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Warriors from the Ashes
The Ashes Series: Book #31
By William W. Johnstone
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 William W. Johnstone
All rights reserved.
Perro Loco's army is defeated in its attempt to take Mexico City, and his forces have been pushed back to their stronghold at the old Mexican naval base at Pariso near Villahermosa on Mexico's east coast.
General Jaime Pena jumped to attention when Perro Loco, followed by Jim Strunk and Paco Valdez, entered the commanding officer's office at the Mexican Army base at Villahermosa. Pena had pulled his troops back to this location after the disaster on the Pan American highway.
"Buenos dias," Pena said, saluting smartly.
Loco gave him a look, his eyes flat as he sat behind the desk in the office.
"General Pena, would you ask your second in command to come in, please."
Pena stepped to the adjoining door, which led to the officers' wardroom, and called, "Colonel Gonzalez, would you come in here?"
A tall, swarthy man, with a handlebar mustache and a knife scar on his right cheek that coursed down his face to the corner of his mouth, entered. He nodded at Loco and stood at attention, his back to the wall.
"Now, General Pena, please be so kind as to explain to me why you failed in your mission to take Mexico City," Loco said calmly.
Pena looked from Strunk to Valdez, who were standing behind Loco on either side.
"But, comandante, there is only one serviceable road northward through this miserable country, and it was heavily mined and defended." He spread his arms wide. "I needed more air support, but the Mexicans had ground-to-air missiles and shot the few helicopters I had at my disposal out of the air."
Loco nodded, then glanced at Strunk. "Jaime, how much does a helicopter cost?"
"Several millions of dollars, comandante."
"And an APC or a HumVee?"
"Many thousands of dollars, comandante."
"And a portable mine detector?"
Strunk smiled, shaking his head sadly. "Only a few hundred dollars, comandante."
"Why did you not think that the road might be mined, General, and take appropriate precautions? Surely, losing a few men with mine detectors would have been preferable to losing"—he bent his head and studied a sheaf of papers on the desk—"two helicopters, four APCs, three HumVees, and four hundred and fifty-six soldiers, not to mention General Juan Dominguez."
Pena, sweat beginning to bead on his forehead and run down his cheeks to drip off his chin, lowered his head. "We moved so fast, comandante, I did not think the Mexicans would have had time to mine the road."
Loco sighed heavily. "That is the truest thing you've said today, General," he said. "You did not think!"
"I am sorry, comandante," Pena said, his eyes on the floor in front of him.
Loco slipped a .45-caliber automatic out of his pocket and aimed across the desk.
Pena glanced up, his eyes widening and his mouth opening to protest as Loco fired. The pistol exploded and the bullet entered Pena's forehead, snapping his head back and blowing the back of his skull out, showering the wall behind him with blood and brains. Pena's body collapsed in a heap in front of Loco's desk.
Loco cut his eyes to Colonel Gonzalez. "What is your first name, Colonel?"
Gonzalez swallowed, the scar on his cheek pulling the corner of his mouth up in a caricature of a grin. "Enrique, comandante."
"Enrique Gonzalez, you are now promoted to general and will be in charge of our forces in Mexico. Is that satisfactory?"
Gonzalez glanced at Pena's body on the floor, trails of smoke still rising from his empty skull. He nodded rapidly. "Sí, comandante."
"And you are aware of the penalties for failure?"
Gonzalez continued to nod, unable to take his eyes off Pena's corpse and its right foot, which was still twitching. "Sí, comandante."
Loco stood up and holstered his weapon. "Good. Then let us go to the communications room and contact President Osterman of the United States. I fear we are going to need some of her more modern equipment to take Mexico City."
President Claire Osterman hung up the phone after over an hour discussing with Perro Loco how his forces had been stymied on their journey toward Mexico City due to lack of air support and strong resistance from the Mexican forces.
"Jesus," she said, "God save me from Central American desperadoes who think they're generals."
She looked at her team of advisors arrayed before her. General Stevens, Harlan Millard, and Herb Knoff were sitting in chairs in the commanding officer's quarters of Fort Benjamin Harris in Indianapolis.
She winced as rumbling sounds and vibrations shook the ceiling. "Herb, can't we quiet that infernal noise?"
He shook his head. "Madame President, you ordered the removal of the wreckage of the building overhead yourself. The bulldozers cannot do that without making some noise."
"All right, all right," she said testily. She was still pissed off that Otis Warner and General Joe Winter had been allowed to escape the attack on the fort the day before.
"How is everything going with my resuming command of the country?" she asked Stevens.
General Bradley Stevens, Jr., nodded. "Very well, Madame President. The Armed Services have all acknowledged your right to continue as head of the government, and the rank and file of the Army is behind you one hundred percent. A few of the officers whose loyalty was questionable have been replaced with men I can trust, but overall, it's going just fine."
"And the country?"
"A massive propaganda campaign has been undertaken," Millard said. "All of the media are cooperating, as usual. We are informing the people that the coup attempt to overthrow you was orchestrated by Otis Warner with the complicity of Ben Raines and the SUSA. In the absence of any voices telling them otherwise, I think they'll buy it."
"Good," she said. "Now we have two things to do in addition to restarting the war against the SUSA. One, we have to transport some equipment to Perro Loco down in Mexico. He has control of the Navy base at Pariso near his command at Villahermosa. General Stevens, we need to send a transport ship down there with some helicopters, tanks, APCs, and whatever else he needs. I'll leave the coordination of that to you and your men."
"Yes, Madame President."
"The second thing I've got to do is get him some help with his soldiers and command structure. He's just too damned stupid to run a war."
"How do you propose to do that, Claire?" Millard asked.
She glanced at a folder on her desk that read TOP SECRET, INTEL on the cover. "I have here an intel report on Bruno Bottger."
"Bruno Bottger?" Stevens asked. "I thought Raines killed him in Africa a few years back."
She shook her head. "No, as it turns out, Bottger escaped to the island of Madagascar. He stayed there for a year or so, recovering from wounds he'd received in his escape. Then he made his way to South America. Intel has found out he's used his vast fortune to hire an army of mercenaries with the idea of reattacking Ben Raines at some point in the future."
Stevens shook his head. "I don't know, Claire. Getting involved with Bottger will be risky. The man is a zealot and a Nazi. He will be very tough to control."
"That's the beauty of it, Brad. We won't have to control him. He hates Ben Raines so much he'll jump at any chance to get revenge on him. I plan to get him and his mercenary army to join Perro Loco by promising him unlimited access to our weapons and technology. I'll also promise him he may have Mexico as a prize for his new Nazi state if he manages to conquer it."
"But, Claire," Millard protested, "you've also promised Mexico to Perro Loco."
"Yes, I have, haven't I?" she said, a smile curling her lips. "Well, in the event they are successful, they'll just have to fight it out to see who ends up on top down there."
Stevens nodded, seeing where she was headed. "Yeah, and after they've weakened each other fighting it out, we'll step in and take over from whoever's left."
Claire grinned. "Brad, you're a man after my own heart."CHAPTER 2
Bruno Bottger sat on the terrace of his villa on the Ilha de Sao Sebastiao, a small island off the coast of South America, and watched the sun set over the ocean.
He had a glass of German white wine in his right hand, and used his left to gently massage the massive scar tissue around his eyes and cheeks, while his mind was filled with thoughts of a certain General Dorfmann and the day he was forced to run for his life....
"Tell General Field Marshal Bottger that General Dorfmann is here from Berlin. I must speak to him at once."
Bruno Bottger heard the voice through a crack in his office door, which led to a secured waiting area in his underground bunker where his private office was protected from air attack.
Why is Dorfmann here? he wondered, cringing inwardly.
Dorfmann commanded the Gestapo in New Germany. The New Nazi Party governed most of what had once been Europe, now held in an iron grip by Nazi forces.
Dorfmann only answered to Kaiser Wilhelm II, political leader of New Germany. Bruno feared only one thing from Dorfmann ... that he might discover his racial impurity, his Jewish mother, even though Bruno had made certain all her birth and death records had been destroyed. But Dorfmann was tenacious, always digging to expose enemies of the New World Order.
While Bruno held a higher military rank, and commanded the New World Order Army, he continued to worry that somehow Dorfmann would discover his dark secret, even though Bruno's New World Army was more or less politically hide-pendent of New Nazi Germany.
No one told Bruno Bottger what to do, quite simply because he held the power, the military might to crush anyone who stood in his way ... or had, until this upstart Rebel Army led by General Ben Raines came to Africa.
Raines was proving to be a more difficult adversary than Bruno thought in the beginning. Among the worst bits of news, Raines's forces, headed by that bitch Jackie Malone, had wiped out one of Bruno's elite Special Forces squads in Zimbabwe.
The devil woman's troops had killed them down to the last man, including the squad's commander, Major Cheli, a feat Bruno had thought was impossible. Cheli had been among his best recon specialists in difficult terrain. To take him and his Bantu scouts by surprise implied an expertise in jungle warfare Bottger could only envy, and fear.
Bruno's trusted bodyguard, Rudolf Hessner, stuck his head through the doorway.
"General Dorfmann is here from Berlin to see you."
"Show him in."
General Dorfmann entered the expansive office where an old Nazi flag adorned Bruno's back wall. Dorfmann saluted, his stocky, muscular body still fit even though he was well past the age of fifty. He wore a copy of the old Nazi uniform, as did all New Nazi soldiers, right down to the knee-high black leather boots and bill cap.
Bruno merely nodded, not returning Dorfmann's salute as a show of superiority. Neither did he stand up behind his desk, giving Dorfmann an indifferent stare.
"What brings to you Pretoria, Herr Dorfmann?" he asked, feigning indifference, as if whatever it was could hold no significance for him.
Without being asked, Dorfmann took a seat across the desk and removed his cap, pushing a hand through his naturally blond hair, pale blue eyes riveted on Bruno.
"A matter of great urgency," he said in his heavy German accent. "Word of several military defeats for the New World Army has reached Berlin. This Tri-States Army has the kaiser worried, wondering if they will turn toward New Germany sometime in the future."
"I do not intend to let that happen, Herr Dorfmann."
Dorfmann nodded, plainly unconvinced. "We have learned a great deal about this General Raines from a man who fought him in the Western Hemisphere, a Simon Border. Border's mercenary army was soundly defeated by Raines. These Tri- States Rebels grow stronger, acquiring more equipment and more followers. Their so-called Manifesto continues to attract people from all over the world."
"I've heard of this Manifesto," Bruno said, suspecting there was more behind Dorfmann's unexpected visit. He was, after all, Gestapo, not a military field commander. Bruno still wondered why Dorfmann was here, and if he posed a threat to him.
"It has tremendous appeal to the oppressed, to starving men who believe in the foolish tenets of democracy," said Dorfmann. "The SUSA has been built on these principles. But Raines has military power as well as gilt-edged promises to offer believers, and now it appears he has too much military strength for you to contain him. As I said, the kaiser is worried."
Bruno gave Dorfmann an empty smile. "Tell the kaiser not to worry. All is going according to plan. I am luring Raines and his Tri-Staters across the continent toward South Africa. Then we shall cut off all his sources of supply. He is doing exactly what I had hoped he would do."
Bottger yawned, as if bored by the conversation. "I have pulled my most effective troops back to the South African borders, in order to attack Raines after his supplies are no longer forthcoming."
"But the losses? We hear of so many of your defeats at the hands of the Rebels lately...."
"Soldiers must be expendable to serve the cause, General Dorfmann. Most of the men we have lost to Raines have been these simpleminded African natives ... Bantu tribesmen and especially Zulus. They are continually at war with each other, and when I offered the most powerful of the tribal warlords a handsome sum of money to fight for our cause, the greedy bastards accepted, as I knew they would. They die quickly, and willingly, believing they are making themselves rich. Very few live to collect the wages I've offered, and those who do will be exterminated when we unleash the balance of our chemical and germ weapons on them, as we pull out of Africa, to cleanse it ... after we destroy Raines and his Rebels."
Bottger waved a dismissive hand, as if the deaths of the natives meant less than nothing to him.
"As you know," Bruno continued, "our ultimate goal is racial purity on this planet, as it was when the great Adolf Hitler unified most of Europe. Had it not been for the damned Americans' intervention against the Führer, we would live in a perfect world where no genetic impurities exist."
Dorfmann glanced over his shoulder. "May I close the door so we can speak privately?"
Bruno felt an adrenaline rush of fear course through him, making his heart pound like a trip-hammer. Was Dorfmann about to reveal something regarding Bruno's own racial mix? Had he discovered Bruno's Jewish lineage?
"Of course, General. Close the door if you wish." As he said it, Bruno pressed a hidden button under his desk to alert Rudolf to the possibility of trouble.
Dorfmann got up and closed the door gently. Bruno noted he was carrying a Luger in a holster tied to his waist. Dorfmann sat back down, giving Bruno a piercing look.
"You mentioned racial purity before," Dorfmann began. "I wanted to inform you of something, in strictest confidence, of course."
"Of course," Bruno said, sensing the direction Dorfmann was headed, wondering how much Dorfmann suspected, and how much he actually knew.
"There have been rumors in high circles having to do with you."
"High circles? Who do you mean? And what are these rumors?"
Dorfmann continued to stare at him coldly. The Gestapo was a place for men with ice in their veins, and Dorfmann fit this mold perfectly. He would have served Hitler well, Bruno thought.
"The kaiser himself has mentioned it to me, as has General Borgdahl. Someone was looking into your past ... for reasons I do not know. It seems nothing can be found about one side of your family. There are no records concerning your mother. It is as if she did not exist. The kaiser and General Borgdahl wondered if you can explain this, and give me some information about your mother so I can inform those who need to know."
Excerpted from Warriors from the Ashes by William W. Johnstone. Copyright © 2001 William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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