Under the command of Ben Raines, the Southern United States Of America have defeated all comers - and carved out a stronghold in the Southwest desert. But now, two powerful forces are crashing in against the rebels from the North and the South. A cataclysmic war on two fronts has begun… The glorified thugs of the New World Order have seized Mexico City, and Bruno Bottger's mercenary army has joined forces with the Nicaraguan and Honduran troops of former Sandinista Perro Loco. Meanwhile, U.S. President Claire Osterman is attacking by land and air from the North. Now, Ben Raines has no chance but to strike back with everything he's got. In a firestorm of bullets, bombs, and a new generation of horrifying tactical weapons, one small new generation of horrifying tactical weapons, one small army must stand against two enemies…and the odds are just about even.
* * * *
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.*
*Tyranny in the Ashes.
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."