will recall the frantic efforts by the Federal Government to stop the landslide. They’ll place blame on the way the panicked national leadership overreacted to every final twist in the economy until they paralyzed themselves. They wouldn’t be completely wrong.
     But the truth was more deep-rooted than that. Few people noticed when the U.S. left the gold standard in 1971. People expected more and more from the government. Politicians, in an effort to stay in office, promised it to them. Printing money became the answer to any financial downturn in the economy. Borrowing trillions from China didn’t seem to concern the general populace. The people were apathetic and corruption was widespread. The nation was already on borrowed time and no one seemed to care.
     The tax burden became unbearable. Exemptions rose to the point where most paid little, buying votes for whoever sponsored the bill. The “evil” rich carried the load. Jobs were outsourced overseas to avoid the tremendous payments the ever hungrier unions demanded for American labor. Payroll taxes in the form of Social Security, Medicaid, federal unemployment, paid leave, and health care crippled the ability of American corporations to turn a profit. Small businesses, unable to compete with products made overseas for pennies on the dollar, failed in mass numbers until only mega-corporations remained.
     Still, the government demanded more. In 2008, the top 10% of the income earners paid over 50% of the taxes. The bottom 50% paid 5% of the taxes. This was popular with the lower half and the Democratic Party overwhelmingly swept the 2008 elections. The amount of money spent on political campaigns became ridiculous. Lobbyists wrote the checks and corrupt politicians passed the bills.
     No longer held to a moral standard, elected officials became celebrities. Who they were having sex with became far more important than their political ideals. A 30-something caller to a radio talk show summarized it best when, after a politician was caught doing something that used to be strictly taboo, the caller said, “I want to party with that dude.” Those that pointed this out as immoral were labeled as “puritans.”  
     Unemployment skyrocketed. People stopped buying. Real Estate values plummeted after adjustable rate mortgages adjusted. Corporations sent their business overseas to survive. The auto manufacturers, after years of producing inferior and overpriced products, filed for bankruptcy. Billions in dollars that didn’t even exist were given to an industry that was deemed “too big to fail” by the Treasury Secretary. Workers competed for what little employment remained.
     With all the failed businesses, tax revenues dropped 40%. To keep the inevitable at bay, the Feds print more money and massive cutbacks are imposed. Anything that doesn’t generate votes is cut. Programs previously declared critical to national security go unfunded. When the Mexican government was overthrown by the drug cartels, the U.S. could do little but helplessly watch. The military deploys ground units to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California but not before hordes of refugees streamed across the border. Refugee camps are set up throughout the Southwest. Escapes are a daily occurrence. Elsewhere, counter-terrorism efforts are reduced to pre-911 levels. But it is no longer pre-911. Container ships enter ports unscreened. Watch lists go unmonitored. Border security is no longer a priority.
     The Governors of Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana meet to discuss the validity of secession. Loosely disguised as a symbolic “message of concern” to the Feds, it is welcomed with overwhelming popularity by the states involved. The President quickly declares the conference as “bordering on treason.”
     The U.S. eventually loses its AAA bond rating, becoming AA, and interest soars. China announces it will not buy anymore U.S. debt.
     In the final months before the collapse, the signs are all there. Alarming reports come from all sectors warning of economic collapse and increased terrorist activity. Still the charade continues. The new President tells Americans numerous times how all will be well. How the smartest people are burning the midnight oil to correct the global crisis. “America will prevail” became his war cry. His math doesn’t add up.
                                                                  
Friday October 3rd 2011
     The new Bureau of Security and Intelligence began operations today with a charter that grants it overall authority on all intelligence gathering matters. The BSI consolidates the CIA, DIA, NSA, and NRO into one agency managed by the Director of National Intelligence, Rudy Horvath. In a speech at the opening ceremony in Langley this morning, Horvath promised to “Conduct intelligence operations in a manner expected of a humane world superpower and to advocate wholesale cooperation with other countries to stop terrorist cells in their tracks.” Horvath also said that he would place more reliance on technology and less on putting agents “in harm’s way” to gather intelligence. He said that interrogation of suspected terrorists would never again be conducted at a”medieval level.” Horvath also plans to trim the Intel community workforce by at least 25% in the next two years...

Tuesday October 13th 2011
     A “reasonable compromise” declared Senate Majority Leader Michael Charon (D-CA) after the Safer America Bill was passed today by the Senate 62- 37. The controversial bill abolishes concealed weapons permits in all states and will limit handguns to one per household. Americans will have one year to comply with the mandate, after that they risk Federal weapons prosecution and a mandatory year in prison. Opponents of the bill say that only law abiding citizens will follow the law and criminals will only get bolder. The NRA issued a statement condemning the bill and declaring “The fundamental right granted by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution has been completely violated.” This bill follows the Ammunition Hoarding and Assault Rifle ban pushed through Congress in the opening days of the Watson administration.

Wednesday November 16th 2011
     The Fairness Doctrine debate heated up today when the Democratic National Congressional Committee launched a petition to censure noted talk show host Jeff Edmonds for his remarks about the President and his policies. Edmonds called President Watson “as Socialist as Stalin” during Edmonds interview with retired Nevada Senator George Stewart last Friday. Fairness Doctrine pundit Sheila Gibson said that right-wing talk shows “are not only counterproductive to solving America’s issues, but traitorous as well.”

Tuesday January 17th 2012
     In his 3rd State of the Union Address, President William Watson announced his intention to ask Congress for “sweeping changes” intended to stimulate the economy out of the crisis that has plagued his entire term thus far. “It is time for the Government to get even more involved in preventing further decline on Wall Street.” The President announced the indefinite suspension of mortgage foreclosures, an additional 8% tax on oil company profits, and a 15% tax hike for those who “can absorb one  without affecting their quality of life. The wealthy will also pay more in sales taxes on the luxury items they buy for themselves.” The bill is expected to pass the House and Senate within a few days. Senate Minority Leader Terrence Jacobs (R-TN) calls the bill a “catastrophic mistake” and reluctantly admits there is little the GOP can do to stop it…”

Friday March 16th 2012
     The price of a barrel of oil rose to $203 today, closing $7 higher than yesterday. The price for a gallon of gas now averages $6.18. An OPEC spokesperson stated that as supplies continue to dwindle we can expect even further hikes. Currently, 22 states are rationing fuel and all are expected to fall in line by summer…

Wednesday April 4th 2012
     Unemployment figures were released for March and the numbers aren’t good.  26% of Americans are without work, up 4% in the last 30 days. This caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to nosedive today below 2500 for the first time since 1989. In a statement released this afternoon, President Watson acknowledged the crisis is “seriously spiraling downward” and that the “mishandling by the previous administration may be too much to overcome in one term…”

Friday April 27th 2012
     The U.S. Army was ordered to deploy a brigade of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell KY to help quell the escalating violence around our nations Capitol. Thousands of unemployed union workers have gathered to protest the economy and the perceived inactivity of the Federal Government to help those in need. This will effectively double the number of troops that have been sent to the region and puts a strain on the already taxed military. So far, seven Northeastern cities have deployed their respective National Guard forces to help keep the peace…

Wednesday May 2nd 2012
     The transportation strike caused riots to erupt in two of New York City’s boroughs, after the 4th straight day of limited food deliveries to the city’s food distribution warehouses. Several grocery stores in Brooklyn and Queens were attacked by angry crowds demanding “Milk for our babies.” Dairy and produce deliveries are down more than 92% since the International Brotherhood of Teamsters declared trips to the city as unprofitable and ceased transportation of all goods to the city. Police showed considerable restraint at first but resorted to tear gas when protestors refused to disperse. New York Mayor Henry Snodgrass activated several National Guard transportation units to replace the striking truckers, but admits that this is “woefully inadequate.” Priority of the emergency deliveries would go to hospitals, schools, and food banks. Reports of desperate parents paying up to $27 for a gallon of milk have caused near-panic in some neighborhoods.

 Monday May 7th 2012
     Martial law was declared by Michigan Governor Steven Rochester today in response to the estimated 300 casualties what is now know as the New Union Massacre yesterday in Detroit. Federal troops sent to keep the peace in the embattled city opened up on a crowd of New Union protesters during a rally at the abandoned Central Michigan Depot. In response, New Union activist leader Stephen Muncie labeled the Federal government as “war criminals” and said “The New Union Party was slaughtered by fascist Federal troops! From the ashes rise the New Union Army.” Muncie said that further attacks will be met with “defensive action.” Muncie further stated that any Americans who are tired of the current corrupt “regime” are welcome to join the New Union Army. Reports of snipers and widespread arson continued throughout the night. Black smoke from the fires could be seen from as far away as Toledo, some 55 miles away…
« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:32:32 PM by Goatdog62 »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2009, 07:56:26 PM »
                                                                                                                   Chapter One
Sweetwater, Tennessee
Monday May 7th 2012
9:26 am


     “Aaaagghh!” Jesse Steele grunted in exasperation as he listened to the latest newscasts on Sirius in his Tundra. “The shit may not have hit the fan yet, but it’s been scooped up and is ready for flinging. I’m not going to wait any longer.” He punched in home on his cell and let it ring. After the usual three rings, the machine picked up with its mechanical: Hello, no one is available to come to the phone right now, if you leave your name… “Damn it, she never picks up right away” Steele thought with annoyance. Quickly dialing her cell, his frustration wasn’t eased any when he heard: This is Molly, leave a message!
      He exited I-75 at exit 62 outside Sweetwater TN and, crossing the overpass, he headed back north to Knoxville. “I didn’t like that gig much anyway,” referring to the SERE Course he occasionally helped teach at Maxwell AFB to pilots and other aircraft crewmembers of the U.S. Air Force. SERE was an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape. “Only $500 a day and I gotta pay for my own room to boot, screw it man, money won’t mean much in the near future anyway.” As he set the cruise at 79 mph, he thought about what he was about to do.
     After the 9/11 attacks, Steele spent considerable time pondering how he could protect his family should there be a breakdown in the protection that most Americans believed would be provided by the Government. Steele, having spent his life working for and around the State, local, Federal and military systems knew that this was flawed thinking. He believed that corruption had firmly established itself at all levels. He also knew that incompetence, “chickenshit policies” and the “good ole’ boy” syndrome had overtaken all the key leadership positions in most Government agencies. The political machine was so embedded with payoffs, extortion, blackmail, and flawed ideals that Steele thought it would take a complete purge to clean it up.
     Steele wasn’t an advocate of overthrowing the Government; he’d always hoped that Americans would correct the issues before it was too late. He had always considered himself a patriot. Growing up as an Army brat, exposure to God fearing, flag waving Americans was a matter of routine to him.
     Steele joined the Army straight out of high school. He didn’t know any other lifestyle and he felt too restless to go to college. Being young, he was thrilled to get the chance to shoot the machine guns, jump out of airplanes, patrol behind enemy lines, and wear the flashy berets and patches.
     Within a couple years, Steele fell in love for all the wrong reasons and got married way too young. When his son Zach was born he planned to be a great father, but the marriage was doomed from the start. Steele was still married to his first love; the Army. He moved up rapidly through the ranks and just as rapidly found himself divorced.
     He replaced his failures as a husband and father by making sure he was a successful soldier. Steele was in top physical shape and his military bearing made him stand out above his peers. He put himself in the “warrior mindset” and never looked back. His superiors took advantage of this and rewarded him with even more responsibility. He became one of the youngest Platoon Sergeants in the Army.
     Steele soon found himself hastily deploying to Saudi Arabia. Assigned to an elite Armored Cavalry Regiment, he relentlessly drove the men of his platoon into Iraq for the ground phase of Desert Storm. Steele was in his element. His troopers loved him. Not because he was easy on them, he wasn’t, but because he took care of them. He wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do and they knew it. He distinguished himself during the night attack on Jalibah Airbase in southern Iraq, earning a Bronze Star for valor. The 30 men and six M3A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles he commanded went on to roll through the Republican Guards Hammurabi Division and didn’t stop until they were halted by world politics less than 30 miles from Basra. After the war, the peacetime Army just didn’t cut it for Steele anymore. He marched in the victory parades. He taught “lessons learned” at the Advanced Non Commissioned Officers Academy. He tried to keep himself motivated but Steele was bored. He hung around long enough to get his pension, but not a day longer.
     After retiring, and still needing the occasional adrenalin fix, he spent several years as a patrol officer with the Knoxville Police Dept. He volunteered to work the inner-city housing developments, because that was where the criminals were more readily available. He was a productive officer who was well liked within the department. Eventually he tried out for, and was selected to serve on, the Special Operations Squad, Knoxville’s SWAT Team.
     Figuring that he would be here for the remainder of his working life, he bought a home and proposed to Molly, his longtime girlfriend. Molly already had three beautiful daughters from her previous marriage to a wife-beating lowlife. Steele loved them as if they were his own, but this didn’t stop him from wanting more. Molly gave him two more girls. In a very short time, Steele went from a bachelor cop with a teenage son he saw occasionally, to a father of six.
     He was content to finish his career as a cop and raise beautiful children. Then, on a sunny Tuesday morning, 19 bastards hijacked four aircraft and killed thousands of Americans. Suddenly, chasing gangbangers around the projects seemed insignificant.
     After 9/11, his anger drove him to seek ways to continue to serve his country. He found work as a contractor. He spent his first six months in the not-so-sleepy town of Fallujah doing convoy protection for Explosives Ordnance Disposal Technicians. These were men hired by the Pentagon to travel throughout the Sunni Triangle and blow up captured enemy munitions. Steele drove a diesel Ford F-350, simply named the “gun truck.” It was rigged up with welded armor plates and a Soviet PKM 7.62mm machine gun mounted in the armored tub in the back. With their shaggy beards, long hair, and anything-goes weaponry, they looked like a bad scene from a post-apocalyptic B movie.
     Steele didn’t even expect to survive the tour. Not because Al-Qaeda was competent, but because of the misguided bravado of the detail he was on. These were guys who were itching for a fight. Guys who had missed their war and, by god, were going to fight one now. An insurgent attack on the highway near Ramadi that killed two of his crew shook him up quite a bit. Three weeks later an IED left his vehicle a shredded wreck, but he was miraculously unharmed. Instead of evaluating what they might be doing wrong, they went out on runs seeking revenge. This left a bad taste in Steele’s mouth and he left as soon as the contract ended. He swore off contractor work but, after a couple months at home, he was offered a gig with the State Department. Steele liked the work. It involved protecting diplomats in and around the Embassy in Baghdad. It was better organized and the equipment was safer. At first, there were still too many “cowboys” swaggering about with barbed wire tattoos and goatees, but the worst of them were weeded out within a few months. Once again, Steele found himself moving up the ranks quickly. He was invited to “The Show” and didn’t hesitate. The Ambassador’s Protection Detail was right up his alley. He loved the stress and pressure. It wasn’t long until Steele ended up in charge of the Detail. Watching the insurgency develop into a civil war, over religion and centuries-old hatred no less, made him wonder what he could do to protect his family on the off chance that civil disorder broke out. He wrote out a rough plan one night while sitting in his 8’ x 12’ sandbagged trailer located in row “D” of the testosterone-saturated “Mancamp”, the unofficial name of the dusty compound that housed several hundred contractors. Other than inviting the guys he trusted most, and reading everything on the subject he could find, Steele kept his ideas low key. A lot of people misunderstood “survivalists” as kooks, and deservedly so in many cases. When Hurricane Katrina demonstrated just how chaotic things could be when people make a bad situation worse, Steele vowed he wouldn’t be caught short.
     Steele eventually thought he might be pushing his luck. Over three years in a combat zone was beyond what most men could handle, so he didn’t feel like he owed anybody but his family. He wanted more home time but he didn’t want to completely give up the overseas trips. Steele knew that running the Detail had punched his ticket, so he started checking around to see what might be available. He networked with some of his contacts, called in a few favors, and was rewarded with a rather cryptic message on his cell phone. He attended some very technical training, learned to operate alone, and resumed making the occasional overseas trip. He showed up when and where he was told and took his instructions from there. He stopped asking who was calling because they never told the truth anyway. At $1000 a day it was hard to say no.  
     When he wasn’t deployed, Steele made a healthy living teaching a number of subjects ranging from high-performance driving, firearms, VIP protection, and survival in hostile environments to the Military and any Federal agency that called. This further broadened his networking.
     Sometimes he had to do a reality check on himself when he started getting bored. Steele would imagine the tedium of making widgets in a factory or chasing customers in a used car lot, and he realized his good fortune. His average day involved activities that conventionally employed men only imagined. Still, it was not that hard to find yourself yawning while ramming through a roadblock or shooting a High Value Target when you practiced it several times a month. On his occasional short overseas trips, he made sure that complacency didn’t rear its ugly head by frequently reminding himself just how dangerous this stuff was.
     Sometimes, he didn’t need to remind himself. Steele was also known as a “shit magnet”. Trouble had a way of finding him, regardless of any preventive measures he took. In addition to the firefights, incoming artillery, and tank battles he faced as a soldier, Steele had come out as the better shot in a deadly exchange of gunfire that ended a recently paroled felon’s career in the Western Heights housing development in West Knoxville when he was a cop. The subsequent racial accusations and unsuccessful lawsuit levied against him was particularly disheartening. Combined with the half dozen ambushes that were sprang on him as a contractor, Steele had “seen the elephant” more than most. Steele certainly hoped those days were behind him now.
    As he traveled past Lenoir City and merged onto I-40 eastbound he realized that he now faced another battle. He needed to convince Molly that it was time to take drastic measures. She had always listened, with only a hint of a smirk, when he spoke of having a plan. A plan that covered an unlikely scenario; what to do should the world as they knew it change radically for the worse.
     When he stashed a few “end of the world items” in the garage, she didn’t complain. When he spent too much time doing a “recon” on their last vacation to the mountains, she held her tongue. But to get Molly to actually move on the plan, to leave their home and take up residence in the remote village of Chimney Rock N.C., was a fight he wasn’t looking forward to. It was a crazy plan, he admitted to himself. He was pragmatic enough to know that this would be not only disconcerting to his family, but possibly divisive.
     Maybe he could ease them into somehow. It was almost summer and the kids would be out of school in a few weeks. Steele had a respectable amount of money stashed for his retirement but since he knew the money wouldn’t be worth much if the country collapsed anyway, why not spend some of it now. Retirements in the future wouldn’t be based on a 401k from a long shattered economy or a pension from a nonexistent government. What if he just convinced the family to spend the summer at Chimney Rock? He could buy the River Rose cottage, quite possibly his and Molly’s favorite spot on this planet. The kids all loved it too.
     If his worst fears didn’t happen by summers end, he could return them all home and just call it a well-deserved break. By the time Steele pulled into the driveway of his modest West Knoxville home, he had formulated a strategy that he felt was feasible.
     Steele found her stretched out on the couch with their toddler, Callie. He paused long enough to stare at them for a minute. Molly’s coppery red hair curled across her face, her green eyes closed, full lips parted slightly. She was in her late thirties but still had her classic sexy shape, even after five children, and was more beautiful than he remembered her ever being. Callie, the smart one, was speaking sentences before she was two. Small for her age, with unruly hair, but the most intelligent eyes he’d ever known. Steele knew Demi and Dani, their teenage daughters, and Chloe, their nine year old, were still in school. He thought how much he loved them and whatever doubt he’d had about his plan faded. What stronger reason could a man need to make sure they were safe?
« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 07:07:49 PM by Goatdog »

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2009, 07:57:22 PM »
Steele leaned over and kissed Molly’s lips. They had their differences, but the love was there. Molly stirred, blinked her eyes open and, stretching like a cat, she said “I thought you would be in Alabama by now. What happened?”
     “I changed my mind…when do the kids get out of school? Steele queried.
     “Two o’clock for Chloe and---”
     “No, I mean for the year.” He sat next to her and stroked her face while she formed her answer.
     “I’m pretty sure that Demi and Dani will be done on June 2nd, Chloe will be out just before Memorial Day weekend, why?” Molly asked suspiciously.
     “Thought we’d spend the summer at Chimney Rock, be a family again and all that shit,” Steele answered.
     “Mmmm, sounds nice, did you win the lottery or something?  You’ve been saving so much money lately; I figured we wouldn’t have a vacation this year. How can we afford that?”
     “Well, we can sell this little monster and get at a couple dollars for her,” Steele said as he wiggled Callie’s tiny foot. Callie jerked her leg up, slurped a couple more times on her pacifier, and continued with her slumber. “And the dog is worth at least fifty cents.”
     “Callie isn’t housebroken yet and the dog will probably be incontinent before long, so don’t overestimate their value Jesse,” Molly quipped. “Seriously, what do you have up your sleeve and why aren’t you in Alabama?”
     “I got an email last night from that realtor in Chimney Rock. Says the River Rose is for sale, acted like she was doing us a favor by calling us first. Turns out the cottage is in default and the bank is getting loud about it. Made her an offer over the phone for $140,000, said she’d run it by the owner but asked that I put it in writing. I plan on driving up there tomorrow to do just that. Was gonna surprise you with it when I came home in a few weeks but what the hell, maybe it’ll earn me a BJ.” Steele smiled and tweaked her nipple through her braless t-shirt.
     “You’re a lucky man. You get it whenever you want anyway,” Molly said as she knocked his arm off her breast reflexively. “Didn’t he pay $160,000 for that house when he bought it?
     “Yep, and he improved it a quite a bit. All the furniture stays with it too.” Steele looked like the proverbial cat that ate the canary as he said it. The cottage, built in 1921, had been used as vacation rental for the past twenty years or so. It sat with the Rocky Broad River flowing off its screened back porch and a view of the monolithic Chimney Rock off of its front porch. He and Molly had been there multiple times in the past 10 years, including their honeymoon, and it was their favorite place in the world. A lack of funds when he was on a cop’s salary kept him from buying it from the previous owner. When he started making six figures Steele had enquired about buying it several times with no luck. His persistence paid off as the realtor who managed the rental of the cottage remembered him when the owner asked her to sell it.
     Molly sat up and looked at her husband “You still haven’t told me why you aren’t in Alabama, did something go wrong?”
    Steele ran his hand over his head and turned his rusty brown eyes to Molly. “Nothing wrong with me, but the country definitely has issues. Thought that getting up in the mountains for a few months would be something we’d all enjoy. Don’t really feel like working for a few months, so I won’t. Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that huh? Steele raised his eyebrows to emphasize his question.
     “You’re serious aren’t you?”
     “Serious as a fart in church. I tried calling you from the road an hour ago to see what you thought, but you never answer the freaking phone.” Steele replied in exasperation. “Were you out in the doghouse humping Max?”
     “Gross! I’m sorry; I fell asleep when Callie crawled up on the couch to snuggle with me.”
     “No harm done, but I’d keep the phone near for the next few weeks in case shit hits the fan, especially while we’re still in the city,” Steele said as he dug in between the couch cushions.
     “How bad do you think it’ll get? Is that why you want to go to the cottage? The end of the world as we know it and all that crap again,” Molly said accusingly.
     “Humor me, it will feel like a vacation and if I’m wrong, it will have been. Where the hell’s the remote? I wanna watch Fox News, these Buffy the Vampire reruns are worse than having barbed wire jerked out of my rectum.”
     “Hey, Buffy rocks and the news is so depressing anymore. Look on top of the entertainment center.” Molly stood and walked into the kitchen.
     “Found it. Hey Babe, aren’t you excited about owning the River Rose? This is our chance to pork each other on the side porch whenever we want to.” Steele was referring to their favorite spot in the cabin to make love. It was a screened porch off of the dining room with the roar of the river to drown out the sounds of their more private activities.
     Molly walked back into the living room holding a Mountain Dew. “You’re so romantic. Of course I’m excited Jesse. I can’t wait actually. Our best sex ever has been on that porch.”
     “Well, I’ll humor your slutty ways if you humor my worries of anarchy breaking out all over.”
     “You got a deal, you paranoid prick.”
     “I love you, even if you do screw the dog when I’m gone.”
     “Damn! He told you? Love you too.”
  
                                                                                                                   Chapter Two
Western North Carolina
Tuesday May 8th 2012
11:03am


     As he drove down I-26 south of Asheville N.C. towards Hendersonville, Steele clicked through the podcasts he’d downloaded the night before. He skipped the personal finance, history, and trivia subjects he usually favored and highlighted the “TEOTWAWKI” podcast. An acronym for The End of the World as We Know it, Steele found it humorous when he first started listening to it. Basically it was a narrator, Eric Simmons, who read emails, blogs, and forums on predicting and surviving the collapse of the Federal Government. Simmons took phone calls and argued with naysayers and believers alike. It was all very entertaining and Steele justified listening to it because sometimes he’d learn something related to wilderness or urban survival that he just hadn’t known before. Various How-To subjects like purifying water, or trapping game were useful to Steele, considering the fact that he taught people this stuff. Still, even today he thought most of the “TEOTWAWKI” contributors were either ass clowns or conspiracy theorists.
     Steele didn’t think there was a concerted effort by a “black helicopter faction” to control and manipulate the populace. The freaks who postulated that the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks were the result of a massive Federal conspiracy were just plain ignorant jerkoffs to him. If there was one thing the Government couldn’t do, it was to keep a secret that would involve that many people. No, he surmised, it wouldn’t be an intentional internal effort that would cause the turmoil and breakdown of society. It was the combination of economic mismanagement, security leaks, and general incompetence that were taking the country into a spin that could lead to disastrous results if major corrective action wasn’t taken soon. Americans, he felt, were mostly sheep when sheepdogs were what America needed. Already, he’d hidden most of his modest collection of guns and ammunition where no one could find them. Steele figured that, at best, the next administration would rescind all the outrageous gun control laws and, at worse, chaos would erupt and he’d need the guns to protect his family. If that made him a felon, so be it. He wasn’t going to be caught short. From listening to the podcasts, he was pretty sure he wasn’t alone.
     Steele left the interstate at exit 49A and headed east on US 64 towards Bat Cave. As he drove past the various apple orchards and the Eastern Continental Divide marker, Steele thought about his girls and his overwhelming desire to protect them. A world with no organized structure would be their worst nightmare. It would be especially for a defenseless member of the fairer sex. He resolved to not let that happen or die trying.
  
     “We go now to Sandusky Ohio…Jeff, you’re on the air,” Simmons prompted the next caller.
     “Hello… Eric? Umm, I want to ask you what you think about those three Iranians they caught coming across the border with the fake documents up near Niagara Falls the other day. I mean that’s not really that far away and I’m worried that they could just be part of a much larger group of Arabs that plan to…”
     “First of all Jeff, Iranians are not Arabs, we don’t need to piss them off at us any more than they already are. But back to your point, I believe that absolutely they are up to no good. They’re not sneaking in to pick fruit or hang out at Home Depot like the Mexicans do. If they won’t talk, then let’s waterboard them, if they still won’t talk, pull out their fingernails or rub the scrotum bag of a syphilitic pig on their faces. Bet they talk then, by God. Okay, next caller…We have Jerry in Fort Smith…”
     Steele chuckled at Simmons crude comment, but he knew that there was some underlying truth to it. Radical Iranians called the United States the “Great Satan.” They believed that they would be immortalized as martyrs and on the express camel train to heaven if they could kill an infidel or a few thousand infidels. Hell, their schoolbooks tell their children to prepare for a great global struggle and that martyrdom is a privilege. How can we fight that? Steele thought. Half our schoolchildren don’t even learn the Pledge of Allegiance anymore.  
     As Steele turned right onto US 64/74A at Bat Cave, he cheered up. Now only a mile from Chimney Rock, he marveled at the scenery. There has to be a God, he thought, what other force could create such beauty?
     Chimney Rock is located about 23 miles southeast of Asheville North Carolina in a narrow valley known as Hickory Nut Gorge. The gorge is hemmed in by the granite rock faced peaks of Round Top on its north side and Chimney Rock to the south. Nestled between Bat Cave to the west and Lake Lure to the east, Chimney Rock village was one of the most beautiful locations to be found on this continent. Steele had traveled the world but he loved this place the most. The village had a summertime population of less than 200. They were mostly employed at one of the restaurants, bed & breakfasts, gift shops, or in the thousand acre Chimney Rock State Park itself. In the winter, there were more deer than people.
     Rising from 1100 feet in the valley to over 2800 in less than a half-mile horizontal distance, the cliffs are breathtaking and the 404 foot Hickory Nut Falls has marveled man since at least 8000 BC, when Native Americans used the gorge on their seasonal migrations. Less primal reasons attracted people now, especially since Hollywood had discovered the stunning background scenery available here. “Last of the Mohicans” and “Firestarter” to name a few. Lew Wallace had even finished writing “Ben Hur” while staying in the Esmeralda Inn. The town earned its name from the 315 foot phallic shaped rock that jutted out over the valley. Molly liked to call it “The Penis” but Steele doubted she was the first to see the resemblance.
     Though it was a beautiful late spring day, there weren’t that many people or cars in the village. Probably the economy, thought Steele, not much tourism when buying gas almost requires a bank loan. A lot of the shops and restaurants appeared to be closed. Steele drove through to the far side of the village, almost to Lake Lure, where he parked outside the tiny strip of shops and went inside the glass door marked Hickory Nut Vacation Lodging.  
     Walking up to the attractive, but over perfumed, woman sitting behind the uncluttered desk he extended his hand “Hi, I’m Jesse Steele.”
     “I remember you, Mr. Steele, I’m Betty Baker.” Steele vaguely recalled her smiling face, but definitely remembered her accent, there being a significant difference between the Western North Carolina drawl and the East Tennessee twang he was more familiar with. She appeared to be in her mid-forties and wore a skirt that should have been put away a decade earlier. She might as well have been wearing a sign that said: I want a Husband.
     The woman stood and shook his hand, holding on a little too long for Steele’s comfort and said “You rented the River Rose so many times in the past. Are you still married to that pretty auburn haired girl?
     Steele caught a hint of hope in Baker’s eyes that he’d say no. “Yep, Molly and I have even added another girl since we last stayed here.”
     Oh my, I plumb forgot about all those precious daughters you have, how many was it?
     Steel caught himself glancing down Baker’s cleavage and pretended to read her Far Side desk calendar. “Counting my only son, we have six now.”
     “My Lord, how do you keep up with so many? I raised my two boys and said good riddance. My youngest is an undergraduate at WNC and my oldest owns a small trucking business in Asheville. Ms. Martin asked me to send you straight over to the cottage. She’s there doing an inventory and thought it best if you met her there directly.”    
     “Works for me, I’ll head over there now. You have a good day Betty.” Steele started back to the door but turned when he heard Betty say “We’ll be neighbors Mr. Steele, I live just a few houses up from the River Rose across the street. You be sure and stop in if you need anything at all.”
     “Thank you Betty, and call me Jesse.” Steele smiled at her a little more than he normally would. It wouldn’t hurt to have a few allies in the coming months, especially if things went south like he thought they might. He could always turn into a prick later.
     Steele drove back through the village until he got to the first of only two bridges in town. The other bridge was essentially the start of the three mile drive up to The Penis standing erect in the middle of the State Park. The bridge he was crossing over now took Steele into a one lane paved road known as Southside Drive that held about 25 homes and rental cottages. As soon as it crossed the appropriately named Rocky Broad, it hooked a left and ran parallel to the river for about 4/10ths of a mile before it dead ended at a private driveway. The River Rose Cottage was on the river side, seven houses from the bridge.
     Steele noted a white Mercedes ML500 SUV in the small driveway as he pulled in next to it. He walked across the tiny front yard and onto the wooden front covered entrance. He saw that the old porch swing that used to hang from the portico by four small chains was gone. Molly wouldn’t like that, Steele thought, she liked to sit out there at night and stare at The Penis until they turned off the floodlights at ten o’clock. He didn’t like it either, but for a more nefarious reason; he had never had his way with Molly on the front porch, but always thought it’d be a hoot in that old swing.
     Steele knocked on the screen door and heard “Come in Mr. Steele,” almost immediately. He walked in and blinked in a vain effort to get his eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness the room offered. “Betty sent me over here Ms. Martin, are you busy?”
     “Not at all Mr. Steele, have a seat.” Steele sat on the sofa next to the fireplace. “I spoke with Mr. Cox about your telephonic offer.” Jolene Martin obviously wasn’t inclined to chat much. Probably not a desirable quality in a real estate agent, reflected Steele, but the two carat rock on her finger indicated she wasn’t hurting for money either. She was at least sixty and looked like she had been around the barn a couple times.
     “It’s a reasonable offer, given the current market conditions. I checked the asking prices online for some of these other cottages and I don’t think---” Steele began justifying his offer.
     Martin cut him off. “Come now Mr. Steele, we both know the River Rose is the only one you have any interest in.”
     Steele grinned and said. “What’s the bottom line? Will he take $140,000 or not?”
     “Do you have to secure a loan? The banks aren’t exactly throwing money at people these days, how do I even know your offer is worth---”
     It was his turn to cut her off. He sensed a kill and was going for the jugular. “I could write a check today, but if he sits around thinking about it very long my offer will decrease or even disappear. I have some urgency involved in this purchase.”
     “He’ll take $140,000 Mr. Steele. Can you close in two weeks? Martin said.
     “Yes, but only if all the current furnishings and upgrades remain.”
     “That shouldn’t be a problem.”

« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 07:07:12 PM by Goatdog »

Goatdog62

  • Guest
Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2009, 07:58:18 PM »
                                                                                                              Chapter Three
Knoxville, Tennessee
Tuesday May 22nd 2012
12:38 pm


     Stephen Muncie pointed at the camera as he began responding to the question posed by the CNN Morning Express anchorwoman. “I’m looking you and all the Washington decision makers, in the eye, and saying this Shelly; the system has failed all the hard-working Americans. Over 20% of our good citizens are out of work. Families are going without food, shelter, and medical coverage…all the basic human needs. Gangs are terrorizing the streets. The gun bans have made that easier for them. We are on the verge of total economic collapse and still they lie to us.”
      The anchorwoman leaned forward holding her pencil in the air and asked. “Are you placing blame on any one entity Mr. Muncie?” She uncrossed her tanned legs and tilted her head in anticipation of Muncie beginning one of his now famous tirades.
     Muncie was dressed in black slacks, a black turtleneck shirt, and a khaki twill sport coat. He wore the insignia of an Army Colonel on his lapels, which was the rank he held upon retirement from the U.S. Army in 1998. Muncie had a full head of brown hair, a thick Magnum P.I. style mustache, and sat with an air of relaxed confidence. He was a rather handsome man who appeared to be a decade younger than his 55 years showed.
     A flash of anger passed through his blue eyes momentarily as he formed his answer. “I’m sorry…I thought I was clear. Those politicians that were elected to protect us and help us prosper have let their personal agendas lead us into ruin. Jobs are outsourced to India and Mexico; we buy half our products from China but don’t require them to return the favor. How long can this go on? Terrorists stream across our borders unchecked. We’ve had enough of this. Can’t you see where this is taking us?
     After the Army, Muncie went to work for the General Motors Vehicle Manufacturing Flint Assembly Plant not far from his hometown of Grand Blanc, Michigan. Though beneath his previous stature as a high-ranking leader of combat soldiers, he happily accepted a position on the line as an assembler. Muncie helped mate the bodies with the chassis’ of Chevrolet and GMC trucks. He was content to finally be free of the stress of leadership and just focus on his wife, Ann, and giving her the attention that he’d never previously had time to give. The pay, combined with his military pension, was adequate and he was home every weekend. The work was hard but it made time fly. He never felt conditions there were even comparable to what he had endured in the various ashtrays of the world that military service had required of him.
     It was the pressure of co-workers that convinced him to join his local United Auto Workers union. He grudgingly attended the meetings and gradually began to understand the plight of his associates on the assembly line. Because of his articulate and charismatic manner, and his status as a retired Colonel, he was encouraged to run for president of UAW Local 598. He won without much difficulty. His successes with several labor disputes quickly led to his election as Director of UAW Region 1-C. This was a position normally held by someone with 30 or more years of union leadership experience. Again, his bearing and wits worked for him. He drew a large following from the several articles he wrote for Solidarity, the UAW bi-monthly magazine. These articles focused on the irreversible damage that he felt the Republican led Executive and Legislative Branches had caused to the American worker. In 2005, he was elected as President of the UAW International Executive Board.
     Becoming part of the left-of-center establishment had not come easy to Muncie. In fact, it was a complete reversal of Muncie’s original mindset. He had grown up with a conservative overbearing father who used his influence as a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient to get his son into West Point. Within the military officer corps, a Democrat could count on a short-lived career, so Muncie concealed any doubts he had about the system. It was watching the unprecedented layoffs and plant closures within the Rust Belt that convinced him to switch colors.
     Muncie felt that the American worker was being wronged in so many ways. He found it convenient to blame the anti-union sentiment that prevailed in the Republican Party. Like most previous union leaders, he used his position as UAW President to endorse the Democratic Party. What was unparalleled was Muncie’s determination to ensure the next President was the Democratic Nominee, William Watson. His doggedness brought him national attention. After Watson won the election, it was rumored that he would be appointed as Secretary of Labor. Watson intended to do just that, but Muncie had to decline because of Ann’s failing health. Her death from leukemia was difficult for Muncie. He resigned as UAW President and became somewhat of a recluse.
     It was the continued deterioration of the economy, and the resulting hardship on the working class, that brought Muncie back into the limelight. When the new President and Congress proved to be just as ineffective and corrupt as the previous administration, he began openly criticizing their methods. His book “Where’s Abe Lincoln When You Need Him?” was a scathing condemnation of the Executive office and what it had become. It immediately skyrocketed to the top of all the best seller charts. His website and blog received thousands of hits a day. He appeared on all major news networks. His magnetism caused his popularity to flourish; his message gave hope to thousands.
     The previous September, Muncie formed the New Union Party. His intent was to form a third political party that centered around the working class. It grew rapidly from there. The NUP’s ranks swelled as thousands of unemployed, or just disgruntled, workers signed on, seeking a voice that could be heard. Chapters opened in every major city, starting in the North and Northeast, but quickly spreading across the nation. Rallies were held and media coverage was nonstop. After the unorganized DC protests in April were shut down by massive arrests and tear gas, the enrollment multiplied exponentially. The massacre in Detroit two weeks ago had only caused more outraged Americans to join. Muncie changed the growing organizations name to The New Union Army, the numbers swelled again. The NUA website claimed over 250,000 “soldiers.”
     The camera returned to the newscaster. “We have 30 seconds. I’ll give you the last word. Quickly tell us what you propose to do.”
     Muncie shifted his head and eyes to the camera. “I encourage all Americans to join the New Union Army. I’ll attend NUA rallies on every corner of this previously proud country and we’ll make those people listen to our plight. Peacefully of course, I’m not talking the Sack of Rome here. Those part-time stormtroopers opened up on a peaceful rally in Detroit. Whatever provocation they felt they had did not come from the ranks of the NUA. We don’t advocate violence without cause. But how can they ignore several hundred thousand of us speaking out as one? If Congress chooses to ignore us then, well, it’ll just show their true colors.”
     The gorgeous newscaster wiggled her suspended ankle subconsciously as she wrapped up the interview. “That was New Union Army Commander Stephen Muncie, after the break we’ll hear commentary on this subject from our political analysts.”
     Steele shook his head as a commercial began, featuring yet another limp-dicked loser extolling the virtues of taking a pill to get a boner. He flipped the TV off, rinsed out his coffee cup in the sink, and left the kitchen looking for Molly. He found her in the garage sorting the never-ending pile of laundry. Callie had a yardstick and was poking the dog in his face. Max pranced about the room but kept returning to get whacked again. Callie squealed with delight every time he snapped at the stick and she seemed content to molest the dog all day. “You better be careful, Max poops bigger than you.” Steele patted her head and she giggled “Max poops!” as she swung yet again at the 98 lb pile of fur and teeth. Max was easily 25 lbs bigger than the average Golden Retriever, much larger than they ever expected him to get. “Your mama had sex with a horse Max.” Steele loved to insult the dog.
     “Sex horsie! Callie paraphrased.
     “Jesse! She repeats everything you say. You have to be more careful. She’ll be potty mouthed before she’s three,” Molly admonished.
     “You didn’t complain last night when I wanted to play Otter in the Orifice.” He retorted.
     “You’re a sick bastard Jesse Steele. Did you come down here to torment me or are you going to help me fold some of your clothes?” Molly fired back.
     “I can do both…I’m a multi-tasker,” Steele said as he grabbed one of the 5.11 brand pants he typically wore while instructing.  
     “You wear the same size clothes you did when I met you. Wish I did.” Molly picked up a pair of his Colombia chinos from the basket. Though in his mid-40’s Steele typically ran about 20 miles a week, avoiding the midriff bulge prevalent in men his age.
     “Honey, you were about 105 when I met you. I only started talking to you to find out who your crack dealer was so I could make a big drug bust as a rookie. What are you now, maybe 115?”
     “118,” Molly almost whispered.
     “You look good and besides, you know what they say?”
     “I’m afraid to ask Perv.”
     “More cushion for the pushing.” Steele quipped and ducked when she threw a wadded t-shirt at his head. “The girls seem happy about going to the cottage.”
     “Jesse they love it there. I didn’t tell them you considered it to be the Alamo.”
     “We lost the Alamo, I plan on winning. If there’s gonna be a fight, that is. I prefer that nothing happens and we come home next fall. I asked Zach to join us, he said he would.”  Steele was referring to his son, who lived nearby. 22 years old, he worked at a convenience store, but seemed destined for mediocrity.  
     “What about his job? Didn’t he just start there?”
     “It’s his third job in a year. He probably was already on his way out.” Zach would work long enough to stash a couple bucks and quit his job, stretching his money in ways that made Steele wonder.
     He continued. “I want you to let Gretchen and Dylan know they are invited also. I know Dylan won’t give up his work, but maybe he’ll let Gretchen come with us and he can visit on the weekends.” Chimney Rock was about 150 miles east of Knoxville. Basically just over the Smoky Mountains. It only took a couple hours to get there if you used I-40 for the majority of the trip.
     “I’ll see what she says, but she’s really in that puppy love stage,” Molly said. “I doubt she’ll want to do that.”
     “There you go, always with the canine sex.”
     “Sex!” Callie shouted.

« Last Edit: June 16, 2009, 02:35:42 PM by Goatdog62 »

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #22 on: June 16, 2009, 04:55:37 AM »
Well done.

I need more.

Hurry up. ;D

Offline TexDaddy

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #23 on: June 16, 2009, 08:54:43 AM »
Goatdog,

Great story.  I can't wait to buy the book.  It seems all too real.  So far as you tech-speak in the prologue, I felt you gave exactly the right amount of explanation for those of us without this kind of experience.

The more I read, the more I couldn't wait to find out what was coming next.

Thank you for sharing this preview.

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #24 on: June 16, 2009, 03:10:47 PM »
Well done.

I need more.

Hurry up. ;D

I'm trying!

Unfortunately, Saturday a nearby lightning strike took out my laptop, DVD player, and a couple lesser electrical items. Shocked my arm too. I had heard no lightning before this strike, so don't tell me I had warning.

Anyway, had stuff backed up on an external hard drive, but new laptop didn't come with Microsoft Office. I could download and pay for it again but I have a perfectly good set of Office software at home in TN, so I will wait until I get home on the 26th.

So, you'll have to wait.

Goatdog,

Great story.  I can't wait to buy the book.  It seems all too real.  So far as you tech-speak in the prologue, I felt you gave exactly the right amount of explanation for those of us without this kind of experience.

The more I read, the more I couldn't wait to find out what was coming next.

Thank you for sharing this preview.

You are welcome my friend.

I went back and manually added boldness and italics to titles and radio transmissions.

I have more written, so it won't be too long for more. SHTF in the very next chapter.

Has anyone else read it? I need feedback!

Offline DeltaEchoVictor

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #25 on: August 24, 2009, 07:04:37 PM »
Still waiting.... 8)

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #26 on: August 24, 2009, 07:29:56 PM »
Still waiting.... 8)

Still writing.

No way I'm gonna give up this project. Summer is my playtime and I'm just not settling down to multi-hour sessions right now. I have a bit more almost ready.

Only 5 people have responded to this thread, so I don't think I'm holding too many of you in suspense. ;D

You will like the next chapter...action, action, action!

Hare of Caerbannog

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2009, 07:49:52 PM »
I'm here.
I just didn't want to interupt your flow.
 8)

Goatdog62

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2009, 08:07:37 PM »
I know you are RabbitBoy. Your favorable comments the other day on the 505 thread was very appreciated. The book is moving along, slower than I like, but moving.

Offline Castle6

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Re: Steele Resolve
« Reply #29 on: August 24, 2009, 08:08:47 PM »
Only 5 people have responded to this thread, so I don't think I'm holding too many of you in suspense. ;D

5 + Hare + me = 8,946,321,745.21 (Gov't. math!).  So, hurry up will ya!!!    :D