Chapter 21 by dandanhuanghuang

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									One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          1


                                                  Prologue

       The United States election year of 2012 was one of the most tumultuous in modern

history. The US economy was in a shambles. Unemployment in parts of the country was over

20% with a national “official” rate of over 16%. The politicians in Washington had been

relentless in stripping away the constitutional rights of its citizens and states under the guise of

“protection of the people”.

       Aaron Shear, a corn farmer in northwest Oklahoma, had been brought into a group of

businessmen, politicians, and military officers to plan and execute the secession of 14 states,

removing them from the United States of America. Over the course of the summer, Aaron had

traveled the Midwest doing whatever had to be done to get politicians elected or removed to

support secession when the time came.

       The group, particularly his friend Mark Daniels, had become targets of a ruthless enemy

in Washington. So ruthless, in fact, that Aaron’s neighbor and son had been killed in an attack

meant to murder his wife. Instead of the attack delivering the message they wanted it galvanized

Aaron and Mark into seeing the plan through.

       After succumbing to cancer, President Obama’s Vice President held office for only a

week before Iran detonated a nuclear device in Israel killing 12,000 instantly and injuring tens of

thousands more. Shortly after the attack, President Biden fell ill, incapacitated by a massive

stroke and his Vice President, Jeremy Collins the former governor of Connecticut, took the oath

of office to become the third president of the United States in the space of just 3 weeks.

       As the elections approached the clear front runners for the Presidency, the Democratic

candidates for President and Vice President were killed in a plane crash throwing the elections

just a couple of days away into chaos.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        2


       Collins, keenly aware and reminded at every opportunity that he was not elected and

nobody’s real choice for the office, took the unprecedented and unconstitutional action of

suspending the presidential elections until the following February, an act which triggered the 14

state governors to announce that their states were removing themselves from the United States of

America and would defend their borders.

       The states seized all military and other federal assets as their own, claiming to have

“bought and paid for” those assets over the many years of being a part of the United States. The

governors involved in the plan took command of the individual state guard units and prepared to

defend their borders, promising to aid each other in the defense of their fellow seceded states.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                              3




                                                   Chapter 1

        The governors gathered around Mark's large conference table in his office with himself,

Aaron, and Angela in the room.

        "Ladies and gentlemen, I can't tell you how much I admire each and every one of you.

What you did took courage not seen since the Civil War. We have some things we need to

discuss and work through and hopefully we can get it done quickly but feel free to take all the

time you need to make decisions, discuss, cuss, yell, rant, rave, whatever.”

        “What we, Aaron, Angela, and myself, are going to do is present you with a framework.

A great deal of this came from discussions we had at the Central States Governors' Council

meetings and even more came from discussions with the Governors' Advisory Council of the

Central States. I have to commend you on your selection of the members of the council. I can't

recall ever having worked with a group of people I so much admired and respected.”

        “Now that I'm done stroking all of you, but before we get down to business, does anyone

need anything? Sandwiches, snacks, something to drink, it's nearly noon and we don't plan to

break for lunch, but if you need anything, let me know and we'll see to it you get it."

        Mark paused for a moment, and nobody said anything, so he continued, "The first item of

business is the Constitution of the Coalition. Your delegates to the Governors' Advisory Council

have been working on this document for over a year. It is modeled very closely on the US

Constitution, but there are some significant changes. What was the Bill of Rights is included but

it is the very beginning of our Constitution. It is called the Guiding Principles of the Coalition.

If you'll look through it as I discuss it, I'll try to point out the significant differences.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                           4


        “The first through tenth amendments are left virtually intact, although they aren’t

‘amendments’ to our Constitution. You'll notice there are a couple of issues placed in the

Guiding Principles. First, ‘Life’ is defined as beginning at conception and is treated as such by

the Constitution. The wording of this article is still under debate by the convention. The goal of

the convention is to eliminate abortion as retroactive birth control while recognizing in cases

where the mother's life is in jeopardy and other extreme circumstances, difficult decisions need

to be made. This article will be in the Constitution, in some form or another, but just so you're

aware its form will most likely change but the intent will not.”

        “Second, the Constitution states that all citizens are equal regardless of race or gender.

There can be no distinction or discrimination based on those factors.”

        “Third, the age of legal majority is 18, with regard to Coalition law. This may also

remain in transition but the idea is before 18 one is a child, after 18 one is an adult. An adult can

marry, sign contracts, drink, buy a firearm, serve in the military, and is responsible in whole for

their own actions as far as the Coalition is concerned. A state is allowed to lower the age of

consent, if they deem it appropriate, but it cannot be made higher than 18. The convention is still

discussing this, some are of the belief certain things should have a higher age of consent,

purchasing alcohol, for instance, and others are not.”

        “Finally, a ‘marriage’ is recognized by the coalition only as a union between two people

of the opposite sex. It recognizes the right, however, of states to allow a civil union at their

discretion.”

        “That pretty well covers the Guiding Principles. The rest is structured much like the US

Constitution but with necessary, technical changes. For instance, once the state governors have

voted to enter the coalition, if you do vote to enter it, the first President will be elected from
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         5


among the governors in a ballot just as you elected Ms. Brown your spokeswoman. The Vice-

President will be elected the same way but the candidates will only be from the Lieutenant

Governors and the Lieutenant Governor of the State the President is selected from is not eligible

for election to Vice-President. This was done so there would be minimal disruption in the

political process back in the states and one state would not have a void of both governor and

lieutenant governor at the start of the coalition. The term for the new president will be just one

year, then general elections will be held and the President selected by popular vote of the people.

The new President will then serve a 4 year term with 2 terms maximum.”

       “The Senate will be made up of 4 representatives from each state. Senate term will be 4

years with a maximum of 3 terms in the Senate. The senate will be divided into two classes and

half will be elected every two years, alternating seats in the senate. The House will be allocated

one representative for every 1,000,000 citizens in population but regardless of population, there

is a set number of square miles that must have representation. This assures the lower populations

states with fair representation. These numbers would be adjusted every 10 years after a census,

but we would allow an electronic census and reporting. The census may never ask any questions

beyond number of persons in the household, their ages, and genders. The only reason the last

two questions are asked is to get a handle on where our children are and how an area is aging, or

growing younger.”

       “The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land but can hear and rule ONLY on

questions of constitutional law, nothing else, and those questions can only relate to laws passed

in congress or state laws that might be in violation of the constitution. All other issues will be

handled by the lower courts.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                            6


        “I'd like to give you all at least an hour to look the draft constitution over, discuss it, and

understand it. If you do have questions, please address them to Angela. As I'm sure you're all

aware, she is one of the foremost scholars in US constitutional law in the world and since this

constitution is based on the US constitution, she would best be able to answer your questions."

        Many issues were questioned and Angela did her best to explain the thought processes

involved. She was in every meeting of the Constitutional Convention and tried to guide the

delegates, but mostly was there to observe and answer questions. Mark was encouraging her to

write a book on the process to be used as a kind of "Federalist Paper" in the future, giving

background, the concerns of the delegates, and what they were thinking as they wrote.

        It actually took closer to two hours of discussion, but eventually all agreed as a draft, it

was a good basis to develop over the next couple of months. It was agreed the delegates would

meet no later than 30 days after to present a final form for the governors to examine and present,

if they felt it worthy, to their respective legislatures for ratification.

        "Hopefully, that was the most difficult part of the meeting, I thought it best to get over

that mountain before we moved on," Mark said, "Aaron, please explain the Agreement to

Participate."

        "Ladies and gentlemen, as you are all well aware, the odds are good we will be facing

economic sanctions from the United States and very good there may be a military incursion.

None of the states are capable of defending themselves. All of us together have a chance,"

        "The Agreement to Participate in the Independent Coalition of the Central States gives

you the power to elect the first President and Vice-President from amongst yourselves. It also

gives other powers to the coalition. Once appointed within ten days each governor is to appoint

seven representatives to the temporary legislative body. Who you appoint is up to you but
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         7


remember, some of the decisions they make may affect the member states for decades to come,

so be wise and be prudent.”

       “The agreement authorizes the levying of taxes. The tax structure will not be based on

income tax and there will be no IRS. Taxes will be collected as a sales tax. When anything is

sold, anything, from sandals to swimming pools, houses to horses, cars to candy, a 12% sales tax

will be collected. Nearly every state already has a sales tax and those that don't, can be helped to

set up a method to collect fairly quickly."

       "Our people can't afford a 12% sales tax," the governor of Iowa protested.

       "We are no longer part of the United States Government. You all need to issue an

executive order tomorrow barring the collection and withholding of US Federal Income Taxes,

social security, and Medicare funds. As compared to the withholdings they were having done

before, this should be less expensive.”.

       “It also gives the coalition the authority to borrow money, which we'll need, in the form

of the sale of bonds. The agreement limits the amount of indebtedness at any one time to the

total GDP of the Coalition.”

       “We are working on a health care plan but it is far from complete. Right now, it looks

like the Coalition will help insurance companies underwrite a catastrophic plan and let private

carriers do the rest. There will be caps on malpractice suits and other tort reform and insurance

companies will be able to compete across state lines. For the short term, this first year, we will

appeal to the doctors and hospitals to offer free services, clinics, and treatment to those without

the means to pay.”

       “The most important two points in the agreement, though, are first, the President is

permitted to accept foreign ambassadors and delegations and normalize relations with countries
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      8


recognizing our sovereignty. As soon as the agreement to participate is signed, the Mexican

government and several others are ready to recognize the Coalition as a nation. Second, it gives

the President the power to act as commander in chief of the coalition armed forces and to

federalize the state national guard only in defense of our borders and security. “

       “Look over your copies of the Agreement to Participate and we'll try to answer any

questions you might have." Aaron concluded.

       The biggest discussion item was, of course, on the tax plan. Many were concerned about

it working at all and Aaron had to admit he could see problems as well. However, he still

believed, and argued convincingly; citizens would accept it based on its simplicity and overall

fairness as compared to an income tax. After about 45 minutes of discussion, they all consented

to sign the Agreement and it was done, a new nation was formed.

       They next voted on the new President and to nobody's surprise, Marjorie Galashaw-

Brown got 13 of 14 votes. She voted for the Governor of New Mexico. It was agreed since the

only dissenting vote was her own a second ballot wasn't necessary. The vote for Vice-President

was a little closer. The Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas was, of course, excluded. The

Lieutenant Governor of Texas got the most votes at 5, but the Lt. Governor of KS and Lt.

Governor of Wyoming each got 3. Two others also received votes. It was decided all three

would run on the second ballot and if any one of the three got a majority, eight votes, they would

serve as Vice-President. The Lt. Governor of Texas, Jay Ortez, was selected Vice-President of

the Coalition after receiving 9 votes. The Coalition now had a President and Vice-President.

Because there were no Supreme Court justices as yet, the governors voted to allow the Governor

of Texas to swear in the new President and Vice-President.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         9


       The Governors all went back to the conference hall where the audio/video equipment was

prepared. The Lieutenant Governor of Texas was informed he had been elected to serve as Vice-

President of the Coalition and if for any reason he felt he could not carry out his responsibilities,

he should speak now so another vote could be cast. He agreed to accept the office.

       The Governors and Lt. Governors took their places on the stage again, standing by their

flags, with their families in the audience watching the ceremony, as the Governor of Texas swore

in the new President and Vice-President of the Independent Coalition of Central States at 4:06

PM.

       Mark had food delivered and after eating they started shuttling the families and officials,

except the new President and Vice-President, back home. Mark and Angela saw each of them

off; reminding them they needed to consider their 7 delegates to the first Coalition Congress so

they would be in place within 10 days. The group retired to Mark's office with the new Coalition

President and Vice-President; there were some details the new Chief Executives needed to be

made aware of.

       "Madam President, there are some things you need to be aware of and hopefully agree

to," Mark said, "but first, I have someone I'd like you to meet." Mark hit the buttons waking the

screen up and General Landers and General Mays appeared on the screen. "Madam President,

Mr. Vice-President, your military Commanding Officers, General Tom Landers and General

Harold Mays. General Landers is the Commanding General of the Coalition forces, answerable

only to you, Madam President, as the Commander in Chief.”

       “Generals, the President of the Coalition Marjorie Galashaw-Brown of Arkansas and her

Vice-President, Mr. Jay Ortez of Texas."
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        10


       "Madam President, Mister Vice-President, we are honored to serve you and the coalition

as defenders of our Constitution and territories," General Landers said.

       "Madam President, Mister Vice-President, what are your orders?" General Mays asked.

       "As we briefly discussed, the two Generals and other military advisors have been

developing plans over the last several months, plans we hope will give us a fighting chance if the

United States Government should use military force. General Landers, would you care to

explain your proposed plans?" Mark said.

       "Of course Mr. Daniels," Landers began, "Our forces are right now in positions to begin

operations awaiting your orders. Immediately after you and your fellow governors seceded and

ordered the various state national guards back under your authority all communications were cut

from the National Guard bases to their federal government, but the communications lines to the

various state capitols were left intact. Right now, the various units are in a state of confusion.

Orders have been prepared from each governor waiting for them as they are being shuttled back

home and they will, hopefully, sign them as per the agreement to participate. Within the next

two hours, you should have written orders in hand giving you and therefore us legal command of

every State Guard unit in the coalition territory. Some of them we already have in hand and have

begun preparations for the next step.”

       “We have identified several key strategic points to be taken quickly and quietly. The first

is Schreiver Air Force Base in Colorado controlling almost all of the satellite reconnaissance for

the US military and spy agencies, the second is Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in

Omaha, the third is the Information Operations Warfare Command at Lackland Air Force Base

near San Antonio, and finally Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. We hope to do this with a
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       11


minimum of bloodshed at each location but there will be casualties in taking these locations,

however they are crucial to our defense and the decision needs to be made immediately.”

       “Our plan is to move in as soon as possible with guard troops and capture the weapons

lockers and armories, then capturing the mostly unarmed service men and women. The people

stationed there will be given an option to swear their allegiance to the new Coalition and its

constitution or not. If they choose to join us, they will be reassigned within our forces. If not,

and they are enlisted personnel, a listing will be made and they’ll eventually be released outside

Coalition territory as far as practical from their homes and bases, but with supplies to allow them

to survive. They will eventually make it back to a base somewhere, but it will take time for them

to be reconstituted into the US Military. The officers will also be given the option to join us. If

they choose to do so, they will be reassigned to needed positions but if not, the officers ranked

Colonel and above will be held in prepared locations and placed under guard.”

       “Once these bases are secure, we will move to other military bases in order of importance

to our defense, recruiting personnel and seizing military hardware, supplies, and munitions and

moving them to five central bases in the coalition, once they are taken. These bases are in Texas,

Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota. We have also identified major munitions

depots and factories to capture and control. We anticipate controlling all of these critical

locations within 24 hours and controlling the secondary bases within 72 hours, once you

authorize our plans.”

       “Mr. DeSoto has assembled a defensive force of just over 5,000 men, mostly defectors

from the Mexican Army, but having sworn their allegiance to the Coalition and agreeing to

accept orders from the Coalition command, pre-positioned to take control of the physical

facilities of the pumping stations and control valve structures sending oil, gas, and refined fuel
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          12


east to the United States. They are also prepared to take control of the loading and unloading

facilities at the Strategic Oil Reserve. This will give us control of the flow of Coalition oil

beyond our borders.”

        “Our plan is designed to be completely defensive in nature. We must first control

communications and make them blind, deaf, and dumb. Second, seize critical bases and

equipment, taking control preferably, isolating and laying siege to them if necessary, destroying

them if absolutely necessary. Third, move forces to defend and control the flow of energy

products beyond our borders. Fourth, capture and control as many remaining assets as possible,

moving them to central locations. Fifth, seal off the borders of the coalition by controlling the

railroads, surface roads, and enforcing the sovereignty of our airspace and waterways.”

        “Do you have any questions?"

        "General, are you committed to carrying out these plans with the minimum bloodshed

possible?" the President asked.

        "Yes ma'am we are," Landers answered, "but make no mistake, there will be lives lost on

both sides. If our operation goes as planned, it should be kept to a minimum, but this is a

military operation, madam President, and in military operations people are going to die. They

die in training exercises, and this is no training exercise."

        "Jay, your thoughts," the President asked.

        "I find it troubling there are going to be lives lost but if we don't take control of the

military assets in our territory, we will never be a nation or taken seriously. The plan sounds

effective and as bloodless as possible. I think we should give the orders," the Vice-President

said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      13


       "I agree," President Brown said, "General, how do I issue the order to begin execution of

your plans?"

       "Your stating it verbally over this secure link is fine for now, and Mr. Daniels has written

orders for both you and the Vice-President to sign. They will be delivered to General Mays and

myself," Landers explained.

       "Generals, you may begin the operations. I am curious though, where are you?”

       "I am in a prepared bunker in a retired missile base near Wichita, Kansas," Landers said.

       "I am in a similarly prepared bunker in another retired missile base near Rapid City,

South Dakota, ma'am," General Mays answered.

       "We prepared two command centers Madam President," Mark explained, "if one is lost,

the other can function. They have secure fiber optic links with backups to our own satellite

communication links between them and our field commanders. We also have a prepared bunker

for you near Lawrence, Kansas and a fallback location in a retired communications bunker in

Central Kansas."

       "Madam President, unless you have something else for us, General Mays and I have a lot

of work to do,"

       "Jay, can you think of anything else?" she asked.

       "No ma'am,"

       "General, you're free to go to work. Be careful and God be with you," she said.

       "Thank you ma'am," Landers said and the screens went blank.

       "President Brown, the next thing we have to discuss is our foreign relations. I have

someone waiting to speak to you, via secure video," Mark said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       14


        Mark hit some switches and the screen was filled with the image of the President of

Mexico.

        "Madam President," he said, "It is an honor to meet you."

        "Mr. President, thank you, this is all new and unexpected to me," she answered.

        "The government and people of Mexico welcome the Independent Coalition of Central

States to the world community. We hope over the years we will form a solid and enduring

friendship and alliance between our two nations and the people of Mexico offer the Coalition

their recognition of your new nation. We promise to honor and respect our existing borders

between your individual states and the nation of Mexico," the President said.

        "Thank you Mr. President, the Coalition will welcome your ambassador and their staff, at

your convenience, and we also promise to honor and respect our existing borders," she answered.

        "Thank you, madam President, the people of Mexico pledge not to allow any other

nation, including the United States of America, to use our territory including our airspace to gain

access to your nation and we will consider any such attempt to do so an act of war with the

nation of Mexico."

        "You have our gratitude, Mr. President, and we hope to begin a meaningful dialogues on

treaties and cooperation between our two nations in the near future, thank you again, sir," she

said.

        "Good day, Madam President, and good luck, God be with you in this monumental

endeavor," he said.

        "Thank you again, sir, and good evening to you," President Brown said. The screen went

blank. "That was fast, did I do it right?"
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       15


       "You did perfectly, Madam President," Angela said, "There are more, but they won't be

checking until tomorrow or the next day, so we have some time to take care of other issues."

       "Such as?"

       "Finances, ma'am," Aaron answered, "We have currency printed and ready for

distribution. We would like you to sign this Executive Order stating the currency of the

Coalition is the only currency recognized within Coalition borders and the citizens have 3 weeks

to exchange their US currency for Coalition currency, on a one to one basis. This will also order

all banks in the Coalition to begin using Coalition currency and using the coalition banking

system. We will have the changeover complete within the 3 weeks."

       "Out of curiosity what is our new currency called?" the Vice-President asked.

       "Coalition Dollars and the symbol we have developed is a "dollar sign" overlaid on a

capital ‘C’," Aaron said.

       "This may be one of our biggest challenges, to be honest, and for 30 days we are going to

tie our currency to the US Dollar, but after that we hope it will be traded on a few foreign

markets and we will decouple it," Mark explained, "we believe the United States economy is

doomed and heading for collapse. After Senator Adams' was killed the Dow fell all of last week

until finally putting in a slight gain on Friday. The only thing keeping it going is the US

economy is still the largest economy in the world and all the other nations aren't sure what will

happen if it fails, but they know it won't be good. By seceding, we just removed 20% of the

GDP of the US economy and it's conceivable if substantial and fundamental changes aren't made

in the immediate future, the Coalition economy will surpass it in as little as 5 years as ours grows

and theirs declines."
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          16


       At that moment, Jake came in and said, "Excuse me, but I thought you'd want to know,

the military operations have started. Communications have been successfully cut to all military

bases. Cell phone communications have been jammed for 20 mile radius around all bases and

satellite communications have been interrupted. The officers with 100 troops from the

Missouri National Guard entered Whiteman Air Force Base and the commanding officer turned

control over to the Coalition and has taken the oath of allegiance to the Coalition. The assets are

being prepared to be moved as soon as our interior bases are secured."

       "Thank you Jake," Mark said.

       "That was quick," President Brown said.

       "Yes it was, but don't be lulled into thinking it will all go like this, the operation at

Whiteman was all prepared and planned ahead of time and we had the support of the base

commanding general. It will get harder from here," Aaron explained.

       "Understood, I would, however, like to get back to some economic issues," President

Brown said, "Millions of dollars flow from the federal government into Coalition states every

day in the form of social security, Medicare, works projects, pensions, etc., etc. What is

happening to those payments, what will happen to them?"

       "For the next week, nothing, we estimate it will take 3-4 weeks before the US

Government even considers them, but at some point they will be cut off. We plan to prepare the

people for the eventuality they are going to have their payments stop through a massive public

education campaign and to prepare for the eventuality. After one week, all US payments will be

intercepted and placed in Coalition accounts and issued with Coalition dollars. Social Security

will be paid as long as practical in Coalition dollars but will eventually have to be reduced, we

believe," Mark explained, "to help us finance this, other federal payments, payments to the states,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       17


payments to farmers from CCC, welfare payments, are going to be intercepted. We plan to have

things converted to our system within 30 days and to be blunt, not all programs will be

continued. After all, the largesse of the US Government is, to a large degree, the reason the US

economy is about to collapse. This will not be easy, but for decades we've all heard the

government was wasteful and spending too much of our money. This will have to change. I

know the response to that is ‘well, duh’, but its different when the change affects your own

pocket book. We must be prepared for a lot of complaints and even outright defiance, but it has

to be done. That's why it's important to keep the military confrontation as brief as possible."

       "We're in for a tough next few of months, aren't we?" President Brown asked.

       "Yes ma'am, we are, probably a year or more, to be truthful. Our best, most optimistic

estimates show us having a 60% chance of success to make it to 6 months however, if we make it

that long, the chances go to almost 80% to grow into a successful independent nation," Angela

explained.

       "One last thing before we call it a day. We have prepared each of you an apartment.

Each has a private office. In each office there is a secure communication system and a secure

computer system. These systems are tied to the computer here in my office and contain a

complete data set on the plans we've developed and proposed. We have enacted only the most

basic and necessary steps, for instance the printing of paper currency and the coining of money

in a plant at Grand Island, Nebraska. Some things like this had to be done because they took

months to actually prepare and we knew we wouldn't have months. Some military plans had to

be prepared and staged or it could have taken weeks to get them to a point they could be

executed." Mark explained, "Other plans have had minimum actual preparation, like the

proposed Coalition health care plan. I suggest you both retire to your apartments for tonight.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       18


We have the best security here and you will be safe. In addition, we have a helicopter on the

roof to move both of you to our secure bunker near Lawrence, or deeper into central Kansas if it

becomes necessary. Only the five of us, Mr. Shear, my security chief Tony, and your two

commanding generals, and I know the locations of these bunkers, but for now, you can feel safe

being here at the Ivory Tower and are welcome as the temporary Presidential and Vice

Presidential residence. At your convenience, I urge you to examine the plans we've developed,

make notes on questions, suggestions, or problems you have with them. Over the next few days,

we will put some meat on the bones of what we have started and, God willing, be able to defend

ourselves against any outside aggression

       Now, if you have no questions, Tony, would you show the President, Vice President and

their families to their apartments?"

       "Yes sir," Tony answered, "Madam President, Mr. Vice-President, if you'll follow me

we'll collect your families and you can get some rest."

       When the new President and Vice-President had left the office, Angela said "President

Brown is a very impressive woman. I would put her poise and ability to think on her feet up

with any US President I've ever met."

       "I agree," Aaron said, "I'd only met her once prior to today and my impression then was

very favorable, but she handled the reporters extremely well, although I was glad when she got

off the stage, it was a lot to ask of her with almost no advance warning."

       "I think we've done as much pre-planning as possible, given the time constraints we've

been put under, but I think in long term, I always have, and we've done very little to plan for just

how we get recognized as a nation with the US Government," Mark said, "I think it's a given the

US will try to embargo the Coalition. Once our military situation is secure, we need to begin
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         19


cutting the transportation routes, preferably by the end of the week. That means destroying or

blockading roads and rail routes, as well as giving notice we will enforce our airspace. This is

how we gain leverage over the Eastern US. Cut their fuel, coal, shipment of goods, and food

until they say ‘Uncle’. Assuming that works, what then?"

       "I've also been thinking about that, Mark, and all it takes is the acceptance of our

emissary by the President to recognize us as a nation. The US Constitution leaves that in the

hands of the President. Our Constitution is different slightly. It's still the President's place to

accept and recognize emissaries, but before any country can legally be recognized as a sovereign

nation for longer than one year, the President has to recommend it and the Senate has to agree by

a simple majority," Angela said, "of course, this makes something we've really not even been

concerned with very important to us. Who will be the next President of the United States? I have

some thoughts on that."

       "What thoughts are those, Angie," Aaron asked.

       Angela smiled and said, "In the election last Tuesday, although it was illegally voided by

President Collins, the Libertarian Party candidates, Mr. Virgil ‘Virg’ Romero and Ms. Helena

Russell-Mize received just over 15%. In the confusion and aftermath of the suspended elections,

this fact was overlooked by the media but it was, really, remarkable. With almost no money and

no real campaign strategy, they got four times as many votes as the Party got in the last election.

We can assume the same two people will run in the elections in February.”

       “The Libertarian Party is dedicated to the literal interpretation of the Constitution. They

believe in smaller government, less intrusion, and letting people alone. What they've never had,

and never will have if left to the Republican and Democratic parties, are the funds and methods

to get their message out there. Of course, even if they gain the White House it will mean 4 years
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       20


of getting absolutely nothing done because both the House and the Senate will finally become

bipartisan in their efforts to destroy the Libertarian White House. Make no mistake, they can and

will destroy it. Judges will never be approved after appointment. It may take two years to get

cabinet members approved through the Senate. The American public will see the Libertarian

party as weak and ineffective and they will be done, but not before they can help us a great deal.”

        “I propose we do two things. First, send a representative to the candidates. Convince

them what the Coalition is doing is legal, right, and allowed under the Constitution, if they don't

already believe it themselves. Once we're certain we can count on them to uphold the

Constitution of the United States, we help them. We hire political consultants to work up ad

campaigns. We run public service ads extolling the virtues of the Libertarian party in print,

television, and especially radio. We fund them, guide them, and get them elected.”

        “I ran some quick numbers and we're looking at an 11 week ad campaign but since we

can't really do anything for at least 10 days, it's more like a 9 week campaign. The cost will

range from $6-$10 million per week, since we're really only pushing the Presidential ticket and

no legislative battles.”

        “The money can be funneled to them in direct campaign contributions by sending it in the

names of employees of those of us in the group. That alone is almost 53,000 employees and

even at $100 each makes $5.3 million. The maximum any individual can donate to a candidate

is $2,300 so that's $122 million. We can also donate to PACs, up to $65,500, and we can set the

PAC up to flood the market with "VOTE LIBERTARIAN" ads. We could easily generate and

get funneled in the necessary money to make this work, assuming the candidates themselves

aren't blithering idiots. I know Mr. Romero but I do not know Ms. Mize. I can tell you Mr.

Romero is a successful businessman from Salt Lake City and he is anything but an idiot. In fact,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         21


had he been invited to the debates this year, given the performances I saw, he would have

mopped the stage with the other candidates.”

       “As an aside, if we can help get them elected, it will remove a lot of the old corruption

from the White House and while I don't think they can save the economy, they would provide a

solid Constitutional base to rebuild it after the crash."

       "Do we know where the two candidates are at, and what their plans are?" Mark asked.

       "Not for sure, Mark," Angela said, “but Romero lives in Salt Lake City and Mize is from

Huntsville, Alabama, so that's probably where they're at, but I can certainly find out."

       "So, find out where Romero is and tell me when I leave," Aaron said.

       "Aren't you the eager beaver?" Mark laughed.

       "Mark, this is the end-game. Without recognition from the United States, we are doomed

to fail in the long run and, from what General Landers has told us, our ‘long run’ is no more than

6 months. That means this election, or never,” Aaron said.

       "Time and again the Congress has tried to stick their nose in the diplomacy of the United

States and time and again it's been cut off their face," Angela said, "this is the job of the

President and Aaron is right, it is the end game."

       "So, when do I leave?" Aaron asked again, "Because, if I don't get there, and back,

before our borders are closed, we may have an issue of traveling unnoticed. For the next week or

so I can sneak in and out, I would think, but after that it's going to get tough."

       "I think," Mark said, "you need to be here tomorrow. Angela can find out the locations of

the candidates and perhaps set up a meeting. We'll plan on you leaving Thursday. Angela,

sound good to you?"

       "Yes, we need to get on this, and we need to get on it now," She agreed.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       22


                                                 Chapter 2

        It was approaching midnight when Mark's intercom chimed, "Yes Jake,"

        "Mr. Daniels, General Landers is on the phone with an update for you," Jake said.

        "OK, put him through, but call President Brown's apartment, I'm sure she's still up, and

put her on the call as well, I'll put it on screen in here," Mark said.

        "Yes sir, here's the General, and I'll get President Brown on the line," Jake said and

transferred the call.

        "General, I'm going to put you on the screen here and in just a moment, President Brown

will join us in the call from her room," Mark said, as he switched to the monitor and the General

appeared on the screen.

        "Hello?" they heard the President join the conversation.

        "Madam President, I have General Landers on the line," Mark said.

        "Madam President, so far our plans have gone well. Not perfect, but well. Whiteman

was captured with a minimum number of casualties. Two US Soldiers were killed defending the

weapons armory and nuclear weapons bunkers; several were injured but are being treated at

Whiteman's medical facility. Even though the Commander allied with us, these two individuals

would not stand down from their posts and opened fire. Others joined in and that's where the

casualties and injuries came from," the General began.

        “Many on the base didn't even realize there was a change in command. The B-2 Spirit

bombers were flown with a fighter wing to Salina Municipal Airport in Salina Kansas, an old

WWII bomber base with one of the largest runways and ramps in the United States. The

Commanding officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota refused to relinquish his

command. I ordered his arrest and as he resisted opening fire with a sidearm, killing two of our
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      23


men before he himself was killed. We arrested his Vice Commander and replaced them with one

of our Generals as commander, and a colonel as vice commander. We are now sorting through

the officers and enlisted men, finding out which ones are willing to come to our side, but it could

take a few days to do. We do have control of the base at this time and when we have sufficient

manpower on site, we'll begin moving the B2's up to Ellsworth to consolidate them with the B1

Lancers already there.”

         “For the most part, our operations have gone as planned. There was more and heavier

fighting at Ellsworth than expected, but almost none except at the armory and munitions depots

at Whiteman."

         "General, have you begun operations against Lackland, Schriever, or Offutt yet," Mark

asked.

         "All three of those bases are isolated. Mr. Allister's people did an exceptional job. We

know that the personnel at the base are also good at their jobs and they are attempting to restore

communications as we speak. We have the bulk of Lackland secured but have not gained access

to the command bunkers. There was some fighting there, but I have no casualty reports as yet.

We expect to gain entry into the command bunker before dawn.”

         “We were very fortunate at Offutt. There was a crew of 18 of Mr. Allister's men inside

the primary command bunker and they were just going in when we received the orders from the

President. They were instructed to disable the exterior locks on two doors, which they did, and

then shut down the security and communications intranet on the base. We gained control of the

command bunker before we even had control of the armory or any other part of the base.

We are engaged in sporadic external fire fights, but they are very limited. The normal roving

guards carry a very limited amount of ammunition and we have them outgunned. We try to
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        24


isolate them, run them out of ammunition, and then move in to capture them. This has worked

well with minimum casualties on both sides.”

       “We attempted the same strategy at Schriever, but were unsuccessful at gaining easy

entry. We then put specialists in place to cut the cables going to the uplink and downlink dishes

carrying the information in and out of the bunker, to completely isolate their communications.

This took some time as some of the dishes are located miles from the bunker. We did achieve

our goal, but we are certain the bunker did get word to Washington they were under attack and

may be compromised before all satellite communications were cut. We have gained access to

the command and control bunker at JFCC and are in the process of clearing it of personnel at this

time. It will take some time to do this because some specialists, even though loyal to the US

Government are going to have to be retained to monitor the US early warning missile launch

detection system in case the Chinese or Russians attempt to take advantage of what's going on

over here and launch a first strike. We don't believe that to be likely, but it is possible. Schriever

is under our control, it is a smaller base in size, and we are in the process now of securing

Petersen. We have assistance there as the commander of Petersen has allied with the Coalition.”

       “We have control of Fort Riley in KS, as their entire command staff served with me and

when the operation started, they secured their own weapons lockers with trusted officers and

enlisted personnel although we do have a small contingent of Kansas National Guard there to

assist in the control of those choosing to remain with the US Government.”

       “The rest of our primary bases are in process and I won't have much to report on them

until sometime after 0500 or later when I get reports from the field commanders. All of our

targeted munitions supply depots and factories are under our control. They were lightly guarded

and we moved in quickly. At the present time, our people are finishing loading the last of the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       25


munitions at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant and equipment on trucks furnished by Mrs.

Conyers and will be moved to Fort Riley, for the time being. When we have everything of value

out of the facility, it will be disabled requiring at least 6 months for repair.”

        “We have several wings of Air Guard F16's flying our borders constantly at the current

time. We will not challenge any commercial air traffic, in fact we are avoiding it, but we will

challenge and turn back any unauthorized military traffic and if they refuse to turn back, we lock

on weapons. So far, that's all we've had to do and we've been able to get them to turn back but at

some point we will have to fire on US Military aircraft.”

        “Loss of life so far has been minimal, but that is going to change at some point, and

probably sooner rather than later."

        "What about the oil facilities?" the President asked.

        "I'm impressed with Mr. DeSoto's force. I had a chance to inspect them at their base in

the Vinton, Louisiana area last week. When I heard he had 5,000 Mexican military deserters my

first thought was of an undisciplined disaster. I couldn't have been more wrong.”

        “He was personal friends with two Mexican Colonels. He had them each pick 5

Lieutenants they respected and trusted. Each of those picked 5 Captains. Each Captain picked 5

Sergeants, three of those happened to be the equivalent of our Master Sergeants, and each

Sergeant picked a minimum of 18 and a maximum of 25 enlisted personnel to serve under them.

The average number was 23. His force now consists of 5,748 enlisted men below the rank of

sergeant, 250 sergeants, and 62 officers. All of them are well trained and disciplined. He is

paying them 2/3 of the normal US military rate for their rank, still almost twice what they were

being paid in Mexico with the promise of a fast track to citizenship in the Coalition after three

years of service and successfully passing the Coalition citizenship tests. I was impressed.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      26


        “I was concerned this many desertions would be noticed by the Mexican government and

cause us issues with them, something we cannot afford, but the Colonel accompanying me on

inspection assured me the only unusually high number was among the Sergeants, and even that

wasn't very far out of the norm.”

        “These troops have been put under one of our field Generals to command and we are in

the process of supporting them with Patriot and Sidewinder Missile Batteries. We are also

moving light and heavy armor into place in the Louisiana locations since we believe our first real

test will be."

        "Is there anything else, General," President Brown asked?

        "No ma'am, not at this time. I'll report back 0700 with an update, unless something needs

addressed before then."

        "Thank you General. You have our thanks and sympathies for those that have given their

lives, on both sides. I suggest we all pray tonight for as few casualties as possible. God bless

you and your brave people, General," the President said.

        "Thank you madam President and I'll relay your wishes to the troops," General Landers

said and the screen went blank.

        "Mr. Daniels, if anything happens you feel needs my attention, please send someone to

get me and we'll address it in your office rather than in my quarters," she said.

        "Of course madam President, we'll be here all night and will come immediately if you're

needed, good night, madam President, please try and get some rest," Mark said.

        "I will, and thank you. In fact, thank all of you. Good night," she said,

        "Mark, can I borrow Tony for a couple of hours," Aaron asked?

        "Sure, what for," Mark answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         27


       "I need a ride to get my plane up here. If I'm going into Salt Lake, I can do it a lot less

conspicuously with the Twin Comanche than having Tony take me in one of the jets. We still

need to discuss and clear this with the President, but if she says ‘go’, I want to be ready to go

before the airspace and roads are closed," Aaron said.

       "You're not too tired?"

       "I have enough adrenaline in me to keep me going for another 3 days but when I crash,

I'm going to crash hard, so I need to make the most of it while I have it," Aaron said.

       "Tony, looks like you're taking Aaron to Oklahoma," Mark said.

       It took them less than an hour to make the trip from Kansas City to Alva. Aaron had left

the Twin Comanche full of fuel so he did a quick pre-flight in the hangar then he and Tony

pulled it out. Before Aaron locked up, he took the second handgun out of his safe and stowed it

in a side pocket of the aircraft while Tony watched.

       "You don't approve, Tony," Aaron asked.

       "On the contrary, sir, it should have been there all along," he said.

       Aaron took off ahead of Tony in the Citation, and he still beat Aaron back by over an

hour, but he was waiting at the downtown airport for him as he taxied in. By the time they got

back to the Ivory Tower, it was almost 5:00 am and Mark was still at his desk.

       "Don't you think you'd better get some sleep," Aaron asked?

       "Look who's talking," Mark responded, "I think I’ll take a nap on the couch for an hour or

so, I suggest you do the same, it could be a long day."

       "I was thinking the same thing," Aaron said.

       Jake was still at his desk and Aaron asked him "aren't you going to get some rest?"

       "I just got up, sir, I slept for 3 hours in Mr. Daniels' outer office," Jake said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                               28


        "I believe I'll take my turn, come get me if I'm needed," Aaron said.

        "Will do, sir," Jake answered as he followed him into the room, "you might be more

comfortable with these," Jake said as he pulled a pillow and blanket out of a closet and laid them

on the couch.

        "Thanks, remember, come get me if something happens," Aaron said as Jake walked out

the door. Aaron was asleep in less than a minute.

                 **************************************

        "Mr. President, thank you for seeing me so quickly, I have news you need to hear

immediately," Admiral Torrin said.

        “What is it, Admiral, what is so important you need to barge in like this at 9:00 pm,”

President Collins asked?

        “Sir, we have lost all communications with all of the bases in the territory of the seceded

states. Additionally, the only communications we have with our remaining bases is satellite

transmission and it is spotty at best,” Admiral Torrin explained.

        “How can this even happen? We have backups for backups for backups,” Collins asked,

amazed.

        “We don’t know sir, all we know is it has happened,” Torrin said. Just then, the

Admiral’s cell phone rang and he answered, “Hello.....................That can’t be................No, get it

back, and I mean get it back now.”

        “Sir,” the Admiral said, “we just lost all satellite feeds and control over our military

satellites. We received a brief message from Schriever Air Force, our primary base for satellite

control, just before the satellites went dead saying, ‘We have been compromised, repeat, we have

been compromised....’ and the message ended.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       29


       “Are you telling me Colorado has declared war on the United States of America,” Collins

asked, amazed.

       “Not necessarily, sir, they may just be evicting us,” the Admiral answered, “telling us to

get out and not come back, but it may amount to the same thing. What we call it doesn’t matter

as much as what it’s done to us. The base controls the satellites and communication providing

85% of our ballistic missile launch detection and early warning. Right now, if the Russians or

Chinese launched a surprise strike, we probably wouldn’t know about it until the first bombs

began hitting.”

       “OK, back up a minute, you said we’ve lost communications with all of our bases, how

about to our commanders in the field in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan?”

       “So far, sir, those appear to be uninterrupted, it’s just our communications structure here

in the continental United States, for the most part, although it is also mucked up to a degree in

other areas.”

       “Have there been any reports of attacks on the bases in the Midwest?”

       “No sir, none at all, but they seemed to have killed nearly all communications in the

territory of the seceded states, at least official communications lines.”

       “What about regular TV and Radio, are they reporting anything?”

       “No sir, not yet.”

       “Admiral, what time did this happen?”

       “We began losing communications with the bases in the seceded states’ territories at

shortly after 1700, sir, starting in Texas and working north for the next 20 minutes. We lost the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       30


satellite feeds at Schriever at 1810 and we’re still losing communications to more and more areas

in the rest of the country as we speak.”

       “So what’s been happening for the last 3 hours? Why did it take you so long to notify

me?”

       “Sir, we’ve been trying to restore communications, at first we thought it was an

equipment failure causing a cascade effect but when we lost Schriever, we knew it was

something more, but still not sure it was anything to do with the seceded states, especially when

we started to lose communication outside that area. We just didn’t know enough to report to you

until now.” Torrin explained

       “We think one of two things is going on. Either the bases are under attack and they are

attempting to capture them or they are just trying to cause chaos and confusion by killing our

communications.”

       “So which is it? Are the bases under attack,” President Collins demanded to know.

       “No sir, we don’t believe so. They don’t have the equipment or manpower to mount any

kind of an assault on the bases that could amount to anything. We feel they are trying to wreck

communications so their people and the rest of the nation won’t realize how big a mistake

they’ve made. The states can’t survive on their own and they know it, but they want to control

this ‘temper tantrum’ as long as possible.”

       “Can’t someone just go over to some of the bases and look? We have FBI and Secret

Service Offices all over the country, can’t we just have some agents drive out to some of the

bases and report back?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        31


       “Yes sir we can, if we can contact them, but at the current time, since we lost Schriever,

we are having difficulty reaching anyone in the seceded states’ territory, through any means.

Land lines, cell phones, radios, everything seems to be having difficulty the closer you get to the

borders of those states. The closest military base we could get in contact with was Fort Knox,

Kentucky, and we have sent people to find out what’s going on, but it will be almost 11 hours

before they make it back to report.”

       “What about aircraft, can’t we fly over and look?”

       “Sir, we tried to get into Whiteman Air Force Base with an F16 and it was turned back by

Missouri Air Guard Fighters. They ordered our plane to turn around and when it didn’t

immediately comply, the Guard Fighters locked weapons on our plane. Our aircraft was nearly

unarmed at the time and the Guard fighters fully armed, so the pilot returned after barely entering

the airspace over Missouri.”

       “We have to know what’s going on over there. I want you to send some fully armed

fighters into the seceded states and have them find out what’s happening.”

       “Yes sir, but it will have to wait until morning sir, so they can actually see the bases.

What if there are more Guard aircraft ordering them away?”

       “Do not fire unless fired upon, but tell our pilots they are not to turn around, we need that

information,” the President ordered.

       “Yes sir, I understand, we’ll get them in the air as soon as possible.”




       “Mr. Shear, it’s almost 7:00 am.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        32


          Aaron woke to Tony shaking him awake and announcing the time. “OK mom, I’m up,”

Aaron said as he sat up on the couch, “any news yet?”

          “No sir, but the General is due to report in about ten minutes, I thought you’d want to be

there.”

          “Yes, I do, thanks,” Aaron said, “Tony, I have a favor to ask.”

          “Anything I can do, sir, you know that,” Tony said.

          “I’d like you to get a weapon for Nichole, something small enough for her purse, but with

enough power to be useful, maybe a compact 9mm, and see to it she gets it. Can you do that?”

          “Pardon me for asking, sir, but does she know how to use it?”

          “She’s mostly Cherokee, Tony, the question is will she use it on me for not filling her in

on all this when I see her? Yes, she knows how to use it, but if you could, take her out and let

her fire it a few times because it’s been awhile for her, but she’s familiar with handguns and

shotguns,” Aaron said.

          Up until a few years ago Nichole normally took along her grandpa’s old 1873 Colt

Revolver for coyotes, rattlesnakes, and bobcats, but when the local sporting goods stores quit

carrying the .45 Long Colt ammunition she quit carrying it. She wasn’t a marksman, neither was

Aaron, but she did know how to safely handle a weapon. They had talked about getting her a .38

or 9mm, but never did. After all, nothing ever happened at the farm at Alva, Oklahoma.

          “I’ll take care of it for you, sir, at my first opportunity,” Tony said.

          “Thanks, now we better get in to Mark’s office.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     33


       When they walked in the President, Vice-President, Mark, and Bill were already there.

Aaron sat down at the conference table and Jake came in with a pot of hot coffee and some large

mugs. Aaron poured himself a cup, and offered Tony one, then poured it as well. Aaron sat

looking at his cup, thinking he and Adam would never again sit on the deck, or in the shop, and

talk over a cup of coffee.

       “Aaron, are you with us,” Mark asked?

       Aaron looked up and saw everyone in the room looking at him. “Yes, I was just thinking,

sorry I let my attention wander.”

       “Thinking, about Adam?” Mark asked.

         Aaron nodded yes.

       “Am I missing something?” President Brown asked.

       “Yes ma’am, after a fashion. Before we even seceded, we suffered some casualties,

among them a neighbor of Aaron’s, Adam Ritchie, and one of Adam’s two sons. Murdered by

assassins sent from the White House, although we doubt the President had any actual knowledge

of the operation. They were trying to get to Aaron’s wife and his neighbor got in the way. Our

security killed them before Aaron’s wife could be harmed. Aaron was very close to his neighbor

and Adam used to bring Aaron coffee most every morning,” Tony explained.

       “Mr. Shear, you have my deepest sympathies, and thanks for what you’ve done. I

suspect many similar incidents have occurred I don’t know about, perhaps never will. If we’re

successful it will be because of sacrifices like your friends’,” President Brown told Aaron. There

was no doubt of the sincerity in her voice.

       Jake stepped in and said, “General Landers is on the line,” and immediately left the room.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        34


Mark brought the General on the screen and President Brown said, “General, good morning,

what can you tell us?”

        “Madam President, I’ll keep this as short as possible as we have a lot going on here, as

you can imagine,” General Landers began, “I’ll try to keep this in very broad strokes but if you

want more details about any particular facet, just ask and I’ll do the best I can. Remember, the

field commanders make the on-site decisions and I trust their judgment so in many cases, I don’t

have every detail, but I do have the updates and our status as of the moment.”

        “Whiteman Air Force Base has been cleaned of everything we can practically take, the

rest has been destroyed. When the US forces get there they’re going to find a scrap yard. Other

than the pilots ordered to fly the planes out, the rest of the non-critical personnel were given a

choice of swearing an oath of allegiance to the coalition or if enlisted, they were sent on foot out

of the base. The ones choosing to join us were shipped with their families, if any, and are on

their way to the bases they need to be to perform their job. The officers choosing to remain

allied to the US Government ranked Major and above have been detained and are in custody.”

        “The Iowa ammunition plant was stripped clean, completed munitions and raw materials

shipped out by truck, as much as practical, and the facilities damaged to the point it will take at

least a year to repair.”

        “All of our major targets have been captured, some with minor damage, some more

severe. Fort Riley, in KS, was taken virtually intact with, among other assets, 38 Blackhawk

helicopters. McConnell AFB in Wichita, KS, was also taken nearly intact, important to us

because of it’s capability for repairs and the aerial refueling capacity it offers.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       35


         “Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City was a difficult battle, but we now control it and the B1’s

based there. One was shot down shortly after an attempted takeoff to escape, the other was being

armed when we began to take the base and something went wrong in the confusion, causing it to

explode and be destroyed. There were over 40 casualties at Ellsworth of US service people,

including the flight crew of the B-1 we had to shoot down. We suffered 12 casualties in the

capture of the base.”

         “Schriever in Colorado took most of the night and we just a few minutes ago received

word the command bunker was under coalition control. We are currently repairing the damage

we had to do to the uplink and downlink facilities to get if functional again. Mr. Allister’s

people have been invaluable to us. We were hoping for more of the people there to come over to

the Coalition, but there have been very few. We are going to have to convince some of them to

stay and work with us, because of their expertise in certain areas, to help monitor the early

defense networks, but I believe we’ll be successful in that since it’s protecting both us and the

rest of the United States and it benefits both of us.”

         “Lackland did not go as well as we’d hoped. We managed to secure the armory and

weapons lockers, but one of our command staff was killed trying to relieve the base commander.

We now have control of the base as well as control of JIOWC, but it cost us and the US military

dearly. Total casualties were at least 90 on the US Military side and 103 Coalition soldiers were

lost.”

         “Mr. Ortega’s troops have now been reinforced with command officers and missile

batteries. Combat engineers are placing the equipment they need to destroy the facilities if they

are overrun and need to retreat. They are currently fortifying their positions. “
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         36


        “Our objectives throughout the day will be to capture Fort Bliss and Fort Hood as well as

securing the rest of the ammunition and supply depots and gaining control of as many US

military facilities as possible. Our goal by this time tomorrow morning is to control all of the our

main targets completely, have control of 80% or more of the rest of the military bases, and step

up our patrols and enforcement of our airspace. Starting tomorrow, we will begin re-deploying

our assets to their planned positions to defend our territory and sending to detention centers the

officers that will not swear an oath of allegiance to the coalition to the prepared camps where

they will stay until the hostilities are ended and the US Government recognizes the coalition as a

nation.”

        “Please bear in mind we are in an ongoing operation covering 1.3 million square miles so

our casualty totals are in constant state of adjustment. The coalition has lost, as near as we can

determine, 310 enlisted and 18 officers, the US Military has lost approximately 500 enlisted and

45 officers. These totals will go up, ladies and gentlemen, and as I mentioned, there will be more

blood spilled, regretfully. In this case, it’s especially difficult for me as these are men and

women that I would have given my life for just a few months ago and now I’m giving orders to

kill if necessary.”

        “We understand your heartbreak, General; these are our brothers and sisters as well. We

know you’re doing everything in your power to minimize the casualties on both sides and we

also realize there is only so much you can do,” President Brown said, “is there anything else you

feel you need to report, or questions you have of us?”

        “No ma’am, but, I beg of all of you, make it worthwhile. Don’t break our hearts by

stabbing us in the back. Make this worth the blood and sacrifice.”

        “We’ll do our best, General, you have my word,” President Brown responded solemnly.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      37


       The screen went blank and President Brown turned to those at the table and said,”You

heard the General. Let’s not betray his trust. Now, Mr. Daniels, what’s next on the agenda.”

       “I’d like to address that, madam President, if I might,” Angela said.

       “Ms. Basgall, you have the floor.”

       “Our goal is simply to be left alone by the US Government and allow the citizens of our

states determine their own futures,” Angela began, “to accomplish this end we need two things to

happen. First, we need to end the hostilities between the coalition and the United States.

Second, we need the United States to recognize us as a sovereign nation. When those two things

happen, we can begin to build a nation the founding fathers would be proud of.”

       “Both of these goals can only be achieved through the President of the United States.

Being the Commander in Chief, he will be the one to order the end to hostilities. He is also the

only entity empowered by the Constitution to recognize a nation by accepting their emissary If

the President welcomes an emissary, or ambassador, and recognizes that emissary as

representing a nation, then that nation is recognized and the rest of the world will follow. That’s

one reason one of the items we must get done today is for you to select for us an ambassador to

Mexico. Once that ambassador is recognized by the Mexican government the world will be put

on notice that Mexico recognizes the Coalition as a nation and others may follow. Some of them

we may not want to join, like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but for the time being, we’re going to

have to ally as much support as we can among other nations even if we have to temporarily hold

our noses while we do it.”

       “Now given those circumstances, it is crucial to us we have a President of the US elected

sympathetic to our cause.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       38


       “But we don’t know who the Democratic nominee will be, and I doubt Harcourt will be

allowed to run if he’s still in jail,” President Brown said.

       “Madam President, you’re correct, we don’t know that. But we do have a very good idea

who else is running on the Libertarian ticket,” Angela responded, “I know what you’re thinking,

but please, hear me out. In the election just held, the Libertarian Party captured almost 16% of

the votes cast. That is truly remarkable as they have never gotten more than 4% in any previous

election. Granted, some of that was because people who would have voted for Adams couldn’t

bring themselves to vote for Harcourt, so they selected someone they had at least heard of before,

the Libertarians.”

       “The Democrats and Republicans collectively spent over $1.2 Billion dollars in the last

campaign. That’s more than $4 for every man, woman and child in the US. The Democrats in

the ‘08 election spent $11 for every vote they received. Even with the skewed totals of this

suspended election and the Republicans getting 70% of the vote, it still cost them $7 for every

vote they received. The Libertarians spent $1.4 million dollars, total, and got 16 million votes.

9 cents per vote they received. That tells us a couple of things, there is a lot more sentiment out

there for the Libertarians than the media would have you believe and they also have a chance in

the coming elections.”

       “I’ve met Mr. Romero, their Presidential candidate. He’s well spoken, educated,

intelligent, and most important, a staunch supporter of the US Constitution, it also doesn’t hurt

he’s 52 years old and quite handsome, he looks good on camera. If we can convince him what

we are doing is in no way against the US Constitution, and if he’s elected he would agree to

recognize us and end hostilities, we could throw our support behind him, money, people, experts,

ad campaigns, whatever they need.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        39


         “Very few people know there is a Libertarian party, really, and fewer still knew their

candidates. There is less than 3 months before the election so the money outlay would be

minimal, at least by Presidential campaign standards. Both the Democratic and Republican

coffers are empty and nearly as bankrupt as the country. We have an opportunity to do two very

good things here. First, end the hostilities and get recognized and second, at least get the US

Government back on a Constitutional footing after its house of cards collapses around it.”

         “This won’t be easy. None of this is. But it is our belief this might be our only real

hope.”

         “Do you honestly think that just with money you can bring the Libertarian Party into the

mainstream?” President Brown asked.?

         “No ma’am, we don’t,” Aaron answered, “we’ll offer more than money. We have access

to the best political minds in the country, the best ad agencies delivering the best campaigns, the

best people to work the phones, the best people to poll and interpret the results. That is what the

Libertarians have been lacking, and we can provide.”


         “How do we know where Mr. Romero stands on our situation?” The President asked.

         “We don’t, ma’am, that’s why I would like your permission to fly to Salt Lake City and

talk to him and see if we can come to an understanding,” Aaron said.

         “If anyone can bring him around to helping us, madam President, Aaron can and it costs

us almost nothing to have him try,” Mark said.


         “When would you leave?”

         “I’m ready to go right now.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        40


       “Well, then Mr. Shear, I suggest you pack a bag and head west. Let’s find out where Mr.

Romero stands and if he’s someone we can support,” the President said.

       “Yes ma’am,” Aaron said, “Angie, can I have a word with you outside for a moment

before I leave?”

       Aaron and Angie stepped into Mark’s outer office and Aaron said, “I’d like to take some

kind of letter with me from the President for Mr. Romero, a letter of introduction if you will.

Have you been able to actually find him, or better yet, find him and arrange an appointment?”

       “He is at home in Salt Lake City. By the time you get there, we’ll have an appointment

arranged for you and we’ll call with instructions. I’ll prepare a letter right now and take it to the

President for her approval. When will you be ready to leave?”

       “15 minutes, tops, as soon as Tony can have someone take me to the airport.”

       “I’ll prepare the letter and I’ll have Tony come out and arrange you some transportation,”

       Aaron waited by Jake’s desk and he realized even though at the moment, Mark’s office

was the office of the President of a new nation, business as usual still went on. Jake was

answering phones and questions, directing calls, and doing his normal day to day business. Tony

came out of the office and came over to Aaron.

        “Mr. Shear, Ms. Basgall asked me to give you this.” Tony said as he handed over a

sealed envelope, “If you’re ready to go, I’ll take you to the airport.”

       “You can have one of your people take me, Tony, I know you’re busy,” Aaron said.

       “Not a chance, sir, I need to get out of here for a little while,” Tony said and led him to

the elevator. On the way down, he said, “I took care of the task you gave me for Mrs. Shear, I’m
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       41


planning to go to Mr. Daniels’ estate this afternoon and give it to her and we’ll take it out back

and make sure she’s comfortable with it.”

       “Thanks Tony, I appreciate it. If you would, one last favor, try to talk Nichole in to not

killing me when I get back to see her.”

       Tony laughed and said, “I’ll do my best, sir, but I’m only one man.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      42




                                               Chapter 2

       15 minutes later Aaron was in the air heading west on his way to Salt Lake City and after

a fuel stop in Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, he touched down at Salt Lake 6 hours later. It was

interesting as he was waiting for the Twin Comanche to be fueled listening to the airport bums

talk about the previous day’s events. A couple of them weren’t happy with the Coalition, but

most thought it was long overdue that someone stood up and ‘told the Government to shove it’.

He was also surprised things were pretty much going on as normal, perhaps people really hadn’t

grasped the gravity of the situation.

       At the airport at Salt Lake Aaron noticed much the same attitude. A few were saying

they wished their governor had the guts to do that, others said the states that were seceded had

idiots for governors. Aaron sent a text to Mark simply:

       “?”

       Within a minute, Mark called him back, “You made decent time did you stop for fuel?”

       “Yeah, in Scotts Bluff, but the wind Gods were with me. If it’s not too much trouble,

could you tell me where I’m going and when I should be there?”

       “Where are you now?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        43


         “I came into Skypark, East of Salt Lake in a suburb called Woods Cross?”

         “Good, you’re close, it’s about 1:00 there. You have a meeting with Mr. Romero at his

ranch at 2:30. He’s not far from you, 1330 Twin Oaks Drive on the border of the Wasatch

National Forest, should only be about 20 minutes or less, you’ll have a chance to grab some

food.”

         “1330 Twin Oaks Drive, got it. I’ll be there. I’ll call you back when I’m ready to leave.”

Aaron said, “Any news since I left?”

         “No, things are progressing, that’s all I can really say right now. At least we’re not

totally screwed yet,”

         “OK, talk to you in a couple of hours,” Aaron said and the line went dead.

         At 2:30 exactly Aaron pulled up to a gate in front of a large fenced in yard. The gate

opened for him electrically and he drove through, closing behind him in the rear view mirror.

Mr. Romero had a nice place, nothing like Mark’s, or Bill’s, but nice. His home was large, but

not a mansion. There was a barn out back with a couple of horses grazing.

         Aaron parked the rental car and went to the door. As he started to push the button, the

door opened and a man said “Mr. Shear?”

         Aaron nodded “yes”.

         “Mr. Romero is expecting you. If you don’t mind, I need to pat you down.”

         “I’ll save you some time. I carry a Glock 9mm on my right ankle.” Aaron said.

         The man took the weapon and finished a quick pat down, then said “you’ll get this back

on your way out sir.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          44


        He led Aaron to a study in the back of the house where Virgil Romero was waiting for

him. It was cold outside and there was a fire burning in the fireplace. The room was very

comfortable with shelves full of books and large, overstuffed leather chairs. This was Mr.

Romero’s escape room, the place he went to relax.

        Virg Romero was a wealthy man. He had a large construction company that had done

very well for him. He was known in the Salt Lake City area as a very generous and shrewd

businessman. That he accepted and ran for the President’s office on the Libertarian ticket still

baffled his friends.

        He was tall, handsome, and well-spoken. His voice was deep and strong and with his

looks would make an imposing figure on television.

        “Mr. Romero, I’m Aaron Shear, and I’m pleased to meet you, and thank you for seeing

me on such short notice.”

        “Mr. Shear, I have no idea why you’re here but if Angela Basgall calls and says I should

take some time to listen to you, I’ll take the time to listen.”

        “I appreciate your time, sir, and I’ll try to keep this as brief as I can. To start with, I have

one question to ask of you. Do you feel the states that seceded yesterday have that right under

the Constitution of the United States?”

        Virgil looked at him oddly and thought carefully before he answered, “Mr. Shear, I

believe the states and citizens should be able to do whatever they want unless it harms others or

is in violation of the Constitution. Until yesterday, I confess I hadn’t really thought about it

much so I read up on it last night after watching the announcement on the news and came to the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          45


opinion that yes, since it is not prohibited in the Constitution then it is a proper, although drastic,

response to an over-bearing government.”

       “So if you were President of the United States, and a state or group of states would

secede, what would be your response?”

       Mr. Romero thought for a moment and then said, “Circumstances might change this

answer, but realistically I would meet with the governor or governors and try to address their

grievances. Not saying I’d cave into them, but find out why they did what they did. In many

cases, I’d wager I’m just as opposed to government activities as they are and that’s one reason

I’m a Libertarian. However, if they continued to persist in demanding their independence, of

course all federal aid would stop, as would all trade for goods and services.”

       “Why do you say that, sir?”

       “Because, Mr. Shear, at that point I would not know if they were friend, or foe. I would

not know who they were allied with. I would not know if their domestic policy was one the

United States could or would support.” For instance, I would not automatically recognize and

accept an ambassador from a state with a despot ruler that modeled itself after Fidel Castro, nor

would I send aid or trade with a leader like that.”

       “I understand, sir, thanks for clarifying.”

       “So, Mr. Shear, why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”

       “First, I’ve brought you a letter I’d like you to read,” Aaron said, handing him the sealed

envelope.

       Romero raised an eyebrow and took the envelope, “Well, at least it’s not a dead fish

wrapped in one of my vests,” he said smiling.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       46


       Aaron, laughing, said, “No sir, but I’m supposed to keep you here while ‘the boys’ get

that horses head in your bed.”

       Romero opened the letter and read:


       Mr. Romero,

       Thank you for taking the time to see my representative, Mr. Aaron Shear. I think you’ll

find him an intelligent and honest man. I have, and that’s why I have authorized him to speak

for me. What he says or agrees to, you can be assured I will support.

       My name is Marjorie Galashaw-Brown. Until yesterday, I was the Governor of the State

of Arkansas. As of last evening, I am the elected President of the newly formed Independent

Coalition of Central States. I’m sure this has taken you by surprise, as it certainly did me, but

you’re probably not surprised the seceded states would form a coalition.

       We have as individual states notified the US Government we are no longer a part of the

United States of America and have broken off. I’m sure you’re aware of that fact. We will have

notify the government of the United States we have come together as a new nation, with our own

Constitution, military, and government.

       We found this new nation on the principles of the original founding fathers and are going

to try as much as humanly possible to return the citizens of the coalition to those principles.

We come to you today to offer one another a mutually beneficial alliance between the

Libertarian Party and the new Coalition.

       We ask nothing of you that violates the Constitution of the United States or the principles

of the Libertarian Party. We offer our help in your upcoming campaign for the Presidency of the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        47


United States. We offer funds, organization, volunteers, facilities, and whatever else might be

required to aid the cause of your party and your election.

        We do this for two reasons. First, the citizens of the United States have been, and always

shall be, our brothers and sisters. We wish them no ill will or hardship; we simply wish to be left

to pursue our own destiny in peace. To this end, it has become quite apparent to us the

leadership of the two major parties is a major, if not the total reason, the United States is where it

is. New leadership, indeed, a new philosophy of living, is needed for the United States to have

any hope of pulling itself out of its current predicament. That new leadership, that new face, can

be the Libertarian Party with you as its President.

        Second, this is not a completely unselfish offer. The only way the Coalition can ever be

recognized as a nation by the United States is for the President of the United States to accept our

ambassador. The Constitution makes diplomacy the complete and total responsibility of the

President. The only role congress has is the oversight in ratifying treaties and appointed

ambassadors, beyond that, the President IS the final authority. Our hope, our prayer is that as

President, you will understand what we have done as states by seceding is legal, Constitutional,

and in fact, required by the governors when the US Government acts contrary to the Constitution

and tramples the rights and freedoms of it’s citizens.

        When you become President, and when you come to the realization we are a legally

founded nation, we would ask you recognize us as such.

        If either major party gets elected to the White House, neither will do this until the loss of

life on both sides is so great that we are either crushed by our former Government or they simply

realize even if they win, they’ll lose.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       48


       Discuss this letter with Mr. Shear, he has my full confidence and trust. Discuss our

proposal with him. Time is of the essence, Mr. Romero, as it may be hard to communicate in the

coming days, but we ask and pray you give this issue your serious consideration and reflection.

   Thank you for your time, God Bless you and what you’re doing, regardless of your decision

to work with us or not.

   Marjorie Galashaw-Brown, President

   Independent Coalition of Central States.




   After reading the letter, Romero went back and read it again taking a full 20 minutes

studying it. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, “Well, I can’t say I saw this coming.”

   “No sir,” Aaron said, “I don’t imagine you did.”

   “OK, Mr. Shear, let’s talk about this, um, interesting letter.”

   “Of course, sir, but please, call me Aaron,”

   “I will, if you call me Virg.”

   “Only until you become President, then I won’t be able to be so informal.” Aaron said and

smiled, “Where would you like to begin?”

   “First off, what started this all now?”

   “I think the letter pretty much spells it out, but I can elaborate. The actions taken yesterday

have been planned for almost a decade by governors, business, and military officers in the

central states. We knew this day was coming but didn’t know when so we got ready. When
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       49


President Collins suspended the Presidential elections, ordered martial law and moved troops

into states without the states’ permission, suspended habeas corpus, and a list of many other

things that has happened in the last 5 years, we realized we couldn’t wait any longer.”

   “Our original plan, the ‘end game’ if you will, was to defend our borders, cut off fuel, oil,

and food to the US east of the Mississippi, and try to hold out until the government capitulated.

This plan we know is fraught with risk and there is the potential of many civilian casualties on

both sides. It also has a low percentage of success but the governors felt it their duty to not allow

the tyranny to go on any longer and if they fell in this endeavor, perhaps it would at least change

the thinking, structure, and leadership in the United States, hopefully turning it down a different

path.”

   “Then you surprised us on Election Day. With no money and, no offense intended, a really

inept campaign, you managed to get over 15% of the popular vote, something astounding since

nobody really ever heard of you. Angela Basgall spoke very highly of your intelligence,

presence, and most of all, integrity to your beliefs. That led us to consider what you could do if

you had proper financing, proper technological expertise, proper advertising, and proper

recognition.”

   “Right now, the American people are fed up with Washington and they’re looking for new

leadership. We believe the United States as it exists today is a lost cause. When it collapses

there will have to be people in leadership positions to pick up the pieces and in that eventuality,

we would rather be neighbors with a man of integrity than someone from one of the two parties

that are so corrupt as to be laughable if it weren’t so sad what they were doing to the once great

nation of the United States.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         50


    “Even if you fail, perhaps it will open the eyes of the United States citizen that it doesn’t

have to be like this. They can control their own destinies. They don’t need a government that is

meddling and interfering.”

    “So, that’s the arrangement. We help you, if with our help you make it to the White House,

we rely on your integrity and firm belief in the Constitution to do what’s right and welcome us as

a neighbor state,” Aaron concluded.

    “I see now why President Brown selected you, Aaron. You’re very passionate.”

    “It’s easy to be passionate about something I believe in so much, Virg. We know this

structure, this malaise, is not America. We’ve known it for more than two decades, but most did

nothing. Not because they didn’t care, but with the boot of the US Government on their necks

they felt powerless to affect anything. I’d rather die trying to change it than live like that. I

don’t want my kids to live like that for the rest of their lives.”

        “When I first came on board with this, it was because I believed it was the only way to

stop the corruption in the US Government. After they attempted to murder my wife, and did

murder my best friend and his 19 year old son, it’s no mystery why I’m as passionate as I am. I

can’t stop them in Washington, so I chose the next best thing, to try to remove my self and my

family from their control. If you win, I may be able to help achieve both of those things.”

        “You have proof someone in the White House murdered your friend?”

        “No sir, not a shred that would ever stand up in court. But not having proof doesn’t mean

it’s not true,” Aaron answered quietly.

        “Do you have an idea of how much money we’re talking about, to do it right?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       51


           “Yes sir, $6 million to $10 million dollars per week for the next 9 weeks, approximately.

The election that was just voided nearly bankrupt both major parties and they are going to have

to go back to their major donors for more money which we believe is going to be hard for both

sides to come by this time around, especially the Republicans. The Democrats, while probably

able to raise more money, are going to have to go through the process of finding new candidates

in a very short amount of time so their campaigning time for the general election in February is

going to be very, very short,” Aaron explained.

       “Your coalition has access to that kind of money, and a way for us to use it?”

       “If we didn’t, sir, I wouldn’t be wasting my time or yours.”

       Aaron and “Virg” Romero talked for nearly 4 hours about what could, and could not be

done. At the end of the meeting, Aaron was confident they had found an ally in the man. More

than that, Aaron was impressed with Romero. He talked plain and he meant what he said, and

his concern was for the country and not his personal gain. Aaron didn’t think Romero ever

thought he had any chance to do anything other than make a personal statement. Now he saw he

might have a legitimate shot at doing something that had never been done before, he embraced it,

and welcomed it as an opportunity and a challenge.

       Romero asked Aaron to wait for a few minutes and he left his study. In fifteen minutes

he returned with a sealed letter of his own.

       “Aaron, would you see to it President Brown gets this letter,” he asked, “and if I may say

so, it has been a pleasure to meet you. You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your

friend.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       52


       “Thank you Virg, I appreciate it,” Aaron said, “now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to head

back as soon as possible.”

       “Of course, I understand. Give the new President my regards, and sympathies. I don’t

envy her in her job,”

       “Nor do I, but I can tell you she is a very special individual. Thank you for your time.”

       Aaron headed back to the airport and sent the usual text message to Mark.

       Almost before he could close the phone it rang and “mad” came on the screen.

       “Well, what’s the story?” Mark asked.

       “The story is that Angie, as usual, was right. He’s a very intense and forthright man.

Anything I need to know about what’s going on? I’m heading out of here in about fifteen

minutes.”

       “You’re not going to tell me what he said, are you,”

       “Not that I won’t, but I can’t. He didn’t give me a decision, but he gave me a sealed

letter for the President, that’s why I need to get back ASAP,” Aaron replied.

       “OK,” Mark said, “as far as what’s new here, well, all I can tell you is we’re making

progress, but not without pain. Other than that it will have to wait until you get here to go into

more detail.”

       “I understand, I’ll be back in about 6 hours,” Aaron said and heard his phone go dead.

He looked at his watch and it was almost 8:00, 9:00 in Kansas City. He wouldn’t get back until

after 3:00 am. Aaron touched down at North Platte, Nebraska at midnight to get fuel but it took

almost an hour to get someone out to fuel him. He still managed to land at Kansas City at 3:20

am.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      53


         Aaron had planned to call a cab but as he taxied to the ramp he saw Tony waiting for

him. He wasn’t really surprised.

         “Any problems, Mr. Shear?”

         “Not a one, Tony, I think it was a good meeting. Mr. Romero didn’t give me an answer,

but he gave me a letter for the President and hopefully it has an answer in it. What’s going on

here?”

         “We’re not sure, sir, three US F18’s came into Coalition airspace and were met by six

Coalition F16’s. They were ordered to turn around and leave Missouri airspace and refused.

The Coalition aircraft locked weapons on the F18’s. One of the F18’s fired a missile, hitting and

destroying one of our guys. Nobody saw a chute, but they’re looking for the pilot anyway,

hoping he ejected. As you can imagine, things were pretty chaotic at that time.”

         Our F16’s returned fire, destroying two of the F18’s and damaging the third, which then

turned around and headed back. Our guys followed them to the Missouri border and went no

further.”

         “Any word on the F18 pilots?”

         “No sir, but this happened right at dark. They’re looking for them as well as our guy,”

         “Well, we knew it was coming,”

         “That’s true, sir, but we still don’t have to like it.”

         “What’s going on with the ground troops?” Aaron asked as they got into the elevator to

Mark’s offices.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      54


         “Mop up, mostly,” Tony said, “biggest problem is moving the supplies and munitions and

getting the right people to the right places. Nobody ever thought an attack from within, with

what used to be US troops, could ever conceivably happen. The same plan was used at all the

bases. Our people had the proper credentials and were let in. The last truck secured the post at

the gate; the others split in groups and went to command bunkers or buildings and the armory

and weapons lockers. Once the weapons and ammunition were secured it was just a matter of

time.”

         “How is recruitment coming?” Aaron asked as they got out of the elevator.

         “Pretty much as we expected, better with the guard and air guard units, not quite as good

as we’d hoped with the regular military.”

As they walked up Jake was at his desk and he was looking pretty tired.

         “Jake you need some sleep, you look like hell,” Aaron said.

         “You’re no spring chicken either, Mr. Shear, and I haven’t been flying for 10 hours

today,” Jake said.

         “Only 8.5, Jake, the rest of the time I was just screwing around.”

         From behind him he heard a familiar voice say, “Is that a fact? Why is it I’m not

surprised.”

         Aaron turned around and Nichole was standing there. “Tony, you remember how you

promised you’d never let anything happen to me, don’t you?”

         “Sir, you’re on your own,” Tony said and walked into Mark’s office.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        55


Nichole ran to Aaron and hugged him. “I tried to make them let me call you, but they said you

were fine. Don’t ever do that to me again,” Nichole said.

       “No promises hon, at least not for awhile. When did you get here?”

       “This afternoon, Shar and I staged our own revolt and said either someone takes us to you

and Mark or we were going to drive ourselves. They finally sent Bill over in his helicopter to

pick us up. I brought our clothes and we’re in one of the apartments.”

       “Well, I’m glad you’re here, but I’m probably not going to see much of you,” Aaron said,

“and right now, I need to go talk to Mark. You go up to bed and I’ll be there in about 20

minutes, OK?”

       “20 minutes, I’m counting, if you’re not there I’m coming back down after you and

you’ll wish I hadn’t,” Nichole threatened.

       “20 minutes, I promise.”

       As she went back the apartment, Aaron went in to Mark’s office. The big screen showed

a map of the coalition with arrows and diagrams. Without knowing what meant what, it was

confusing to Aaron so he just didn’t worry about it.

       “Aaron, glad you’re back. Tony said no problems?” Mark said, “Did you get an

answer?”

       “We won’t know until the President opens the letter,” Aaron said, “personally, I think

he’s going to sign on for some help, but we’ll see.”

       “What’s the guy like? I had my people find out what we could on him and really all we

could find was he’s fairly wealthy, a real estate developer, has some oil interests, solid family,

nothing hiding in his background we could find, so what did you think?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       56


       “Very open, straight shooter, I think. He really didn’t express an opinion to me on the

secession but he did agree if he researched it and found there was no Constitutional prohibition

against it, then the states should decide if they wanted to stay in the union. Now, if you don’t

mind, I’d like to get some sleep, I’m working on about 8 hours total in the last 72, and I’d really

like to sleep with my wife, something I strongly suggest you go do with Shar, by the way.”

       “That’s where I’m going, I was just waiting for you to get back,”

       “Gee, thanks mommy,” Aaron said sarcastically.

       “Bite me,” Aaron heard Mark say as he walked out of the office. Before Aaron was

getting any sleep he knew he had some explaining to do with Nichole

       As he walked into the room she was sitting on the couch and Aaron went over and gave

her a kiss on the forehead.

        “I know you have a lot of questions you deserve answers to, but would it be OK if I

hopped in the shower first,”

       “Yes. In fact, I insist on it,” she answered.

       “That bad?”

       “Well, it’s certainly not good, just don’t be long.”

       He was hoping she’d be asleep on the couch when he got out but she wasn’t. He went

over and sat beside her and said “OK, what do you want to know?”

       “Everything, start at the beginning,” Nichole said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       57


       “To do that, it’s going to take several hours honey and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll

make it that long. If you can wait until tomorrow, I’ll make the time to tell you everything, from

the beginning.”

        “I know I should have probably told you from the start but I honestly thought you were

safer not knowing. Even though it appears Adam and Kevin weren’t killed because of this,

maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, I really don’t know anymore, but please believe me it wasn’t

that I didn’t trust you, it was if you didn’t know, you didn’t have to lie about it.”

       “So, there is no Central States Chemical?”

       Aaron laughed and said “Actually, there is. I just have nothing to do with it, other than

my name. Kelly actually WAS hired to set up the new company. Mark has bought at least a half

dozen chemical supply companies and he’s trying to get them all under one umbrella and that’s

what Kelly is doing. There is a guy named Franklin that works for it, he’s doing the exact thing I

was supposed to be doing, lining up dealers and things like that. But I will tell you the main

reason we pushed the company and talked to Kelly was to get her out of Chicago and back in

Oklahoma, knowing what was coming, I wanted her close and close to people that could protect

her and Marcus.”

       Nichole sighed and said nothing. Finally she said, “Let’s go to bed. You must be

exhausted and I don’t suppose things are going to get any easier for a while, you’re going to need

to rest when you can.”

       Nichole led him to the bedroom and he didn’t even remember getting under the covers he

was asleep that fast.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        58


          The next thing Aaron did remember was the phone ringing, “Hello?” he said still half

asleep.

          “Open the door, it’s time to get up,” Mark said on the phone, “come on, drag your dead

ass out of bed and open the door, I have breakfast.” and the line went dead.

          Aaron got up and put a robe on, being careful not to wake Nichole, and went to open the

door for Mark. He had brought a rolling cart with hot coffee, some rolls, and a bowl of fruit he

wheeled into the room and sat by the kitchen counter.

          “So, are you two still talking or did you have to sleep with one eye open last night,” Mark

asked.

          “Yes, we’re still talking, and Nichole accepted things a lot better than I probably would

have had the situation been reversed.”

          Mark poured him a large mug of coffee and handed it to him, pausing, and said, “I know

it’s not Adam’s coffee, but it’s the best I can do. I’m never going to be able to tell you how sorry

I am, I know you two were very close.”

          Aaron didn’t say anything for a minute and then he took a sip of his coffee, helping him

wake up, and said, “I don’t know how or when, but Poyner’s a dead man.”

          “That is a safe bet my friend,” Mark said as he poured himself a cup. After they’d had

some breakfast, Mark said, “Get your butt dressed and come down to the office. Meeting with

the President at 9:00 sharp, you have a letter for her and a report to give.”

          “What time is it?”

          “8:32,” Mark said looking at his watch, “so get moving, it’s going to be a long day I’m

afraid.” and with that, Mark got up and let himself out.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         59


        Aaron went back in and got dressed as quietly as he could but Nichole woke up anyway.

He went over, kissed her good morning and said, “Just stay in bed for a while, I have to go down

and meet with the President.”

        Nichole smiled and said, “Well, aren’t you special, having early meetings with the

President.”

        “And your dad said I’d never amount to anything. Look at me now,” Aaron joked as he

finished getting dressed, “As far as I know I’m not going anywhere today but if I do, I promise

I’ll let you know. I’m tired of the secrets.”

        “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Aaron,” Nichole said seriously, “I know there are

going to be things you can’t tell me, but I believe you’ll tell me everything you can.”

        Aaron came over and gave her a hug and looked at his watch. It was 9:02. Tough

cookies, the President could wait. “I’m supposed to be at a meeting with the President right now,

in fact I’m surprised Mark doesn’t have Jake or Tony pounding on the door, but you can ask any

question you want right now, and I’ll answer it, then I’ll go to the meeting and get back as soon

as I can.”

        “Just let me know if you’re going to be leaving, Okay? When you vanish, I think maybe

I won’t see you again, like Adam or Kevin.”

        “I will, I promise, and if for some reason I can’t get in touch with you, just ask Jake, he’ll

tell you everything he can and he’s always at his desk it seems.”

        “Go, Aaron, I’ll wait for you here. Do what you need to do,”

        Aaron kissed her on the forehead and said, “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” and got up

opening the door to find Tony waiting for him.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   60


       “You’re needed downstairs, sir.”

       “I guess we’d better not make the President wait any longer then,” Aaron said and they

went down to Mark’s office.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                           61




                                                  Chapter 3

        As they walked in Aaron saw President Brown, Vice-President Ortez, Mark, Angela, and

Bill were waiting.

        “I’m sorry I’m late, Madam President,” Aaron said, “I have a letter here from Mr.

Romero. He wrote it in private and gave it to me sealed as it is now. I don’t know its contents.”

        “Mr. Shear,” President Brown began, “before I open this, I would like you to tell us about

your meeting.”

        “Of course, what would you like to know?”

        “I’m not concerned with a play by play, but more your impressions of Mr. Romero. Is he

a serious individual? Did you get the impression he was a radical? Is he smart? How does he

present himself? I suspect the letter will tell us if he’s an ally, but before I read it, I’d like you to

tell me about the man.”

        “Mr. Romero is a tall, dark haired gentleman who will play well in front of the cameras.

He is composed and very quick witted with a questioning mind. He’s successful in the business

world and as I’m sure Angela has already told you, his political experience is limited to being on
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        62


a few local boards and a local city council. He is cautious. My impression is he’ll take risks, but

only calculated ones he feels will have at least a good possibility of success. He knows the

Constitution and what he doesn’t know, if he has a question, he looks it up and seeks advice. I

asked him initially if he felt the states had the right to secede under the Constitution and he

admitted before the announcement of secession, he hadn’t actually thought about it so he went

back and researched it and decided yes, the states did have the right to secede under certain

conditions. Although he never said it, I believe he felt that in the case of the states that seceded,

those conditions had been met.”

       “He was polite, well mannered and well groomed. Of course we don’t know at this time

who the Democrats or the Republicans will run, but if the new candidates are anything like the

last selections, if he can get on the stage with them he’ll devastate them in a face to face debate.”

Aaron reported, “That seems to be what stands out most to me, is there anything else you’d like

to know?”

       “Yes. I know this is completely subjective, but in your opinion, will he keep his word?

If he makes a promise, does he have the integrity to follow through?”

       “Yes ma’am, I believe he does. Let me put it this way, if I was involved in a business

deal with him and we had a handshake agreement, even if later he was offered more money to

not honor the deal with me, I believe he would never even consider breaking our agreement. Is

that what you wanted to know?”

       “Yes, Mr. Shear, it is. Now let’s see what Mr. Romero has to say,” President Brown said

as she opened the letter.

       **************************************************************
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        63


       “To the Honorable President of the Coalition Marjorie Galashaw-Brown:

       Ms. Brown, first I would like to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency by

your fellow governors of the Coalition states. Perhaps it will be more of a curse than an honor,

before this all is finished, but I admire your courage and conviction. To find such conviction in

politicians now is rare indeed and you have my respect.

       Your representative, Mr. Shear, has explained to me your coalition is willing to aid and

support the Libertarian party in the coming February elections under certain conditions. I cannot

make you any promises that I will, or will not do something; however what I can do is list what I

believe and, if elected President of the United States, would be my guiding principles.

       I believe if the federal government no longer constitutionally serves the states it governs,

that state does, indeed, have a right to withdraw from the union. I believe that is a fundamental

right of the states protected in the Constitution and the writings of the founding fathers outside

the Constitution bear that out.

       It therefore follows any attempt to reunite these states through military action is against

the Constitution, and I would not allow that as Commander in Chief.

       I would hope and pray the seceded states would consider carefully reunification, but I do

respect their wishes and would accept their decision.

       Although the Libertarian Party is a much more Constitutionally based party than either

the Republicans or Democrats at this time, there are still some in the party that are not strict

Constitutionalists. I, however, am a strict Constitutionalist, and would very literally follow the

Constitution and use it to guide my governance of the nation.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     64


       I do not know what answer you wanted from me, but what I’ve tried to do is tell you my

opinions and how I would govern.

       Any help and assistance you can provide would be gratefully welcomed if you agree with

my philosophies, but beyond that, I can give you no promises or assurances.

       I enjoyed my meeting with Mr. Shear, and look forward to meeting you in the near future

as well. God bless the United States of America. God bless each of its individual states. God

bless you in your difficult months ahead.

       As always, with respect,

       Virgil Romero”

It was signed simply “Virg” by hand.

*****************************************************************************

       “Can you put this on the screen, so General Landers and General Mays can see it as well,

Mark?” President Brown asked.

       “Of course,” Mark answered. He took the letter and laid it on a scanner where the image

appeared on the screen, moving the images of the Generals and Sandy to the bottom.

       “I’ll give all of you a few minutes to read, and absorb that,” President Brown said,

“Could I get some coffee please?”

       As Tony filled her a cup, he also brought Aaron one, and asked if anyone else cared for

any. There were no takers. After about 5 minutes, President Brown began.

       “Ladies and Gentlemen, your thoughts, I’d like to start with Ms. Basgall, since she is the

most experienced diplomatically in the room,” the President said, “Angela?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          65


       Mr. Romero is a cautious man,” Angela began, “but he understands why we did as states

what we felt we had to do. He doesn’t appear to completely agree with it, but as a Libertarian

and Constitutionalist he recognizes we have the right under the Constitution to do it. I believe,

based on this letter, if elected he would immediately end all military action against the Coalition.

I don’t believe he’d immediately accept and recognize an ambassador or emissary, based on his

comments of reunification, but I do believe eventually he would.”

       “Of course, the critical first step is ending the hostilities that are going to surely intensify

in the next few weeks and months. If the rest of the world sees the US end hostilities, it will be

much easier for more of the 193 recognized nations of the world to recognize the Coalition as a

nation since they would be less concerned about appearing to be our military allies.”

       “General Landers, your thoughts,” President Brown asked?

       “Madam President, my job is not diplomacy and this is a diplomatic matter. However, I

think Mr. Romero clearly said if elected, he would end hostilities and open a dialogue. If he

would, eventually, receive our emissary, I don’t know, but I believe he made it clear it was on

the table,” the General answered.

       “Anyone else,” President Brown asked?

        “Madam President, we really don’t have many options here, neither the Republicans nor

Democrats will even consider opening discussions for quite some time and that will only be after

a long war of attrition. The Coalition is relatively self-sufficient until the US starts to destroy our

granaries, oil storage facilities, and infrastructure, which they will eventually. Make no mistake

about this, that is going to cause people to die, and I’m not talking about military, I’m talking

about civilians. We have to limit this as much as possible and not just on moral grounds. If it
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      66


happens briefly, it will probably be held against the US Government for not wanting to solve this

diplomatically, but if it goes on long enough, it will galvanize the US public and our own people

against the Coalition, something we can’t have,” Mark said.

        “Mr. Daniels is correct, Madam President,” General Mays said, “public sentiment is what

drives the politicians in Washington and if the public demands them to turn the taps back on with

force, they’ll be eager to do that. We have to keep it from getting to that point and need to make

sure the US public blames Washington, and not the Coalition.”

        “Mr. Shear,” the President said, “is this what you expected in the letter?”

        “Not really, ma’am,” Aaron answered, “I expected him to be much more clearly

supporting the Coalition from our conversation. Looking back, though, it does make sense.

There can’t be a ‘smoking gun’ appearing he traded policy for support. Even though it happens

all the time, it can’t ever be written down or proven. From our conversation, I believe the letter

understated his support for the Coalition, but that is just my opinion.”

        “Anyone else,” President Brown asked? Nobody said anything, so she continued, “Very

well, if we decide to aid Mr. Romero, what exactly is it we can offer and how do we get it to

him?”

        “Madam President,” Mark began, “we knew at some point we were going to have to pick

someone to support. As such, we have 18 Political Action Committees already set up with funds

in their accounts, ready to donate to a candidate we feel will be beneficial to us. We’ve actually

been using them to donate to state candidates around the country, mostly in the Midwest. At the

current time, they contain about $50 million dollars. We can, fairly easily, through the PACS

and private donations, funnel another $100 million to a candidate.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                           67


         “We have several political strategists on retainer and ready to go to work including

Jerome York. We have the top three advertising agencies in the Midwest waiting to help us with

the campaign as soon as they get direction from the candidates, as well as one of the top three in

New York City. Bill has the capability to set up call centers and polling facilities anywhere in

the US in less than a week, at least technologically. Our biggest weakness is the ‘boots on the

ground’. Door to door canvassing will be difficult, without any organized grass roots, but we

hope with proper advertising and promotion, by January we will have gained enough popular

support they will come to us if they see we actually have a chance.”

         “There are no guarantees, we may spend up to $200 million and come up short, but it

should be an interesting race.”

         When Mark mentioned the name “Jerome York”, everyone gave a collective gasp in

surprise. York was a legend in political races. In his entire 40 year career, he had managed the

campaigns of over 200 candidates, 4 of them Presidential, and he failed to win only three of

them. He had been hired by the Democratic Presidential ticket for the most recent campaign and

everyone assumed he would work for whoever the Democrats ran in the February elections.

         “Would you mind explaining how you enlisted the aid of Mr. York,” President Brown

asked?

         “It wasn’t difficult,” Mark said, “Jerry is basically conservative but his real affiliation is

money, he’s a mercenary. He was contacted before the last election and discretely asked about

helping to work on a propaganda campaign, although we didn’t actually call it such, for the

Coalition to sway public opinion in our favor. He isn’t cheap, but he’s worth it.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                              68


        “I want to think about all of this for today. I will make a decision before 6:00 tonight so

we can make plans, one way or the other, and begin implementing them tomorrow. By the way,

I need a secretary, someone I can trust. I don’t want to pull my previous one from her home and

job in Arkansas. Mr. Daniels, I’d like you to find me someone, preferably from your

organization, that you trust,” President Brown instructed.

        “Of course,” Mark said, and then through the intercom said “Jake, we need you in here

for a moment.”

        Jake came in the office and Mark told him “Jake, the President is in need of a personal

secretary, I want you to pull a list together today from people on your staff for me to review and

present to her to interview.”

        “Yes sir, I’ll get started on it right away,” Jake said and left the room.

        “I think we’re done with this issue,” the President said, “Generals, an update please.”

        “We have achieved all of our primary objectives,” General Landers began, “Each of you

should have a list in front of you with details of the hardware we have available and manpower

reports. Not all of the bases in some areas are 100% secure, but we’re in the process of mopping

those up. The missile base at White Sands and Holloman Air Force Base is still not completely

secured, it’s a very large facility, but it has been isolated and fortunately there is a large

contingent of civilians there not military trained, we believe that will be secured by tonight.”

        “We have total control of Schriever and have so far been able to stop any of the US

attempts to divert control from there to backup locations so we control the intelligence satellites.

We’ve been watching closely US troop movements and troops in several locations have been

mobilized but are so far not heading our way.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        69


       “I assume you’re all aware of the US aircraft shot down yesterday, and the loss of our

own aircraft. The Coalition pilot was recovered, but died from his injuries. One US Pilot was

killed and the other two are being treated at a civilian hospital in St. Charles, Missouri. One is in

serious condition, the other in good condition. Both are expected to recover.”

       “Our most current casualty count is 433 Coalition forces killed, 620 US forces killed.

Approximately twice that number on each side injured and being treated primarily at facilities on

the bases. I was hoping to keep the total lost to fewer than 1,000, but was unable to do that.

The fighting is now minimal, we have control of the facilities, and increases in casualties until

the US forces begin to move against us should be limited to those fatalities that can’t recover

from their wounds and some minor sporadic battles.”

       “General,” the President asked, “what are you doing with those captured US Troops?”

       “We are processing them. We have their military records; Mr. Allister’s people were

very good about downloading the information from DOD databases, so we know where they’re

from and where they have family, particularly those with higher security clearances. We are

interviewing those captured as quickly as we can. If we have reason to believe they would be

willing to ally themselves with the coalition, we offer them the opportunity to swear allegiance to

the Constitution of the Coalition.”

       “Are many doing this?” Vice-President Ortez asked.

       “Yes,” General Mays said, “over 90% of the people in the state guard units came to

support us almost immediately, about ½ of those in the regular military. You have to understand

the military swear an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. For quite
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        70


some time many have seen the very Constitution they’ve sworn to protect being perverted by the

politicians and they’re sick of it. They’re as ready to try again as anyone else in this region is.”

       “And those that won’t come to support us,” the President asked?

       “Right now, the officers ranked Major and above, are being moved to the closed down

facilities at Fort Chaffe near Fort Smith, Arkansas. Mr. Daniels had one of his company’s

purchase the base as a ‘development project’ 3 years ago and we have been renovating it to be

used as a detention camp. The facilities are adequate for 10,000 detainees, even during the

winter, and we will see to it they are properly housed, fed, and clothed.”

       “What about the enlisted personnel,” Vice-President Ortez asked.

       “Right now, they are being detained on their respective sites, but at some point they will

be moved. We intend to take them in small groups to isolated areas on our borders and simply

turn them loose as far from their homes as possible. For instance, if there are individuals from

New York would be released on the New Mexico border. It will take the US military quite some

time to reintegrate them into their forces, particularly with a shortage of officers.”

       “Some of the specialists involved in repair and maintenance, or have unique skills in

language or intelligence equipment, are being detained and will either help us in our efforts, or

will be kept under lockdown so they can’t use their skills for the US Military,” General Landers

explained.

       “Have any of the highways and roads been secured yet?” Aaron asked.

       “This is a slow process, Mr. Shear. We have blocked all traffic on the Interstate

Highways both east and west entering our territory. We are allowing people out with

instructions they will NOT be allowed to return until further notice. Individuals with driver’s
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      71


licenses or ID’s showing a home address in our territory are being allowed in with an instruction

sheet informing them should they again leave the state, they will not be allowed to re-enter. In

areas like Memphis and St. Louis, on the border, this is a problem. At some point, we are

probably going to have to take out all the minor bridges crossing the Mississippi river to help

control the situation, and that may be very soon.”

       “How do you propose to take them out?” the Vice-President asked.

       “Precision bomb or missile strikes from the air, sir,” General Mays answered, “if we

can’t control the traffic on the major highways we may have to take those out as well, but for the

time being, we can control those points with medium and heavy armor at checkpoints.”

       “We are well on our way to controlling these roads and bridges. Some of the roads will

take care of themselves this winter as we simply won’t clear them from the mountain snows, but

for the time being this is a manpower intensive operation, but we’re getting a handle on it. We’ll

have 90% control by tomorrow at noon, I believe,” General Landers concluded.

        “How are we doing with spare parts and equipment, General,” Mark asked?

       “We’re fine for a limited engagement with the US. However, many of the munitions are

made outside coalition territory. If a war goes on for more than six months, we will have severe

supply issues,” General Landers answered.

       “Is there anything else we need to know at this point, General?” President Brown asked.

       “Not to my knowledge, madam President,” General Landers said, “if something does

come up, I’ll contact you as soon as possible.”

       “One last question, General,” Vice-President Ortez said, “If you were still Head of the

Joint Chiefs, what would you be advising the President to do right now?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         72


       General Landers thought for a moment, then said “You don’t really want to know what I

would do, Mr. Vice-President, you want to know what Admiral Torrin is advising. We are

different people. He’s younger and has different philosophies. He’s also rash and much less

experienced. General Mays and I both know him quite well and we have discussed this.”

       “We expect at this moment he is very confused about what’s going on. He’s lost all

contact with the bases in the region and he’s lost control of his satellites. We can expect him to

try to send in some UAV’s to recon the bases and see what’s going on as well as send in some

fighters to find out what’s happening. We’ve already seen the fighters but we haven’t seen any

UAV’s yet. We may not. In fact, it may be we don’t detect them. By their very nature they are

small and hard to spot. He will know by the end of the day, for instance, Whiteman has been

abandoned, one way or the other.”

       “He may try to send in people on commercial flights in some areas to actually go to the

bases or at least look at them from the air. They will most likely be officers and will be dressed

as civilians, but I doubt he can put together a lot of false identities in a short amount of time. If

we can intercept some of these people, we could gather some intelligence about what’s going on

in Washington and at the Pentagon. To do that, I’d suggest placing some people at some key

airports, Denver International, Rapid City Regional, Kansas City, San Antonio, Dallas, to name a

few. Have them check passenger lists for names that are active duty military officers and bring

them in for questioning to the closest base. By doing this we may gather some intel and also

remove more of their most trusted officers from their ranks.”

       “Can you start this process, General,” Mark asked?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      73


       “With some help from Mr. Allister’s people, yes sir. General Mays actually has more

background in the intelligence area than I do and he’d probably be a better choice, if he believes

he has the people.”

       “I’ll start working on it right now. “ General Mays said, “I’ll need three good computer

techs to work the databases with my people, Mr. Allister.”

       “You’ll have them in two hours, General,” Bill answered.

       “General, do you think there is any way we can get out of this without it turning into a

full scale shooting war?” President Brown asked.

       “No ma’am, I do not. Not once we stop food shipments and energy deliveries, I think it’s

inevitable the US Military will be sent in.”

       President Brown sighed, and said, “I suppose we all knew that, but it’s not something

anyone wants to think about.”

       “No ma’am, it’s not,”

       “General, thank you for your help, you have preparations to make. God speed, and do

your best.

       “Thank you madam President, we will,”

       They all sat in silence for a moment until President Brown asked, “What’s next people?”

       “This evening we have you lined up for calls from various governments asking you to

accept their emissaries. You need to do that, but warn them we have a very unstable situation

here and you recommend they stay home for the time being, but accept them as ambassadors to

the Coalition from their governments,” Angela said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          74


       “How many countries,” Vice-President Ortez asked?

       “23, so far, we expect another 4 or 6 before the meetings begin,” Angela answered.

       “If you would, until I have a secretary, could you keep my and Vice-President Ortez’s

appointments straight for us, Ms. Basgall,” President Brown asked?

       “Of course, madam President, I have also prepared a speech for you to give which we

will videotape. Think of it as a guideline as I know you prefer to write your own speeches. It

will be our official announcement to the world the states have organized under the coalition.

Copies of the tape will be transmitted to every government in the world and to all major news

networks at the same time, 5:00 PM today. You will need some time to prepare your remarks. It

would be most effective if the Vice-President would be on the stage with you.”

       “Additionally, by that time, the Constitutional Convention delegates will have ratified our

Constitution and it will go out in document form to the same sources and governments. It will

then be presented to the state legislatures for their ratification, but that will take some time.”

       “It sounds like Jay and I have our afternoons filled,” President Brown said, “so let’s get

this finished up, what else do we need to discuss?”

       “I think, Madam President, we’ve covered everything for now,” Mark said, “and it’s

getting close to noon, so I suggest you retire to your quarters. If you like, we have prepared

adjoining offices for you and Vice-President Ortez to work this afternoon. By that time, I’m sure

Jake will have your assistants so that you can interview them.”

       “In the meantime, we have preparations to make and we’ll await your speech and your

decision on whether or not you wish the coalition to support Mr. Romero in his Presidential bid

in February.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         75


        “Very well,” President Brown said, getting up from her chair, “I want to thank all of you

for your help. I would like to meet before I record the address, let’s say 4:00 PM, so we can do a

dry run and see where we’re at.”

        “Yes madam President,” Mark said as he walked her to the door.

        “OK folks, you heard the President, we all have work to do,” Mark said as people were

leaving the office, “Aaron, a word please.”

        Aaron stayed behind and when they were alone, Mark said, “How are things with

Nichole?”

        “OK so far. She’s going to be concerned for the kids; I’m sure, but not sure what to do

about it. We talked a bit about things this morning, that’s why I was late, but I promised her

more information when I got back,” Aaron said.

        “You can tell her whatever you want except I would not go into any details about our

supporting Mr. Romero at the moment. For one thing, we don’t know the President will OK it,

for another, this is going to have to be a very, very quiet operation,” Mark said.

        “Nichole already told me she understood there would be things I couldn’t discuss with

her, but I promised I wouldn’t lie to her about any of it anymore. I’ll either tell her the truth or

simply tell her I can’t talk about it.”

        “That’s all you can do, at the moment,”

        “Well, if you’ll excuse me then, I have my own diplomacy to work out,” Aaron said as he

got up and went back to the apartment.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       76


         On the way out, Aaron stopped at Jake’s desk and asked him if he could get him to send

up a pizza from Antonio’s to the apartment. Maybe some lunch would make Nichole more

receptive to what she was about to hear.

                      **************************************************

         “Could someone please tell me what in the Hell is happening in the central part of this

country?” President Collins demanded loudly of the group assembled in the Oval Office.

The people he was demanding answers of were Dr. Sam Poyner, the President’s Chief of Staff,

Admiral Torrin, and his NSA Director Thomas Colwich, a man who owed Sam Poyner his job,

and in turn fed him information before even the President got it.

         “Sir,” Admiral Torrin answered, “we wish we knew. I can tell you what we know has

happened. Shortly after the central states announced they were seceding, we lost virtually all

contact with the bases in the area roughly west of the Mississippi, East of the Rockies, and

between the Canadian and Mexican borders. We did retain contact with most of our facilities in

Minnesota, for some reason. I should point out the state of Minnesota did not announce

secession with the rest of the states at that time, and still has not.”

         “We attempted to order our base in Colorado to re-task our satellites to give us views of

what was going on at our bases and the major cities in the region. That worked, but only briefly,

before we lost control of the birds and are no longer receiving information from them at this

time.”

         “Because we lost satellite links to our UAV’s, we have to rely on ground based links and

that is going to limit their range to about 300 miles to a ground based, air relayed UAV, unless

we want to attempt to penetrate the seceded states airspace with the relay aircraft.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                            77


       “We attempted two efforts to send fighters in to take a look at what was happening. The

first effort resulted in the aircraft returning after being targeted. The second resulted in

destruction of one aircraft that was protecting the borders of Missouri, we believe from the

Missouri Air Guard, and the destruction of two of the aircraft we sent in. The status of the pilots

of the downed aircraft is unknown at this time.”

       “We are in the process of setting up relays for a UAV launch into Missouri to investigate

the status of Whiteman Air Force Base as well as a launch from Mississippi to investigate Fort

Polk in Louisiana and yet another to investigate the New Orleans Naval Air Station. These

won’t be ready to fly until tomorrow afternoon. At that time, we should be able to have much

more reliable information.”

       “Why in the hell can’t you just send some troops in to find out what’s going on?” the

President demanded.

       “We are concerned if we send in ground forces, in masse, then a real shooting war will

break out triggering a second civil war. We have our people on alert, but as of now, we haven’t

begun preparing them to move,” Admiral Torrin said, “we also have reports the interstate

highway system has been set up with checkpoints and people that don’t live in the various states

have been turned back from entering.”

       “Can they do that?” the President asked incredulously, “I mean, the Interstate Highways

are Federal, can they stop traffic and turn people back?”

       “Sir, you have to understand as long as they have the guns and tanks to back them up,

they can pretty much do whatever they want,” the NSA Director replied.

       “Who’s in charge over there, Tom, who are we talking to,” the President asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       78


        “As of now,” the NSA director said, “we can’t tell anyone is in charge. As far as we’ve

been able to determine, each state is its own little fiefdom, with each governor in control, but

border governors are cooperating to secure their territories with guard troops.”

        “So we don’t know who, if anyone is in charge, we don’t know what’s going on at our

bases, we don’t know if we can even get in there to look around, correct?” the President asked,

frustrated.

        “Sir, that is correct at this time,” Admiral Torrin replied.

        “Good Christ, do we still have control of our Nuclear Missile sites in Wyoming,

Montana, and North Dakota?” the President demanded.

        “If you’re asking if we can launch, not at this time, not without contact with the bases

directly, which we don’t have, or without contact with Strategic Command at Omaha, no sir.

However, we also know nobody else can either, because they don’t have the launch codes or

authorization to launch,” Admiral Torrin answered, “but there is more bad news, sir.”

        “Oh, good, I haven’t had enough bad news today, now what,” the President said, his

voice dripping in sarcasm.

        “Sir, we have two nuclear air bases in the region, Whiteman in Missouri where the

majority of our B2 Stealth bombers are located and Ellsworth in South Dakota, where we have a

contingent of B1’s nuclear capable. If those bases have been compromised, the nuclear weapons

based there may not be under our control any longer,” Admiral Torrin said quietly.

        “Are you telling me the God Damn governor of South Dakota may now be a nuclear

power??” the President asked incredulously.

        “Yes sir, I’m telling you that’s a possibility,” Admiral Torrin replied.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        79


          “People, we need information. This cannot go on in this manner. We have to find out

what’s going on in the center of the country.” President Collins demanded, “Admiral; I want

those UAV’s up and flying now. Not tomorrow, not in 5 hours, now. If you can’t I want you to

send in someone on the ground that can report back to us. Is there any way to do that without

causing a civil war?”

          “I believe so, sir,” the Admiral responded, “I have 25 officers ready to depart on your

order on regular commercial air traffic. They will be in civilian clothes, fly in to airports close to

our bases, and then rent a car to drive out to those areas and take a look to find out what’s going

on. They can all be gone in 2 hours and we should start getting reports back within several hours

after.”

          “Good, get started on it. What we need, gentlemen, is information. We can’t proceed

blind, deaf, and dumb. We need to know what’s going on there,” the President demanded.

          “Sir, I need authorization for something else as well,” Admiral Torrin continued, “We

need to start recalling whatever troops we can from overseas. We are incredibly short handed to

deal with anything here on the mainland with the troops deployed in Europe, the Middle East,

and Asian theaters. We need to get people home and we need to start doing that now.”

          “You can start bringing home all troops except a skeleton staff at our bases in Europe and

Asia,” the President instructed, “for now, we leave our troops in the Middle East. We can’t

afford to appear to be bailing out on the region.”

          “Yes sir, I’ll start getting them back immediately,”

          “How much of this clusterfuck has hit the world media,” the President asked?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       80


         “Most of the news outlets are reporting the blackout in the Midwestern US in Europe and

Asia, so it’s obvious that’s worldwide. We’ve temporarily suspended personal communications

from our service people in the Middle East back home. We’re telling them we’ve lost some

communications satellites and hope to have things restored in a few days,” the Chief of Staff

replied, “right now, nobody knows the extent of the blackout in the region, but it won’t keep for

long, they will figure out we have a major problem over here. Of course, news of the secessions

hit almost immediately, but so far we’ve spun that to indicate it’s just a few, isolated rogue

governors we’ll have under control very shortly.”

         “Will we? Have it under control very shortly I mean,” the President asked.

         “If they are just a bunch of governors throwing a temper tantrum, then yes, in a few days

we can negotiate something I’m sure,” the NSA Director replied.

         “And if they’re not? If they’re planning to come together as a new nation?” the President

asked.

         “Then, sir, I suggest you brace yourself for a second US Civil War,” Sam Poyner said.

         At that moment, Sam Poyner’s cell phone vibrated in his pocket, he opened it to see a

message from his aide saying simply:

         “tv”

         He noticed Tom was looking at his cell phone as well. Sam said, “Mr.

President, I suggest we turn on the television, something’s happening.”

         “What? What’s happening?” President Collins asked.

         “I’m not sure, sir, I just think we should watch,”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      81


       President Collins used a remote and a wall moved, exposing a large television in the

office, and he set it to CNN and saw a newsman saying:

       “We’re not sure what is on this video feed, we just received it in our studios about 15

minutes ago, but as soon as it goes through production to determine its origin, we’re going to try

to show it to you. We do know it claims to be from the recently seceded states with information

important to the people of the United States of America. I’m being told that we’ll be able to play

the video for you in about 5 minutes that it has been verified to have been sent from a local

Kansas City television station to all of the major broadcast and news networks. We’re not sure

what the video contains, but given recent events in the region perhaps it will clear up some of the

confusion. OK, I’m told the video is ready, and we’re going to be seeing it for the first time just

like you folks are, so let’s watch and see what happens.”

       The screen cut to a picture of a modest office with the Governor of Arkansas, Marjorie

Galashaw-Brown, and she began to speak.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      82




                                              Chapter 4

       As Aaron walked into the apartment he saw Nichole sleeping on the sofa. This was

unusual for her as she never slept during the day. He walked over and sat next to her, stroking

her hair until she woke.

       “I’m surprised to see you, I figured you’d be gone all day,” Nichole said.

       “The boss let me off early, but I have to go back to work at 4:00. I ordered us a pizza to

but I’m yours until then,”

       “Whatever will I do with you for 4 whole hours to myself?” Nichole teased.

       “Well, I have a few thoughts, but we should probably get some things out in the open

while we have the chance. I think from here on out, things are going to be very hectic,” Aaron

answered.

       Nichole sat up in the couch and said, “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know all of this, but

it’s probably time we cleared things up.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        83


       “I agree,” Aaron said, “so what would you like to do? Would you like me to just start at

the beginning and you can jump in with questions, or do you have some things you want to

know, or how would you like to do this?”

       “I think, just start at the beginning,” Nichole said, “and if I have any questions, hopefully

you can answer them.”

       Before they could even start, Tony knocked with the Pizza and he brought it in.

       “Thanks Tony, what do I owe you,” Aaron said.

       “Nothing, Mr. Shear, I told Martha this one was on the house,” Tony replied.

       “Who’s Martha?” Nichole asked.

       “Martha is Tony’s wife, honey, and they own the Pizza place across the street. Be sure to

tell Martha thank you for us, Tony.”

       “I will sir, enjoy your lunch,” he said and left.

       “You’re very close to all of these people, aren’t you Aaron,” Nichole commented.

       “Yes, I am. Very close. We’ve been through a lot and there isn’t one of them I don’t

respect as much as anyone I’ve ever known,” Aaron answered.

       “OK, start talking,” Nichole ordered as she put pizza on plates for both of them.

       Aaron went through from the beginning, explaining how Mark had come to visit that day

and Aaron had agonized over what was the right thing to do the two days before the deadline

Mark had given him. He told Nichole about his trips all over the Midwest, helping to influence

elections. He told her about the “accident” that happened to the Governor of Colorado.

       “Wait, you arranged to have a governor killed? I don’t believe it,” she said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         84


       “I didn’t actually arrange it, Nichole, but I definitely had a hand in it. Some of the

military assets in Colorado were necessary if this is to even have a chance to succeed, and we

had to have them. The governor of Colorado at the time would never have seceded with the rest

of the states, but the Lieutenant Governor was more aligned with our thinking, so the change had

to be made,” Aaron said.

       “That’s no excuse! You can’t just kill people, Aaron,” Nichole said in amazement.

       “The fact is those in Washington are so corrupt if they thought it would just make their

life easier, less of an annoyance, they’d have us killed in a heartbeat,” Aaron said, “I offer you,

Adam, and Kevin as examples. Poyner had nothing against us. He was mad at Mark. He

wanted to send Mark a message he was fucking with the wrong guy, so he tried to have us all

killed. That’s the mentality we’re fighting, and if we have to get dirty doing it, then so be it, I’ll

get dirty. It’s not a matter anymore of what’s is good, honey; it’s a matter of what’s less evil.”

       Nichole just shook her head, “I can’t believe it Aaron. I can’t believe you’ve been

involved in a murder of a governor.”

       “Well, then you’ll believe this even less,” Aaron said. He went on to tell her about the

arrangement he set up with “Scarlett” and the governor candidate from Missouri. He told her

about arranging the room, wiring the suite, meeting the candidate, going with him to the club,

taking him and “Scarlett” back to the suite and leaving them there, then having the pictures

leaked to the press along with the video.

       “You hired a whore to seduce a governor candidate just to get him out of the race,”

Nichole asked incredulously?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         85


        “You might want to reserve judgment on whom you call a whore, honey,” Aaron said,

“that whore saved your life in our yard.”

        Nichole’s face showed shock and disbelief. “No. Carrie wouldn’t do that, never. I’ve

known her for months. She’s gone shopping with me, we’ve become good friends, I don’t

believe it.”

        “Because I could tell you were close to Carrie and she is very close to you. She would,

without hesitation, give her life for you honey. She did what she had to do because she believes

what she’s doing is the right thing to do,” Aaron said, “and so do I.”

        Nichole just sat there, shocked, unable to really take it all in. It was getting very close to

time for Aaron to leave to go to the meeting, but Nichole wasn’t quite finished yet.

        “How much of this does Shar know?”

        “I honestly don’t know, honey, but I think most of it. Mark trusts her, and loves her, and

I think he probably has told her most of it. I’m sure if you ask Mark, he’ll tell you.”

        “I think I need to talk to Shar. I need to talk to someone about this.”

        Aaron had a sinking feeling he was losing her with his honesty, but he still felt like he

had to tell her as much as he could. Finally he said, “I understand, but if you would, I’d like you

to be very careful, honey. I nearly lost you once; I don’t want to ever lose you. I’d also like you

to talk to Mark before you see Shar, so that you know what she already knows. I’m not telling

you what to do, but much of what we’ve talked about here can’t ever get outside of the group.”

        “You’re not going to lose me, Aaron,” she said, leaning over to hold his hand, “I just

need some time to get things straight in my head about this. And yes, I’ll try to see Mark today

or tomorrow. OK?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       86


        “Thanks. Now, I have to go to a meeting with the President in a few minutes to listen to

her speech,” Aaron said, “and she’s taping it at about 4:30. You’re welcome to come if you like,

I’d be glad to come up and get you.”

        “I think I’d like to be there. Although I’m not sure I agree with your idea the ends justify

the means, this is history unfolding before us. Maybe if it all works out we can get it right, at

least for a little while.”

        “Thanks honey,” Aaron said, leaning in to kiss her, “now I really do have to go. I don’t

think I should be late for a meeting with the President twice in one day.”

        Aaron actually got to Jake’s desk a couple of minutes early and Jake told him everyone

was in the President’s office down the hall. As he went by, he noticed a fairly young secretary

outside her office, and a young man sitting outside the Vice President’s office. Aaron thought

both of them looked a little too “squared away” to be out of the secretarial pool and figured they

were military or ex-military. Probably both of them trained by Tony as bodyguards as well as

being first class assistants.

        The door to the office was open and a number of chairs had been brought in. Aaron

found himself a seat by Angela and Mark came in shortly after, finishing off the group in Mark’s

office this morning.

        “I think everyone is here,” President Brown said, “so I guess we should get started since

we don’t have a lot of time. I trimmed the address a little, and changed a couple of things, so

let’s see what you all think. Don’t be shy about offering constructive suggestions but please,

wait until I’ve been through it completely once.”

                                         Good Afternoon,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       87


    My name is Marjorie Galashaw-Brown and until recently, I was Governor of the State of

Arkansas. I would like to address the people of the Central States who had the courage to secede

from the United States of America. I would also like to address those people, and leaders, of the

  United States of America. Finally, I am also addressing the people and leaders of all of the

                                       nations of the World.

   As you all know by now, a few days ago 13 Governors and I stood up and said “Enough is

  Enough” to the United States Government. In the words of the Declaration of Independence:

  “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the

political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of

   the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God

entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the

                          causes which impel them to the separation.”

    The government of the United States of America has strayed so far from the words of the

Constitution binding the nation together; it has become a meaningless document to nearly all of

the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington DC. They have decided by edict and enforced by

  the threat of imprisonment what we can say, what we can think, what we can do, who we can

 associate with, and even to the point of imposing martial law. They have sent troops to die in

wars with no definition of victory, without the tools to win, only to show they are not afraid to let

   our men and women die to demonstrate they will exert their strength. As you all know, the

  President just last week illegally and unconstitutionally ordered elections for President of the

 United States invalid, only because he knew had they gone forward the wrong party, at least in

                         his view, would have come to the White House.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   88


 President Collins, members of the House and Senate, we sent you all a resolution over the last

few years from each state warning you this was going to happen if you persisted in ignoring and

                                  perverting the Constitution.



                               Therefore, the individual states of:

                                         North Dakota

                                         South Dakota

                                            Montana

                                           Wyoming

                                            Nebraska

                                            Colorado

                                              Iowa

                                             Kansas

                                            Missouri

                                          New Mexico

                                           Oklahoma

                                            Arkansas

                                           Louisiana

                                               &

                                             Texas

have seceded from the United States of America. The laws, rules, and regulations of the United

   States no longer apply to us. Furthermore, we 14 states have joined together to form a new

                                             nation:
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          89


                           The Independent Coalition of Central States

 My fellow Governors have elected me to serve as President of this new nation, a task I humbly

 accepted, for a term of one year when general elections will be held allowing the citizens of the

 Coalition to elect their own President. I will NOT be eligible to stand for re-election; the brave

citizens of our states will choose their leadership in one year. The former Lieutenant Governor of

Texas, the honorable Jay Ortez, has been elected by the Governors to serve as the Vice-President

     of our new nation. Like me, he will not be allowed to stand for re-election in one year.

We offer ourselves as the humble servants of the people, to try to lead to the best of our abilities,

 and found our new nation on the principles we have all held dear for so long, but have watched

            the United States of America throw to the side like so much waste paper.

 The Coalition has taken control of all military assets in our territory. This includes all weapons

 and systems formerly the property of the United States Government. This is not theft, it is the

           just return of a share of what is rightfully already ours, bought and paid for.

   If any attempt is made by the United States Government through military or other force to

attempt to make us rejoin the United States, we will fight. We will defend our territory jealously.

 We wish no more territory and will not invade our neighbors on any side, the United States on

the East and West, our neighbor Canada to the North, and the sovereign nation of Mexico to our

   South. All can be assured we will respect your sovereign rights. We will also control and

 defend all of our borders vigorously and will come to the aid of our neighbors if a time of need

       should arise within their borders, if invited to do so, and to the best of our abilities.

To those other nations of the world who would wish to do harm to our Brothers and Sisters in the

   United States of America, let me make one thing perfectly clear. We consider ourselves all

  Brothers and Sisters on the North American continent. If any nation or group would use this
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        90


time to attempt to cause, or bring harm to the United States of America, the Canadian people, or

the sovereign state of Mexico, be assured we will bring our full forces to bear against you in the

 mutual defense of our peaceful allies. Let me say that again. We will consider an attack on the

 people of the United States of America, Canada, or Mexico the same as if you had attacked us

  directly and will come to their aid and defense immediately. Those of us in the Independent

Central States do not understand the concept of fighting a “limited war”, or a war not intended or

 permitted to win. If we enter a war, all of our resources, resolve, and efforts will be brought to

                      bear to do one thing emerge from that war victorious.

  We claim control of the natural resources within our borders. We welcome trade with other

 nations for all of our mutual benefit. Make no mistake, if trade is used as a weapon against us,

 we will retaliate in kind. Any weapons used against our nation will meet with swift and certain

 retaliation in kind. Don’t mistake the youth of our nation to be inexperience, it is not, nor is it

                                uncertainty of principle or values.

I’d like to close with a modification of the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence of

            the United States of America, delivered to the King some 236 years ago:

We, therefore, the representatives of The Independent Coalition of Central States, in General

  Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our

 intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these states, solemnly

publish and declare, these states are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that

    they are absolved from all allegiance to the United States of America, and all political

    connection between them and the United States of America, is and ought to be totally

   dissolved; and as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude

   peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      91


    independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm

 reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives,

                                 our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Sons and Daughters of the Central States, come home to us. Find within our borders a new life,

   a life based on the guarantee of freedom based on a renewed Constitution, a life where your

                 freedom is important rather than increasing the power of the leaders.

   I thank all of you for your patience, and attention. God Bless The Independent Coalition of

 Central States, and God protect us all from what might come. Leave us to find our way in life

                               and the world, and God grant us peace.

                                I Thank You All, and Good Afternoon.

       The room was silent for a full minute, and then Bill stood and began to applaud. Within

moments, the entire room was on its feet applauding the address of the new President. After 30

seconds, the President held up her hand and said, “Thank you all, but we haven’t much time,

suggestions or changes, anyone?”

       “Madam President,” Angela said, “if you change one word I shall personally beat you

with a stick.”

       “I agree, madam President,” Vice-President Ortez said, “the address is as perfect as if

you’d have spent months preparing it. You should deliver it just as you did here, in this room.

Can that be done Mr. Daniels?”

       “Yes it can, and the room will be ready in 15 minutes,” Mark responded and left the room

to give Jake instructions.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      92


       When Mark came back in the room Aaron went over and said, “Mark, I’m going to run

up and get Nichole, she’d like to be here for this.”

       “So, things are OK with you two?”

       “I think so,” Aaron said, “but now it’s your turn.”

       “How so?”

       “Nichole would like a few minutes of your time, as soon as possible, all I know is she

said ‘it won’t take long’.”

       “I think I’d better have Tony join us for that meeting.”

       “Not sure if I’d do that,” Aaron answered, “Nichole is a lot cuter than you are and I think

Tony likes her more.”

       “You’re probably right, buddy, tell her to come to my office as soon as we’re done here.”

       “Thanks Mark,” Aaron said and went to get Nichole. When he got to the apartment he

found her waiting, dressed in a very elegant new dress. She was stunning in it, but it wasn’t

“fancy”, it was just “her”.

       “Wow,” Aaron said, “you look beautiful sweetheart.”

       “Is it too much,” Nichole asked?

       “No, it’s just beautiful. Where did you get that?”

       “Shopping with Shar, she has good taste.”

       “I have to agree,” Aaron said, “we’d better go.” As they went down Aaron said, “I spoke

to Mark and he said right after the President’s finished with her address, he’ll meet you in his

office. He wanted to know if he needed Tony to join him.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       93


        Nichole laughed and said “Yeah, why doesn’t he do that, then I can have Tony take a turn

at him,” Nichole said.

        “That’s pretty much what I told him.”

        They got to the room and it had been quickly prepared. There was a picture of President

Brown’s family behind her on the credenza. The state flag of Missouri was behind and to the

President’s left, a new flag, the flag of the Coalition, was to her right. On her desk was a small

holder with all 14 state flags, each flag probably measuring 3” in size, fanned out to her right.

She had no notes on her desk and there was no teleprompter Aaron could see.

        The President and Vice-President came into the room and Aaron and Nichole stood as

she entered. They had taken two seats close to the door. As the President came in, she saw

Aaron and then Nichole and did what can only be described as a double-take, and came over to

them.

        “Madam President, how can I help you?” Aaron asked.

        “You can introduce me, Mr. Shear,” President Brown said, and looked to Nichole, “I’ve

seen you a time or two, but we’ve never actually met.”

        “Madam President, my wife Nichole. Nichole, the President of the Coalition, Marjorie

Galashaw-Brown,”

        “I’m delighted to meet you, Nichole. I heard about the tragedy losing your friends and

almost you. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your friends, but am so thankful you weren’t hurt,”

President Brown said.

        “Thank you madam President, Adam and Kevin were very dear friends, I appreciate your

kindness,” Nichole answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         94


       “Well, we’d better get this show on the road. Too bad I won’t fit in that dress or I’d

make you trade with me,” President Brown said, smiling.

       “I can’t take the credit, Mark’s friend Shar picked it out for me,” Nichole said.

       “Hmmmm, I wonder if the coalition budget allows me an official ’shopper’,” President

Brown said, smiling.

       “The way she likes to shop, ma’am, it won’t cost anything to take her along,” Nichole

said smiling.

       The President went to her desk and sat down and some make-up people surrounded her,

making sure her hair and all the details were perfect. They brought in a chair for the Vice-

President and had him sit at the President’s right, but the video specialist didn’t like that, so they

removed the chair and had him stand to her right. They finally decided, after consulting with the

President and Vice-President, to have him off camera and when the President mentioned him,

have the camera switch to him, so he wouldn’t be a distraction to the President’s address.

       With everything prepared, it was 4:35, and the director announced they would begin

recording and would like everyone to remain quiet and to please turn all cell phones and

electronic devices off, or leave them outside the room. When he was satisfied all was ready, he

told the President she could begin any time.

       The address went perfectly. President Brown delivered it with no flaws or mistakes.

There were 3 cameras, one of them looking towards the Vice President. They edited in a split

screen that wiped over to show him in his seat in the room, then wiped back to full screen the

President. The address took 11 minutes to deliver. Editing and post production took another 15

minutes and it was relayed by satellite link to every major news service in the world, with a fax
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        95


of the text of the address sent to every foreign embassy and government possible. The United

States Government was notified just like every other government.

        When the address was over, everyone got up and filed out. There wasn’t any cheering, or

back slapping, it was a solemn moment in the room, more than anything else. As they left, Mark

came over and said, “Nichole, Aaron said you wanted to talk to me. If you’ll wait in my office

I’ll be there in 5 minutes. I need to have a word with the President and then I’ll be right in.”

        “Thank you Mark, I’ll be waiting,”

        As they walked down to Mark’s office Aaron said, “Do you want me to come in with

you?”

        “No, thanks, I think I need to talk to Mark alone,”

        “I’ll just wait out here for you then, and bother Jake,” Aaron said, standing in front of

Jake’s desk, “maybe he can find me a job as a secretary.”

        Jake smiled and said, “I can try, sir, but I’m not sure you can get through my training

program.”

        Aaron looked at Jake and said, “You know, if anyone else had told me that I’d have

thought they were insulting my intelligence but in your case, you’re probably just being honest.”

        “You can go on in Mr. Daniel’s office, Mrs. Shear, he said you’d be stopping by and

asked me to make you comfortable inside while waiting. Can I get you anything,” Jake asked?

        “No, Jake, I’m fine, thank you, Aaron, I’ll see you in a little while,” Nichole said and

went into the office.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         96


          It was less than 5 minutes and Mark came down the hall. “The address went well,” Mark

said.

          “Yes it did, at least when they shoot us all for treason we can use the ‘but we were classy

traitors’ defense at our trial,” Aaron answered.

          Mark smiled and said, “Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to a trial. I take it Nichole is

waiting for me inside?”

          “Yes sir,” Jake said, “she just went in 3 minutes ago.”

          “Well, wish me luck. Aaron, she didn’t take her great granddad’s scalping knife or

anything, did she,” Mark asked?

          “Not that I saw, and I don’t think she had anywhere to hide it in the dress she was

wearing, but you never know with her,” Aaron said.

          Mark smiled and went into his office. Nichole was sitting in a chair by his desk waiting

for him so he took the seat closest to her and moved it even closer. “So, what would the Indian

Princess like to talk about,” he asked?

          “Aaron told me, I believe, everything he can about what’s been going on since last

spring, Mark. I’m not at all happy about being kept in the dark about it, and I’m not sure I can

ever completely forgive either of you,” Nichole said, “but I do understand why, and what’s at

stake.”

          “Nichole, you have to understand something,” Mark said, “it wasn’t that Aaron or I

didn’t trust you. At the time, we thought, anyone close to this is in danger. I still believe that

was true. The attack on Adam and you was only related to this as a side effect of me pissing off

some asshole in Washington over something else.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                            97


        Nichole held up her hand and said “Mark, whatever. What’s done is done. I want to talk

to you about where we’re going from here. I need to get out of here. I can’t stay in this office

building much longer or I’ll lose my mind. I either need to go home.....”

        “I wouldn’t recommend that, Nichole, not at the moment….”

        “Or, if it’s alright with you and Shar, go to your place and stay with her. At least there, I

can go outside and have some company,” Nichole said.

        “Honey, I don’t have a problem with that. I have the best security possible at my estate

and I’m sure Shar would love the company since she hasn’t been able to leave much herself,”

Mark said.

        “OK, but I have to ask you a question, Mark.” Nichole said, “What does Shar know about

all of this? I mean, I don’t want to say anything that’s going to cause you problems with her, or

just tell her something you don’t want her to know about.”

        “I appreciate you asking, Nichole, but Shar knows everything. We were into this several

years when she and I got close and she moved in. I knew as things progressed, I wouldn’t be

able to hide it from her,” Mark answered, “she is, after all, no fool. If she was, we would never

have gotten close. I thought the only way to keep all the stories straight was to just tell her the

truth. There are some things that are classified, I’m sure Aaron told you the same thing that he

can’t talk about certain things, but I just tell her that and she seems to be fine with it.”

        “My biggest concern is the danger I’ve placed her in by being associated with me in all

this. I think of what almost happened to you and know if it weren’t for my extra security at the

estate; it would have most likely been her instead of you.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     98


       Nichole could tell by putting either her or Shar in danger, it really bothered Mark. It was

obviously not something he was taking lightly.

       “On that note,” Mark said, “when would you want to go back to the estate?”

       “I don’t know. Soon, I guess. If it’s OK, I’d like to call Shar and make sure she’s up for

a houseguest, and then I’d have to get there, somehow.”

       “Well, first things first,” Mark said. He walked around his desk and hit a speed dial

number. “Hi honey,” he said, “Yeah, it’s been interesting here. I have someone that wants to

talk to you, hold on.”

       Mark handed the phone to Nichole and she said “Shar? This is Nikki.”

       “Nikki!! I wondered if you were around. Are you coming out to the estate?”

       “That’s what I wanted to ask you about, are you willing to take a houseguest for an

indeterminate length of time?”

       “Are you nuts? Call the mover and get your furniture coming, I’m going crazy here

alone with nobody but Tony’s people and Izzy to keep me company! Get over here as quick as

you can,” Shar answered excitedly.

       Nichole laughed and said “OK, if I can get someone to bring me over, I’ll be there in the

morning. We’ll probably still go nuts, but at least we can drive each other nuts.”

       “I can’t wait till you get here Nikki. I’ll see you in the morning,” Shar said and hung up.

       Nichole handed the phone back to Mark and he said, “I guess your going out to the estate

is a non-issue?”

       Nichole laughed and said, “I guess even I’m better company than solitary confinement.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         99


       “One more thing, honey,” Mark said. He pushed a couple of buttons on his phone and

said, “Tony, can you come in here, and bring in the package for Nichole?”

       Nichole looked at Mark suspiciously and said, “Package?”

       “Yes, actually, it’s something Aaron asked Tony to pick up for you but he hasn’t had a

chance to give you yet,” Mark said, “Tony, if you don’t mind.”

       “Mrs. Shear, Aaron asked me to pick this up for you,” Tony said and laid a case on the

table. As he opened it Nichole saw a small, automatic pistol, “this is a Glock 19 Compact

handgun, semi-automatic, 9mm caliber. It has two 15 round magazines and will easily fit in

even a small purse. I recommend this for all of my female security personnel as either a primary

handgun or a backup weapon. It’s small and light enough even smaller women can handle it

easily. Mr. Shear informed me you were familiar with handguns, is that right?”

       “Yes, although I’m more used to revolvers.”

       “You’ll adapt to this quickly, trust me,” Tony said, “You may have noticed it’s a dark

blue almost black color. There is a reason for that, it has a coating on it that will not allow it to

retain fingerprints and it’s also very easy to keep clean. This particular weapon also has no serial

number on it so is registered to no one. This is very important, Mrs. Shear, if you’re ever in a

situation you have to defend yourself, you fire the weapon three times. The first two here,” Tony

tapped himself in the center of the chest with his hand, “and the last one here.” Tony pointed

right between his eyes.

       “You don’t shoot to wound, Mrs. Shear, if you need to use your weapon, you kill the son

of a bitch, drop the weapon, and walk away quickly once you know the threat has been

eliminated,” Tony said seriously, “Do you understand what I’ve told you?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        100


           “Yes, Tony,” Nichole said, “I understand. Two in the chest, one in the head, drop the

gun and walk quickly away.”

           “Very good, hide ASAP and then call me,” Tony said, “I understand you’re going out to

stay at the estate?”

           “Yes, in the morning,” Nichole answered.

           “If Mr. Daniels agrees, I’ll take you out and you and I will go out to Mr. Daniel’s range

and get you comfortable with the weapon. It’s time for Ms. Davidson to have a refresher course

anyway.”

           “Shar carries a gun?” Nichole asked, surprised.

           “Yes, ma’am, she does, and she is much more than proficient with it. I trained her and

work with her every six months or so and have been for the last three years,” Tony answered.

           “Does Aaron have one,” Nichole asked?

           “No ma’am, he has two,” Tony said, “I haven’t had a chance to work with him; he’s been

traveling for Mr. Daniels so much. If possible, I’d like him to go along with us tomorrow, sir,

and work with him as well. I should have him back by no later than 2:00.”

           “I think that’s long overdue, Tony, “ Mark answered, “assuming the President doesn’t

have him occupied I’ll be sure and keep his schedule clear with me tomorrow.”

           Tony closed the case and said, “Mrs. Shear, I’ll see you in the morning. I’ll come by to

help you with your bags and pick up you and Mr. Shear at 8:00, so we have plenty of time at the

estate.”

           “I’ll see you in the morning, Tony,” Nichole said as he left the office.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      101


       “Is this really necessary, Mark?” Nichole asked, “I mean really, I need to carry a gun?”

       “I thought you didn’t mind carrying a gun?”

       “For snakes and skunks and bobcats, sure, but that’s not what we’re talking about here,”

she answered.

       “No, it’s not Nichole,” Mark said, “we’re talking about doing whatever we have to do to

keep you alive, and Shar, and Kelly, and Marcus. It really is that simple. This gives you one

more chance to stay alive.”

       “I understand, Mark, really I do. I just don’t have to like it,” Nichole said as she got up

and left to meet Aaron out front.

       When they got back to the apartment Aaron thought they should watch the news since

President Brown’s address should have hit the air by then. Comments on the address were on

every channel and all the pundits were analyzing what she’d said. Aaron was flipping from one

news channel to the next. CNN and MSNBC had a number of people on claiming the states had

no right to secede. FOX News and ABC were actually discussing the ramifications to the

country if the middle states were no longer a part of the United States and took all of their natural

resources with them. To say the Coalition had made a stir was the understatement of the year,

maybe the century.

       Aaron looked up at Nichole and said, “When are you going out to the estate?”

       “Tomorrow morning. Mark said Shar knows about the whole situation,” Nichole

answered, “and she would really like the company. Besides, I have to go out to practice with

Tony with my new pistol. I guess you forget to tell me about that?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        102


          “Actually, I just asked Tony the day before yesterday and didn’t think he’d had time to

do anything about it yet. I should have known better. It’s good he’s going to take you out and

practice with it,” Aaron said.

          “Yes, I agree. Even better since you have to go along and practice with yours.

Both of them,” Nichole said, staring at him.

          “Oops,” Aaron thought, “I wasn’t expecting Tony to tell her about that.”

          “If the President and Mark don’t need me tomorrow, it’s probably the best use I can make

of my time. I haven’t fired a handgun in over 10 years since Adam and I went to that gun club in

Tulsa, I think,” Aaron said, the memory of his friend making his eyes well up again.

          “Tell you what,” Nichole said, “We’ll have us a friendly little competition. Tony can be

the judge. The one of us that does the best, in his opinion, wins, deal?”

          “Sure, you’re on,” Aaron said, “the usual bet?”

          “Oh no you don’t, the old ‘who gets to be on top’ bet isn’t going to work,” Nichole said,

laughing, “no matter if I win or lose, I still end up getting screwed. No, I think the bet will be the

loser gives the other a one hour massage with hot towels, warm oil, candles, the whole deal. Is it

a bet?”

          “You’re on,” Aaron said, “but I still like the usual wager better.”

          “I’m sure you do,” Nichole laughed, “now what do we have to do to eat around here?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     103




                                               Chapter 5

       As the men gathered in the Oval Office finished watching the address from “President”

Marjorie Brown they sat in stunned silence. Finally, President Collins said, “Would someone

here tell me just what the fuck that was?”

       “I believe the address was fairly clear, Mr. President,” the Chief of Staff said, “the region

we have lost contact with has declared themselves an independent nation after seceding from the

United States of America.”

       “Can they even do that,” Admiral Torrin asked, exasperated?

       “President Lincoln said no and it brought about the Civil War, sir,” NSA Director

Colwich answered, “however it’s important to note the Supreme Court at that time disagreed and

he threatened them with being dissolved if they didn’t go along. There is NOTHING in the

Constitution saying they can secede, but there is also nothing saying they can’t.”

       “You might also remember, sir, over the last two elections many states, and I’d wager

these all did it, passed a resolution which they sent to Congress and the President saying if

certain things happened, they could secede from the United States. At the time, we all thought it

was a joke, a child throwing a temper tantrum, I guess we should have taken it more seriously.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       104


       “You think?” Poyner said angrily, “You realize those ‘children’ are a nuclear power,

don’t you?”

       “I didn’t see you sending any memos this might be a problem, did I?” Admiral Torrin

snapped.

       “I believe it’s time for all of you to shut the hell up until I ask you to speak,” President

Collins said, “I may not have been elected, but I am the fucking President! Admiral Torrin, what

does this do to our strategy?”

       “Nothing, sir,” Torrin responded, “We still need intel from the area. No matter what we

do next, we need to know what we’re up against.”

       “Certainly, sir, you are going to have to address the nation, and quickly,” the Chief of

Staff said, “You need to reassure the people there is no new nation in the heartland, we are

negotiating with the people in the ‘Central States’ and are working to resolve their grievances.

You made no official statement about the secessions and the markets today showed that to be a

mistake as they were down almost 500 points due to the uncertainty right now. It will probably

be worse tomorrow unless you make an address. It may be worse regardless, but the people of

the United States need to be calmed and informed.”

       “I agree, sir,” Poyner said, “we have to keep control of this situation or the next thing we

know every state will become its own little kingdom. Also, sir, if I might offer an observation,

this did not just happen. This took years to plan and they just waited for the proper time to

execute it. It took money, time, money, people, and most importantly, money.”

       “Where could they possibly come up with that kind of funding? We’re talking about tens

of billions of dollars,” director Colwich asked?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       105


       “Oh, come on, half of the top 20 wealthiest people in the US live in those states,” Poyner

said, “if they worked together, for long enough, tens of billions is easily done.”

       “That makes things harder,” Admiral Torrin said.

       “What do you mean,” President Collins asked?

       “Well, if Dr. Poyner is correct, they are well planned, organized, and have been running

contingency plans for months or years,” Torrin replied, “we’re starting without a plan, because

we never realistically considered this to be a possibility, and we’re trying to do it blind, deaf, and

dumb with our intelligence resources so limited. I know this, they are having help, and a lot of

it, from some very experienced military officers.”

       “They wouldn’t dare,” Poyner said, “there’s no way officers would go against the United

States.”

       “Yes, they would,” Torrin answered, “they did in the Civil War, and if they felt the US

Government was acting contrary to the Constitution they most certainly would. In fact, they’re

probably recruiting right now from the guard units and the regular military bases as we speak.

To many of them, those states are their homes. Their families live there. They will defend them,

just like the Confederate soldiers did in the south during the Civil War.”

       “This is what I want all of you to do,” President Collins instructed, “First, Admiral, I

want you to get us some God damn intelligence. We need to know what’s going on over there.

Second, I want you to develop a list of what military resources they could conceivably control or

have captured. I want you to assume they have everything, the worst possible scenario. Last, I

want you to develop a plan of attack should we have to go that far, do you understand?”

       “Yes sir, I’ll get on it immediately,” the Admiral answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       106


       “Director Colwich, I want a list of every possible name that could have been behind this.

Access the IRS records, phone intercepts and records, travel itineraries, anything to tell us who is

involved in this, military or civilian. We need to know who we’re dealing with and find out how

they’re vulnerable. I want surveillance in that area like we’ve never seen before. Use any and

all assets we have left. We need information and we need it fast.”

       “Yes sir,” Director Colwich answered.

       “Dave, you start acting like my fucking Chief of Staff and get my staff off their dead

asses,” Collins barked, “I want a rough draft of a speech on my desk in twenty minutes. I want

the Press Secretary out there, telling them the states do not have the right or ability to secede

from the Union and there will be an address tonight to the nation at 7:00 so you get the media

woke up and get things arranged. If you screw this up, you’re going to be back plucking

chickens in South Carolina, do I make myself clear?”

       “Yes sir,” the Chief of Staff answered.

       “Sam, you just keep your ass right there for now, I’m not done with you, the rest of you,

get the hell out of my office.”

       After they had gone, President Collins poured both himself and Sam Poyner a tall drink

of bourbon. “Sam, I know lately things between us have been strained, at best, but I have to ask

you, how in the hell could you have not seen this coming,” the President asked.

       “Sir, this was a risk at any time with the economy as it is, but nobody, not CIA, FBI,

NSA, nobody even considered something this well planned, this organized, happening like it

has,” Sam answered, “how could anyone have?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       107


       “Somebody did, the people behind this. Every time something like this happens, there is

some single person it all hinges on, at least for a time, so who is it,” President Collins asked.

       “I honestly don’t know, sir, “

       “Maybe not, but you have a damn good idea don’t you,”

       “I have some ideas, yes, but I’m not comfortable with sharing them,”

       “I don’t really give a shit anymore what you’re comfortable with, you self centered

asshole, the country is collapsing, I want to know what you think,” President Collins demanded.

       “OK, fine. If he’s not the ringleader, he’s in the inner circle, and that’s Mark Daniels.

That was the only thing that should have tipped me off,” Poyner said, “when he stopped buying

government bonds and securities, and started holding his cash, I should have realized something

else was going on, but I didn’t. I’d bet anything he’s up to his eyeballs in this.”

       “The leader of the pack, so to speak,” President Collins said, “and if that leader was lost

to them, what would happen?”

       “The whole thing would most likely come apart.” Poyner answered, “But, if it didn’t, it

would galvanize the group and make him some kind of hero or martyr, it’s a huge risk, Mr.

President. We can’t have another Alamo on our hands.”

       “I want you to stay in your office, for now, Sam,” President Collins said, “call your

hooker girlfriend and tell her you’re not going to make it tonight. We’re going to talk more after

I’m done addressing the nation. In the meantime, you work on your list of who you think is

responsible. We’ll compare it with Tom’s when we get it in the morning and see how many

names show up on both lists.”

       “Yes sir,” Sam answered, “I’ll be in my office if you need anything.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     108


        “Tell Connie on your way out I’m sorry, but it’s going to be a long night,” the President

said.

        “I’ll tell her, sir,” Sam said as he left and went back to his office. Sam walked back

seething with anger at Mark Daniels. Although he couldn’t prove it, he knew Daniels was

behind all of this. If the “Central States” succeeded it would completely wreck his plans, plans he

and his benefactors had taken years to get into place to cause an orderly collapse of the US

economy bringing China in particular, and the European Union along with it, as the dominant

economic powers in the World. And if you dominate the economy, you dominate it all as history

had shown over and over again. Poyner decided then and there Daniels would have to be dealt

with, with or without that idiot Collins’ approval.

        At exactly 7:00 PM, EST, the networks interrupted their broadcasts with the Presidential

address to the nation.

                                  Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen.



 A couple of days ago, the People of the United States of America and the World were shocked

 by the announcement that fourteen Governors of our sister states had decided to announce that

         they were no longer a part of our Great Nation and had seceded from the union.

As we all remember from grade school when we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, “One Nation,

  under God, INDIVISIBLE, with Liberty and Justice for All.” My fellow citizens, I stress the

                                      word “INDIVISIBLE”.

  In 1860, seven Southern States announced secession from the Union following the election of

   President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln knew then what we all know now, “A house divided

    against itself cannot stand”. All citizens of the United States know this to be true. What
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       109


 followed in those terrible four years of the Civil War was the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s

                                              history.

             This secession is not constitutional, not legal, and we will not allow it.

   Fortunately, we are talking to cooler heads in these states that have grievances against the

   Federal Government and we hope to have this situation resolved equitably in the very near

                                               future.

  I’d like to talk now to those citizens that reside in the states that have announced their illegal

  secession. Tell your Governors to STOP. Tell them to think about what they’re doing. Tell

 them that you are, first and foremost, citizens of the United States of America and to stop this

                                                now.

   Please, I ask of you, heed the advice of the Harvard Poet and Philosophy Professor George

                                       Santayana who wrote:

               “Those that refuse to learn from History are doomed to repeat it.”

  Don’t repeat the disastrous actions that lead to the Civil War. Don’t turn your backs on your

 fellow American Brothers and Sisters. Let’s embrace each other as the family we are and work

      together to solve our differences through finding our common ground and interests.

 In light of the unrest caused by these 14 rogue Governors, I am forced to declare Martial Law

throughout the United States. All Police and emergency services are notified that they have been

   federalized and are answerable to the United States Military Command. Everyone, please

 remain calm. This is strictly for your own safety and to keep innocent citizens from being hurt

 or killed from irrational responses to this illegal secession. Remain calm, go to your jobs, help

your families and your neighbors as we work through these difficult times and remember we are

                                          all, Americans.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                           110




               God Bless the people of America, and God Bless the United States.

                                       Thank you and good night.




   Aaron and Nichole watched the President’s address in the apartment. When it was over,

Aaron said simply, “What a lying sack of shit. He hasn’t been in contact with anyone. Up until

4:00, he didn’t even know there was anyone to contact. This kind of lying crap is why we’re

doing this, Nichole. I can’t stand the thought of Marcus and Kelly having to live in a country

where lies are the order of the day, where they can’t believe anything their leaders say, where

they can’t do anything without some bureaucrat having to give them their stamp of approval first.

It just can’t go on getting worse, and worse, and worse.”

   “I understand, honey, really I do,” Nichole said, “but remember, my people felt the same way

a 150 years ago and they fought, and they ended up crushed. What if that happens here?”

   “I’d like to say it’s going to be alright, Nichole, but I can’t do that,” Aaron answered,

“because I just don’t know if it will. I can say, though, this is my line in the sand. This is where

I will allow them to go no further. Let me ask you this, who do your people remember and

revere? The warriors and chiefs that fought for their people or the ones that led the way on The

Trail of Tears? The reason for that answer is simple; the warriors were fighting for their people.

They fought for right, and that is never forgotten and never in vain, even if they lose.”

   “Do you really believe that, Aaron, even if it kills us all, it will still be worth it?”

   “Yes I do sweetheart, I really and truly do,” Aaron said, “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     111


The next morning Tony knocked on the door exactly at 8:00 to take Aaron and Nichole to

Mark’s estate. After getting Nichole’s things to her room, Nichole told Shar that Tony was

going to work with them target shooting.

       When Shar heard that, she said, “Tony is it OK if I come along? It’s been a couple of

months since I’ve practiced.”

       “Of course Ms. Davidson, you know I’ll work with you anytime you like,” Tony

answered.

       At first Nichole was shocked Shar would be able to use a gun, much less want to carry

one, but the more she thought about it, and considering Shar probably knew about what was

going on for nearly the whole time she and Mark had been close, she figured she probably

shouldn’t be all that surprised. Tony took the three of them to a target range he had set up at the

rear of the estate. This was not a few targets nailed to some posts or trees. There was a small

building with solid walls, pop up targets, and some that actually returned fire with small lasers

that recorded “hits”. It was impressive.

       “Do you train the police out here Tony?” Nichole asked.

       Tony laughed, “The police wish they had these facilities and equipment. I use this just to

train my people and the people I protect.”

       Tony walked over to a control panel and hit a switch, a target in the shape of a person’s

silhouette popped up about 10 yards away. “OK, we’ll start with you, Mr. Shear, what I’d like to

do is watch you remove your weapon, aim at the target in the center area of the torso, and fire

twice. Mrs. Shear, please watch carefully.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     112


       Aaron did as he was told, hitting one left of center and the other nearly missing

completely. He lowered the weapon to his side and said, “Not all that impressive.”

       “No sir, it wasn’t. But on the up side, from 30 feet you would have taken your assailant

down, and that’s a good thing,” Tony said, “but we can make you better. First, you’re aiming.

You don’t generally aim a handgun, you point it. The weapon is an extension of your arm so let

it extend. Stand slightly sidewise, feet shoulder width, both eyes open, and squeeze the trigger as

you exhale. Now try it again and remember what I said. I’ll talk to you as you go through it.

Raise your arm and point, both eyes open, feet look good, squeeze the trigger twice on the

exhale.”

       Aaron did as he was instructed as smoothly as he could and after he’d fired twice he

lowered the weapon to his side. Both shots were in the center ring.

       “Much better sir, this won’t take long at all,” Tony said, “I want to stop a minute and talk

about a couple other things, and that’s some basic rules. First, I’m sure you’ve heard the old

saying ‘don’t point the gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot’. That’s not true, in our case.

You have a handgun to use for the defense of your life and the lives of the people with you. It’s

not a hunting weapon, you’re not going to be ‘winging’ anyone. So we’ll modify that saying a

bit. Never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill. Dead. On the ground. If you

don’t intend to kill someone, then don’t draw the weapon.”

       Tony paused for a moment and said, “Mr. Shear, Mrs. Shear, do you understand what I’m

telling you?”

       Aaron looked at Nichole and said, “Yes, we understand.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      113


        “Good, this is a hard concept for people to get their minds around at times,” Tony told

them.

        Nichole said, “Tony, maybe before Adam and Kevin were killed, and they tried to kill

me, I might have had a problem with it. I don’t now.”

        Tony looked at her a moment and said, “Mrs. Shear, you bring up another point,

emotions. If the time ever comes, you are going to be so jacked up on adrenaline it’s going to

really mess with your mind. Your hands will shake, your eye will twitch, and you’ll be breathing

rapidly. Generally speaking, the least emotional person in a gunfight gets to go home and spend

the evening with their families, so remember that. Keep your wits about you. Understand?”

        They both nodded they did.

        “Next, the weapon has multiple safeties. First, never keep a round in the chamber. I

noticed both of you checked when we got here, and that’s good. Second is the thumb safety that

you have to manually activate, unless you’re ready to fire, safety on. Third is the grip safety.

The gun won’t fire unless it’s being held properly in your hand. Last, and the only REAL safety,

is this,” Tony said and held up his index finger, “simple rule. ‘On trigger, on target.’ In other

words, only place your finger on the trigger in firing position immediately before you’re ready to

pull it. The rest of the time, rest it along the frame here.”

        Tony drew his weapon and showed them how to rest their finger before firing. “Now Mr.

Shear, I want you to properly safe your weapon and put it in the holster. I’m going to lower the

target you’ve been shooting at. When I see you’re ready, at some point, I’ll raise another target.

You won’t know exactly where it will come up, but it will be in the same general direction as the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      114


last one. When you see the target come up, I want you to draw your weapon, chamber a round,

release the safety, and fire two rounds,” Tony instructed, “Any questions?”

        Aaron shook his head no, made his weapon safe, and holstered it.

        “Very good,” Tony said.

        Aaron was watching and nothing happened. Suddenly a target rose to the left of the last

one and a little further away. Aaron bent down and drew his weapon from his ankle holster,

chambered a round, and fired. He nearly dropped the gun when he drew it and he muttered

under his breath. He had one hit near the center of the circle, the other on the outer edge of the

center circle.

        “Don’t beat yourself up, sir, you actually did fine,” Tony said, “I timed you at just over 1

second. Most likely, you’d have lived. By the time we’re done, you’ll do it in half the time and

you won’t feel like you’ve dropped your weapon. The only thing you really did wrong was

hurried the draw. You did well chambering the round with the barrel pointed to the ground and

not at your foot or anyone else. You just need to slow down, think, and be smooth. Slower is

most often faster overall, remember that.”

        “Mrs. Shear, your turn,” Tony said, “Do you have any questions?”

        Nichole shook her head ‘no’ and Tony said, “Ok then, let’s see how you do on the same

target your husband just fired at.”

        Nichole aimed and fired twice, putting both in the center ring.

        “Very well done, ma’am. That target is actually 2 yards further out than the one Mr.

Shear started with,” Tony told her, “Now, the same drill as Mr. Shear. Safe your weapon and

put it in your purse. When you see the target come up, draw and fire twice.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     115


       Nichole put the gun in her purse and when the target came up, to the right this time but at

about the same distance, she drew and fired, again both shots hitting in the center rings.

       “Not bad, Nikki, not bad at all, but you’ll get better,” Shar said.

       “And you’re better?” Aaron asked.

       “Tony?” Shar asked, looking at him.

       “Sure, you need to practice too,” he answered.

       Shar walked up to the line and Aaron and Nichole moved back. Tony flipped a switch

and two targets popped up, one at the same 12 yards, another 3 or 4 yards farther away. Shar

drew, fired three times at the first and three at the second, made her weapon safe, and put it back

in her purse. Her whole time couldn’t have been more than a second and a half. They walked

out to the targets to look and she had two shots so closely together they couldn’t have been more

than an inch apart and a third in the center of the silhouette’s head on each target.

       “Remind me to never cheat at cards when we’re playing Poker, hon,” Nichole said.

       Shar laughed and said, “Believe me, the first time Tony brought me out here I wasn’t

even hitting these damn targets at 5 yards. Now I’m pretty accurate to 25 yards, but after that it’s

a little iffy. Before Tony’s done with you guys this morning, you’ll be this good, or better.”

       When they finished, Tony showed them how to field strip their weapons and clean them

quickly, then put them back together. He taught them how to use the cover of the building for

protection and to shoot from. He showed them how to fire from many different positions. By

the time the day was over, both Aaron and Nichole were more than competent with their

weapons but, Aaron had to admit, he was going to be giving, not getting, the massage.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     116


                 ***************************************************

       At 9:00 am the President of the United States had assembled his inner circle again and

had made up his mind it was time to do something about the situation in the Midwest.

       “OK, people, I want some answers and I want them now,” President Collins said, “Tom,

what can the NSA tell me about what’s going on?”

       “Not a lot, sir, we’re still working on it,” the NSA Director answered, “but I’ll tell you

what we know. Going back for the last 5 years or more, a group has been carefully installing

State Governors, Legislators, and other key personnel receptive to secession. In hindsight, we

should probably have known something was in the works when so many states passed the same

resolution authorizing the Governors to secede in certain instances. At the time, we took that for

an idle threat. It was no such thing, apparently.”

       “Would you mind telling us something we don’t already know?” President Collins said.

       “We are relatively certain Angela Basgall has something to do with this, probably in the

inner circle. There has been too much organization and it’s been too well planned politically to

have come from a bunch of novices at the state level. We’re also fairly certain at least one,

possibly more, heavily connected people in the communications field are in that circle as well.

The loss of communications we’ve experienced is more than just the loss of the base at Schriever

and to lose communication so completely tells us it was someone very familiar with the systems

we use. That can only be William Allister and his companies,” the Director said.

       “That’s all we have any certainty of. If we knew where things were being organized, it

would help a lot in isolating our communications intercepts, but as of now they’ve been very

careful about what they showed and it’s been so generic it could be anywhere,”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         117


        “I know where they’re running this operation from,” Sam Poyner said, “it’s all out of

Mark Daniels’ offices in Kansas City.”

        “You have evidence of that, Sam?” President Collins asked.

        “No sir, but it’s the only thing that makes sense,” Poyner explained, “He has everything

he needs there, exceptional security, the video originally came from Kansas City, as near as we

can tell, he’s good friends with Basgall, and the thing that ties it all together is that up until nine

months ago, he was one of the largest individual buyers of US Government securities. Since

then, nothing, as of now, he's even completely divested himself of all of the securities he did

have up to that point. In other words, he knew this was coming before it happened."

        "That's pretty thin, Sam," the Chief of Staff commented.

        "Maybe to you, but to me it's pretty clear, you can either believe it or not at your own

peril," Sam snapped back.

        "We have another issue, gentlemen," Admiral Torrin said, "last night we sent the first

UAV from Illinois into Missouri to check out Whiteman Air Force Base. It's virtually empty, no

planes, no people, nothing."

        "Bullshit," the NSA Director said, "how is that possible? Where could they move over

20 B-2 bombers?"

        "If the flight crews joined them, damn near anywhere they wanted to," Admiral Torrin

answered, "one of our active bases they controlled, a decommissioned base, even an old WWII

bomber base. There are a dozen or more old WWII bomber bases in the Coalition territory. If

we had satellites, we could find them in a few hours, but we don't."

        "That also brings up another point," he continued, "we cannot regain control of our

satellites and my people tell me we're probably not going to for perhaps a month or more if ever.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     118


That means they have taken control of Schriever. With that, they control our eyes in space as

well as the GPS system. If they shut that off, it will cause us massive problems not just here, but

worldwide."

       "So, what do you think they have, Admiral?" Sam asked.

       "I think for now we have to assume everything in their state borders," he answered.

       "Which is what, exactly? Quite being so cryptic," President Collins snapped.

       14 B-2's and all their weapons, 50 B-1b's and their weapons, as many as 10 B-52's, one

full armor division, 250, more or less, fighters, F-16's, F-18's, F-15's mostly, maybe 10 A-10's,

100 Blackhawk helicopters, 50 Apache's, 30 or more Huey's. We had almost 250,000 regular

military troops stationed in the region but there's no way of knowing where those troops loyalties

lie. There were also about 100,000 guard troops stationed there and I think we should assume

nearly all of them have Coalition loyalties. Now get ready for the bad news. They are most

likely a nuclear power. They have the munitions from Whiteman and Ellsworth, for sure. They

probably also have taken the nuclear weapon facility at Kirtland in New Mexico, and that gave

them a treasure chest of weapons including cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear." the

Admiral said.

       "What else? You're still not telling us everything even as bad as it is," Poyner said.

       "Well, like you, I have no proof, but you're not going to like the conclusions I've come

to," the Admiral said, "I believe their commanding General is probably Tom Landers. It makes

sense. He grew up in Texas and moved back there when he was dismissed and retired. This

whole operation was very well planned and with very current information. Even at that, he

couldn't do it alone. He has more senior officers, probably many of them retired over the last

year or two. Many of our officers have retired in the last four years over policy disputes. Many
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      119


of them also live in the region and have family there. In short, gentlemen, if this goes to battle,

we are facing a formidable opponent. It will be bloody."

       "We need a list, Admiral, every officer ranked Colonel or above that has retired,

resigned, or been dismissed for the last 4 years and has close family or lives in the Coalition

territory," Poyner said.

       "My people are already on that. It would be easier if we had access to the military pay

systems so we could get addresses for their retirement payments, but that is located at Ellsworth

Air Force Base in Rapid City and we've lost communications with them," the Admiral explained,

"but we'll have one by this afternoon."

       "So what do we have left?" the President asked.

       “In the US, not a great deal, we actually have more land forces than they have captured,

but to be honest, with their control of the satellites and capture of so many of our bombers and

fighters, they have air superiority at the moment, unless we pull our fighters, or a lot of them, out

of the Middle East theater," Admiral Torrin answered.

       "Mr. President," the Chief of Staff said, "something else, it may or may not be important,

but I spoke with the Secretary of State this morning. Yesterday, the secretary asked to have

meetings with the Canadian Ambassador and the Mexican Ambassador to reaffirm our

commitments to our respective nations. The Canadian Ambassador met within hours and told us

they supported a Unified United States of America. However, if hostilities broke out, they would

not be dragged into a civil war and would remain neutral. Mexico, on the other hand, seems to

be having telephone issues, since they won't return our calls."

       "What does that mean?" President Collins asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        120


          "Most likely, sir, they have cut a deal with the new coalition," he answered, "and it's not

surprising. We're behind on our payment of money for the Merida Initiative which was

originally $900 million and to be honest, the people we're talking about in the Coalition, could

come up with that in little time. Whatever the reason, the upshot is it's very possible Mexico has

already recognized them as a nation and may even be their ally."

          "Where has the stock market opened this morning?" President Collins asked.

          Sam turned the TV on in the Oval Office and switched it to MSNBC. In the first hour of

trading, the market had fallen another 400 points, but it was still trading and had actually begun

to come back a little. It was now trading down about 250 points with the DOW just over 4200

points.

          "I've heard enough," President Collins said, "we need to take action. Doing nothing

makes the US Government appear weak and ineffective. Admiral, when are our boys going to

start coming in from overseas?"

          "Some are already arriving," he answered, "about 90% will be equipped and ready to

move in about 6-7 days."

          "Get them home and get them ready, just in case," President Collins ordered, "for now

we'll stick with the non-middle east theater personnel. Sam, I want you to draft a letter. We will

address it to Governor Marjorie Brown and send it to the Governor's office in Little Rock. It

will say we do not recognize her as the President of anything, nor do we recognize the Coalition

or the states' right to secede from the union. We will give those states 24 hours to renounce

their affiliation in the Coalition and return to the union. If they fail to do that, we will begin

instituting severe restrictions on all goods and services in and out of the region until they come to

their senses. If they continue to follow this reckless path, we will do whatever is necessary to
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     121


bring them back into the union even if it requires military force. Make sure you make it very

clear the deadline is 24 hours, in fact, make it by 12:00 noon tomorrow."

       "Yes sir, I'll have it ready for you to look at in an hour," Sam said.

       "Dave, you get everyone out in the press. Tell them this ‘coalition’ is illegal and the

governors are acting against the wishes of their citizens, who are freedom loving and only wish

to have a unified United States. We need to paint those governor's as rogues and seditionists.

We have a quarrel with them, not the people that live in those states, and I want you to hammer

on this through every news outlet imaginable. Am I clear?"

       "Yes sir," the Chief of Staff said.

       "Tom, the NSA hasn't been much help. Make it more helpful. I want to know exactly

who is behind this and why. How can we get to them if necessary and I want it before the end of

the day”.

       "Yes sir," the NSA Director said.

       "Now get to work, it's going to be a long day," the President said dismissing them.

       Sam walked back to his office thinking of two things. First, the letter he needed to get

ready for the President to send to that bitch “President” Brown and second, how he could get to

Mark Daniels. Sam was certain if he could get rid of Daniels, the whole thing would fall apart.

       The letter didn’t really take long to prepare. He wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to

get to Arkansas. The communications of the United States Government weren’t exactly up to

snuff right now. When he was finished he called a friend of his, Deputy Director Paul Sanderson

at the CIA, and asked him to come by his office as soon as he could. Sanderson was another

person owing Sam his job and in Paul’s case, his entire career. To say he had a checkered

background would have been kind. Paul said he’d be at Sam’s office right after lunch.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      122


       Sam took the letter down the hall to the President’s office.

       “That didn’t take long, Sam, let’s see what you have,” President Collins said.

       Sam handed him the letter and took a seat while the President read. He was surprised the

President seemed to be reading it several times.

       “Well, you’re not starting off very friendly,” President Collins said, “you seem to prefer

the stick over the carrot. Are you sure this is the way we need to approach these states?”

       “Sir, think of them as unruly children. You let them know you love them, but if they

misbehave you punish them, swiftly and certainly,” Poyner explained, “if we don’t show the rest

of the country secession will not be tolerated, we’re going to end up with 2/3 of the states

thinking they can form their own countries. Especially states like California and Florida. Some

sources in California are already telling me there is secession talk out on the west coast, taking

Oregon and Washington with them, maybe even Alaska and Hawaii. Sir, we don’t have the

natural resources in the East to support ourselves. Not even close. If this thing spreads to the

other states, we’ll be bankrupt by next year.”

       “I understand that, Sam, but if they’re belligerent now, this could send them over the

edge completely leading almost certainly to another Civil War. That’s simply not an option.”

       “Mr. President, you have to understand not only is war an option, it is most likely

inevitable. I honestly don’t see how we can avoid it at this point unless the states simply give in

and I doubt that’s going to happen.”

       “Very well,” President Collins said, “but I think this is taking a huge risk.” President

Collins buzzed his secretary. As she came in, he was signing the letter. “Connie, I want you to

fax a copy of this to the office of the Governor of Arkansas immediately. Let me know when it’s

sent and if it goes through correctly.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     123


        Connie left and in a few minutes came back and reported it had faxed correctly, as near as

she could tell.

        “It would seem they left a line of communication open for us,” Collins said.

        Sam had always brought his lunch with him to work, not that he enjoyed brown bagging,

but not a lot of people wanted to eat lunch with him once he’d worked with them for any length

of time. Just as he was finishing, his secretary buzzed in and said Paul Sanderson was there to

see him. Sam told her to send him in.

        “Paul, thanks for coming over,” Sam said.

        “No problem, Sam, I had to come over to the White House anyway,” Sanderson said, and

thought, “And like I had any real choice in the matter.”

        Paul Sanderson had been in the FBI. He had worked his way up from a field agent to a

deputy director and seemed to be on the fast track to someday end up the director. Through most

of his career, Paul worked in the anti-drug operations and with that, his ability to get drugs was

extremely easy and he ended up hooked on coke first, then crack. He was one of the few people

that could function even though addicted, but somehow Poyner found out about it. He never

revealed Sanderson was an addict, but along with the addiction was a weakness for ladies of the

evening, most of whom he saw in exchange for more drugs. That much Poyner did let out, and it

destroyed his career at the FBI. Eventually, Poyner got him a low level, paper pushing position

in the CIA, then with the new administration, an appointment to a deputy directorship of a

department that spent most of it’s time ordering office supplies. So Sanderson hated Poyner

while at the same time, owed him his very livelihood. It didn’t much matter to Paul, he was

going to be 65 years old in December and had every intention of retiring.

        “So, Sam, what can I do for you?” Sanderson asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       124


       “I have a problem, Paul, with someone in the Midwest, a serious problem. Serious

enough that I need the problem eliminated, permanently. I did have someone that took care of

these kinds of things, but she is currently indisposed, so I need someone else,” Poyner said

bluntly.

       “Sam, you know me, if you need paper clips or staples or printer ink, I’m your guy, but I

hardly have any contacts in the CIA to get you a hit squad.”

       “This is not official, Paul, this is personal, and don’t give me this shit about ‘I don’t

know’ either. You and I both know fucking well you still know people in the narcotics business

that can take care of this for me.”

       “I don’t know those people anymore, Sam.”

       Sam sighed and said, “Paul, are you being this stupid on purpose or were you naturally

born this way?”

       Poyner reached in his drawer and threw a manila envelope at Sanderson. Inside were

pictures of him taking a hit off a crack pipe while he was receiving oral sex in a dirty motel

room. The picture wasn’t more than a few months old.

       Sanderson handed them back to Poyner, a sick feeling in his stomach, and Poyner said,

“No, really Paul, keep them. Have them framed. I’m sure they’d look good right up on the

mantel next to your wedding picture and your son’s graduation picture. I have plenty more,

some in even more interesting positions. Maybe you and your wife would want to re-enact the

scenes on your anniversary. It is, your anniversary next week, isn’t it?”

       When somebody like Poyner gets their claws into you, they never let go. When

Sanderson first realized he had been discovered, he sat on a bed in a motel room in Chicago, his
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         125


service revolver on his lap, for almost 3 hours. At times, he had the barrel in his mouth, but he

couldn’t pull the trigger. He thought now that he made the wrong decision back then.

       “What do you need done?” Sanderson asked in a resigned voice.

       “Why, I thought that was pretty clear, Paul. I need Mark Daniels dead. Kill him. Kill

him a lot. He’s causing me all manner of problems and I want the problems resolved. I don’t

care how you do it, or who does it, but I want him dead, the sooner the better.”

       “When?”

       “Now, yesterday, get it done. I don’t care if it’s neat and tidy. I don’t care if the shooters

or whatever get caught. I presume you still have enough of your wits about you to keep it from

coming back to either of us because if it does, well, let’s just not go there, shall we?”

       “I’ll take care of it, on one condition.”

       Poyner looked a bit amused by the statement and said “Just what would your ‘condition’

be?”

       “When this is done, we’re done. I’m going to retire in a month and that’s what I want to

do. Just let me retire and fade away,” Paul said quietly.

       This caused Poyner to laugh hard. Still laughing, Poyner said “You fucking moron, it

will never be done. You know that. You know the game. You were FBI and now CIA. It’s

never over until they plant you in the cold, hard ground. Then it might be over, if I decide it’s

over. I might just start over again with your wife, or son, if that’s what I want to do. Now get

out of my office and take care of this.”

       Poyner was still laughing as Sanderson left his office.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        126




                                              Chapter 6

           Jake came into Mark’s office where President Brown, Mark, and Angela had just arrived,

they were about to work on her address to the people of the Coalition to be broadcast that night.

           “I’m sorry to interrupt, but this fax was just forwarded to us from the Governor’s office

in Little Rock and I knew you’d want to see it, Madam President,” Jake said, handing her the fax.

The President of the Coalition looked at the page, and then handed it to Angela so she could read

it:

                          “Governor Marjorie Galashaw-Brown of Arkansas;

      After lengthy discussions with my staff and the Department of Justice, we can find no legal

grounds for you and your fellow governors to order your states to secede from the union. In fact,

 the consensus here is the Civil War determined that secession by a state from the United States

                            of America was neither legal, nor even possible.

      With these findings, we have determined that you and your fellow governors’ seizures of the

property of the people of the United States are also illegal and unwarranted. You have until noon

      tomorrow to announce that the governors and the United States Government have come to an

        understanding and your states are once again part of the United States of America. The

resolutions your states passed over the last couple of years are nothing but the political version of

                    a child’s temper tantrum and hold no legal standing whatsoever.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      127


 Do not mistake this for a negotiation. It is not. We will give you nothing. We promise you no

 amnesty, nor to any other parties to this illegal act. The only thing we promise is if you submit

to this lawful order, you will save countless lives by avoiding a second Civil War in this nation.

You may, by submitting to this order, save for yourself a brief shred of dignity by showing some

                                   glimmer of common sense.

 If by 12:00 noon tomorrow, Eastern Standard Time, you have not announced your intentions to

  rejoin the United States of America, we will immediately begin a course of action which will

                  leave you no alternative but to submit, by force if necessary.

Mrs. Brown, this is nothing I want to do, you have forced the United States Government into this

 position and I suggest you think carefully where the path you have chosen is actually going to

take your state, your ‘coalition’, and indeed, the entire country. Take this time of approximately

 24 hours to weigh your options carefully, but make no mistake, the deadline is just that in more

                                          ways than one.

                         President of the United States, Jeremy Collins.”

       After reading it, Angela handed it to Mark and when he was done he said, “If I didn’t

know better, I’d think we pissed him off, pardon my language Madam President.”

       “I believe ‘pissed off’ hardly covers it, Mr. Daniels. He wrote this in a rage. In fact, I

know President Collins fairly well. We never liked each other, but this is not something he

would have written,” President Brown said.

       “You don’t think he sent it?” Mark asked.

       “Oh, no, he signed it and sent it, he just didn’t write it. Somebody else did,” she

answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     128


          “He did more than that,” Angela said, “he wrote most of your speech for tonight. We

were trying to work out how to present the United States as a legitimate threat to our citizens and

we were trying to figure a way to keep some of the more moderate governors from trying to

broker a deal on their own with the government. He just gave us everything we need. It’s

obvious there will be no deal, there will be no concessions. We either win, or we’re destroyed.”

          Mark and President Brown just sat there, thinking about what Angela had said, and

finally Mark stood up and said, “We need to get Aaron back here, and convene a meeting of the

circle, getting as many of them back here in person as possible when you deliver the address. Do

you agree, Madam President?”

          “Absolutely, Mr. Daniels, we haven’t much time to get this done,” President Brown

agreed.

          Mark called Tony, telling him he and Aaron were needed at the Ivory Tower as soon as

they could get there. He also sent messages to Bill, Sandy, Marilyn, General Mays, and General

Landers, telling them if possible, they should get here in person immediately and if not, to

message him back, all but the Generals who he instructed to stay at their stations and hook up

with their secure video links by 5:30 pm.

          “It’s done, Madam President,” Mark said, “I’ve heard back from everyone except

Marilyn Conyers and they’re on their way in.”

          “Good, thank you Mr. Daniels,” President Brown said, “now if you’ll excuse me, I’m

going to my office to work on the address for this evening so we can polish it after we meet with

the others and fill them in.” With that, she left the room leaving Mark and Angela alone.

          “I don’t think she’s a woman we want to cross,” Mark observed, “she seems like she

wouldn’t take very kindly to that.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     129


       Within 30 minutes Tony and Aaron had arrived. By 5:30 everyone was there. Mark

explained about the letter received from President Collins, they were going to proceed with the

President’s address to the coalition that night, and President Brown was working on her speech.

Just as he was finishing up, the President of the coalition walked into the room.

       “Thanks for coming so quickly, everyone,” President Brown said, “General Landers,

General Mays, are you online?”

       “Yes we are, Madam President, good evening,” General Landers said.

       “General, I’m sure you have some things to report, but unless you feel it’s urgent I think

we need to proceed with this,” the President said.

       “Of course, ma’am, what we have can certainly wait,” Landers agreed.

       “Good. I thought it best we all be together for this because what President Collins had to

say is going to affect all of us almost immediately, especially after my response tonight in the

address to the Coalition,” President Brown began.

       “Have any of you gotten a chance to read this, other than Mr. Daniels and Ms. Basgall?”

she asked. Nobody had. “Then I think it best to start just by reading the communication from

President Collins.”

       President Brown read the letter to the room and then, instead of asking for opinions, she

continued, “General Landers, you worked with President Collins for as long as he’s been

President. I have just one question of you, Is he bluffing?”

       “Collins is an interesting man, Madam President, and I’m certain he does not want a

Civil War. However, others around him probably feel it will actually help their personal agenda

if there is one and have advised him to not bluff, so my answer would be no, the President is not

bluffing.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         130


        “I came to that conclusion myself, General, but I appreciate your input. We can talk

about what to do about that later, but we’re short of time so I’d like to read to you the remarks

I’ve prepared as an address to the Coalition,” she began.

        “Citizens and guests of the Independent Coalition of Central States, I felt it time I come

to you, we sit down together, and talk about our future. I have planned to have this discussion

with all of you tonight for a few days, but it is even more important now due to the fact I

received this letter from President Jeremy Collins of the United States of America. I’d like to

read it to you at this time.”

        “At this point, I will read the letter in it’s entirety to the people of the Coalition. Are

there any objections to this?”

There were none.

        “Very good, then I’ll continue. I think we should talk about this letter. The President

claims our secession is illegal and invalid and we cannot secede from the union no matter what.

Mr. President, I respectfully disagree. Contrary to your opinion stated in this letter, we free

citizens of the Central States are not children, nor are we throwing a ‘temper tantrum’. We are

exercising our rights under the Constitution as free people, as was done by our founding fathers

when they realized the British yoke of domination was too great to bear any longer.”

        “You say this is not a negotiation. We agree, there is nothing to negotiate. We have

reclaimed our rights and freedom from the tyranny that has spread from Washington DC. There

is nothing to negotiate. The equipment and property we have reclaimed in our territory is ours,

bought and paid for, and we will use it to enforce our rights and freedoms. You so graciously

gave us until 12:00 noon tomorrow to reply and I thank you for that, sir, but I can give you our

response right now.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      131


       “Mr. President, members of Congress, you can go to Hell.”

       “You’re right, this is not a negotiation, this is OUR Declaration of Independence, our

demand to be left alone and find our own way. We don’t want or need those of you in

Washington DC holding our hands and telling us how to live our lives; we are perfectly capable

of determining our own fate.”

       “Any action you attempt to take against us will result in swift and sure retaliation from

the Coalition. People of the United States, we hold no animosity towards you. Soldiers of the

US Military, we wish you no harm. Make no mistake; however, we WILL defend ourselves with

everything in our arsenal. We will respond to any attempts to blockade trade with our sovereign

nation. Although we are not seeking, nor will we keep, any land beyond our existing state

borders, we reserve the right to act against anyone massing troops outside our borders in

preparation for attack. I beg of the citizens of the United States, if you see the US military

gathering, get away. We do not want to inflict collateral damage, but I can’t stress strongly

enough we are going to defend our borders.”

       “To the sons and daughters of the Coalition States, I am announcing tonight we need your

help. If freedom is important to you, then help us. Report to your closest State National Guard

center in your town, or a neighboring town, and volunteer to help defend our borders. Any

retired military personnel would be particularly useful, but everyone in good health willing to

defend our borders would have our undying gratitude.”

       “To those of you that have been considered by the United States Government to be here

‘illegally’, my call extends to you. If you will agree to fight in the defense of our borders, and

serve the Coalition faithfully for three years, you will have an expedited path to become legal

and documented citizens of the Coalition. You will not be getting a ‘free pass’, but you can trust
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      132


your service to the Coalition will not go unnoticed or unrewarded. Locate your nearest State

National Guard facility and help us defend our borders. Even if you don’t feel qualified or

physically able to serve in the military, there are many tasks you can perform in support of our

defense. This call to arms is for every person within our borders that loves freedom.”

        “Make no mistake, my fellow citizens, I do not believe President Collins is posturing or

bluffing. I hope and pray he comes to his senses and recognizes us as the independent and

sovereign nation we are, joining the 38 other nations of the world that have already recognized

us. To those nations, we thank you for your support at this time and I’d like to read a list of

those nations off now:”

Mexico                 Venezuela                Argentina             Panama

Costa Rica             Cuba                     South Africa          Brazil

Switzerland            Nigeria                  Romania               Libya

Slovakia               Vietnam                  Belarus               Lithuania

Cameroon               Estonia                  Latvia                Iceland

Ghana                  Jamaica                  Uganda                Georgia

The Congo              Mali                     Chad                  Moldova

Sierra Leone           Rwanda                   Liberia               East Timor

Sri Lanka              Belize                   San Marino            Macedonia

                       Madagascar               Cyprus

        “Fellow citizens of the Coalition, remember these countries in the years to come. These

are the nations that stand beside us and while many can’t aid us materially, they are with us in

spirit, the spirit of freedom, and large or small, rich or poor, we will remember all of you as

friends that stood with us at the beginning.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      133


       “Many other countries, too many to list separately, have promised whatever may come in

the future they will remain neutral, neither aiding or impeding our efforts to determine our own

destiny.”

       “Within the next few days, everyone in the Coalition will receive a two page flyer with

details of what will happen next. Things like our money, mail, social policies, health care, as

well as many other details will be in the flyer. Read it carefully and if you have questions, there

will be instructions on the flyer as to how you can get them answered.”

       “The Independent Coalition of Central Stats is a Constitutional Republic. It is important

each and every citizen have a copy of the Constitution of the Coalition to read, learn, and use to

hold us in the government accountable to it. If you don’t know what is in the Constitution, you

can’t be expected to know when the government has over-stepped its bounds. We have had

enough of the government using the Constitution to start the fires in their fireplaces and will have

no more of it. For the time being, there will be copies of the Coalition Constitution, as ratified

by the Constitutional Convention, available for anyone to pick up at their local Post Office.

Please, for the time being, pick up just one per household. We are printing them as quickly as

possible, but they will be in short supply for some time, so leave some for your friends and

neighbors as well.”

       “Finally, I would like to close with this thought. We here in the Central States have

always had a strong sense of loyalty and duty. We take care of each other. We take care of our

land and property. We watch out for one another and help one another. We don’t need a

government to tell us to do that, or how to do that, we’ve known and done it all along. That’s

what I’m asking you to remember and do now, watch out for one another. Help us build

something better as we start over. Help us remain strong and free.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        134


       “Thank you for your attention and patience. God Bless You All, and God Bless The

Independent Coalition Of Central States. Good Night.”

       The room was silent for some time. Finally Bill spoke up and said,” So basically what

you’re saying is President Collins is off your Christmas Card list?”

       The room erupted with laughter and finally President Brown said, ”I appreciate the

humor, Mr. Allister, but that wasn’t really the main reason I asked you here. Ms. Basgall and

General Landers are both of the opinion that President Collins is not bluffing, that this was, in

fact, both a plea and an ultimatum. He is saying ‘come back or we’ll drag you back’.”

       “Ladies and Gentleman, when I got the call from Mr. Daniels, I was very hesitant. I

didn’t believe things were that bad, to be honest. Of course, that was before national martial law

had been declared and all the other things, but looking back the events of the last few days aren’t

really the problem. We as a people have been like the proverbial frog in the soup. If you throw

the frog into boiling water, it will hop right out, but if you put it in cold water and bring the heat

up slowly, it will just sit in the pot and cook. The United States citizen has been sitting in the

water for 30 years with Washington gradually turning up the heat. When we look back at all the

freedoms we’ve lost, we see this is necessary.”

       “If you do not see the necessity of what we’re doing, then now is the time for you to

leave because from here on out until it’s done, it’s going to get bloody.”

       “Ma’am, I was one of the original retired military officers that came to speak to Mr.

Daniels,” General Mays said, “and what you said is virtually the same thing we told him almost a

decade ago. This day is inevitable. At some point, enough of the voting public become apathetic

and loses their sense of duty and the democracy falls. Perhaps by doing this now, not only will
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       135


we form a new nation, but we may even roll the calendar back on the United States, avoiding for

quite some time the fall into dictatorship.”

       “Madam President, with all due respect,” Mark said, “everyone in this room knows what

we’re talking about here. We’ve weighed the consequences not just to ourselves, but to

everyone else living here in the coalition states very carefully. We’ve all known people are

going to die. Up until now, that has been limited to military personnel, but that’s going to

change and we realized that.”

       “Not all have been military, Mark,” Aaron said quietly, “some had no idea they were

even involved and died. If we quit now, those deaths will be meaningless.”

       “Of course you’re right; Mr. Shear,” President Brown said, “and we all recognize the loss

to you and your family. So, does anyone need me to go over my proposed address again? Are

there any constructive criticisms? I want to hear some opinions.”

       “Madam President, you are the President of the Coalition. You set the tone and give the

orders,” Angela said, “We are here to follow and carry out those orders. We will advise you,

when asked, but in the case of your addresses and speeches, I for one am of the opinion there is

nobody in this room, or anywhere else for that matter, that can do a better job than you have so

far. I see nothing in your speech I could offer to improve it.”

       “Anyone else,” President Brown asked, “if not, this matter is closed. Generals, what do

you have for us?”

       “Madam President, we have quelled all of the sporadic fighting on the bases. We are in

the process right now of moving the materials from Kirtland in New Mexico to other facilities

farther inside the Coalition borders. If it is taken, and it probably will be, there will be nothing

left for the United States Military to recapture in less than 24 hours,” General Landers began,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      136


“Our surveillance of US bases shows troop movements preparing for an offensive. So far, this

has been aided by allowing over flight in our airspace as they reposition troops. This needs to

stop. Someone was actually dumb enough to send 42 light armored personnel carriers by rail

from the west coast to the east. They were intercepted and off loaded in Nebraska and are now

on their way to Fort Riley, Kansas. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again, though.”

       “If they began moving towards us right now, it would take about 24-36 hours before they

would be in a position to attempt a ground assault. Most likely, they are going to come from the

east for the most part, and follow the Interstate Highway system when they do come. I do not

anticipate the US Military doing anything until after the deadline passes tomorrow noon.”

       “What do you need from me, General?” President Brown asked.

       “First, I need the order to destroy all secondary bridges crossing into our territory over

the Mississippi river other than the main bridges on the Interstate highways. We are prepared

and ready to execute that plan but it will take about 12 hours from start to finish,” General

Landers said.

       “Second, we need to close our airspace to traffic entering or leaving our borders. I

suggest we announce the closing as soon as possible to allow people the opportunity to return

home, either inside or outside the coalition. Announce it on all media outlets; we can still get

this in the papers in the morning.”

       “Third, I presume Mr. DeSoto is prepared to deny the United States access to their fuel

pipelines at this time?” General Landers asked.

       “Yes sir, we are ready. The pipelines will be shut down within 30 minutes of getting the

order,” Sandy answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      137


       “Good. Madam President, you need to be prepared to give that order at any time. I

suspect the first thing President Collins will do is put a complete blockade on trade in and out of

our borders. We need to be ready to respond in kind,” Landers explained, “but I will leave the

issuing of that order to you, ma’am, as it is more of a political decision than a military one.”

       “I understand, General. What else?” President Brown asked.

       “Last, I need an order from you now giving General Mays and me permission to strike at

military targets outside of our borders. These strikes will be by air or missile, no ground forces.

We are going to have to stop or hinder an advance at least 30 miles before they get to us,”

General Landers said.

       “Is it necessary to bring the battle on the US soil?” President Brown asked.

       “Yes ma’am, I believe it is, if we want to salvage what’s left of our infrastructure,”

General Mays added.

       “Very well, gentlemen, you have my permission to strike military targets where, and

when, you feel it necessary to do so, without limits on distance or location of those targets.

When it comes to the military operations, I am putting a lot of faith and trust in you, don’t

disappoint me,” President Brown answered.

       “We’ll do our best, ma’am,” General Landers said.

       “What is the status of our prisoners and recruiting from the US Military?” Angela asked.

       “We have over 95% of the guard personnel from the various states that have taken an

oath of allegiance to the Coalition. The few that would not come to our aid we simply sent

home, since almost all of them live in Coalition territory. Only a handful of the guard officers

did not switch sides, those people we are going to keep in custody. On the regular military side,

for the enlisted men we have had about 60% take the oath of allegiance, most of them in very
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       138


specialized fields. That is a huge benefit to us. The rest have been detained in barracks on bases.

Only about 40% of the officers have taken the oath of allegiance. Currently, they are also being

detained in barracks, but we want them to be moved as soon as possible. The majority of them

will be sent to the prepared Fort Chaffee facilities in Arkansas, but some of the officers ranked

Brigadier General and above we’d like to keep isolated elsewhere. Do we have permission to

move them?” General Landers asked.

       “Yes you do, General, let’s try to get them isolated before it all hits the fan tomorrow,”

President Brown said.

       “I don’t have anything else at this time. We are making preparations for what’s coming,

and are well on our way with them. I think we’ll be as ready as we’ll ever be by tomorrow’s

deadline, wouldn’t you agree General Mays?” Landers asked.

       “Yes I would. We are currently arming all of the fighters with anti-tank weapons. The

missile defenses are in place now and operational. The B-1’s have been armed with precision

weapons. We also have several recon teams that slipped out with normal traffic in position on

the Interstate highways to laze and identify targets as they approach. I believe we’ll be ready,”

General Mays added.

       “Very well, Generals, you have my permission to start removing the bridges as you deem

necessary. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you it needs to be done with little or no loss of civilian

life. We will begin announcing immediately our airspace will be closed to all air traffic entering

and leaving our borders beginning 11:00 am tomorrow and if people need to get out, they have to

do it before then. I also authorize you to use whatever force and weapons you deem appropriate

to enforce the closure of our airspace.” President Brown ordered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        139


       “Mr. DeSoto, you will be ready to shut off supplies of fuel and crude oil to the east and

west but only on my order,” President Brown said.

       “Yes ma’am, we’ll wait to hear from you,” Sandy answered.

       “Mrs. Conyers, what is the status of food deliveries outside the Coalition?” President

Brown asked.

       “They are roughly half of what we normally would deliver. With the communications

issues, we don’t know the status in the stores back east, of course, but they are most likely

running short of many products. I don’t think you’ll have to do anything, actually, because once

he US embargoes the Coalition, they will basically cut off about 60% of their own food supply,”

Marilyn said.

       “I agree with that, madam President,” General Landers said, “and that’s why I didn’t

mention it. You won’t have to give an order in that regard, I don’t believe. I’d also like to thank

Mrs. Conyers. Her trucks and equipment have been, and will continue to be, invaluable in

repositioning our assets. Most people don’t realize how dependant the military is on civilian

contractors for transportation and she has worked wonderfully with us over the last few days.”

       “General, what are the plans in place for rail traffic?” Mark asked.

       “We have charges in place that will destroy one mile of track 50 miles inside our borders.

We will notify all rail carriers through their offices, mostly in Omaha, the tracks have been

closed and at what point 60 minutes before we set off the charges. The tracks can be easily

repaired after the situation is resolved, but it will take several days at each location and they will

be in the open so if they try to repair them before we allow it, they will have work crews exposed

and vulnerable. We intend to close the rail when we close our airspace, with the President’s

permission,” General Landers answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     140


       “You have my permission, General,” President Brown said, “Does anyone else have

anything for the Generals? If not, then thank you gentlemen. God be with you.”

       “God be with us all, madam President,” General Landers said.

       The screens went blank as the Generals went back to their tasks and President Brown

asked, “We’re heading into the storm, ladies and gentlemen, so while we have the opportunity,

we need to make sure we’re on track with our other policies. First, where are we at on the flyers

to go in the papers and the radio and tv announcements?”

       “That’s pretty much my area, Madam President, so I’ll address that,” Mark said, “early

this summer I charged one of my companies, New Media Presentations, with developing a

program for us. It was all inclusive and part of that were the flyers. We have five million

printed and staged for delivery. They can go out to every major and most minor newspapers in

the coalition tonight, if you order it. The campaign will also include public service

announcements on radio and TV with press releases to all radio and television stations in the

Coalition. We feel we are prepared to adequately get the news and word out at your order.”

       “Longer term, we have set up 5 temporary radio stations on our borders, east and west,

having transmitting power of over 500,000 watts each. We intend to bombard the United States

with our message once hostilities, trade or military begin. We will attempt to do this nearly non-

stop informing the people of the United States all we want is to be left alone and to normalize

relations with them as neighbors,” Mark said.

       “Are the stations ready to broadcast, Mark?” Angela asked.

       “As of yesterday, yes they are, we’re just waiting for the President to give the order,”

Mark said, “but remember, when we throw the switch, they become targets. We have backup
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      141


plans and have many sources at many of the major east and west coast papers we will also feed

information, but radio and television are the best ways to get our message out,” Mark concluded.

       “Finances,” President Brown asked.

       “Madam President, we have 500 million dollars in currency ready to go to the banks right

now in various staging areas.” Angela said, “We intend, for the time being, to use US coins at the

same fractional values. We have already notified the banks Friday, November 16 the week

before Thanksgiving, will be the last day they may trade in US Dollars. Monday, November 19,

we will be changed over to the Coalition Dollar on a one for one exchange. Currency will be

given in Coalition Dollars and after that point, US Dollars will only be accepted at one of three

Coalition banks. Currency on hand at the banks will be replaced with Coalition Dollars and the

US currency collected. We have already received assurances from the Mexican and Japanese

markets within 2 weeks, the Coalition Dollar would be traded on their currency exchanges.

We’re going to have limited exchange action, though, until our situation is resolved.”

       “This is going to be a difficult time for us during the transition, ma’am, because it’s going

to happen just before the Christmas buying season, but we think we’re as prepared as we’re ever

going to be. It will probably take up to a year before the US Dollar is really gone from the

Coalition.”

       “We have already sold nearly $400 billion in Coalition securities to Mexico, South

Africa, and Venezuela. Most of these sales have been to the governments that then repackaged

them with guarantees and sold them to private investors. I was pleased that most of the

governments actually made money on the repackaging and if we show signs of success early, our

finances should be relatively secure.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       142


       “Finally, the governors have all delivered and instructed their various state revenue

departments to begin collecting our Coalition assessments. We’ll begin receiving tax revenues

as early as the last week of November from those collections and distributions.”

       “We believe we are as prepared and ready as we can possibly be, financially, at this time,

but there are going to be transition difficulties we’ll just have to deal with as they arise,” Angela

concluded.

       “Where are we at with our friend Mr. Romero?” President Brown asked.

       “I had Jerry York fly out and talk to him today, he should return this evening. We have

the PAC money set up in banks, with local contacts to do the transfers and arrange the financing.

It can be added to from other banks as the need arises. Following instructions from Mr. York,

within three days we will have call centers set up in several eastern states and California. The ad

agencies are working on campaign materials as we speak. Radio spots will be ready in a couple

of days, television spots next week,” Mark said.

       “We are hoping as Romero’s name recognition grows, and considering at the moment

there are no viable alternatives from the major parties, we are going to receive a lot of additional

money for his campaign.”

       “Why no viable alternatives,” Sandy asked?

       “Well, the Republican candidate has been arrested and is, to be blunt, a raving lunatic at

this point, and the Democrats haven’t even decided how they’re going to select their candidates,

much less who they’re going to be,” Angela explained.

       “That’s why this time is so critical to us. Romero can fill a void with a reasonable and

commanding voice and presence. By the time the other parties get their acts together, he could

have a commanding lead,” Mark added.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       143


       “So we’re basically waiting for Mr. York to come back. When he does, I want to meet

with him, tonight if possible. We need to get things arranged because he’s going to have to run

this campaign autonomously from outside the Coalition once we close our airspace, correct?”

President Brown asked.

       “For the most part, yes, although we have made arrangements with the Mexican

government to allow certain diplomatic individuals to come and go from Mexico, so he could fly

into Mexico City and get back to us through there. I really don’t think that’s going to be an

issue, though. Jerry’s not really involved with the Coalition, he’s involved only to get Romero

elected.”

       “Is there anything else?” President Brown asked, “If not, then I need to prepare for the

address to the Coalition tonight, and you all certainly have your work cut out for you.”

       With that, President Brown got up and left to go to her own office to prepare for the

address.

       The address was given from President Brown’s office just as the last one had. If

anything, she was more powerful and commanding this time than she’d ever been. Mark had set

up some instant polling and overall, the response to the secession was around 60% in favor of the

secession before her address. Immediately after, it was over 70%. President Collins had made a

huge error in sending the letter with such a condescending tone to the people of the Midwest, and

in such a threatening manner. About a week after the secession, the People in the Coalition

states were strongly behind their governors and President Brown.

       In the following week, nearly 100,000 young men and women signed up to aid in the

defense of the Coalition territory. Not all would be fit or able to serve, but it showed the level of

support they had gathered. When the address was played for those US Military members being
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     144


held, nearly half of those offered their help, support, and allegiance. Unintentionally, President

Collins raised the Coalition an Army in a matter of a few days.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        145




                                             Chapter 7

         The next morning President Collins had called in his staff, Sam Poyner, Director of the

NSA Tom Ferris, his Chief of Staff Dave Williamson, his Chief Legal Counsel Norbert Travitt,

and Admiral Torrin. He was well into the middle of a truly remarkable rant.

         “Who in the fuck does that bitch think she is? Telling me, and congress, to go to hell?

I’ll have her lined up in front of a wall and shot for treason before this is all over. If she wants a

God Damn Civil War then she’s definitely pissed off the right President!” Collins screamed.

         He went on for another 5 minutes before he started to lose some energy and realized that

all of the men assembled in the room were looking quite embarrassed at his outburst. Finally, he

got quiet.

         “If you’re quite finished, Mr. President, can we work on the problem now?” Poyner

asked.

         “Listen you little prick, don’t think for a minute I don’t know that you’re in this up to

your ass so I’d advise you to tread lightly around me or you might end up in prison as well, do

you understand me?” President Collins demanded, pointing his finger at Sam.

         “Sir, if you have charges to bring, then bring them, otherwise either fire me or listen to

me but whichever you do, would you please just calm the fuck down?” Sam shouted back.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       146


       President Collins leaned back in his chair, sulking, saying finally, “Alright, Sam, what’s

your suggestion?”

       “Mr. President, this calls for an immediate response. I suggest to begin with, we cut off

all trade and access to this “coalition”. I’ve done some checking and it’s not going to be possible

for us to get them off the power grid, that would be great, but they are self-sufficient in

electricity and have the ability to switch loads to keep the lights on.”

       “If the Admiral concurs, we should start moving troops that direction, preferably armor I

would think, but that’s up to him to decide, in a show of force so they know we aren’t kidding

around. I’d move them from the west and east, if we have the manpower, but again, that’s up to

the Admiral.”

       “I’d move some naval vessels in to blockade the ports in Louisiana and Texas.

Fortunately, they don’t have much coastline. Do we have a carrier group available, Admiral?”

Sam asked.

       “The Stennis Carrier Group is closest, but it’s in Hawaii and can’t get through the

Panama Canal so it would take a minimum of 20 days to get on site. The Ronald Reagan is in

the Persian Gulf at the moment, but it will also take over 2 weeks to get here and would leave us

very short in the Middle East. The Carl Vinson is just now approaching the Straits of Gibraltar

to go on station in the Mediterranean to relieve the Eisenhower. The Carl Vinson would be the

closest and quickest to get on station within a week, but that would leave the Eisenhower crew

hanging in the Med. The rest of our carriers are either in the middle of retrofit or just as far away

at the moment.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      147


       “Well, it sounds like the Carl Vinson carrier group is being recalled then, the crew of the

Eisenhower will just have to wait for other relief,” President Collins said, “give the orders,

Admiral, I want a show of sea force as soon as possible.

       “Admiral, given what we know about the Coalition at this time, do you think they’ll fire

on our troops before they cross into coalition territory?” President Collins asked.

       “I don’t know anything about Governor Brown, but if I was running the show over there,

and suspecting as we do that General Landers is running the military show, you bet your ass they

will,” Admiral Torrin responded.

       “How far away do you think they’ll go?” The NSA Director asked.

       “I doubt they’d want to go more than 100 miles inside US territory, sir,” Admiral Torrin

answered.

       “Admiral, begin moving your troops towards the coalition. Stage them no closer than

200 miles out and wait for further orders before you go any closer, do you understand?”

President Collins said.

       “Yes sir, recall the Carl Vinson home, start moving troops to within 200 miles and

prepare for an assault,” Admiral Torrin answered.

       “The key word there is prepare. You will not assault anything without my direct orders,”

President Collins said.

       “Yes sir,” the Admiral answered.

       “Let’s talk the technicalities of a trade embargo. I am going to presume, Norb, an

Executive Order will be required, correct?” President Collins asked.

       “Yes sir, that would be the easiest, unless you want to go to Congress,” the Chief Legal

Counsel answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       148


         “No, I don’t think we want to do that. By the time they get it out of committee it will be

Christmas,” President Collins said, “get it drawn up so we can get it signed and executed.”

         “Dave, you keep the pressure on with the press. Emphasize this is an illegal, seditious act

and we won’t tolerate it. If the press asks if we’ve been in contact with the coalition, tell them

we’re in constant contact and several governors of the seceded states have contacted us wanting

to find out how to re-enter the union.”

         “Have they sir? I mean have the governors contacted you?” Chief of Staff Williamson

asked.

         “No, but if wasn’t for our communications being all screwed up, they would be, so put it

out there that they are,” Collins said shortly.

         “Yes sir.”

         “I’m not intending to address the nation at noon. I expect the press secretary to field the

questions and our official response is we’re talking to the rogue governors, but have reached no

agreement. In the meantime, you people get to work,” President Collins ordered, dismissing

them.

         At 12:15 pm EST, President Collins issued a press statement saying while they were

talking to the governors, no agreement had been reached and due to their illegal seizure of US

Government property and their illegal secession, the United States was instituting a full trade and

travel embargo against the coalition which would be enforced by any means necessary.

         At 12:30 pm EST, the coalition shut down all energy and petroleum deliveries to the

United States of America, removing from them almost 75% of their previous domestic supplies.

They also informed the railroads that their tracks were no longer usable 50 miles inside any

coalition border and they had to re-route all rail traffic immediately.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       149


       The United States of America was now without over ½ of its coal to run its power plants,

¾ of its natural gas to heat homes and run its factories, and ¾ of it’s petroleum to run its cars,

trucks, buses, and aircraft. There would be no more food deliveries from, or through, the

Midwest, and many of the exports from the Gulf the US was so reliant on to buy crude from

foreign nations was no longer being loaded. When the US Government isolated the coalition,

they also isolated themselves.

                                 ******************************

       Two days later, the Coalition Council was again in Mark Daniel’s office with the

President and Vice-President to assess their situation.

       “Madam President, satellite imagery has confirmed the carrier group Carl Vinson has

been recalled and is steaming back to the United States at full speed, probably to take up station

in the Gulf to enforce the embargo,” General Landers said.

       “We knew they’d have to bring someone back, now we know who, how long until they

get here, General?” President Brown asked.

       “At current speed, three days, four at the outside,” he answered.

       “How many of the freighters loading now can we get out of port by then?” she asked.

       “Not all of them, ma’am,” Mark answered, “but most of them.”

       “I guess that will have to do. In two days, loaded or not, full or not, I want those ships’

captains informed of the situation and have them make to sea. We don’t want them caught in

port in the middle of a war with no way to defend them,” President Brown said.

       “I’ll be sure they know, Madam President,”

       “General, where are the US forces now?” the President asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   150


       “They have been massing troops and equipment about 200 miles from our borders but

have made no further advances towards our territory as of yet,” Landers said, “ they are mostly

staged on or around the interstate highway system and if possible, close to medium to large

cities, presumably to make any attack on them without civilian casualties much more difficult.”

       “Does it make it more difficult?” Aaron asked.

       “Yes, it does. Not impossible, but there can’t be any mistakes,” General Landers

answered.

       “When you detect them starting to move, how long until they get to Coalition territory?”

Aaron asked.

       “14 hours, 18 tops if they’re prepared to move fast,” Landers said.

       “So let’s slow them down,” Aaron said, “I presume they’ve pretty much emptied the

interstates between them and us, am I correct?”

       “Yes sir, you are,”

       “Lot’s of bridges, overpasses, and plenty of places to make big holes, aren’t there?”

Aaron asked.

       “Yes sir, there are. We’ve already got many locations marked and targeted,” General

Mays answered.

       “If they begin to move, Generals, I want you to slow them down as much as possible with

whatever forces we have ready. I imagine many of our pilots and people are going to have issues

with firing on what a few days ago was their own men, so let’s delay as much as possible, but if

they start to move, we won’t have the luxury of delaying any longer,” President Brown ordered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     151


       “We agree, ma’am, and we’ve been in contact with our wing commanders about that very

thing. They assure us their people are dedicated to the Coalition and prepared to do what they

have to do, just as they did during our airspace incursions,” General Mays said.

       Four hours after the order of closing the airspace went into effect, the US military sent in

two AWACS aircraft. The US Military Command had been frustrated by their lack of

intelligence on what was going on in the Coalition territory. The AWACS each had 3 fighter

escorts and rather than risk a dogfight, costing more lives, General Mays had ordered the launch

of Patriot Missiles to intercept the AWACS. Both were destroyed and the fighters were ordered

out of Coalition airspace. They complied immediately.

       “I presume you would have no difficulties in taking out the pre-selected targets in a night

raid, General Mays?” President Brown asked.

       “No ma’am, it doesn’t really matter, night or day is about the same,” General Mays

answered.

       “Fine, if they don’t move before 3:00 am, I want you to take out your targets, doing it at

night will minimize any chance of accidentally hitting any civilian vehicles that might be on the

roads, closed or not. Try to stay away from populated areas, as much as possible,” President

Brown ordered, “do either of you have any problems with that?”

       “No ma’am, at some time this is going to have to happen, early this morning is as good a

time as any and better than most,” General Landers said.

       “I was hoping to NOT have to be the one firing the first shot, but I suspect they’re going

to start moving troops in 24-48 hours regardless,” President Brown said, “do you agree,

General?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     152


       “Absolutely, ma’am, I’m not sure why they haven’t moved earlier, I would have. I’ve

been concerned about an air attack, personally, with their ground forces sitting so far away, but it

hasn’t come,” General Mays said.

       “Any thoughts on why it hasn’t come?” Aaron asked.

       “Yes sir, I don’t think they know where, or what to hit,” General Landers answered, “as

near as we can tell, they have very limited information on where we are and what we’re doing.

They obviously don’t want to hit downtown Kansas City, even though I’m certain they know

where you are, madam President. The collateral damage would be huge and terrible for them,

from a public relations standpoint.”

       “That brings up another point Tom and I have been discussing, madam President,”

General Mays said, “we would strongly urge you to move to a more secure location, one of the

prepared bunkers. I’d also like to suggest the Vice-President move to whichever bunker you are

not at, to keep our line of succession intact. Both bunkers are hardened to take anything except a

direct nuclear attack, downtown Kansas City is not.”

       “I appreciate your concern, gentlemen, and I will consider it, you have my word. “Is

there any news on the food situation in the United States?” President Brown asked.

       “In the west, with California’s agricultural base, there has been little change. There are

some minor shortages, but nothing severe. In the east, word is getting out many supermarkets

have left only what is on their shelves. There have been runs on those markets and troops have

been called in to keep order in those areas. The problems are mostly in the Northeast and North,

New York City, upstate New York, New Jersey, Michigan, somewhat in Chicago and

Indianapolis. We’ve heard little or nothing out of Minneapolis and the surrounding area, we

think they might just be sitting this out as long as they can,” General Landers said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    153


       “Fuel and energy in the US?” the President asked.

       “Gas and diesel prices are up 300% on the Eastern Seaboard, about 200% in California

and the western states. There has been reports of rioting at gas stations and two natural gas

power plants have been shut down causing rolling brownouts in some areas while they work to

get the grid balanced again,” General Landers reported, “they’re getting by for the moment, but

civil unrest is getting to be a problem for the US Government.”

       “How long do you think we have before they start to move?” Mark asked.

       “Unknown, sir, but not long I wouldn’t think. They’re not just going to sit their tanks on

the side of the road while their society falls apart,” General Mays said.

       “How are our people are responding to the changes here?” President Brown asked.

       “We’re doing constant polling, madam President,” Angela answered, “and our numbers

are holding fairly well with over 70% supporting our actions. I don’t expect those to hold if we

start shooting, though.”

       “Most people were ecstatic when they found there were no more federal income taxes

being held from their checks. Since most Social Security payments had just been made, people

have asked if they were going to get their checks next month, but for the most part everyone is

living for the day.”

                              *******************************

       Sam Poyner, Admiral Torrin, and President Collins were the only people in the oval

office for this meeting, and the President’s frustration was obviously boiling over.

       “General, are you ever going to be ready to move towards the coalition territory? I gave

you the green light yesterday and from what I understand, you haven’t moved so much as a

Humvee yet,” President Collins complained.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        154


        “Mr. President, we are woefully short of air power. We have half the cruise missiles the

coalition does after they took Kirtland, where most of them were stockpiled. Even if we had

them, we don’t know for sure where we’d aim them, “ Admiral Torrin complained, “and to top

all of that off, we know the coalition knows exactly where we are, and what we’re doing. When

we start to move, you can count on them sending out A-10’s, helicopter gunships, and fighter

cover to slow us down. We could lose half our ground forces and never get within 50 miles of

their borders.”

        “So what are we supposed to do, sit here and wait for them to surrender?” Poyner asked,

disgusted, “I think we can all agree that’s not going to happen.”

        “We have another consideration, Mr. President, yesterday I ordered another AWACS to

over fly the coalition territory with a fighter escort of nine FA-18’s equipped with missile

interdiction equipment and weapons,” Admiral Torrin explained, “I was informed by my wing

commanders five of the pilots refused to fly the mission. They would not fire on coalition

aircraft.”

        “WHAT??” President Collins screamed, “They refused a direct order?”

        “Yes sir they did, and to be honest, I see this getting worse before it gets better. So far,

the coalition has done exactly what they said, defend their borders, nothing more,” Admiral

Torrin said, “we don’t train people to blindly follow orders anymore, especially our pilots.

Things happen too fast up there for them to be flesh and blood robots and several believed if they

were ordered to fire on coalition fighters, they would be following an illegal order so they

refused. I, of course, disagree. The pilots are now in custody but that doesn’t help us, we’re

already short qualified fighter pilots with the deployments in the Middle East, we can’t afford to

be locking them up.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      155


        “Take one out, try him for treason, and shoot him in the front of the others, that should

bring them around,“ Poyner suggested.

        “Are you insane?” Admiral Torrin said, “The first mission the pilots flew they would

switch sides and land at the nearest coalition base.”

        “Sam, if you have any more brilliant ideas, just keep them to yourself and shut the fuck

up unless I ask for them,” President Collins said.

        Sam Poyner didn’t take insults or rebukes well, but for the time being, he simply sat

quietly in his chair.

        “Options, General, I want to hear some options,” President Collins said.

        “We will be ready to move tomorrow, sir. I suggest we move within 50 miles with ¼ of

our forces staged and see what the coalition response is. We should be getting more intelligence

back from our people that have infiltrated the area by then. We are also going to launch two

more AWACS missions tonight,” Admiral Torrin said, “and I do have cover pilots assigned that

will fly the missions. That should also help our intelligence greatly.”

        “If they get through, your track record so far isn’t too good, Admiral,” Poyner said,

daring the President’s wrath by speaking.

        “Poyner has a point,” President Collins said, “why do you think you’ll be more successful

this time?”

        “We didn’t think they had Patriot capability, sir, so we didn’t equip the escorts to counter

that threat. This time, we know what we’re up against,” Admiral Torrin said.

        “Admiral, you have until tomorrow to begin acting. If you can’t handle the job, I’ll find

someone that can. I will not watch the United States come apart around me while my Military is

sitting on their hands. Is that clear enough for you?” President Collins asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     156


       “Yes sir, perfectly clear,” Admiral Torrin answered.

       When Admiral Torrin had left the office, Sam said, “You know we’re going to have to

start pulling troops out of the Middle East at some point, don’t you? With the B-2’s and B-1’s,

Landers could be planning to bomb Washington back into the Stone Age as we speak.”

       “No, I know Landers, he wouldn’t do that. He would take out most of our power plants,

though, and leave us in the dark for the next 20 years, if he thought he had to.” President Collins

said, “At first when the governors seceded, I thought it was a joke, and not a very good one, now,

it’s not a joke. We’re spread thin, they’ve captured over half of the hardware we had here on the

mainland, and they could cause us real problems. Since they turned off the taps, gas prices have

gone to $7 a gallon, and with the natural gas cut off we’re looking at real problems with people

freezing to death this winter.”

       “But you’re right, we’re going to have to get reinforcements and I’ll have to talk to

Torrin about that. I’m also going to have to talk to NATO and see how much they can boost

their presence in the Middle East to make up for what we’re going to have to pull out. Right

now, I’m just hoping we get through the night.”

       “Yes sir,” Poyner said.

                                  ******************************

       At 2:30 am, six B-1B Lancers took off from Ellsworth Air Force Base just outside of

Rapid City, South Dakota and flew west and southwest over the Rocky Mountains. There were

only six targets on the west side of the Coalition and within an hour, the bombers were on their

way back to base, having turned several miles of each interstate highway into rubble that would

take several years to repair.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     157


       Six more left Ellsworth heading East in the general direction of Chicago. Two of the B-2

Spirits left minutes later for areas around St. Louis and Iowa. Five more B-1B’s left from

Lackland heading east to targets in the Louisiana-Arkansas area and five FA-18’s with Paveway

III bombs to aid in taking out many of the intersections and connections. All 13 aircraft

returned to base safely in less than 3 hours after leaving wreckage of what used to be an

interstate highway system behind them.

       Although it was more difficult to tell at night, it was not believed there were any

casualties in the attack, only the destruction of the highways. The explosions, it was reported the

next day, could be heard from as far away as 50 miles.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      158




                                            Chapter 8

       The next morning, President Brown and Mark were in his office getting the report from

General Mays.

       “Our strikes last night were successful. We had teams on the ground that did a battle

damage assessment and also looked for collateral damage. There were some minor civilian

injuries from glass out of broken windows, but from all reports, the injuries were minor,”

General Mays reported, “The damage to the highway system was extensive, especially in the St.

Louis area. Repair times are estimated at from eight months to two years under peacetime

conditions, so we can pretty much assume they are totally out of commission until after the

elections.”

       “Glad to hear that, General, especially that there were no injuries,” President Brown said.

       “There were no injuries in our bombing raids, but there were casualties last night, Madam

President,” General Mays continued.

       “Where were the casualties, General?” Mark asked.

       “Last night the United States sent two more AWACS aircraft each with an escort

contingent of seven fighters each,” General Mays said, “As we’ve done before, we fired two

Patriot missiles at the aircraft, but this time the fighters were equipped with anti-missile defenses

and they intercepted our missiles. We launched fighters and redirected those on patrol in the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                           159


area. The AWACS were destroyed eventually, but not before they sent back quite a bit of

intelligence information. We lost two fighters in the ensuing dogfight and with the help of our

ground based anti-aircraft missiles; they lost 10 of the 14 fighter aircraft they sent in.”

          “Casualties, General?” Mark asked.

          “There were no survivors of the AWACS aircraft. One of our pilots was lost, he never

got out. The other ejected but suffered severe back trauma and is being treated in Denver. Only

two of the US fighter pilots survived, both of them are being treated in Omaha,” General Mays

said quietly.

          “I’m sorry for your losses, General,” President Brown said, “I wish I could say they

would be your last, but I expect this is only the start of things.”

          “Yes ma’am, I believe you’re right,” General Mays said.

          “Remember we just have to hold until after the elections then with God’s help, this will

be over,” President Brown said.

          “I say prayers every night, ma’am, for just that,” General Mays responded, “Now, if

there’s nothing else, I have some things to do.”

          “Of course, General, express my condolences to the families,” President Brown said

gently.

          “I will ma’am, thank you,” General Mays said and signed off.

          “I guess now I know how Lincoln felt,” President Brown said.

          “Actually, ma’am, you’re Jefferson Davis,” Mark said.

          “I guess I am, “she said, smiling a little, “but who does that make you, Mr. Daniels?”

          “I’m the same person in every war, ma’am,” Mark answered, “I’m the man behind the

scenes nobody’s ever heard of, and that’s just fine with me.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     160


         President Brown looked at him oddly, and then said, “Mr. Daniels, I’m going to return to

my office now. I have phone calls to return, six more nations of the world have recognized us as

an independent state.”

         “How many is that now, all together?” Mark asked.

         “46,” she answered, “when I read the names on the list, suddenly we were the cause celeb

of the world rogue states, I guess, although some of the nations I’d just as soon not have their

support.”

         “I understand, however beggars can’t be choosers, can they?” .

         “No, they can’t, but I’m still concerned about paying the piper after we’ve danced with

the devil,” she said as she walked out the door.

         Aaron had been waiting in Mark’s outer office for Mark and the President to finish.

When she left, he asked Jake to buzz in and see if Mark was busy. Jake told him to go right in.

         “Good Morning, Aaron, did you sleep OK?” Mark asked.

         “Not really, but I doubt that’s a problem I’m having alone right now,” Aaron answered,

“I don’t suppose you’d have a cup of coffee in here?”

         “No, but I could use one too,” Mark said, and buzzed Jake to ask him to bring in a pot of

coffee for the two of them.

         “Well, don’t keep me in suspense, what happened with the strikes last night?” Aaron

asked.

         “They went well with no civilian casualties, everybody on the strike made it back safe,”

Mark said, “but we did have some losses.” Mark went on to tell Aaron about the downed

fighters and AWACS last night and the people lost on both sides.

         “We knew it was going to happen,” Aaron said, “but it’s not getting any easier.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    161


       “If it ever gets easy, we’re on the wrong side buddy,” Mark said.

       As Jake came in with the coffee Aaron noticed Tony wasn’t around and asked where he

was.

       “He went to the bunker we’ve prepared for the President by Lawrence in my Hughes.

He’s going to make sure the security is ready, and we’ll probably move her this afternoon. She

hasn’t agreed to it, yet, but she will. She knows it’s the smart thing to do.”

       “I’m probably going to have you and Bill take the Vice-President to the bunker in Central

Kansas as well,” Mark explained, “having them both here is a needless risk. You’ll take Bill’s

S76 and leave early this afternoon. Tony has already made sure the security is adequate there,

without being overly obvious.”

       “I know those people in that area, Mark, they’re just like we are in Oklahoma, if an S76

comes tooling in for no reason, landing in the middle of nowhere, it will be noticed,” Aaron said.

       “That’s why you’re going to be flying into an old WWII airfield just 4 miles away I

bought a couple of years ago. The runway is long enough for a small jet and there are some huge

hangars,” Mark said, “Bill can land the helicopter there and Tony’s men can meet you. You and

Bill can make sure the Vice-President and his family get settled in while Tony and I do the same

for the President at Lawrence.”

       “Whatever you say, boss,” Aaron said, “as long as you keep the coffee coming.”

       “You always were a cheap date,” Mark said laughing.

       Just before noon, Tony got back from the facility near Lawrence and told them

everything was ready for the President when she was ready to go. Mark went to her office to let

her know and make sure she understood it was a more secure location and they needed to move

her and her family as soon as possible. She didn’t want to leave; she didn’t think it was
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       162


necessary yet, but Mark convinced her the time to go was before it became necessary while they

could control the situation and she finally agreed to leave late in the afternoon.

         “Mr. Daniels, I don’t have a problem with that, but if we can’t get her there before dark,

we’ll have to wait until tomorrow. I want the helicopter to follow us in the cars; I’ve armed it

with seven tube launchers for the Hydra 70 missiles. It can’t carry many passengers when

they’re loaded, but they can be used for both air to air and air to ground, so I want it along. It

will be a lot less conspicuous than a military Huey or Apache,” Tony said.

         “I’m sure she’ll be ready to leave by 4:00 or so, and it’s just an hour drive, so we should

be fine,” Mark said, “in the meantime, Aaron, Bill got here about an hour ago, he’s been in with

the President and as soon as she’s finished with him, you two might as well get the Vice-

President moved. It will take you about an hour and a half to get to the bunker.”

         “I’m ready whenever Bill and the Vice-President are. Do we have an escort?” Aaron

asked.

         “Yes,” Tony said, “when you leave here, an Apache will take off from Fort Riley and

head our way. I’ll shadow you until you meet with them, then turn around and come back here.

They’ll take you the rest of the way, land at the airbase, and then come back with you as far as

Fort Riley.”

         “Sounds like a plan to me,” Aaron said, “let me know when Bill’s ready, I’m going to the

apartment to see if I can talk to Nichole before I leave, let her know everything is OK here.”

         “That’s a good idea, Aaron, “ Mark said, “why don’t you have a couple of Tony’s people

drive them in to meet us for dinner about 8:00 pm at Benton’s. Tony can come along as well;

maybe Martha would like to come?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     163


       “I’ll check, sir, it might be nice to spend one more night out. After today, I doubt we’ll

be able to do it for the next few months.”

       Aaron called Nichole from the apartment and she was excited about coming into town to

for dinner. They agreed to meet at Benton’s at 8:00. Almost as soon as he hung up, Jake called

his room telling him Bill and the Vice-President and his family would be ready to leave in 10

minutes so he made his way to Mark’s office to find out if there were any last minute

instructions.

       “Nope, just get them there and make sure they don’t need anything,” Mark said, “Tony’s

people should be able to take it from there. Here is a copy of the secure thumb drive. Go over

how it works with the Vice-President so he can get up to speed as he has time, just in case

something happens he would have to know.”

       “Will do, see you in a few hours.”

       Aaron helped Vice-President Ortez and his family into the helicopter, making sure they

were securely fastened in, and then climbed into the left seat up front.

       “All squared away back there,” Bill asked, getting ready to start the engines.

       “Yep, let’s fly,”

       With that, Bill fired up the S76 while Aaron put on a headset and switched the radio to a

frequency Tony had given him and keyed the mic, “Tony, are you with us?”

       “Right here, watching you get ready to take off,” Aaron heard him say. He looked

around and saw Tony hovering about 200 yards away, watching.

       They took off and headed west. There was almost no traffic on the radio as they left the

busy Kansas City airspace. It gets quiet when no commercial air traffic is moving. Just before
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      164


they got to Topeka, Aaron heard Tony on the headset say, “here’s your buddy, Aaron, you guys

have a safe trip.”

       “You too Tony, thanks,” Aaron said, then called, “Coalition Military Helicopter, this is

S76 November One One Bravo Alpha, do you read?”

       “Yes sir, Bravo Alpha, we’ll be at your four o’clock and watching the skies, we’ve got

your back,” the pilot of the Apache said.

       “Roger that, we appreciate the help,” Aaron replied.

       The trip was uneventful and they landed just a little bit late, there was a stronger

headwind than usual, but Tony’s people were waiting. As they were unloading and transferring

to the cars, Aaron got his first real good look at an Apache attack helicopter. It was impressive

and probably the deadliest looking machine he’d ever seen. The main cannon appeared to have a

bore over 1” in diameter.

       Moving Vice-President Ortez and his family was non-eventful, but by the time Aaron

gave the Vice-President his thumb drive and showed him how and where to use it, it was getting

late. When they got back to the aircraft, it was almost 6:45.

       “I’m going to be in trouble again,” Aaron said over the intercom to Bill.

       “In trouble with who, the President?” Bill asked.

       “No, somebody I’m really afraid of, my wife,” Aaron said, “I was supposed to be back in

time to meet her for dinner at Benton’s by 8:00 and we’re not going to make that.”

       “Well, I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble, we’ll see what we can do about it,”

       “Coalition helicopter, this is November One One Bravo Alpha, how fast will that thing

go?” Bill asked over the radio.

       “Fast enough, sir, are we in a hurry?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       165


       “Roger that, if we don’t get back to KC by 8:00 my co-pilot will have to deal with an

unhappy wife,” Bill said, grinning at Aaron.

       “We can’t have that, sir,” the Pilot confirmed, “I can hit 165 knots, how about you?”

       “We’re pretty close, but you’re a little faster, so just follow my lead,” Bill said.

       “Roger that, sir,” the pilot responded.

       They made good time back, but not good enough. When they passed Topeka Aaron saw

that it was already 8:00, so he figured he’d better call in to let Mark know they were running late,

but nothing was wrong.

       “This is where we have to part company, sir, I need to head back to base,” the military

pilot said before Aaron could call in.

       “Understood, thanks for the escort,” Aaron said, “Bill, how do you tie me into the air

phone on this headset?”

       Bill flipped a couple of switches and said, “Just dial the number on the pad in front of

you and hit send, just like a cell phone.”

       Aaron dialed Marks office number and Jake answered, “Jake, it’s Aaron; I need to talk to

Mark for a minute, could you put him on?”

       “Aaron, we were just trying to call you, you need to get back here right now, we’ve had

an emergency,” Jake said.

       “What kind of emergency, Jake?”

       “This is an open channel, just get back here,” Jake said and the line went dead.

       Bill had heard the conversation and was making all the speed he could. They landed on

the top of the Ivory Tower just 15 minutes later. Aaron was out of the helicopter and headed for

the stairs before Bill even had a chance to power down the turbines, he met Jake at the roof door.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      166


         “Jake, what’s happened?” Aaron said.

         “Wait for Mr. Allister, Mr. Shear, we’ll go down together and I’ll tell you what I know,”

         In just a minute, Bill had joined them and they got in the elevator taking the ride down

the 5 floors to Mark’s office floor. As soon as they got in, Aaron demanded to know what was

going on.

         “We don’t have all the details yet, Mr. Shear, but first, I want you to know your wife and

Ms. Davidson are fine, they were waiting in the restaurant when it happened,” Jake said.

         “When what happened, Jake,” Bill asked?

         “Tony and Mr. Daniels left to walk over to the Crown Center when you were late; they

told me to tell you and Mr. Allister to meet them there. Just as they crossed the street to go to the

hotel, a car pulled out. Three men got out and opened fire on them. Tony killed two and

wounded one. Both Tony and Mr. Daniels were hit. They’ve been taken to the Med Center,

along with the gunman Tony wounded.”

         “How bad are they hit, Jake,” Aaron asked.

         “I honestly don’t know, sir,” Jake said, “it happened just moments before you called. All

I know is they were both alive when they were put in the ambulances.”

         “Do Shar and Nichole know? Was Martha with them?” Aaron asked.

         “I don’t think they know, they’re still waiting at the hotel. Martha is with Ms. Davidson

and Mrs. Shear, they stopped and picked her up on their way,” Jake said, “all three of them are

safe.”

         “Jake, who is Tony’s second in command, I need to talk to him,” Aaron said.

         “You are talking to him, sir, it’s me,” Jake said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      167


        “Get me some security to drive me over to the Crown Center; I’m going to have to go get

the ladies. I don’t want security doing that,” Aaron said, “before I go, I want you to call the

hospital and get me a status report on their condition so we know what we’re going into.”

        “Yes sir, right away,” Jake said. He walked to his desk and started giving orders, then

called the hospital.

        “Aaron, are you going to be alright?” Bill asked.

        “Yes, but I need you to do something for me.”

        “Whatever you need,” Bill said.

        “Regardless of how this turns out, Marcus and Kelly are going to want to be here. I’m

going to call them and get them to your compound. I’ll have Jake get their security to pick them

up and take them. I need you to get them here as soon as possible, can you do that?”

        “I’ll call and have the jet ready at Richard Lloyd Airport, it will be waiting for them.”

        “Thanks, I appreciate it,” Aaron said, then turning to Jake, “Jake, what do you know?”

        “Both have multiple gunshot wounds, Aaron, and both have been moved to high security

intensive care, but they’re still alive,”

        “Jake, you need to get hold of Marcus’ and Kelly’s security. I’ll call the kids on my way.

Have their security take them to Bill’s compound as soon as possible. Bill will see to it they get

to KC. Have someone meet them at the airport and bring them straight to us at the hospital,”

        “Yes sir, consider it done,” Jake said.

        “OK, I’m going over to get the ladies, is my car is ready?”

        “Yes sir, it’s down stairs. Ed, you stay with Mr. Shear, he does NOT leave your sight, do

you understand?” Jake ordered.

        “Yes sir,” Ed answered.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      168


       “Mr. Shear, one more thing,” Jake said and handed Aaron an envelope, “about a year ago,

Mr. Daniels made you his Power of Attorney for Medical Decisions. He said you knew what his

wishes were. Here are the papers, give them to the people at the hospital or they may not let you

see him.”

       Aaron was shocked, Mark had never mentioned it to him, but he took the papers and put

them in his jacket pocket.

       “Let’s go Ed, it’s going to be a long night. Jake, I trust you’ll inform those that need to

know?”

       “Of course, sir, now go to your wife,”

       As they were riding down in the elevator, Aaron said, “Ed, I’ve seen you on duty, of

course, but until a couple of minutes ago, I didn’t even know your name. Mine is Aaron Shear,

what’s yours?”

       “Edgar Kowalski, sir, but everyone just calls me ‘Ed’,” he replied.

       “Well, I’m glad you’re here, but wish we’d met under better circumstances.”

       “So do I, Mr. Shear.”

       It took them only a few minutes to drive the three blocks and park in front of the Crown

Center. On the way over Aaron called Marcus and Kelly, told them Mark had been hurt, and he

wanted them to come to KC and there would be someone there to get them in just a few minutes.

Before he even hung up with Kelly, her security detail was knocking on the door.

       Ed saw one of Shar and Nichole’s security people as he parked the car in front of the

hotel and told them to stay with the car until they came back. They took the elevator up to the

restaurant.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    169


       Aaron had no problems finding the girls, they were at Mark’s normal table, he walked up

and Nicole said “It’s about time you got here, where have you been?”

       She looked at him for a second and the color drained from her face.

       “Aaron, what’s wrong?”

       “Mark and Tony have been hurt; we’re here to take you to the hospital. We need to go

right now. No questions here in the restaurant, please, they’re both alive but we need to go right

now,” Aaron said, taking Nichole by the arm.

       Shar got up to follow, but Martha just stayed seated, unable to move. Ed went to her and

took her by the arm.

       “Martha, come with me, we need to go right now,” he said.

       Shar went over to her and said “Martha, honey, come on, let’s go see Tony and Mark.”

       With Ed’s help, she got up and they all went to the elevator. As they rode down, Nichole

turned to Aaron and said, “What………” but when Aaron held a finger to his lips and gently

shook his head ‘no’ she got quiet. They made it to the lobby and Ed spoke to the ladies’ security.

He spoke into his radio and Ed helped them into the back seat of the Escalade and closed the

door. A young woman came, spoke to Ed for a moment, and got in the passenger seat. Aaron

saw her take her weapon out of her purse. Ed got in the driver’s seat and they left.

       “Mr. Shear, this is Annie, she’s part of Ms. Davidson’s normal security, she’ll stay with

Mrs. Shear and Ms. Davidson at all times,” Ed told him, “The rest of the security detail is

following behind us. We’re going straight to the hospital now. When we get there I’ll assign

someone to Tony and Martha.”

       Nichole said, “OK, Aaron, we’re alone, what happened?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       170


       “About 25 minutes ago Mark and Tony were walking to the restaurant to meet us,” Aaron

said, “a car pulled out in their path right in front of the Crown Center. Three men got out and

opened fire. Tony and Mark were both hit. Tony killed two of the attackers and wounded the

third. The wounded attacker has also been taken to the Med Center. That’s all I know except

just before I came to get you, Jake called and they were both alive and moved into high security

intensive care.”

       “Who would do this?” Martha asked.

       “It could have been anyone, Martha, you know what’s going on and you know what

Tony’s job was,” Aaron said, “but I promise you I will find out if it’s the last thing I do.”

       “Aaron, what about Marcus and Kelly,” Nichole asked?

       “They’re being picked up by their security details and taken to Bill’s compound,” Aaron

reassured her, “When they’re both there, they’re going to go to the airport and Bill will get them

here on one of his jets. I would imagine Ella will be coming along as well, but I didn’t ask.”

       Martha looked at Aaron for several seconds then said, “Tony’s dead, isn’t he Mr. Shear?”

       “Martha, I honestly don’t know. I know it’s bad, but I also know when I left to pick you

up he was still alive. You know what a fighter he is, you have to be strong and have hope.”

       As they pulled in to the parking in front of the Med Center Aaron noticed a car turn in

right behind them. He reached down and drew his weapon.

       Ed saw him in the mirror and said, “No, Mr. Shear, it’s OK, they’re Tony’s people.”

       Aaron put his weapon back in the ankle holster.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      171




                                           Chapter 9

       The lady at the desk wouldn’t tell them where Mark and Tony were. Aaron remembered

the Power of Attorney and pulled it out saying, “Ma’am, I am Mr. Daniels’ Power of Attorney,

and if you don’t tell me where he is, and the doctors do one thing against his wishes, I’ll own this

hospital before the night is over.”

       A hospital security guard came over and asked if there was a problem.

       “You’re damn right there is, my friend is in here and she won’t tell me where he’s at,

even though I’m his Medical Power of Attorney,” Aaron said loudly, “Now either you take us to

him or get the hospital director down here in 1 minute.”

       The guard looked at the paper, looked at the computer a moment, and said simply, “If

you’ll all follow me I’ll take you to Mr. Daniels.”

       The guard took them to the intensive care ward, then through a guard station. When they

arrived, they saw Tony and Mark in the rooms, lying still. Aaron turned to Nichole and said,

“Nichole, I need you to stay with Shar and Martha, I’ll find out how they are.”

       Aaron went to the nurse’s station and showed the nurses there his papers and ID. The

nurse in charge told him they were both in serious condition. Mark was having a great deal of

trouble breathing, but Tony was breathing more easily. Tony had been hit in the neck and both

legs and he’d lost a lot of blood. He was also hit in the chest 4 times, but no bullets penetrated
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     172


his vest. The nurse said if they could get him stabilized and through the night, his chances were

good.

        Mark wasn’t as lucky. He wasn’t wearing any body armor and he’d been hit 3 times in

the chest and once in the left side of his head. He had been in and out of consciousness, but it

didn’t look good for him. His brain was starting to swell and they were debating whether or not

to induce a coma to minimize brain damage while they tried to repair the other damage to his

body, which was extensive. The bullets had missed his heart, but perforated a lung, one kidney,

and the worst damage was done by a bullet lodged in his spine. No matter what they did, he

would be a paraplegic, at best, if he even lived through the night.

        He asked if Tony’s wife could see him and the nurse said yes, but briefly, so Mark went

back to where everyone was waiting.

        “Martha, Tony’s biggest problem is he’s lost a lot of blood. He was wearing his vest and

it stopped 4 shots. If they can get him stabilized and through the night, he has a very good

chance. Would you like to see him?” Aaron asked Martha.

        “Can I? Yes, let me see him,” she said and got up to go to him but stopped, “What about

Mark?”

        “Go on, be with Tony for now, we’ll talk more in a little bit, the nurse said you could

only stay a few minutes, so go spend them with him,” Aaron said. He knew the talk with Shar

wasn’t going to go as well, and he didn’t want Martha there for it.

        When she was gone, Aaron turned to Shar and said, “Shar, honey, Mark’s not doing so

well. He wasn’t wearing a vest and was hit 4 times.”

        Shar began to cry and Aaron could tell she was close to losing it, so he took her hands

and looked at Nichole, moving his eyes towards Shar. Nichole moved over and put her arm
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        173


around Shar and Aaron continued, “Some of the damage is fixable hon. He was hit in his lung,

that’s why he’s on oxygen, because he’s lost one of his lungs for now, he was also hit in one of

his kidneys. The lung can heal, and they can take out the kidney, but that’s not the worst of it,

I’m afraid. He was also hit in the left side of his head and his brain is starting to swell, so he’s in

and out of consciousness, they’re very worried about that. Last, one of the bullets hit his spine

and severed the spinal cord. No matter what they do, he’s never going to walk again.”

       “But he’ll live? Aaron, tell me he’s going to make it?”

       “I can’t tell you that, Shar, but you know him, and they have some of the best doctors in

the world here. If anyone can come through this, Mark can.”

       Shar broke down then, and Nichole held her, letting Shar lean on her. Aaron said, “I’m

going back out to see when the doctors will be back, I’ll be right back, OK?”

       Nichole nodded her head and continued to hold Shar to her.

       Aaron went back to the station and said quietly, “I need to see Mark.”

       “I really wouldn’t recommend that, Mr. Shear, you should wait until the Doctor comes

back,” the nurse said.

       “Let me re-phrase so you don’t mistake it again for a question. I’m notifying you now

I’m going in to see my friend,” Aaron said, and turned around and went into Mark’s room.

       Mark looked rough. They had only a brief amount of time to clean him up and his

bandages were soaking through with blood, although they had just been changing them when

they walked in. He was hooked up to IV’s of whole blood and other drugs. He appeared to be

sleeping. Aaron took his hand and when he did, Mark opened his right eye and looked at him,

Aaron wasn’t even sure the left eye was there anymore, but if it was it was swollen shut.

       “I didn’t mean to wake you up, you need your rest,” Aaron said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      174


         Mark moved his head slightly, side to side, shaking it “no”. He tried to say something,

but Aaron couldn’t hear him so he leaned in closer.

         “Jake knows everything, it’s up to you now,” Mark whispered.

         “Just be quiet, buddy, get some rest, we’ll talk in the morning.”

         “No,” Mark said, his voice barely a whisper, “I may not be able to talk later, when Jake

talks to you, please don’t say no. Promise me.”

         “I promise, Mark, now get some rest,” Aaron said, tears running down his face.

         “Shar?” Mark asked.

         “Yes, she’s here with Nichole, would you like to see her?”

         Mark nodded his head yes, so slightly you could hardly tell, but Aaron could see it. He

left and went out to Nichole and Shar, and took Shar’s hands in his and looked at her.

         “Shar, honey, I talked to Mark, he asked for you. Do you want to see him?” Aaron

asked.

         “Yes, can I?”

         “Yes, but before you go in, I want to prepare you, he doesn’t look good, so don’t be

afraid, ok? You have to be strong for him honey. You can help him get better if he’s not

worried about you. Do you understand?”

         “I understand, Aaron, I’ll be OK.”

         “Would you like Nichole, or I to go with you?”

         “Nikki, would you go with me, please?”

         “Of course I will honey, let’s go see Mark,” Nichole said, and they got up to go in the

room.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      175


         The nurse tried to stop them, telling them he could only have one visitor at a time, but

one look from Aaron told her she’d best rethink that particular instruction and they went in. It

had been about 2 hours since he and Bill had landed on the roof of the Ivory Tower. Marcus and

Kelly could be here anytime. He took his phone out and called Jake.

         “Jake, this is Aaron, have you heard from Bill, how long until Marcus and Kelly get

here?”

         “Bill just called, he’s waiting at the airport with Tony’s men to pick them and Mrs.

Allister up, and they were just getting ready to land about 2 minutes ago. How are Mr. Daniels

and Tony? They won’t tell me anything on the phone; the President has been calling every five

minutes as well.”

         Aaron sighed, and looked in the room. Shar was holding Mark’s hand, and Nichole was

holding Shar. He couldn’t see Mark move at all. “Tony has lost a lot of blood, if he makes it

through the night; the nurse says he has a good chance. Are you wearing your vest, Jake?”

         “Yes sir, Tony would kick my butt if I didn’t.”

         “Good. Keep wearing it. If Tony makes it, that’s what will have saved his life, but Mark

isn’t doing so well. A bullet severed his spinal cord and he got hit in the head with one shot. I

spoke to him for just a few seconds, but he appears to be out again for now.”

         Aaron’s eyes were watering badly, but he had to keep it together at least until Marcus and

Kelly got here.

         “I’ll pass the information along to the President, Mr. Shear. Mr. Shear, Aaron, is Mr.

Daniels going to make it?”

         “I don’t know, Jake, I think it’s out of our hands now.”

         “I understand, sir, if you need anything, or there is any change……….”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   176


       “I’ll call you as soon as I know something, Jake.”

       Aaron looked in again and saw nothing had changed in Mark’s room and decided to sit

down and regain his composure. He had only been sitting for about five minutes when he heard

Kelly say, “Daddy?”

       Aaron looked up and began to cry. Kelly ran to him, hugging him, Marcus right behind

him. The three of them embraced in the waiting room. While they were still holding each other,

Nichole and Shar left the room, coming over to them.

       “Let me talk to Mom and Shar for a minute, you guys go wait in the hall and I’ll be out in

a bit, OK?” Aaron asked.

       “We’ll be there, dad,” Marcus said, and led Kelly out and down the hall.

       Shar was crying, but under control. “Oh, Aaron, he looks so weak, so tired,”

       “I know hon. Did he talk to you?”

       “He tried, Aaron, but he’s just so weak, the words couldn’t come out. All I could do was

hold his hand.”

       “That means more right now than words honey, don’t think otherwise. Nichole, stay with

Shar, I want to go fill the kids in on what’s going on.”

       Nichole led Shar to a chair and sat with her. Aaron knew she wanted to be with the kids

too, but she also knew Shar needed her.

       Aaron went down the hall where Marcus and Kelly were standing. He also saw a little

farther down, Ed was standing, watching over all of them. Aaron was sure there were a lot more

of Tony’s men throughout the building.

       “Daddy, what’s happened? They said Uncle Mark was shot? You said he was in an

accident. What’s going on?” Kelly wanted to know.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    177


       “I’m sure you’ve both put together by now, with what’s been happening over the last

couple of weeks, that I was involved, through Mark, with a lot of it,” Aaron explained,

“Someone, and I’m pretty sure I know who, tried to have Mark killed tonight. They also badly

injured Tony in the attack. Tony killed two of them and wounded the third, even as he lay

wounded.”

       “Tony isn’t as badly hurt as Mark, but he’s not out of the woods yet either. Mark is

worse off. He was shot in the head and another bullet is lodged in his spine. No matter what

else happens, he’ll never walk again.”

       Kelly began to cry, softly. Marcus just looked stunned.

       “Marcus, are you still with us?” Aaron asked, “Kelly, come on, it’s hard but we have to

stay strong for Mark and Shar, OK?”

       “Yeah, Dad, I’m here, I just can’t believe it,” Marcus said, “first Adam and Kevin, now

Uncle Mark……..”

       “I know, son, sometimes we think it’s just too much to bear, but we can get through it, if

we help each other. Now, would you like to see him? I can arrange it, but it’s not pretty, he

doesn’t look much like himself on the outside, but if you look, you can still see him on the

inside. If you can’t go in, I really do understand.”

       “I want to see him, daddy,” Kelly said, “I think I need to see him.”

       Kelly and Mark had always been very close as she grew up. Until she turned 18, Mark

had only missed one of her birthdays. He was always telling her to “be good” and “don’t take

crap off anyone just because you’re a girl”.

       “I’d like to see him, dad,” Marcus said, “Can he talk?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        178


       “He talked to me, just a bit,” Aaron said, “but don’t expect much. If his eyes are open,

he’s seeing you, and if you hold his hand that might be all you get, but that’s a lot right now. I’m

going to talk to the nurse, if you think you’ll be OK, I’d like you to go in one at a time, I’ll go

along if you want.”

       “I’ll go first, dad,” Marcus said, “I’ll be OK, you stay with Kelly.”

       Aaron and Marcus walked up to the nurse’s station and Aaron told her he was going in

for a few minutes, just so Mark knew he was there. Marcus walked slowly into the room and

Aaron watched as he leaned over and took Mark’s hand, then sat in the chair beside his bed.

Aaron went back to Kelly, who was crying again. He held her close and she cried harder for a

minute, and then regained her composure. Aaron looked down the hall and saw Ed, looking

back, just briefly, wipe his eyes and turn away.

       Aaron kept looking in the room and saw Marcus, sitting there with Mark, holding his

hand, just looking at each other. In about 5 minutes, Marcus came out and walked over to Kelly

and Aaron.

       “Was he able to talk to you, son?”

       “He opened his eyes and saw me, and said my name, looked at me for a minute or so,

then closed them again. Kelly, let dad go in with you. I should have.”

       Marcus had tears streaming down his face. Aaron handed Marcus some tissues he had

gotten for himself before the kids arrived.

       “Marcus, thank you, for Mark, it meant a lot to him that you came, now I need you to

help me some more and stay with your mom, help her with Shar. She can’t do this on her own

either, OK?”

       “Sure dad,” Marcus said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    179


       Aaron looked at Kelly and said, “I’ll be right back.” He went into the restroom and got

some tissues and a paper towel and soaked it with cool water, then went back to Kelly.

       “Here, honey, wipe your tears and cool your face, you’ll feel better, then we’ll go in and

see Mark together.”

       Kelly wiped her tears with the towel, then dabbed at her eyes with the tissues. “I must

look like a train wreck.”

       “No, sweetheart, you’re beautiful, and you’ll be beautiful to Mark too, now let’s go see

him before the Doctors get here. I suspect once they get here, our visits will be over because

they’ll start working on him.”

       They walked in the room, Aaron holding Kelly’s hand, and he led her to the side of

Mark’s bed. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, gently so she wouldn’t hurt him.

       As she leaned back slightly, she said, “Uncle Mark, it’s Kelly, can you hear me?”

       Mark opened his eye and Aaron could tell it was taking a few seconds for him to focus,

but when they did, he smiled. A small, pained smile, but there was no mistaking it for a smile.

Kelly smiled back at him.

       “This is some fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Uncle Mark, I should probably be

very cross with you, but I’m not. I’ll be cross with you when you’re better and out of here.”

       Aaron could tell she was barely holding on, doing her best to let Mark know she loved

him and was trying to be strong for him. He put his arm around her and gave her a hug, just

enough so she knew he was beside her.

       Mark tried to say something, but neither of them could hear, so Kelly leaned closer and

said, “I couldn’t hear you, Uncle Mark, can you say it again?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     180


         Aaron couldn’t make out the words, but Kelly leaned over to him, brushing the hair out

of his eyes, and whispered in his ear, “I will, Uncle Mark, I will. I love you so much, get better

soon.”

         She turned to the door and Aaron led her out of the room and down the hall, where she

broke down in his arms.

         When the tears had slowed down, Aaron asked, “What did he say to you, sweetheart?”

         Between sobs, Kelly said, “All he said was ‘Baby, be good’,” and she began to cry again.

         After a few minutes, Aaron led her into the restroom and got her some more cool damp

paper towels. He wiped her tears and held her for a while. When they were both composed and

he washed his own face as well, they went back into the waiting room with the others. Kelly ran

to Shar and hugged her. They had only met a few times, but watching them you would think

they were sisters. After what had happened tonight, Aaron thought they probably were.

         The Doctor came in about 15 minutes later and checked on Tony first, talking to Martha

for a few minutes. As Aaron watched, Martha seemed relieved, so Tony was apparently doing

well.

         The Doctor went directly into Mark’s room and checked on him, looking at his chart and

monitors, and then talking to the nurse for a few moments, giving instructions, he came out to the

waiting room.

         “Hello, my name is Dr. Ranier, I presume you are Mr. Aaron Shear?” he said, holding out

his hand to Aaron.

         “Yes, I am. This is my wife, Nichole, my son Marcus, my daughter Kelly, and Mr.

Daniels’ friend, Shar Davidson. How is Mark?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      181


         “Mark is not doing well. He’s having fewer moments of solid brain activity and more

lapses into unconsciousness. What we believe is happening, from the scans we took when he

arrived, is the head wound is causing his brain to swell and it’s putting a lot of pressure on the

brain right now. As bad as the gunshot wound looks, it appears he must have hit his head on

something, or been hit, because the damage we’re most concerned about is on the back of his

head.”

         “Of course you know about his back injury. We’re not concerned about that right now,

or his wounds to his lung and kidney. The lung can be repaired and the kidney removed, and the

back injury is not something that we can repair, or anyone else for that matter.”

         “Right now, we feel the best chance he has is to put him in a drug induced coma, letting

the brain overcome its trauma and limiting the brain damage. We’ll also try to lower his body

temperature very low, about 90°, and continue administering the drugs. This is not without risks

as well. We are going to have to get him in surgery very soon, he’s still bleeding internally from

the wound to his kidney, but our fear is if we move him, the movement may kill him from the

head injury. We’re really in a catch-22 situation here. If we move him, there’s a good chance

he’s going to die. If we don’t move him to operate on the lung and kidney, he’s going to die

from that. There’s also no assurance at all even if we induce the coma, he won’t die anyway.”

         “So you’re telling us he’s not going to make it?” Shar asked, the tears beginning again.

         “What I’m saying to you is we can only do so much. The best chance he has is to induce

the coma, then try to take him to surgery later this morning, probably around 5:00 am, and try to

repair the lung and remove the kidney, then fix whatever damage we can fix while we’re there.

It’s not a good chance. I think you should prepare for the worst, but we’ll do our best.”

         “What about Tony?” Nichole asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        182


       “Tony is strong. I was very concerned about him when he first came in,” Doctor Ranier

said, “one of the bullets tore the Femoral artery in his leg and most people only have minutes if

that before they bleed to death. Few are alive by the time the paramedics get there. When he

came in, he was in and out of consciousness from pain and blood loss, but he had his jacket

folded up against his leg and his belt pulled tight around it. I’m told he was lying across Mr.

Daniels with a weapon in his hand. Did he shoot Daniels?”

       “No, Doctor, Tony was his bodyguard and head of his security,” Aaron said.

       “I see. Well, he was lying over him and still retained enough composure to field dress his

own wound. If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have made it here. We fixed the artery, it really didn’t

take long, but he’ll have to have more surgery later today to fix the other wounds. We’ve been

pushing blood to him and he’s regaining his strength quickly. He’s not quite out of the woods,

but I think he’s going to be OK. It’s a good thing he was wearing the vest.”

       “We’re going to monitor Mr. Daniels closely for the next 45 minutes. You can visit him,

but be brief in your visits. I know it doesn’t sound ‘right’, but the less aware and conscious he is

the better chance he has. When I come back, we’ll talk about what we’re gong to do next.”

       “I see, thank you Doctor,” Aaron said, “Can I go in to see Tony for a minute?”

       “If his wife consents, yes, but be brief,” Dr. Ranier said, then turned and left.

       “Kelly, could you and Marcus stay with Shar, I want to take your mom and see if she can

get Martha to leave Tony for a few minutes so I can talk to him.”

       “Of course, Daddy, we’ll be fine,” Kelly said.

       As Nichole and Aaron back into the ICU he said, “I need to talk to Tony alone, I’m going

to try to get Martha to go with you for just a bit, tell her you’re going to get her something to

drink, or whatever, but I need to be alone with Tony for just a few minutes, OK?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        183


       “I understand, Aaron, just be easy on him, he has to feel terrible.”

       “I know, that’s what I want to talk to him about, to let him know it’s not his fault, I’m

going to need him badly in the next couple of months.”

       They walked into the room and Aaron motioned to Martha, who kissed Tony and came

out to them. “Martha, I need to talk to Tony but they said only one visitor at a time, do you

mind? Nichole will stay with you and I’ll be with Tony, you can go get something to drink and

take a break.”

       “You’ll stay with him, Mr. Shear?” Martha asked.

       “Of course, you know I will.”

       Nichole took her by the shoulder and led her back to the waiting room as Aaron went in

to see Tony.

       “Tony, how are you feeling?” Aaron asked.

       “I’ve been better. How’s Mr. Daniels, they won’t tell me anything,” Tony said softly.

       “I won’t lie to you, Tony, he’s not good. He took a hit to the head and his brain is

swelling. He has other problems as well, but right now the docs are most worried about the head

wound.”

       A tear rolled down Tony’s cheek.

       “I fucked up, Mr. Shear, I’m sorry. They came out of nowhere; I never even saw them

until I heard the first shot. I know better than that, I fucked up,” Tony said, staring at the ceiling.

       “Tony, do you remember the other day when we were shooting out at Mark’s and you

were showing us how to use cover? Do you remember what you told me?”

       “I told you if someone was willing to die to kill you, there was really nothing anyone

could do about it except get lucky.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    184


       “That’s right. There are two dead bad guys on the slab right now, you put them there.

One more doesn’t sound like he’s going to make it. Don’t you think they qualify for your

statement?”

       “No sir, because I should have done my job, I should have been quicker, and better.”

       “You can beat yourself up all you want; Tony, but you and I both know that’s a load of

horsehit. We’re going to get who ordered this eventually and then we’ll make things right, but I

can’t do it without you.”

       Tony didn’t answer, and wouldn’t look at Aaron.

       “Tony, look at me, this is not your fault. When the paramedics got there, you were lying

across Mark to protect him, even though you knew you might be dying from your own wounds,

the last thought you had before you passed out was to protect Mark. Most people would have

run away or given up. You stayed by Mark, and now I need you to get better so you can stay by

the Coalition and we can finish what Mark started.”

       “Yes sir, I will,” Tony said, “but I promise you, when this is over, the day of reckoning

will be at hand for the people that did this to Mr. Daniels.”

       “Yes it will, Tony, I promise, but only after we’re finished with the job we’ve started.”

       Tony reached out his hand and took Aarons and said, “You have my word, Mr. Shear.”

       “Good, now get some rest, you’re scaring poor Martha half to death.”

       “Mr. Shear, is Ms. Davidson here?”

       “Yes, she is, why?”

       “Tell her I’m so very sorry, would you do that for me?” Tony asked, tears streaming

down his cheeks.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        185


       “I will, Tony, I promise,” Aaron said, and noticed Martha was back, “I’m going to get out

of here, Martha is back and she’s about ready to kick me out. Some day you’re going to have to

tell me how an Italian girl got named Martha.”

       “No, I don’t. If you want to know, you’ll have to ask her, sir,” Tony said.

       Something in how he said it made Aaron think he might live longer if he didn’t ask her

and just let that remain one of life’s little mysteries. He got up and as he left he stopped to tell

Martha that Tony was doing fine, but was asking for her, and gave her a hug before she went

back in.

       As he left, he noticed there was another patient in a room two doors down. The entire

ICU was encased in glass walls, so you could see rooms from the central nurses’ station but you

couldn’t see far inside the room. As he went by, he stopped at the station and asked who the

other patient was. The nurse said she didn’t know he had been brought the same time as Mr.

Daniels and Tony.

       “How’s Tony, Aaron?” Shar asked.

       “He’s better, hon, but upset about Mark, as you can imagine. He made me promise to tell

you how sorry he is. If you can, it would mean a lot to him if you could stop in and see him for a

minute.”

       “Of course, this isn’t his fault, he did everything he possibly could, I know that.”

       Aaron looked at her for a moment, then knelt down in front of her and hugged her.

“You’re very special, you know that?”

       Shar didn’t say anything; she just hugged Aaron back and cried softly. After a minute,

Aaron kissed her on the forehead and said, “You guys take care of each other for a few minutes,

I need to walk down the hall and talk to someone.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   186


       Aaron left to go see Ed, the two of them were going to get some answers and they were

going to get them right now. When he got to Ed he said, “I’m not sure, but I think the shooter

Tony left alive is just two rooms down from Mark and Tony. You and I are going to find out,

and then we’re going to ask him some questions.”

       “Yes sir,” Ed said.

       “You don’t have any problems with that?”

       “No sir. These people just don’t know who it is they’re fucking with yet, but they will.

I’m right behind you, sir.”

       “There is only one nurse on duty, but the doctor could be back any time, so we have to

move quickly,” Aaron explained, “When she goes into either Mark or Tony’s room, we wait

until her back is turned and go down the hall. Once we’re in the room, she won’t be able to see

us.”

       Ed nodded his head he understood and they headed to the end of the hall and waited.

They didn’t have to wait for long as the nurse went in to check on Mark in just a minute so he

and Ed quickly slipped around the corner and into the room.

       The patient was a black kid, no more than 20 years old, maybe 6’ tall and 180 pounds and

he had restraints on his arms and legs. They couldn’t see all of his wounds but he had dressings

all over his chest. When they walked in, he opened his eyes and looked at them.

       “What do you want? You’re not doctors.”

       “No, we’re not,” Aaron said, “you might as well think of us as The Hands of God

because what you say in the next few minutes is going to determine if God takes your life or

spares it, right here and right now.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        187


         “Get the fuck out of here,” the kid said belligerently, “I don’t have to tell you cops shit. I

want a lawyer.”

         Aaron laughed. “Did you think we were police? How silly of you. You see, the man up

the hall, that you shot 4 times, Mark Daniels, is my best friend. The other man, Tony, is Ed over

here’s best friend. Now I admit, I’m just an Oklahoma dirt farmer, but I’ve had to kill a lot of

vermin on the farm over the years, and most of them had more of a right to live than you do right

now. But I’m a compassionate man; I usually try for a quick, clean headshot to put Vermin

down.”

         “Now Ed over there, Ed’s a little different. You see, you made the mistake of hurting our

family. With me, you might have gotten some kind of forgiveness or compassion but with Ed,

well, let’s just say it could be a very long and painful night for you.”

         “Do you know why you’re still alive when the two assholes you were with are both in the

morgue with bullets in their heads?” Aaron asked, “No? Well let me tell you. You’re alive

because Tony wanted you that way. He wanted you alive so Ed and I could talk to you. That’s

the only reason. If you want to stay that way, you might want to think about answering our

questions.”

         As Aaron talked, Ed had taken off his jacket, revealing two pistols in shoulder holsters,

one under each arm. He was in the process of rolling up his sleeves and taking off his watch.

         “That’s a good idea, Ed; Tony gave you that watch, didn’t he?” Aaron asked.

         “Yes sir, he did.”

         “Well, we certainly don’t want to get that bloody. What was it you did in the service Ed?

I don’t remember.”

         “Prisoner Interrogation, sir.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       188


       “That’s right; Tony told me that, I remember now.”

       “You guys are a riot. You don’t scare me none, get the fuck out of here,” the kid said,

reaching for his call button.

       “Are you looking for something, this, maybe?” Aaron asked, holding up the button, then

tossing it out of reach, “this is going to be easy for you. We want a name. You’re going to give

it to us. If you don’t, Ed is going to make things very uncomfortable for you. If you lie, we’ll

find out in just a few hours and we’ll come back, and then we’re going to ask you again, but not

as nicely, and when you can’t take any more and you’ve given us the right name, we’ll kill you.

We’ll kill you very slowly, and very painfully. Now do you have any questions?”

       The kid looked defiantly at them and said, “Fuck you, I ain’t telling you shit.”

       Aaron took a dollar out of his pocket and gave it to Ed. “I guess you win, Ed, I thought

he was smarter than that, but you had him pegged as an idiot and you were right. I guess you

need to talk to him now.”

       After handing Ed the dollar, Aaron went over and slid the glass door shut.

       Ed walked over to the bed and pulled the dressings off the kid’s chest, there were 3

gunshot wounds in him. How he was alive, Aaron didn’t understand, much less talking, but he

was, at least for now.

       “I don’t think they had a chance to get these bullets out of him, sir.” Ed said, “I think I’ll

help the docs out, Tony will want them for souvenirs.”

       Ed reached in his pocket and pulled out a 4” butterfly knife, flipping the handles expertly

and opening it up. As he lowered it to the kid’s chest, the kid started to say, “You guys don’t

scare me…….” But that was all he got out before Aaron clamped his hand over the kids mouth
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      189


and Ed plunged the knife in what looked like the least damaging wound, twisting it around in his

chest.

         The kid tried to scream, but Aaron had his hand clamped over his mouth so he couldn’t.

Ed pulled the knife out and after a moment, Aaron removed his hand.

         “That looked like it really hurt. Even that morphine they’re pumping couldn’t dull that ,

it didn’t look like,” Aaron said, “Now give me a fucking name.”

         The kid was panting, but shook his head “no”.

         “Ed, you didn’t get that bullet for Tony, did you?”

         “No sir, it’s deeper than I thought, I’m going to have to cut him open some to get my

fingers in there, I think.”

         “Well, let’s get on with it, we don’t have all night.”

         Ed took the knife and just before he touched the kid, Aaron clamped his hand over the

kid’s mouth again, and Ed put the knife in and cut the wound a little bit bigger. The kid screamed

under Aaron’s hand, shaking his head back and forth, and Ed stuck his fingers in the wound.

The kid was writhing in pain and after a few seconds, Ed pulled out a slug, his fingers and the

bullet covered with blood.

         When the kid settled down, Aaron took his hand off his mouth and said, “You’re a tough

little bastard, I’ll give you that, but we still have a couple more to go. Now give me a fucking

name.”

         The kid had sheer terror in his eyes and said quietly, between pants, “Paul Sanderson.”

         “Who the hell is that?” Aaron asked shortly, “I think he’s fucking with us Ed, let’s get the

rest of those slugs out of him.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     190


       As Ed started to lower the knife again, the kid said, “NO, don’t, I’m telling you the truth.

He used to be FBI, worked with the DEA. Now he’s some hotshot in Washington. He had

someone come and tell us to kill Daniels, gave us a picture, and told us to do it quick. He paid

us, $500.”

       “OK, kid, we’ll check it out,” Aaron said, “I hope for your sake, you’re telling the truth

because if we come back, we won’t be nearly as friendly.”

       Aaron looked at Ed and he went over and washed off his hands and the slug, then put the

slug in his pocket. Ed dressed the wounds on the kid’s chest and when he was done, except for

the smell of urine where the kid had pissed himself, you couldn’t tell anything had happened.

       “So, my friends’ lives were worth $500 to you?” Aaron said, “Well, I have a suggestion

for you. Your death is worth a lot more to me. You’re a dead man. Not today, or tomorrow, but

soon, very soon. Ed or one of our other friends is going to come see you, and kill you. You see,

when Tony left you alive, he really didn’t. He just gave you a reprieve for a while, until we were

done with you. You’re a dead punk that just doesn’t know it yet. Live every day as if it were

your last, kid, because they are numbered. Do you hear me? Do you understand me?”

       The kid just lay there, saying nothing, crying slightly. He was still doing that when they

left. As they walked out of the room the nurse looked up and said, “What were you doing in

there? You shouldn’t have been in there.”

        “Just telling the kid how long he had to live.” Aaron said.

       They didn’t have to wait long, the doctor was back just five minutes after Aaron and Ed

came out of the kid’s room. He went directly into Mark’s room and checked on him for almost

15 minutes. When he came out, he walked over to the waiting room, and his face was grave.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     191


        “I’m not seeing any improvement. The swelling is getting worse and in fact, I have

doubts even inducing a coma is going to help. We can’t keep pumping blood in him at the rate

we are now, we’re going to have to go in and try to stop the bleeding and remove the kidney to

have any hope.”

        “Doctor, you make it sound like there’s no hope now. We need to know what our options

are, what are you asking us?” Aaron said.

        Doctor Ranier thought for a moment, and then said, “I wouldn’t say there is no hope, Mr.

Shear. Where there’s life, there’s always hope, and Mr. Daniels is not old and in very good

condition. But there’s a difference between hope and being hopeful. Right now, I’m not very

hopeful at all.”

        “So, what would you do if it was your friend lying in that bed, Dr.?” Nichole asked.

        “When we train to be Doctors, we train ourselves to put some of our humanity aside, so

we don’t get emotionally involved. That’s a hard thing to do, but we learn to do it, so what I’d

do if it were my friend is not necessarily what I’d recommend as a physician,” Dr. Ranier said.

        “Please quit talking in circles, Doctor,” Shar said, “talk to us straight.”

        “If you choose, I can induce the coma. I suspect he will die in minutes if I do,” Dr.

Ranier said, “but it’s the only way we’re going to be able to do surgery and without surgery, he’ll

die before morning.”

        “So there’s a very slim chance if you put him in a coma and no chance at all if you

don’t,” Aaron said.

        “That’s my best opinion, Mr. Shear.”

        “Can we see him, Dr., before you try this?” Kelly asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        192


          “If you keep the visits short, I don’t think 20 minutes will make a difference one way or

another, it might be good for him to know his friends are around him. I never discount those

things.”

          “Shar, I know I have to make the decision,” Aaron said, “but what are you thinking? I

think some chance is better than none.”

          “I think so too, Aaron,” Shar said, “Mark’s a fighter, let’s at least give him a chance to

fight.”

          “Doctor, if you can give us a few minutes,” Aaron said.

          “Of course, I’ll tell the nurse and get things ready. I’m also going to have to speak to you

for a few moments, Mr. Shear, before we start.”

          They all sat in the waiting room, Nichole leaning against Aaron, Kelly and Marcus

holding each other’s hand and Kelly with her arm around Shar.

          “Who wants to go first?” Aaron said, “I’m going to be there when they do the procedure,

so I can wait until then to be with him.”

          “I’ll go daddy,” Kelly said, “But I don’t want to go alone.”

          “I’ll go with you sis,” Marcus offered, “I don’t want to do it by myself again either.”

          The two got up and went to Mark’s room and Nichole moved over to put her arm around

Shar while they waited.

          Kelly leaned over and gave Mark the gentlest of kisses on his forehead. Mark opened

his eye, as well as he could, but they could tell it was getting hard for him to focus on them.

          “Uncle Mark, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Kelly said, “we just stopped in to tell you we

love you, and we’re going to wait for you outside for awhile. Dad will fill you in, but they’re
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    193


going to make you sleep for awhile, so they can fix you’re chest and tummy, but we’ll be here

when you wake up, OK?”

       Marcus was beside his sister, his arm around her, his other hand holding Mark’s.

       “I’m here too, Uncle Mark,” Marcus said, “we just wanted to tell you how much you

mean to us, and we’ll be waiting right here when you get back from surgery. You’ll be better

quick, I know you will.”

       The two stood there for a couple of minutes, and then they both gave Mark a kiss and left

with tears running down their cheeks. When they got back to the waiting room, Kelly came over

and sat on Aaron’s lap, Marcus beside him.

       Aaron said, “Shar, are you ready, you can go in with me, of course, but I thought maybe

you had some private things to say to Mark.”

       “I do, but I can’t go in alone, can you go in with me Nikki?” Shar asked.

       “Of course I can sweetie, whenever you’re ready.”

       Shar sat on the edge of the bed, Nichole with her arm around Shar’s shoulder. Nichole

sat there, stroking Mark’s hand. His eyes opened and he saw them. Shar leaned over and

whispered, “I love you so much. You’ve been so good to me, better than I ever deserved.

They’re gong to come take you to surgery soon, and you just hang on, Mark. Don’t leave me

alone. Just stay with me.”

       Shar was lying on Mark lightly, her arm around his shoulder, and somehow, Mark took

his right arm and put it around Shar, giving her a hug. As he let go, he reached out to Nichole

and took her hand, squeezing it. After a few minutes, Nichole and Shar left the room, supporting

each other as they came back.

       Just then, Dr. Ranier came back. “Are you all ready?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     194


       “Not quite, Doctor, a word outside, if you would,” Aaron said.

       When he and the Doctor got out in the hall, Aaron said, “Is it possible to either move

Tony’s bed into Mark’s room for a minute, or put him in a wheelchair?”

       “Mr. Shear, I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

       “I didn’t ask if you thought it was a good idea. Will it hurt Tony’s recovery if he says

goodbye to his friend?”

       “No, I don’t think so, but it’s going to be very upsetting to Mr. Adams and Mr. Daniels,

don’t you think?”

       “Not as upsetting if Tony doesn’t get a chance to say goodbye, you’ll just have to trust

me on this, Doctor. Now go make whatever arrangements you have to, get a chair, some help

moving him, whatever you need, I’m going to talk to Tony.”

       Martha had fallen asleep in the chair, holding Tony’s hand, but Tony was awake.

       “Tony, we have to talk, Mark’s not doing well. They’re going to try to induce a coma so

they can operate on him, but the odds are really bad. I can arrange it if you want, for you to see

him before they do the procedure. I think it might mean a lot to him, maybe give him some hope,

if he sees you with him, but it’s up to you, I understand if you can’t do it.”

       “Arrange it. I have to tell him how sorry I am,” Tony said.

       Aaron left the room and the doctor was just coming back with two male nurses to help

Tony into the chair they’d brought. Aaron went back in and woke Martha explaining what was

going on, she wanted to go in with Tony and he didn’t have any objections. In just a couple of

minutes, they had Tony in the chair and Aaron pushed him over to Mark’s room, Martha rolling

his IV stand along side.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     195


       Aaron situated the chair by the bed, leaned over to Mark and said, “Hey sleepyhead, you

have company.”

       Mark opened his eye and looked at Tony, then Martha. He smiled just a little.

       “Hey boss, they tell me you’re going to sleep for awhile, so I just wanted to stop by and

tell you we’ll be here when you get back,” Tony said, after a pause, he continued, “I also want to

tell you how sorry I am. I let you down, can you ever forgive me?”

       Mark reached out with all his strength, and took Tony behind his head, pulling him to

him until his head was resting on Mark’s chest. As Mark stroked Tony’s hair with his fingers,

Tony wept quietly.     Aaron had moved over beside Martha, putting his arm around her

shoulders, and both of them were crying as well.

       Aaron saw the Doctor at the nurse’s station and he pointed at his watch. Aaron nodded

and said, “Tony, we need to go,” and helped him lean back in his chair.

       “I’ll be back in a minute, Mark, Tony needs to get back to bed,” Aaron said as he took

Tony back to his room.

       Once Tony was settled, Aaron went out to the Doctor and said, “You said you needed to

talk to me?”

       “Yes, Mr. Shear, we’re going to administer the drugs and Mr. Daniels will go to sleep. I

suspect it’s going to be more than his heart and brain can stand, and his heart will simply stop.

In his Living Will you provided us, he has a DNR order, but you, as his power of attorney, can

override if you wish. I need to know what, if anything, you want us to do if we lose him when

the drugs are administered.”

       “If you bring him back, then what,” Aaron asked?

       “Most certainly permanent and severe brain damage.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      196


       Aaron sighed, “If Mark leaves us when you give him the drugs, we’ll let him go. He

could live without his legs, he’d adapt. He wouldn’t want to live as a vegetable.”

       “I think you’re making the right choice, Mr. Shear” Dr. Ranier said, “I’d also like to tell

you I’ve been watching you, and your family. You’ve been a good friend to Mr. Daniels. I saw

what you did to the kid that shot him, you and the other man; it was taped on the monitors. That

tape is gone. There was an accident that erased it, and the nurse will say nothing about it, you

have my word.”

       “Thank you Doctor, now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get my wife and Shar so we can let

you do your job.”

       Aaron went in to the waiting room and said simply, “It’s time.”

       “Marcus you and Kelly wait here. Shar, Nichole, we need to go.”

       The doctor was waiting for them in the room and when they were there, Shar sat on the

edge of the bed, holding Mark’s hand. Nichole and Aaron on the other side of the bed, Nichole

holding Mark’s other hand.

       Aaron leaned over his friend and said, “Hang in there, Mark; we’ll be here when you

wake up.”

       He looked at the doctor and said, “We’re ready when you are.”

       Doctor Ranier used a syringe to put some drugs in Mark’s IV. For a moment, there was

no reaction, and then Mark closed his eye. His hands relaxed on both Nichole’s and Shar’s grip.

He appeared to have just gone to sleep. Dr. Ranier watched the monitors carefully.

       “I administered a drug called Propofol. He’s slipping into the coma now, you can see his

brain waves smoothing, getting less. They’ll keep doing that for another couple of minutes or so,

until they are a flat line. Hopefully the rest of his vitals will decrease and then stabilize. When
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     197


that happens, we’re going to take him right down to surgery and get started fixing the other

issues he has,” Dr. Ranier said.

         As they watched, the patterns got less, and less until they stopped completely. His heart

rate decreased as well, and kept decreasing.

         “When do they start to plateau, Doctor?” Aaron asked.

         “They already should have, it’s what I was afraid of, he’s slipping away from us, he just

doesn’t have enough left to give, I’m afraid,” Dr. Ranier explained.

         Then, as they watched, the heart monitor started beeping erratically, and then stopped,

sounding an alarm. Dr. Ranier reached up and shut off the alarm and said, “I’m sorry, he’s

gone.”

         Shar lay over Mark, holding him, crying softly. Nichole laid her head on Aaron’s

shoulder, also crying. Aaron leaned over, squeezed his friend’s hand one last time, and then put

his hand on the back of Shar’s head, gently stroking her hair.

         Aaron looked at the Doctor and said, “Thank you Doctor, for everything you tried to do,

can we have a few minutes?”

         “Of course, I’ll be outside when you’re ready.”

         Aaron whispered to Nichole, “Stay with Shar, I’m going to tell the kids.”

         Nichole nodded and sat on the other side of the bed, her hand resting on Shar’s back.

         Aaron went over to Tony’s room and looked at him, for a moment. Tony looked at him

and Aaron gently shook his head ‘no’, and said, “I’m sorry Tony, he’s gone.”

         Martha began crying and held Tony’s hand while Tony just stared at the ceiling. Aaron

went into Tony’s room and leaned over him, whispering in his ear, “Get better quick, we have

work to do.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        198


         Tony looked at him and said simply, “Yes sir.”

         Aaron left and went to Marcus and Kelly to tell them.

         “Daddy?” Kelly asked.

         Aaron just looked at her and began to cry, then said, “He’s gone. I’m sorry, Mark’s

gone.”

         Kelly ran to him, holding him, Marcus right behind her, trying to comfort each other,

without much success. When they had regained their composure, Aaron asked if they wanted to

go in and say goodbye one last time. They both said they did, so he told them to go on in with

Nichole and Shar and try to help them.

         Aaron took out his phone when they’d left and called Jake. “Jake, Mark didn’t make it,

he just left us about three minutes ago,” he told him.

         On the other end of the phone, Jake was silent. “Jake, are you there,” Aaron asked?

         Finally, Jake answered, “Yes sir, I’m here. Do you need anything? Can I help?”

         “Did Mark have any arrangements planned, that you know of?”

         “Yes sir, he did. You know how he liked to plan everything, he even planned this,” Jake

said.

         “Then get started with them, if you need something, let me know.”

         “I need a couple of things, sir. I need you to get to the office as soon as you can first, and

then I need you to promise me we’re going to make the bastards that did this pay.”

         “I’ll be in as soon as I can, Jake, and as for the second, we’ve already started. I do have

some better news, it’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m confident Tony will be OK.”

         “At least that’s something, Mr. Shear,”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   199


       Aaron walked out to where Ed was standing and just by the look on his face, Ed knew

Mark was gone.

       “I’m sorry, Mr. Shear, I know you two were very close,” Ed said.

       “Thank You. As soon as we can get away, we’re all going back to the Ivory Tower.

We’ll stay at the apartment tonight. I hope to send the kids, Nichole, and Shar back to Mark’s

estate tomorrow, unless you have security issues with that.”

       “No sir, the Estate is as secure as the office is, we’ll make it happen.”

       “Good. I think Shar especially will be better out there than stuck in town.”

       “I agree, sir,” Ed said, “If I might make a suggestion, Annie and Ms. Davidson are pretty

close, I can have her stay with Ms. Davidson tonight, if that’s OK. I’m sure Mrs. Shear will

want to be with you and your family for the next few days and I don’t think Ms. Davidson should

be alone.”

       “That would be fine, Ed, call Annie and tell her what’s going on. I want us to leave

before the funeral home arrives and they move the body. I saw them do that with my dad and

it’s nothing I want Nichole or Shar to see.”

       “I understand, sir, we’ll be ready when you are.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     200




                                           Chapter 10

       When they left the hospital they found Bill and Ella Allister waiting in the lobby

downstairs along with a half dozen security people. When Ella saw Shar, she ran over to her,

and hugged her, telling her how sorry she was.

       Aaron walked over to Bill and said, “You didn’t have to wait down here, Bill, you could

have come up.”

       “I know, but it was a personal thing, Aaron, we didn’t want to intrude.”

       “You’ll never be an intruder. I’m so grateful for what you did for us, especially Kelly

and Marcus. They got to see Mark and say goodbye. I’ll never forget that.”

       “Are you going back to the office?”

       “Yes, we’re all going to stay there tonight, then I think Nichole, Shar, and the kids are

going to stay at Mark’s until things calm down. Jake insisted he needed to see me as soon as

possible. The President probably wants a report.”

       “Do you want me to come with you?”

       “Yes, if you don’t mind, I have no idea what’s going to happen next. Mark was such a

central part of all this. In a way, I’m glad things happened early so we had the President and

Vice-President elected, and the Constitution ratified before Mark died.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       201


       They got back to the office in just a few minutes. Aaron sent Nichole and the kids up to

the apartment and made sure Annie was going to stay with Shar. Bill had Ella go with Shar and

Annie until he came up to get her. Aaron and Bill found Jake at his desk and he looked

exhausted. It was close to 4:00 am.

       “Jake, you need some rest, and so do I, so let’s make this quick, OK?” Aaron said.

       “I’m afraid it’s not going to be very quick, sir, but I’ll do my best. I’m glad you’re here

Mr. Allister; Mr. Daniels would have appreciated it. Please, let’s go into Mr. Daniels’ office,”

Jake said, and then turning to his assistant he said, “Diana, you hold down the fort here. You’re

probably going to be flooded with calls once the news of Mr. Daniels’ death hits the media, just

tell them we have no comment at this time but we’ll be releasing a statement shortly,

understood?”

       They young lady that had sat down in Jake’s chair nodded..

       “Gentlemen, if you’ll come with me,” Jake said and led them in the office, “this is going

to take a couple of minutes to set up, there are drinks in the bar, and ice water in the pitcher,

please, help yourselves.”

       While Jake was working behind Mark’s desk, Bill went to the bar and got each of them a

Coke, then came back to where Aaron was sitting at the conference table. In just a couple of

minutes, Jake had everything ready. He began flipping switches and one by one Marilyn, Sandy,

Angela, General Mays, General Landers, President Brown, and Vice-President Ortez came up on

the screen.

       “Is everyone able to hear me,” Jake asked, to which they all said they could, “All of you

know tonight Mr. Daniels was shot and died about 30 minutes ago. Back in April, he made this
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       202


recording and asked that I play it upon his death, and Mr. Shear be present when it was played. I

thought it best if all of you were here when Mr. Shear heard it.”

       Jake entered a code on the keyboard at Mark’s desk and the screens rearranged with an

image of Mark sitting at his desk in the center. He began to speak.

       “Aaron, if you’re seeing this then it means I’m dead. I took the precaution of preparing

for this eventuality because, well let’s face it, what we’re doing right now isn’t exactly the safest

activity in the world,” Mark said, grinning his old grin.

       “So, I’m dead. Gone. Kaput. I don’t have many regrets, probably the only real one I

have is I never married Shar, but that has nothing to do with what we have to do now. The

reason I made this, and asked you to watch, is I am turning total control over everything I have to

you. My companies, my personal holdings, my money, everything I have are now yours. I hope

you’ve been with the group long enough for them to realize why I insisted so strongly on

bringing you in. I knew you could do the job I told you to do in your sleep, why I really wanted

you close was in case of this very eventuality.”

       “I am leaving the estate and everything there to Shar, except my Hughes, she wouldn’t

want it anyway. She also has enough money she’ll never want for anything again, so don’t feel

like you’re cheating her out of anything Aaron, you aren’t.”

       “I trust you will manage my affairs as if they were your own. Just like the original

signers of the US Declaration of Independence, we have all pledged our lives and personal

fortunes to the Independence of the Coalition. I know you feel the same way and will manage

things to the benefit of the people of the Coalition.”

       “If any others of the group are watching this with you, I’m telling you now Aaron speaks

with my voice. When you hear him, you hear me. I trust him with my life.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      203


       “Now, there’s a good chance if I’m gone, so is Tony. I hope not, but you all know him

and it would be unusual if he survived and I didn’t. If that’s the case, Tony has been training

Jake for many years and he has my authority to act in Tony’s place in his absence. Hopefully,

Tony is there or will be back soon, but if not, in his absence; Jake is in charge of security for my

part of this operation.”

       “Well, I think that’s about it. Over the next few days, Aaron, you’re going to have a

shitload of papers to sign. Sorry about that, it can’t be helped, I know how you hate paperwork,

but when it’s done everything I have will be yours to control as you see fit.”

       “It really sucks to be dead, I imagine. Not so much for me, but for you, Nichole, and

Shar especially. I had every intention of outliving you, but sometimes our plans just don’t work

out. Give Shar a hug and a kiss for me. Tell her I’ll always love her and I’m sorry we never got

around to that wedding, I should have done that. Tell Kelly I’m sorry I won’t be there for her

wedding, and tell Marcus I’m proud of him. Most of all, old friend, it’s been my honor to have

known you and even more of an honor you ever considered me your friend. Good bye, Aaron,

and God bless all of you.”

       The screen went blank. Everyone just sat in stunned silence. Finally, Aaron broke the

silence and said, “General Landers is there anything we need to discuss?”

       “No sir, nothing that can’t wait.”

       “Then I think I’m going to ask you all to leave for now. Madam President, at your

convenience let me know when you want to speak to me, or schedule a meeting for the group. I

think I need to be with my family now,” Aaron said.

       “Of course, Mr. Shear,” President Brown said, “plan on a full meeting tomorrow morning

at 11:00, unless you need us before then General Landers.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      204


        “Barring something new, that should be fine, Madam President.”

        “Very well,” President Brown said, “and Mr. Shear, you have my deepest sympathies.

Nobody here has suffered as much individual personal loss as you, and we are grateful and offer

you our prayers of comfort.”

        “Thank you Madam President,” Aaron said.

        Jake hit the switch and the screens all went black. The three of them just sat there for a

moment. Finally Aaron said “Jake, look in Mark’s bar, I know he has a bottle of Crown Extra

Reserve, could you pour me a small glass please?”

        “Of course, sir,” Jake said, “Mr. Allister?”

        “Yes, thank you Jake,” Bill said.

        “Pour yourself one too, Jake,” Aaron said, “you need one just as bad as we do.”

        Jake poured the drinks and brought them to the table, where the three men sat, sipping

their drinks silently, remembering their old friend. When they were done, Aaron ordered Jake to

get some rest and told him not to come back to the office before 9:00 am, unless Aaron called

himself and told him otherwise. When he was satisfied Jake would rest, he and Bill went

upstairs to their families.

        The next morning Aaron woke up and it was almost 9:00. He never slept that late, but

the sheer exhaustion of the previous day had taken its toll. The first thing he did was call down

to Jake’s desk and asked to be connected to the hospital. Aaron was pleased Diana took the call

and connected him to the nurse’s desk in intensive care where Tony was at. Aaron didn’t talk to

Tony, but he talked to Martha who told him they took Tony to surgery at about 5:30 and he was

in surgery for 2 hours. He was in recovery now and she was waiting for them to bring him back
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    205


up. Doctor Ranier told her the surgery went very well and Tony should be back to normal in

about a month. Aaron told Martha if they needed anything, to just call the office.

        Aaron found his family sitting in the living room with the television on. “Anything on

the news about what happened last night,” Aaron asked?

        “It’s all over everything, dad, local, national, the news channels, everywhere,” Marcus

said.

        “I was afraid of that,” Aaron said, “even with most of the communications blocked out;

the news will still leak out. There are no secrets anymore, at least when it comes to something

like this.”

        Aaron saw the remnants of breakfast and asked, “Did you leave me anything, not that I’m

really all that hungry?”

        “I figured you wouldn’t be, honey, but I had them bring you a pot of coffee and a couple

of rolls,” Nichole said, “I hope that’s OK.”

        “That’s fine,” Aaron answered, “I’m going to take a quick shower, and then we all need

to talk before I go down.”

        Aaron got cleaned up and dressed, but before he went back out he called down to Jake’s

desk again and Jake answered this time.

        “Did you get some rest, Jake?”

        “Not much, sir, but a little.”

        “Sounds like my night, are there any messages for me?”

        “About 100, sir, but none that can’t wait.”

        Aaron shook his head and said, “If you say so, I’m going to rely on you to tell me what’s

important and what isn’t for awhile, Jake. I’ll be down in about 45 minutes.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       206


         “Yes sir, I’ll be ready.”

         “You might as well get someone to man your desk, you and I have a lot to talk about.”

         “Yes sir,”

         Aaron hung up and went out to his family. He grabbed himself a cup of coffee and one

of the rolls, then took them into the living room and sat down on the couch between Marcus and

Kelly.

         “I know this is going to wreck your class schedule, Marcus, but I’d like you, Kelly, and

your mom to go with Shar to Mark’s estate, at least until after the services,” Aaron said, “Before

you ask, no I don’t know when they’ll be, but I’d really appreciate it if both of you would hang

around.”

         “Of course, dad,” Marcus said.

         “We’ll do everything we can to help, daddy,” Kelly added.

         “Nichole, Shar is going to need someone for awhile,” Aaron said, “I was hoping it could

be you. Mark told me she has no family left, and very few friends. She’s been pretty devoted to

Mark for the last couple of years.”

         “Of course, Aaron, you know I will,” Nichole said.

         “OK, I’ll have some of Tony’s people take you out this afternoon, or maybe Bill can fly

you, either way, plan on going out this afternoon, but that’s not what I need to talk to you about.”

         “What else, dad,” Marcus asked?

         “Well before I go into that, I also want to tell you I called the hospital and checked on

Tony a few minutes ago. Martha told me he was in surgery for a little over two hours, he wasn’t

back in his room yet, but he was in recovery. The doctor said he did very well and should be

able to make a full recovery.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      207


        “Thank God,” Nichole said, “I’ve been praying for him.”

        “We all have, but if you want to go over and check on him before you leave, just let me

know and I’ll arrange it, and if you would, check with Shar as well, she may want to see him

too.”

        “We’ll check, honey,” Nichole said.

        “Now, what we really need to talk about is probably going to hit you as hard as it hit me.

When I got back last night Jake insisted on seeing me. We went in the office and had a meeting

with the rest of the group, and the President and Vice-President of the Coalition.”

        “Why them, daddy, what do they have to do with Mark?” Kelly asked.

        “Well that’s a long story, but let’s just say Mark has been heavily involved with the new

Coalition of Central States. So have I, but I’m not going into that now. Your mother and Shar

know all about it and they can fill you in once you get to the Mark’s estate, OK?”

        Kelly shook her head, but he could tell she had a million questions.

        “At the meeting, Jake played a recording Mark had made several months ago, right after I

came on board. He left the estate and a large amount of money to Shar, so she’s taken care of.

The rest he left to me.”

        Everyone was silent. Finally Nichole spoke up, “Are you serious Aaron?”

        “Yes, I’m afraid I am,” Aaron said, “all of his companies, stocks, bonds, this building,

everything except the estate and the money he left for Shar, to do with as I see fit.”

        “How much money, dad,” Marcus asked?

        “I’m not even sure, but when I left the office last night Jake said he’d get me an

accounting today and it would probably be something over three billion dollars.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        208


       They all knew Mark was rich. They knew he was constantly in the Forbes 400 for as

long as they could remember, but the thought of him having multiple billions of dollars, and

leaving it to Aaron was staggering for all of them.

       “So what now, honey,” Nichole asked, “I mean, what are you going to do now?”

       “I’m not sure except I promised Mark I’d finish what we’d started with the Coalition, and

there is going to be some justice dealt to those that did this to Mark, Tony, Adam, and Kevin.”

       They all just stared at him, not believing they had heard this come out of his mouth.

       “Don’t look at me like that, I promised Kyle, and I promised Tony, justice will be served,

and the people that did this will never see justice in a courtroom. They think they’re above

justice, that there is no price to pay, but they’re wrong.”

       “First, though, we need to finish what we started with the Coalition. Adam and Kevin

gave their lives for it, indirectly. Mark gave his life directly. Tony almost gave his. If I just

walk away now, it will all be for nothing, and I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.”

       “I just wanted to fill you guys in on what was going on. You all go out to the estate with

Shar, get some rest, and I’ll talk to you before you leave. I’ll try to get out there as soon as I can,

but I don’t know when that will be, so we’ll keep in touch by phone.”

       Aaron looked around at his family, staring at him, and finally said, “Is everybody alright

with this?”

       “I guess so, honey, it’s just a lot to absorb,” Nichole said.

       “I know, that’s another reason I want you all to be together for a few days,” Aaron said,

“and you can be a huge comfort to Shar.”

       Aaron looked at his watch, it was almost 10:00, and said, “I have to get down to Mark’s

office. The President has called a meeting at 11:00 and there are going to be questions I’ll have
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     209


to answer there, so I’ll have Jake let you know when you’re going to leave. I’ll tell him to expect

a call from you, Nichole, if you want to go to the hospital.”

       “One last thing, none of you goes anywhere without security, ever, until I say otherwise,

the people that picked you up last night, Kelly and Marcus, has been assigned to you ever since

Adam was killed. They’ve been with you at all times since then. They’re going to stay with you

until I decide they don’t need to be there anymore, so don’t get a wild hair and call a cab

someplace. Work with me and the security procedures, OK?”

       “We will honey, I’ll see to it the kids understand,” Nichole said, “Now go to your

meeting or you’ll keep the President waiting.”

       “I’ve done it before,” Aaron said, “and it will probably happen again.”

       When Aaron got down to the office Jake and Diana were at the desk, Jake appeared to be

giving her instructions on how things were done. Aaron stopped and asked, “Is it OK if I go in?”

       “It’s your office now, Mr. Shear,” Jake looked at him incredulously, “You can come and

go as you please.”

       “That’s going to take some getting used to Jake; you’re going to have to give me some

time, when you can, come on in.”

       Aaron went into Mark’s office, he doubted it would ever think of it as his office, he’d

always just be watching it for Mark, and sat down at the desk. He’d never sat behind Mark’s

desk before. He looked at his watch and it was a little after 10:00. He and Jake weren’t going to

have time to do much of anything before the meeting. Just then, Jake came in the office.

       “What can I do for you, sir?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       210


         “Pretty much everything, Jake, I’m used to getting orders here, not giving them, and I

don’t have the slightest idea where to start. I hope you have some idea of what Mark was

working on and how important everything is, because I don’t.”

         Jake came over and sat in front of the desk and said, “This is going to be hard for all of

us, sir, and I’ll help you however I can, but I’d like to remind you Mr. Daniels ran his companies

more like a benevolent dictator than anything else. He was always open to suggestions, and

often took them, but there was never any doubt he was in charge. If you try to change that

management style much, I think you’re going to have problems.”

         “Thanks, and I’ll remember it,” Aaron said, “now what’s most important on our ‘to do’

list?”

         “Mr. York has called several times; he wants to know how much you want him to run the

campaign, and how much input you want in it. In other words, he wants to know how often he

needs to report to you.”

         “I want Mr. York to run the campaign. I presume he knows his business, I don’t know

the campaign business. It’s vital to the Coalition Mr. Romero win the Presidency, so that’s what

he needs to accomplish. Anything else is a failure. There will be no moral victories in this,”

Aaron said, “having said that, until we get to know each other better, I’d like him to file a written

summary every other day. What he’s done what the poll numbers are doing, how Mr. Romero’s

cooperating with him, basically what’s good, and what’s bad, every other day. Once I get the

flow of what he’s doing, we can cut back if I’m satisfied, but for now, I want to be kept

informed.”

         “I’ll relay that to him,” Jake said, “Next, I’ve set up appointments with Mr. Daniels’

lawyers. As you can imagine, they have quite a lot of paperwork for you to go over. The first
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      211


one is at 3:00 this afternoon, the last at 9:00 this evening. This needs to be done as soon as

possible.”

       “That will be fine, Jake, and I agree, it does need to be done,” Aaron answered, “I guess

we need to talk about arrangements for Mark’s services. Nichole and the kids are asking.”

       Jake went behind Aaron to a credenza and removed a file folder. In Mark’s normal,

joking manner, the tab was labeled “The Last Thing I’ll Every Have To Do”. The folder

contained Marks arrangements and wishes for his final resting.

       Everything was pretty standard, it named the funeral home, what clothes he wanted to

wear, the normal stuff. There were a couple of odd things. He had 4 acres on his estate

registered as a cemetery with the State of Kansas and that’s where he wanted to be buried. He

wanted a private ceremony at the estate, and a list of people he wanted invited. Most of them

Aaron had met over the summer, but a few he had not. He wanted a gathering to be held in his

home, then a brief graveside service. That was about it.

       “There are a couple of things I want done, Jake. I’m going to talk to the President and

see if we can’t arrange for an honor guard, I think Mark deserves it.”

       “So do I, sir.”

       “I want to hold the services on Saturday, if possible. Arrange that with the funeral home.

I’m hoping Tony will be well enough he can leave the hospital at least for the morning by then.”

       “I think that would be appreciated by Tony and all of us that work for him, sir.”

       “Finally, I want to have Mark’s people set up a video feed. The President and Vice-

President are not on the list, but it would be crazy right now to have them attend in person, is that

possible?”

       “We’ll find a way to make it possible, sir.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       212


        Aaron looked at his watch and it was 10:55. “See if you can have the President join me

now, Jake, so we can talk about this briefly before the meeting.”

        “I’ll try right now, sir,” Jake said, and moved to the conference table to use the phone. In

just a minute or less, he said, “I have the President for you sir, line 1.”

        “President Brown, thank you for taking my call so quickly.”

        “Of course, Mr. Shear, what can I do to help?”

        “Mark’s services are being tentatively planned for Saturday, for a number of reasons.

He’s going to be buried at his estate. Would it be possible for him to have an honor guard? He

was never in the service, but I thought considering……………….”

        “Mr. Shear, it would not only be possible, I insist on it. I’ll arrange it with General

Landers.”

        “I don’t think it’s a good idea you or the Vice-President be there. I’d feel better if you

stayed in a secure location ma’am. We’ve already taken a huge hit in resources, I’m not sure the

Coalition could survive losing either of you.”

        “I’ll take that under advisement, Mr. Shear,” she said, “Is there anything else?”

        “No ma’am, that’s all, but I would ask you have patience with me while I try to get a

handle on what Mark was doing. Jake’s helping me, but it’s going to take time. If you have

anything you feel is of the utmost importance, let me know, or better yet, send me a list that’s

prioritized. I do, after all, work for you to a large degree.”

        “I will, Mr. Shear,” President Brown said and the line went dead.

        “Jake, I’m not sure I can do this,” Aaron said, “I relied on Mark to do the planning and

thinking, I’m a much better Soldier than Officer.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        213


       “Mr. Shear, Mr. Daniels brought you into this and made you a part of it for a reason. the

one thing I’ve learned working for him is he knows his people. He knows more what they’re

capable of than they do themselves, most of the time.”

       “I’m a perfect example. I graduated from college with an MBA and Mr. Daniels offered

me a job as his assistant, a secretary really, or so I thought at the time. I didn’t really understand

why he had me spending two days a week for a year with Tony. The two of them taught me all

about the companies, security, protection, everything. I didn’t realize in college how much I

didn’t know until I came to work here, but I learned, and I was good at it. I was better at it than I

ever thought I might be. I didn’t know it, but he did.”

       “Ms. Davidson is another example. Did Mr. Daniels ever tell you about her?” Jake

asked, and Aaron shook his head no, “I didn’t think so, he didn’t tell many people, but I thought

he might have told you. There was a time, after he and Jackie split up, he didn’t want any

serious relationships with women. To avoid them, he generally hired ladies, both to escort him

to functions in many cases, also trips and for more intimate things. He did that for over a year,

and one night the escort agency sent over Ms. Davidson. For a few months, it was all a business

relationship, but he saw more in her than she ever thought there was. You know her now; you

know how special she is. Mr. Daniels saw that and brought her out of where she was and took

her to a place in her life that she would probably never have gotten to on her own.”

       “No, Shar was never an escort,” Aaron said, “I don’t believe it.”

       “Yes sir, she was, but I’m only telling you about it because I know you’d never use what

you know to hurt her. She was an escort and a dancer at a topless club, even while she was

seeing Mr. Daniels. I hope that doesn’t change your opinion of her.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        214


       “No, not at all, it wouldn’t have anyway,” Aaron said, “but after what I saw last night,

and how much they loved each other………, no, it doesn’t change anything for me. I would

appreciate it, though, if you keep this to yourself.”

       “You’re the only person I’ve ever told, sir, and the only person I ever will tell.”

       “It’s time for the meeting, is Bill here?” Aaron asked.

       “I’ll check, sir,” Jake said and went outside the office. A moment later he came back

with Bill.

       “Bill, I want to thank you again for everything you did last night,” Aaron said.

       “No thanks needed, Aaron, you’d do the same for me if you could.”

       “Jake, I have no idea how to make this stuff work; would you get us connected to the

meeting? When you’ve got us online, could you go outside and check on Tony, then come back

and let me know?”

       “Yes sir,” Jake answered. It took him just a minute to get connected and everyone was

online except Marilyn Conyers. Jake left the room and Marilyn came online just as he was

leaving.

       “To start with, after what happened to Mark Daniels last night, this is a perfect

opportunity to remind us all of two things,” President Brown said, “First, none of us are

invincible, even with the best security possible, it can happen. Second, in view of the first point,

it’s very important each of us has a solid plan of succession if something does happen. I hope

and pray what happened to Mr. Daniels is a singular, isolated incident, but we must be careful

and we must be prepared.”

       “Mr. Daniels has appointed Mr. Shear to take his place, in every way possible, both with

his personal business and with us here on the council. While I respect his opinion and the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      215


contributions, I think it’s only fair if anyone has any misgivings about Mr. Shear, they should

speak up now.”

         For a while, nobody spoke, and then Marilyn Conyers said, “Mr. Shear, just why do you

think Mark set this up, for you to take his place? Are you really qualified to sit in his chair?”

         “To answer your last question, ma’am, no, I am not qualified,” Aaron said, “not now.

There’s so much I don’t know, but Mark asked me to do this and I promised him I would. If you

knew me, you’d know I always keep my promises. As to your first question, I think the reason

he put me here is because he trusts me. He has trusted me for over thirty years. He

knows…knew, I would never betray him and never fail him, if there was any way possible.”

         “You realize you are putting us all in a very awkward position,” Marilyn went on, “we

are being asked to trust someone we’ve only known for a few months with things that are of a

deadly serious nature.”

         “Yes ma’am, I know, all I can tell you is Mark trusted me and I’ve done everything asked

of me by the coalition through him, many times without even knowing why. Beyond that, you’ll

each have to make up your own minds, something which I have no control over.”

         “If I may,” Bill said, “I haven’t known Aaron any longer than most of you, but I’ve

gotten to know him quite well. I also know his family very well. He’s going to make mistakes,

we all have, but there is no doubt in my mind where his loyalties are and what his motives are.

I’m perfectly comfortable with him taking Mark’s place and I hope everyone else can be as

well.”

         “Anyone else?” President Brown asked, “Then this point of discussion is ended. I will

not hear any more question of Mr. Shear’s ability, loyalty, or trustworthiness, until something

happens to demonstrate he’s not worthy of any of them.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      216


       “I think we should vote,” Marilyn said, “in a secret ballot, in case others are afraid to

speak their minds.”

       “Mrs. Conyers, if I have a vote, it will not be just for a referendum on Mr. Shear,”

President Brown said sharply, “so be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”

       After hearing the President, Marilyn remained quiet.

       “Let me make this perfectly clear to all of you,” President Brown said, “according to our

constitution, I am the legally elected President of the Coalition. You all are my advisors, and I

value all of your contributions of advice, money, and resources. However, you are not in charge,

I am, that’s the way it is in a democratically elected Republic. If you can’t deal with that, we

will miss your input and help, but now is the time to say you want out of these proceedings. Am

I being perfectly clear on that?”

       Nobody said a word.

       “Good, “President Brown said, “now, General Landers, what’s our situation?”

       “Madam President, last night the United States moved heavy armor forward of their

staging areas. The closest point is near St. Louis and they are approximately 50 miles from our

border. They stopped there and didn’t make any attempt to advance any further. They are

moving down the Interstate highway system and are approaching the areas we previously

bombed, so their progress will be slowed. They only moved about ¼ of what was staged and we

believe they did that to see what our response would be.”

       “What was your response, General?” President Brown asked.

       “Nothing, ma’am, we are going to avoid, at all costs, firing on targets that have not

entered Coalition territory. That means we are probably going to lose our major bridges as they

attempt to cross but that price might be small compared to the cost of alienating the US citizens
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       217


against an attack on their soil. It’s one thing to blow up some roads, it’s quite another to start

killing their sons and daughters.”

       “So you’re just going to let them march right in?” Marilyn asked, unbelieving.

       “No ma’am, we’re not. I am planning another raid tonight on the roads, hitting

particularly hard on those with the most troops moving, and hopefully with little or no loss of

life. We are not fighting a conventional war because if we do, we will lose. We don’t have the

manufacturing capability of the United States, nor the allies that can re-supply them. We’re

outnumbered 4:1 in troops and armor and the only thing we have parity in is our bombers and

other aircraft. I intend to use our assets to hold them off for as long as possible.”

       “I agree, General,” Aaron said, “there will be enough blood spilt in the next few months,

we don’t need to shed it needlessly, and certainly not in a way that will turn what could be allies

among the US citizens into enemies.”

       “What is our situation with our prisoners, General,” Sandy asked.

       “We have things under control, the higher ranking officers have been moved to Fort

Chaffee in Arkansas, the lower ranking officers are being held with the enlisted men in their

barracks on their bases, for the most part, but it is going to be a problem in a few weeks.”

       “This is a problem we’ve been discussing, Madam President, and if this were any other

war, they’d go to POW camps for the duration, but this is not any other war and again, it’s going

to be a huge matter of perception and public opinion, so we need to come up with a solution.”

       “How many are we talking about, General,” Vice-President Ortez asked?

       “Approximately 3,800 officers ranked Colonel and above, another 6,000 lower ranking

officers, and about 40,000 enlisted,” General Landers answered.

       “Wow, that’s a lot of people to take care of,” Bill said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      218


       “Yes sir, it is. So far, we’re able to do it, largely due to the food that Mrs. Conyers has

supplied us, but it’s going to be much more difficult as winter and the battle approaches.”

       “What is our troop strength like?” Sandy asked.

        “Recruitments are very high, and people are being sent immediately to a specialized

version of basic training. These recruits will not be able to perform a lot of needed duties that

are required of technicians, but they are being trained to fight and take care of the thousands of

jobs that make the military run. We began with about 160,000 personnel that had sworn their

allegiance to the Coalition. We have trained another 25,000 so far with most of those having

served previously in the military and another 45,000 in training now, and that doesn’t seem to be

slowing yet.”

       “How does that compare with what the US has, General,” President Brown asked?

       “The US military has available in regular military, reserves, and guard, about 2,300, 000

people, ma’am. They have approximately 1,000,000 people they can potentially draw from. As

I mentioned before, we’re outnumbered at least 4:1. That’s why it’s so important this NOT be a

long, protracted conventional war because if it is, we will lose.”

       “We have equity, perhaps even superiority, in air power,” General Mays said, “at least

until the Carl Vinson arrives. We also have something they desperately need but don’t have, the

satellites to give us good intelligence. Eventually, they will probably give up trying to get their

own satellites back and buy time from the Russians, Chinese, or French, but as of now their

actions indicate they don’t know what they’re up against and the US commanders will not send

their men in blind.”

       “Getting back to the prisoner issue, General,” Angela said, “I have a thought about that.

What if we just let them go?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         219


         “Are you out of your mind, Ms. Basgall?” Marilyn asked.

         “I don’t believe so, ma’am, and there is precedent. Let me explain, in the Civil war, as

the union advanced, they would make captured soldiers and able bodied men swear they would

not take up arms for either side for the duration of the conflict. Most just went back to their

homes and farms and never saw battle again. Of course, some didn’t, but most honored their

oath.”

         “In our case, our borders are mostly sealed, at the moment. Most have families living on

or near the base and they don’t want to risk them harm if they can avoid it. This conflict is not

popular with the military; they do not want to fire on troops they used to call brothers. I’m

betting nearly all of the captured enlisted men will be more than willing to sit this one out. It

will also aid us if the Coalition begins to fall, as they tell others they were treated fairly and

humanely, and their families taken care of. I suggest we do something similar by telling them if

they swear to never take up arms against the coalition, they are free to go home to their families.”

         “General Landers, your thoughts on this?” President Brown asked.

         “There’s a risk, that’s for sure, but there’s also a risk in confinement. Disease spreading

among prisoners kept so closely together is always a huge problem. More POW’s were killed by

disease in WWII than by the enemy.” Landers answered, “We should keep certain specialists that

are in short supply that we’ve captured, but other than those, I think the enlisted could be

released after swearing an oath not to take up arms.”

         “Do you honestly expect them to honor that oath, General?” Marilyn asked.

         “Yes ma’am, I do. The US Soldiers take their oaths very seriously and honor them.”

         “Like you did, when you took the oath to the United States and are now here with us?”

Marilyn asked sarcastically.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      220


       Landers face flushed beet red. At first, Aaron thought he was embarrassed, and then he

realized it was rage.

       “Madam, as I sit here now, I am abiding by that oath,” Landers said, “I swore to uphold

and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, a document that has no meaning

for my former superiors in Washington. This is the only way I could see to try to get the United

States back on a Constitutional path. If there were any other, I’d have taken it, but there wasn’t.”

       “Never, ever question my honor or integrity again, ma’am. Because I respect you and

respect what you’re doing for the Coalition, I will overlook your insult just this once. I won’t

overlook it a second time.”

       “General, I for one am not questioning your motives,” President Brown said, “and

certainly not your integrity. Mrs. Conyers, for the second time in this meeting your comments

were uncalled for. I appreciate your honesty and skepticism, but I will not tolerate insulting

words and tone, do I make myself clear?”

       Marilyn sat glaring in the screen, finally saying, “Yes, Madam President, and General

Landers, I do apologize. Please understand, I find it very hard to believe if we just let people go,

on their word, we won’t end up fighting them later on.”

       “Understood, Mrs. Conyers, and your apology is accepted,” Landers replied, “I

understand many that have never served don’t realize how important our oath is to us.”

       “General, I will consider the issue of our prisoners and you will have a decision by the

end of the day,” President Brown said.

       “Yes ma’am, what are your orders regarding advancing troops and armor as they

approach our borders?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       221


       “I’ve been considering this, General, and I believe it to be in the best interests of the

Coalition to not fire on ground troops still in US territory,” she said, “if they begin to cross, you

will challenge them and order them to turn around. If they refuse, you will destroy the bridges

that link us to the eastern part of the United States where they attempt to cross. Bridges can be

rebuilt, lives can not be brought back and once lost, and the credibility of the Coalition could be

lost forever.”

       “I understand, ma’am.” General Landers said.

       “However, I do want you to strike the roads again at your earliest convenience and when

you feel we have the highest chances of success. If our territory is fired upon by missiles,

artillery, or any other means from United States territory, you have my permission to remove

those threats, wherever they might be. Is that understood?”

       “Yes ma’am.”

       “I want you and General Mays to come up with a plan of action to deal with the Carrier

group currently steaming our way. As I understand it, the group normally consists of the carrier

itself, two missile cruisers, two anti aircraft ships, and one or two anti-submarine ships, is that

correct?”

       “Yes ma’am, normally, although we believe she is coming with only one missile cruiser,

although another may join her as she passes Florida,” General Mays said.

       “I want a report by the end of the day with your best estimates on what this will do to the

balance of our air power, as well as what hazard the group might pose to the mainland. I also

would like your best estimate of its ability to create an effective blockade of our ports in Texas

and Louisiana.”

       “Yes ma’am, you’ll have it.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        222


       “Finally, we haven’t heard much of anything from the west. I’d like your assessment on

what threats we face on that side of our border and how to counter them, if any.”

       “Yes ma’am.”

       “I don’t know of anything else at this time, unless someone else has something,”

President Brown said.

       “Madam President, if I could have a moment,” Aaron said.

       “Of course Mr. Shear.”

       “We have tentatively set Saturday morning for services for Mark,” Aaron said, “he’ll be

buried at his estate in a private service. The time isn’t set yet, but it will be late morning. I

understand if some of you are not able to attend. In fact, I agree it’s probably not wise for many

of us to be at the same place at one time. I am setting up a video stream of the service, for those

that would like to be there but cannot, to be delivered on our private network.”

       “Again, I understand some of you may not be able to come, but I still wanted you all to

know when we were taking Mark home.”

       “Thank you Mr. Shear,” President Brown said, “I’m going to leave it up to each of you to

decide whether or not to attend. Please, be consistent and compliant to your security detail’s

instructions and advice. We don’t want to lose any more of our members.”

       “If there’s nothing else, we’ll plan on meeting again tomorrow at 11:00 unless you’re

notified of an emergency between now and then.”

       The screens blanked out one at a time until only Angela’s was still on. Aaron said, “Did

you need something, Angie?”

       “Yes, sort of, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I was about Mark. How’s Tony doing?”

       “I just had Jake call a couple of minutes ago, what did you find out?” Aaron asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    223


       “Martha says he’s doing well,” Jake said, “he’s back in his room and awake. The one leg

was not a serious injury and will heal quickly, the neck wound was superficial, the other that

damaged the Femoral Artery, he’s going to have to be careful with for a while so the repair

doesn’t tear, but barring any unexpected infection or problems, he should be fine in a few

weeks.”

       “That’s good news, Jake, thanks,” Aaron said.

       “Yes it is,” Angela agreed, “There was something else, don’t let Marilyn Conyers

concern you too much, Aaron. She is sometimes not a very pleasant person and I think she

enjoys making people angry from time to time, but there’s no doubting her commitment and

loyalty.”

       “She doesn’t bother me at all, Angie, she can think good or bad of me as she likes, that’s

up to her. My only concern with her is it appears President Brown is getting tired of her crap and

we don’t need conflicts there, but there’s not much we can do about that, it’s between the two of

them to work out.”

       “I agree, she’s getting on the wrong side of the President,” Angela said, “I would say

something to her, but that would probably make it worse. She’s very independent and we have

been our own little 5 person group for so long now you, President Brown, and Vice-President

Ortez, are outsiders coming in and she doesn’t like it much.”

       “Well, I guess that’s her problem, until she makes it our problem,” Aaron said, “I know

Mark was doing most of the leg work on our “communications” or propaganda if we want to talk

plainly, I’m going to be needing some help with that. I don’t have nearly his expertise in getting

the messages out that others do.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     224


         “However I can help, Aaron, just let me know, but Jake can probably help you as much

as I can, don’t be afraid to use him,”

         “Oh, I won’t, believe me,” Aaron said, “thanks Angie, for everything, I better get back to

work.”

         Angela’s screen went blank and Aaron went back to Mark’s desk. “Well, Jake, let’s get

this show on the road, bring in the paperwork.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    225




                                          Chapter 11

       Two of Mark’s attorney’s came in with what Aaron saw as a mountain of papers. They

went through them methodically. Trusts, boards of corporations Mark sat on, ownership, leases,

insurance. The paperwork was staggering but the attorneys were pretty good about explaining

things and Jake was there to clarify something if Aaron wasn’t sure about what was going on. It

took them until 9:00 pm before they were finally finished and Aaron had a feeling of dread when

they left promising to bring “the rest” back tomorrow.

       Aaron took a break and gave Nichole a call. Shar was doing as well as anyone could

expect. The actual fact Mark was gone really hadn’t set in with Aaron yet, and he didn’t think it

had with any of them. There really were no arrangements to make for his funeral, he had

everything except the time and date of the services already planned, bought, and paid for. To

Aaron, that made it even more unreal because when his father died, part of what made it hit

home to him was doing things like picking out the casket, headstone, and making the rest of the

arrangements. He was glad he didn’t have to do it for Mark, but it just made his passing less

believable to everyone.

       At 9:30, Aaron called Jake in the office. “Jake, I want to stay on top of our

communications, within the Coalition and outside to the United States and the rest of the world,”

Aaron said, “Marilyn may think we will win this by bombing the hell out of things, but we
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      226


won’t. We’ll win or lose it by getting people outside the Coalition to see things our way, and

keeping the people within the Coalition solidly in step with what we’re doing.”

       “I agree, sir, and so did Mr. Daniels.”

       “I need to know what arrangements Mark had with advertising firms, how we stayed in

touch with them since they have to be outside our borders, and what’s going on. We can’t afford

to have a ‘pause’ in the message, not even for a day.”

       “We are using two firms, one in Chicago, one in New York City. There is also a third

firm in California, but they are really a subsidiary of the one in Chicago and they take their

orders from them. We have arranged a secure cell phone with people we trust there, so you can

call them just like normal. Data transmission is a little more difficult, but can be done,” Jake

answered.

       “Can we get in contact with them now?”

       “I’m sure we can in Chicago, sir, and probably New York, would you like me to try?”

       “Yes, try New York first, if you get them, hook me up on a conference call with both of

them, and let me know who I’m talking to.”

       “Yes sir, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Jake said and left the room.

       In just three minutes, he was back. “I have them on the line, sir; you’re talking to Chad

Allen in Chicago and Marion Brees in New York. Just hit line one on your phone and it will be

on the speaker, or pick up the receiver after you hit it to go private.”

       Aaron motioned for Jake to sit down and wait during the call and hit the button, “Mr.

Allen, Ms. Brees, my name is Aaron Shear. I’m sure you’re aware of what happened last

evening and that Mark Daniels was killed, correct?”

       “Yes sir, we’ve heard,” Mr. Allen said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      227


       “What you had no way of knowing until now is Mark has appointed me to take over all of

his affairs, both personal and professional. As you know, we have issues getting you data, but

we will get you documentation if you believe you have to have it.”

       “It is imperative we put out continuously through every possible method of

communication to the United States people several key points. First of all, the secession of the

14 States is legal, and in fact permitted under the US Constitution. Do your homework; there are

a ton of quotes from Jefferson and Madison that say just exactly that. Second, the President’s

suspending the elections, suspending Habeas Corpus, instituting martial law nationwide, are all

unconstitutional acts and he should be impeached for it. Be careful about this, do not advocate

that he be taken out and shot or any other violent action. Be sure to stress that the rule of law

must be followed. Third, we are approaching winter. Our information is that gas prices are well

over $7 in many areas and home heating oil is going through the roof. This is the result of the

President banning trade and commerce with the Coalition that’s causing these hardships, not the

Coalition itself. We are ready and willing to trade with the United States people if their

President had not instituted an illegal and unfair trade embargo. In other words, this is the fault

of the United States Government in general and President in particular. Are there any

questions?”

       “Yes sir, how do you want us to get this word out? We are already being scrutinized for

every conceivable type of political ad.” Ms. Brees asked.

       “Very carefully, find some Senators and Representatives that will repeat your talking

points for you. Feed the information to state politicians. Write op-ed pieces under assumed

names to major papers. Call in to talk shows. Disseminate them to as many conservative

politicians as you can so they can attack the President. This is what you’re being paid to do.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     228


       “It may not be that easy,” Ms. Brees said.

       “If it was easy we wouldn’t need you. That’s your job and it’s what we need done. Urge

in your opinion pieces for people to remain calm, violence isn’t the answer. This will do two

things, first it will bring over the mainstream view that doesn’t want violence and second, it will

leave the impression in other parts of the United States there IS violence and discord, even if

there isn’t any.”

       “We’ll do our best,” Mr. Allen said.

       “I want information going out daily, twice a day, three times a day. Get your people

working on this, nothing you’re doing now is more important. Work up some television spots

and get them on the news networks in particular. You’re probably not going to have much luck

on the over the air networks, but the cable networks are not nearly as regulated by the FCC,”

Aaron said.

       “We understand,” Ms. Brees said.

       “One last point, since, don’t forget the world press. The internet is still up and running,

most places, so use the world press. Pravda, Great Britain, France, the Middle East papers. We

need the world on our side as well, they can put tremendous pressure on Washington.”

       “We’ll get right on it, Mr. Shear,” Mr. Allen said.

       “I’ll be back in touch with you in a few days, be ready with a status report. Thanks for

your time, Good Luck.” Aaron said, and hung up the phone.

       Aaron looked at Jake and asked, “Too strong?”

       “No sir, they were sitting there on their hands, not knowing what to do now that Mr.

Daniels isn’t here. They needed orders and direction.”

       “What’s next, Jake?” Aaron asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       229


       “It can wait, Mr. Shear, you’ve had a long day.”

       “No, we need to get me up to speed now. We’re not going to have the luxury of waiting

around for someone else to handle things, we have to do it Jake.”

       “Yes, sir, but I wish Tony was here, I’m really not ready to do his job. I may never be,

but right now I know I’m not,” Jake said.

       “From what I’ve seen you’re doing fine, just do your best, Tony will be back in a few

weeks, but in the meantime you and I are in the same boat getting pushed into jobs we don’t

really want and aren’t really prepared for, but we’ll make it work, somehow.”

       “I know it’s going to hurt, sir, but we need to finalize the arrangements for the service for

Mr. Daniels,” Jake said.

       For the next couple of hours they worked on Mark’s funeral. Using Mark’s list they put

together the names. Of course, all the council members were invited, as well as the President

and Vice-President. They decided to invite all the Governors but limited them to one guest other

than themselves. There were some business leaders that needed to be invited, as well as some

friends Mark would have wanted. At the end, the services were set for 11:00 am on Saturday

and there were about 100 guests invited. It was decided a military chaplain from Fort Riley

would officiate. Aaron didn’t know if it was what Mark would have wanted, but he thought it

would do.

       Security was going to be a nightmare for the Governors, but Jake was sure they could

handle it, and the President could possibly loan them some Military Police for a few hours as

well. At least with it being on Mark’s estate, security would be somewhat better.

       “One last thing, Jake, put in the invitations this is to be kept confidential and that no

matter what they may hear or read on the news or in the papers, the time on their invitation is the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        230


correct time. Early Thursday morning, have the funeral home deliver Mark’s remains to the

estate; have them put him in the hangar next to his Hughes. He can spend the last couple of

nights there with her. Be sure to tell the funeral director, I assume he’s a man we can trust, if

anyone asks the remains were transported for internment that morning to an undisclosed

location.”

       “I want you to instruct the funeral home to prepare a gravesite at this cemetery,” Aaron

said as he wrote the name of his own church cemetery in Oklahoma on a piece of paper, “before

Mark’s body is moved, I want them to take a sealed casket weighted appropriately and bury it in

the gravesite there with a small marker bearing Mark’s name.”

       “Once the invitations have been delivered, let’s say on Friday, we’ll release to the press

that Mr. Mark Daniels was buried in a plot with private services on Thursday afternoon, in a

cemetery of an Oklahoma church. That should throw a lot of media and others off the track.”

Aaron said.

       “I’ll take care of it, sir. I’ll have a private delivery service hand deliver the invitations

tomorrow and send the rest via our secure communications yet tonight,” Jake said.

       “I trust you to take care of what little catering there will need to be, and coordinating

security.”

       “I think that’s about everything, sir, I’ll take care of the details. It will be an honor to do

it.”

       “Thanks, Jake. You know, I think I will take your advice. If Ed is here, have him get the

car, I want to go see Tony before it gets too late, make sure he or Martha don’t need anything.”

       “Ed and the car will be ready in 10 minutes, sir.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         231


          Aaron met Ed at the elevator and they rode down in silence and made the short drive to

the Med Center. They rode up to the ICU in the elevator, but Ed stopped outside the door. “It’s

fine if you want to come along, Ed.”

          “No thank you, sir, I’m fine here, I’ll be waiting when you’re ready to leave.”

          Aaron went in to Tony’s room to find Martha asleep, but Tony awake, just sitting in his

bed.

          “How are you feeling, Tony?” Aaron asked.

          “Mr. Shear, you didn’t have to come down here.”

          “Yeah, I did Tony.”

          “Since you’re here, nobody will tell me anything, when are the services for Mr. Daniels?”

          “Jake and I just got that finalized, Tony. I’ve given instructions nothing is to be withheld

from you. You have full access to everything. If you’re having a problem with someone, let

Jake or myself know, but to answer your question, they are Saturday morning at the estate, at

11:00.”

          “Thank you sir, may I come, I’d like to make sure Mr. Daniels gets laid to rest properly?”

          “If the Doctor says you are able, yes, I’m sure Mark would be honored to have you there,

Tony, just let me know and I’ll make the arrangements.”

          “Thank you sir, it means a lot to me.

          “Did you know, Tony, about all of this, about me taking over for Mark? Did you know

about it before this happened?”

          “Yes sir I did. I wasn’t very sure he was doing the right thing back then, and I told him

so. I’m glad to say now I don’t think there’s anyone else that would have been a better choice,”

Tony answered, “Of course, had I done my job properly, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   232


       Aaron thought for a moment and said, “Do you think Mark would approve of the way

you’re beating yourself up, Tony?”

       “Mr. Daniels can neither approve nor disapprove, sir, he’s dead. I let him die.”

       “Yes, he’s dead, and you nearly lost your life trying to keep him from dying. Tony, I

know I can’t convince you otherwise, but you need to stop this. I also know you’re not just

going to wake up tomorrow and say ‘you know, Aaron’s right, it really wasn’t my fault’. What I

know is nobody could have done the job better than you. Sometimes things happen we hate, that

we wish we could take back, but we can’t. I need you back, clear of mind and purpose, because I

need your help. Don’t let this make you become a loss to me.”

       “I’ll do my best, sir, and I will be at the service, I have to be there.”

       “Let’s just take that as it comes, Tony,” Aaron said, but he knew Tony would be there

and if he had to walk through hell.

       Ed and Aaron made it back to the Ivory Tower just before midnight, and Aaron went

straight to the apartment. Although he hadn’t eaten since morning, he wasn’t hungry and went to

bed. It had been a long day and he thought the following days would be no better.

       Aaron spent the next morning with Jake going over more of Mark’s business holdings

and getting up to speed with what most would consider his “normal” life. He actually was

deeply involved in setting up the Chemical Company and Aaron had Jake select someone from

Mark’s staff to continue and asked he report weekly to Jake so he could keep him updated.

       At the 11:00 am meeting, Marilyn Conyers was much more cordial with everyone,

particularly Aaron. That always made Aaron nervous when someone had such an about-face in

their personality but he decided to accept it at face value, for the time being.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     233


       There was nothing new on the military front except the US had moved more of their

resources within 50 miles of the border. There were troops now outside of Saint Louis, Chicago,

Mobile, AL, and Jackson, MS. It appeared they were preparing to move into Coalition territory.

President Brown again ordered the US troops were not to be fired upon until and unless they

crossed into the Coalition, unless they began using artillery or missiles from outside the borders.

       The General reported the key bridges within 100 miles of the staging areas were prepared

to be destroyed with explosives. With the travel restrictions, they were almost never occupied,

and they could be destroyed in just a few moments if the US troops began to move to cross.

       The General reported almost no significant troop movements from the west, something

he found troubling. He did say the Coalition was “armor country”, light and heavy armor would

be the most effective. Because there were no major bases containing much if any armor west of

the Rockies, he theorized they were simply going to try to move in from the East. If that was so,

it would mean a major manpower deployment of the Coalition to the Eastern border, leaving the

Western border much more lightly defended.

       He suggested, and the President ordered, closing more of the passes in the mountains

with military strikes, and removing more access in the desert areas, as much as they could given

the open terrain.

       Without a navy, the coalition was mostly defenseless against the carrier group. 90

aircraft would push the air power advantage the Coalition currently held to an almost balance

point, if not lean it in favor of the US Military. There was simply not much they could do about

it short of attempting to destroy the Carrier itself and that, General Landers assured them, would

be difficult if not impossible. The group’s sole purpose was to protect the carrier and without

submarines or warships, the odds of taking out the Carrier were very slim. The missile Cruisers
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      234


and Destroyers all carried Tomahawks with a range of nearly 500 miles meaning they could

launch from the gulf and reach as far inland as Oklahoma City.

       The hope was the carrier group was there to enforce the trade embargo and nothing else

and there would be no way of knowing until it actually arrived in two more days.

       The US had given up trying to penetrate Coalition airspace for now with fighters and

surveillance aircraft. They had focused instead on UAV’s and probably buying information from

the Soviet and/or French satellites. Both Generals were fairly certain by now, the US Military

knew the locations of their main bases and were developing attack plans.

       Aaron reported their people in the US Territory were getting the message out as much

and often as possible and would continue to do so for as long as possible, beyond that, there

wasn’t much they could do until someone made a move.

       Although they all felt fortunate it hadn’t escalated yet, everyone was concerned nothing

was really happening on the US side. They had honestly expected a massive show of force to try

to come in the Coalition, something costing a lot of lives on both sides, but so far it hadn’t

happened.

       Reports Angela had received said gasoline prices in some areas had topped $10 per

gallon. The NYSE, which had been in another free fall, had stabilized yesterday and was

showing a small gain trading at just under 3,200 on the Dow. People weren’t going hungry, but

their supplies of meat and other perishables had dropped dramatically, and there was grumbling

and concern about just how much of the food supply there actually was left. This was what the

Coalition had hoped for, a lot of discontent but no real hunger, starvation, or people freezing to

death. Winter, however, was just getting started and it was going to get worse.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       235


       The public relations campaign would be critical to the Coalition to make it appear the US

government, due to their ineptness and inability to follow the Constitution, were to blame for

these hardships and not the Coalition.

       At the moment, both groups were at a stalemate, waiting to see what the other would do.

It probably wouldn’t be long before one or the other blinked and things would get even bloodier

than they already were.

       The following morning Aaron was awakened by the phone by his bed. He looked at the

clock and it showed 5:18 am.

       “Yes,” Aaron answered.

       “Mr. Shear, General Landers has called and requested a meeting with you, Mr. Desoto,

Ms. Basgall, President Brown, and Vice-President Ortez in 30 minutes,” Jake said.

       “Did he give you any idea what it was about?”

       “No sir he didn’t, other than to say it was very important he brief all of you.”

       “I’ll be down in 15 minutes.”

       Aaron made his way down to the office and found Jake waiting with a fresh pot of coffee.

“Jake, you’re a lifesaver. On the farm 5:00 am was nothing, but it’s been a long time since the

farm, or so it seems.”

       “Would you rather be back there, sir,” Jake asked?

       “Honestly, yes at least most of the time.”

       Just then, the screen came alive with General Lander’s image on it.

       “General, good morning, any hints on what’s going on?” Aaron asked.

       “If you don’t mind, I’d rather wait so I only have to go over it once, Mr. Shear,” the

General said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        236


       “I understand. I’d offer you a cup of coffee, but I think it would be cold before Jake

could get it to you.”

       Laughing, the General said, “I appreciate the offer, Mr. Shear, but believe me, the

military runs on coffee, we have an ample supply.”

       Aaron took it as a hopeful sign the General managed to laugh at his poor joke and within

5 more minutes, everyone the General had asked for was online and he began.

       “As you all know a couple of days ago the President asked me for a report on the status

of the carrier group of the USS Carl Vinson steaming our way. The strike group includes the

carrier, 2 missile destroyers, 2 missile cruisers, 1 missile frigate, and we believe 1 fast attack

submarine. I realize most of you probably have no idea what these ships do, and that’s fine as

long as you realize the combined forces I just described can pretty much turn the entire Texas

and Louisiana coast into a smoking crater with very little difficulty.”

       “I informed President Brown we really couldn’t do a whole lot about the carrier group

since we have no Navy. We have permitted the US Coast Guard to continue their search and

rescue operations on the condition they add the Coalition flag to their standard and pledge not to

interfere with Coalition shipping, a gentleman’s agreement that they’ve so far upheld.”

       “We have been monitoring ships sailing towards our coast from Argentina, Venezuela,

and Brazil for the last several days. Yesterday afternoon, these ships were joined by two more

ships that were anchored off the coast of Mexico. They are now steaming up the coast towards

our waters.”

       “Who and what are they, General?” the President asked.

       “The command ship appears to be the Brazilian Aircraft Carrier the Sao Paulo along with

one Frigate, one Corvette, and one submarine. They have been sailing North with two Argentine
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      237


Frigates and one Destroyer, and Two Venezuelan Missile Frigates and one destroyer. There are

2 Mexican Missile Frigates and one Destroyer waiting to join them.”

        “We have been watching for the last several days and when the groups come together off

the coast of Yucatan Peninsula in about three hours, they will be about fifteen hours from our

waters. The Carl Vinson Carrier Group is about twenty-two hours from our waters at this time.”

        “While the strike group of the Vinson can probably easily handle these ships, having

thirteen warships is not an insignificant thing. The reason I got you all out of bed is I was

relayed a communiqué from Admiral Enrico Cardoza asking if the Sovereign Coalition of

Central States ‘could use their assistance, and the cooperative forces of our Southern neighbors

who stand ready to assist our new nation’.”

        Everyone in the room sat there stunned. Finally, President Brown said, “I’m very

surprised I didn’t get a call from the Mexican President, is this an official offer by the Mexican

government or has the Admiral gone rogue on them?”

        “I can’t answer or speculate on that, ma’am, all I can do is tell you what I know, but with

the cooperation of Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela, I don’t think it could be a rogue activity.”

        “Are they willing to take orders from you and/or President Brown,” Aaron asked?

        “Again, sir, I don’t know at this time, I haven’t asked any questions and haven’t replied

at this time, I wanted to fill all of you in and get instructions.”

        “Sandy, do you know the Admiral,” Aaron asked?

        “Yes sir I do. I was also contacted by President Castillo about 1 our ago informing me as

our ally they stood ready to aid in our defense in whatever way they could.” Sandy answered, “I

thought it odd he would call me at that time, and not be more specific, but I got the very definite
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     238


idea they were putting something at our disposal, although at the time I had no idea what that

something might be. Shortly after that, I got the call from General Landers.”

       “Two questions, General,” Angela said, “First, can this force help, really, and second, if

so, how? What would be their orders? What are they supposed to do if we do let them help?”

       “As a deterrent, yes Ms. Basgall, they would be a huge help. The US Navy probably

doesn’t know they are coming, although they probably know they’re there. If they show up on

our doorstep, which would be the twelve mile internationally recognized coastal waters and are

confronted with thirteen vessels challenging them that is going to leave them quite confused as to

how to proceed when you consider that to this point, they were expecting to show up

unchallenged.”

       “Their orders would be up to President Brown. The implications could be huge if they

actually start shooting at one another, it could bring nearly the entire South American continent

into the conflict.” General Landers said.

       “Jake,” President Brown said, “is it possible for you to get the President of Mexico on the

line right now?”

       “I can certainly try.”

       He went to Mark’s desk and worked with the phone for a few minutes. While he was

working Angela said, “If they were your ships, General, how would you use them?”

       “I would deploy the sub at a position it could intercept the carrier group quickly if one or

two of the ships broke away, but mostly to keep them corralled. The missile ships I would place

along the coastline to defend in case of missile attack. Mostly just be very visible so they know

they aren’t the only kids in the playground.”

       “Inside or outside our waters,” President Brown asked?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       239


       “Inside, ma’am, although remember the US forces will claim they are within US

territorial waters. I still think it’s important they be inside the 12 mile limit so we assert OUR

claim over those waters and challenge the US Navy to stay out.”

       “Madam President, President Castillo of Mexico,” Jake said.

       “Mr. President, I hope you are an early riser, if not I apologize for disturbing you,”

President Brown said.

       “It is no problem, madam President, how may I help you?” President Castillo asked.

       “Mr. President, my Generals tell me we have an offer of help from some of your forces,

combined with the forces of other South American countries, I presume you are aware of this?”

       “Yes, Madam President, very aware.”

       “Can you speak for the leaders of the other three countries that have contributed ships?”

       “Yes ma’am, I can.”

       “Your offer is generous and greatly appreciated, Mr. President, but I want to be certain

everyone is aware of what this might mean. The United States government has not been acting

completely rationally as of late and you may very well end up at war with them, do you

understand that?”

       “Yes Madam President, we are aware of that. None of us wants war with the United

States, but we have all decided it is time to stand up for ourselves, finally, after over 70 years of

US Domination of the western hemisphere. They can still dominate economically, but we are

actually an older culture and while we’re perfectly happy to share the front row with the US, no

longer will we sit in the back seat.”

       “Will your captains take orders from me through General Landers?”

       “Madam President, the fleet is yours to command,” President Castillo said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        240


         “Sir, the Coalition thanks you for your help and the sacrifices your countrymen might be

called on to make in the name of freedom. It will never be forgotten and we’ll pray the ultimate

sacrifices need not have to be made.” President Brown said.

         “Thank you Madam President, Mexico wishes you well, and your country the best of

luck,” President Castillo said, and then his line went dead.

         “General Landers,” President Brown said, “the ships are yours to command. I trust you

can set up the communications?”

         “Yes ma’am, that’s not an issue.”

         “Deploy them as you deem necessary, inside or outside our territorial waters, However,

they are NOT to fire unless defending themselves, General. They can flex their muscles, they

can try to block the US progress, but their weapons are to be used only to defend themselves.”

         “Yes ma’am.”

         “I know you don’t like that, but if I understand you correctly, if it turns into a shooting

war at sea, the ships we have been provided will lose, is that correct?” President Brown asked.

         “Yes ma’am, they may be able to take one or two of the US ships with them, but they

can’t stand up to a carrier strike group, ma’am.”

         “So, let’s use them to keep an eye on the ships, and our territory particularly so the US

knows they are being watched. Perhaps it will give them pause and a reason to stop and think

about what’s going on.” President Brown said.

         “Yes ma’am, I understand.”

         “What is the status of the forces outside our borders on the mainland?” President Brown

asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          241


        “They are consolidating their positions, ma’am, about 50 miles from our borders.

Apparently, when we did not attack on their advance in the US Territory, they felt secure enough

to move all of their forces up. I think they realize we really don’t want wholesale bloodshed, and

certainly don’t want to be the ones that start it in US territory.”

        “No signs of them moving further in yet?”

        “No ma’am, not at this time.”

        “When they move, do you suspect it will be all at once, or will they do some probing in

one area?” the President asked.

        “I don’t know, ma’am, but if it were me, I’d try to feel it out some, start moving in one

area, perhaps some missile strikes in a couple of known enemy strongholds, but I’m not running

the show over there, ma’am.”

        “How have you prepared for their eventual move?” President Brown asked.

        “We have moved several aircraft so each are within minutes of striking distance of their

current locations. This will allow an immediate response from us if they attempt artillery or

missile attacks on Coalition targets. The bulk of our equipment and men are being held at our

central bases, but ready to move at any time where needed.”

        “My orders still stand, General, don’t fire on the US troops until they cross into Coalition

territory or if they fire missiles or artillery into our territory from their side. I also want you to

attempt to broadcast messages to the US troops. Tell them as long as the Coalition is not

attacked, as long as they remain outside our borders, there’s no reason to increase the hostilities,

make it apparent if they are ordered to come in to the Coalition, many on both sides will die, but

as long as they stay there, everyone gets to live. Perhaps if we can ferment discord among their

troops enough will refuse the order to come into Coalition territory and we can buy some time.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       242


        “Yes ma’am, we’ll do our best.”

        “If there is nothing else, I think we’ll consider this our meeting for today, unless

something else comes up, thank all of you.” President Brown said, and signed off.

        Aaron spent the rest of the day with Jake bringing himself more completely up to speed

with the business ventures Mark was involved in at his death. Mark was excellent at surrounding

himself with people once he initiated activities, they could continue on relatively unsupervised

through the completion of the project, only needing to give regular status reports and requiring

his personal intervention only when a problem arose or at critical project stages. That made

Aaron’s transition to the head of the business much easier than it might have been otherwise.

        Mark’s lawyers arrived mid-afternoon to have Aaron finish the paperwork necessary

giving him the sole control of over $3 billion dollars in money and assets. The sheer magnitude

of the figure left Aaron a bit dazed.

        When the attorneys left, Aaron decided to have Ed take him over to pay Tony a visit. On

the way over, Aaron decided there was some unfinished business he needed to address.

        “Ed, I need you to do something for me.”

        “Yes sir, whatever I can.”

        “That kid we talked to, that was part of the attack on Mark and Tony, you have his

name?”

        “Yes sir, I do.”

        “I want you to keep tabs on him. Close tabs. If, for some reason, he should not end up in

jail, and get released, I want you to tell me. Immediately, so we can conclude our business with

him.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        243


        “It’s already being done, sir, and if he leaves custody, you’ll know in less than two

minutes.”

        “I don’t want you to do anything with him on your own, Ed, wait for instructions, do you

understand?”

        “Completely, sir, nothing happens to him until I talk to you.”

        By that time they were at the hospital and when Aaron went into the ICU, he noticed the

room the kid was in was now empty, the only bed occupied in the high security section was

Tony’s, and he wasn’t in bed. Aaron was glad to see he was sitting up in a chair, a table with

food on it just to the side. He did still have an IV, but otherwise he looked good.

        “You’re looking much better, Tony. How’s the food?”

        “I’ve had worse, Mr. Shear, but I can’t remember when.”

        “Do you want me to have something sent over?”

        “No, thanks, Martha’s bringing me something that’s a little more resembling food, if

they’ll let her bring it in.”

        “I’ll make sure they do.” Aaron answered, “When are they talking about kicking you out

of here?”

        “Doctors,” Tony said with disgust, “they won’t commit to anything. I told them I’m

leaving Saturday morning, at least until afternoon, but Doctor Ranier about had a coronary, he

said I need at least another week here in the hospital and another 4 weeks of bed rest.”

        “What did you say?”

        “I told him I wasn’t asking for his permission, I was telling him what was going to

happen. I’ll come back to the hospital, if he says I need to, but I will not be kept from saying

goodbye to Mr. Daniels. That’s simply not going to happen.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         244


         “I’ll talk to Doctor Ranier and make the arrangements, if you’re sure you can make it.”

         “Don’t worry about me, sir, I can make it just fine if you can get me out of there.”

         “I’ll see what I can do,” Aaron said, “How’s Martha doing?”

         “I told her to get out for awhile, check on the restaurant. Of course I told her that

yesterday too, but she didn’t. She’s been sleeping in this chair because she won’t leave at night.”

         Aaron reached over and hit Tony’s nurse’s call button and in just a few seconds, the

nurse on duty came in.

         “I understand Mrs. Adams has been staying in the room and sleeping in a chair?” Aaron

asked.

         “Yes sir, we permit spouses and parents with children,” she answered.

         “She has spent her last night in a chair. You will bring in another bed for her to sleep in,”

Aaron said.

         “I’m sorry, that would interfere with our procedures.”

         “You really don’t want me to go over your head on this. You will arrange a bed to be

brought in, and it will be done tonight. This is not a request, it is an instruction. Do we

understand each other?”

         “Yes sir, I’ll see what I can arrange,” the nurse replied, hurrying out to her station.

         “Thank you sir, I appreciate that,” Tony said.

         “No problem Tony. We’re family, families take care of each other. I’d better get out of

here, if there’s anything you need, let Jake or I know.”

         “I will, sir. Who’s running the show while I’m gone?”

         “Jake, with Ed helping since Jake’s pulling double duty getting me up to speed. They’re

doing a great job, but I’ll feel a lot better when you get back.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      245


         “They’re very good at what they do, sir, listen to them, would you mind if I talked to Ed

or Jake?”

         “Not at all, in fact, Ed drove me here and is down the hall, would you like me to send him

in?

         “Yes, if you wouldn’t mind.”

         “I’ll send him in and while you two are talking I’ll make sure the nurse completely

understood what I told her to do.”

         Aaron went down the hall and told Ed that Tony wanted to speak to him, then went back

to the nurse’s station. She was still balking at bringing another bed in the room but after a quick

call to the hospital administrator, she seemed to become much more agreeable.

         Just as he was hanging up, Ed returned and Aaron asked him, “You two all finished?”

         “Yes sir, just some instructions Tony had.”

         “I figured as much, let’s get out of here.”

         “Back to the office, sir?”

         Aaron looked at his watch and saw it was only a little after 6:00 and said, “No, I think

we’ll go to the estate so I can spend the evening with my family. Let me call Jake and let him

know.”

         Aaron called the office and Jake said nothing had come up or was pressing. He wanted

Aaron to come back to the office and fly over, but Aaron said he preferred to have Ed drive him.

         As they were leaving the city, Ed said, “Is it OK if we make a stop, sir? I need to take

care of something for Tony.”

         “Of course, I’m in no hurry, how long do you think it will take, I’ll call Nichole and so

she knows when to expect us.”.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   246


       “About 20 minutes, sir, we should be at the estate by 7:15.”

       Aaron called Nichole’s cell and told her they were coming out, to let Shar know, and

when they planned to arrive. As he hung up, Ed pulled into a parking lot of a small store bearing

a sign reading “Centerfire Enterprises”.

       “What’s this?” Aaron asked.

       “This is what Tony asked me to do, he wants you fitted for a vest.”

       “I see, is that really necessary?”

       “Tony thinks it is, and if Tony does, I do.”

       Aaron could tell there was going to be no arguing about the subject and to be honest, after

seeing Tony’s chest and knowing he would be dead right now if he hadn’t been wearing one,

Aaron really couldn’t muster any kind of a valid argument.

       Ed took Aaron inside and introduced him to a small, Middle Eastern man. He designed

his own personal protection clothing. He showed Aaron and Ed the various options and since

Aaron knew nothing about these things, he let Ed decide what he needed. The vest he picked out

was lightweight and very comfortable, but more than capable of stopping a 9mm round at point

blank range. The owner let Aaron take a demo vest until he completed making Aarons personal

vests, three of them, and promised to have them finished by Monday noon.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   247




                                          Chapter 12

       Ed drove Aaron to the estate and they did make it just a few minutes before 7:15.

Nichole was surprised and happy to see him, Kelly seemed especially glad to have some time

with her dad. Marcus was pretty quiet all evening. When Aaron asked him if he was doing OK,

he said he was just having a hard time remembering so many of the good times Uncle Mark

would never be a part of again. Aaron told him that as long as he remembered those times, he’d

always be a part of them, but his words sounded hollow, even to him.

       In bed with Nichole that night, she asked suddenly, “Are you doing OK Aaron?”

       Aaron, surprised, said, “Yes, I think so, what makes you ask?”

       “I know you sweetheart, I held you when you cried after your dad died, and I know how

much pain you feel when people are taken from you. I even remember how you cried when you

buried our dog two years ago,” Nichole said, “this is different. You showed very little emotion

when Adam and Kevin were killed, and while you had a couple of moments when Mark was

dying, you really showed more emotion when the dog died, and that worries me.”

       “I don’t know what to tell you, hon, maybe it’s because there’s so much going on, maybe

everything just hasn’t hit me yet.”

       “Being with Shar has helped me, she goes from being a wreck to almost normal on an

hour by hour basis, but it’s gradually getting to where she’s more ‘normal’ than ‘wreck’ so I
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       248


think she’s coping. Being here for her has helped me, but you’ve been alone, doing what you

had to do, and it worries me.”

       “I’m not alone, really, I’m always with Jake, or Ed.”

       “That’s not the same thing and you know it,” Nichole said shortly, “Just promise me

when the day comes that it really hits you, and I think it will, you’ll call me. I’ll always be here

for you.”

       Aaron leaned over and kissed her and said, “I promise, Nichole, I won’t be too proud to

ask you for help when I need it.”

       The next morning Aaron was up early and he was surprised to find Kelly in the kitchen,

with a pot of coffee brewing and having a cup herself. She wasn’t dressed except in a housecoat

and it appeared she had just gotten up a few minutes before. Kelly had inherited her father’s

love for morning coffee, much to her mother’s disgust, while Marcus took after his mom and

could barely stand the smell of the “vile substance” as he called it.

       “It’s not like you to be up so early sweetheart, did you want something?” Aaron asked.

       “I want to talk to you, daddy. Do I really have a job or was this just a way to get me out

of Chicago?”

       “Yes, it was a way to get you out of Chicago but also yes, you really do have a job. Mark

actually began putting the Chemical and Supply Company together over a year ago. The only

thing not true about it was I was working for it, I never really was, but the company was and still

is very real. In fact, I looked at the business plans and projections the day before yesterday and it

could be quite profitable, if you do your job well.”

       “Are you sure? I can get a job somewhere else.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    249


       “Yes, I’m sure, and the company could be very important to the farmers in the Coalition

since it was designed to be wholly based and supported from within the Coalition,” Aaron

explained, “and many of the other companies are sourcing much of their product from outside

Coalition borders.”

       “When do you think we can go back? I need to work, and I left the office in such a hurry,

there was so much to do.”

       “Have you been in contact with your people, to keep them up to speed?”

       “Person, daddy, I only had time to find one person and she’s going to be overwhelmed

very shortly if I don’t get back.”

       “Let’s get through this weekend, and I’ll talk to Jake and Ed and see if they have any

security concerns with you getting back to Tulsa, and Marcus back to school for that matter.”

Aaron said, “If they don’t have any concerns, or they think the concerns can be managed, and if

you two promise to work with your security people, then we’ll see if we can get you back

Monday or Tuesday.”

       “Thanks daddy,” Kelly said, “but Marcus is going to want to talk to you too.”

       Just then Ed walked in and Aaron asked him, “Are you about ready to go Ed?”

       “Whenever you are, sir.”

       “Ed, I have a question for you. Do you think the tailor you took me to yesterday sells

women’s garments?”

       “I know he does, sir, and I was going to talk to you about it anyway.”

       “So I’m not just being paranoid?”

       “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, sir. Besides, a

little paranoia is good, it can keep you alive, as long as you keep it tempered.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       250


         “Do you think Annie and maybe another one of your people could take Shar, Nichole,

Kelly, and Marcus shopping this afternoon?”

         “I’ll see to it, sir, I’ll make the arrangements on our way into town.”

         “You’re sending me clothes shopping, daddy?” Kelly said, excited.

         “Don’t get too excited, honey, although I know you didn’t bring a lot of clothes with you

and I’m sure you and your mom would like to get something for the services tomorrow. This is

for a type of clothes you’ve never had before, but I’ll feel a lot better if you humor me.”

         Kelly looked at him, puzzled, but said, “If it will make you feel better, then I’ll be happy

to do it daddy, you know that.”

         Aaron got up and gave Kelly a kiss and said, “Ed, we better go before we get all mushy

here.”

         “Nothing wrong with mushy either, sir,” Ed replied as they walked out the door.

         Aaron got to the office by 7:30 and saw Jake at his desk working with Diana. “How

early do I have to get here before I beat you to work, Jake?”

         “Don’t worry about it sir, your alarm doesn’t set that early,” Jake said, smiling.

         “Does he let you go home from time to time, Diana?”

         “Not much lately, Mr. Shear, but that’s OK, things will calm down when Tony gets

back.”

         “How is Tony, sir?”

         “He’s doing well. He’s determined that he’ll be at the services tomorrow and I’m not

going to be the one that says he can’t come. He was complaining about the food, but I count that

as a good sign.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       251


        “Yes sir, so do I,” Jake said, “Sir, would you object if I came to the services? I wasn’t on

the guest list.”

        Aaron was embarrassed; he never even thought of adding Jake to the “list”, he just

assumed he would be there.

        “Of course, I want you to come, Jake, I’m sorry your name wasn’t on the list, I didn’t

even think it had to be, I just assumed you would be there. I’m sure Diana can hold down the

fort here, can’t you Diana?”

        “Of course, sir, you and Jake are just ‘unavailable’,” Diana said with a smile.

        “It’s settled then, just coordinate with Ed and the rest of security, Jake. We’re all going

to be pretty emotional. Hell, we’re all pretty emotional right now, but we can’t afford to be

careless.”

        “Yes sir, I understand,” Jake said.

        “So, let me get the coffee going and then let loose the hounds for the day, whenever

you’re ready,” Aaron said, “just tell me we don’t have anymore lawyers, Jake, please, no more

lawyers till next week.”

        Laughing, Jake said, “None on the schedule, sir, and if they’re not on the schedule, Diana

will just say ‘screw ‘em’.”

        They looked at each other for a minute, then Aaron looked at Diana, and they started

laughing. Finally, Aaron said, “Diana, I know you’re dedicated, but you really don’t have to go

that far for the company, especially not with a lawyer.”

        Laughing, Diana said, “I’ll be sure to remember that, sir.”

        The day went very smoothly. Aaron had a meeting with Angela and the President, but

there wasn’t much change in the situation so President Brown decided a full meeting wasn’t
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       252


really necessary. General Landers had reported to her that our allies from Mexico and South

America had taken up stations inside Coalition territorial waters and the carrier strike group that

arrived last night, was staying about 10 miles away from them, not sure quite what to make of a

navy in their path, even such a small Navy as this.

       The day went so smoothly, in fact, that by 6:00 Aaron and Ed were on their way back to

the estate. Bill and Ella had arrived just before Aaron got back and Izzy had fixed one of her

buffet dinners. Aaron had been at a few of them and he never saw anyone that wasn’t stuffed by

the time they were finished.

       After dinner, everyone relaxed in the large family-entertainment room. It was a subdued

evening, with all of them talking about what they remembered of Mark. Aaron was able to recall

stories of when the two of them were roommates in college and a few of the exploits they had,

thoroughly embarrassing himself in front of his kids, who were in turn embarrassed themselves

and laughing at his confessions. Nichole recalled what a good friend Mark had been to her and

Aaron when Mark’s father passed away. Marcus and Kelly spoke fondly of the times ‘Uncle

Mark’ would surprise them and the times he spent with them.

       Aaron wasn’t aware of how long and deep a friendship Mark had with Bill and Ella. He

knew that Bill was an integral part of his first really successful business venture, but not that they

had become such fast friends. Even Izzy, who was invited to join them, recalled stories of Mark

and Shar, how the first time she came home with him Izzy liked her immediately and told him

that he had finally found ‘the right one’.

       They remembered their friend until almost midnight when they finally talked themselves

out and went to their rooms to rest for what was going to be a difficult day.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      253


       When Aaron got up the next morning at 6:00 am Izzy was busy in the kitchen and

preparations were well under way for the services. Ed and Jake were both there, watching the

security procedures and people personally. They would have no mistakes.

       Aaron had arranged for a car to pick up Tony and Martha at the hospital early, thinking

that it might take some extra time for them to get here, but it really didn’t and they arrived by

9:00. Tony was in a wheelchair, impeccably dressed and groomed and in what seemed to be fair

spirits. Martha had never been to the estate before and she was in awe of everything going on,

but Shar took time to make her feel at home. She ended up helping Izzy in the kitchen for most

of the morning.

       Sandy and Mari arrived by car around 10:00 am and at 10:30, a Coalition helicopter

arrived carrying President Brown and Angela, who had met them at Forbes Field in Topeka. The

bunker the President currently called ‘home’ was less than 15 minutes from Mark’s estate by

helicopter and although security recommended she not attend, she decided to come.

       The funeral home, Aaron found out later, was owned by Mark himself, he had purchased

it to facilitate getting the small plot on his estate registered as a cemetery. They had prepared the

gravesite and promptly at 11:00, two vans with Coalition Military markings pulled up and a

military honor guard got out. The honor guard racked their weapons and acted as pallbearers,

moving the casket down to the gravesite and placing it over the grave; they then stood at

attention out of the way.

       The service was short, following a Christian service that military chaplains often used.

At the end of the service, the honor guard fired their weapons and it was concluded by those

assembled reciting The Lord’s Prayer. As the prayer was completed, a low rumbling was heard

from the north, and grew louder. The noise became deafening and a flight of four F-16’s came
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        254


directly overhead at less than 500’. When they were directly overhead, the second element

leader did an abrupt pull-up flying directly into the near-noon sun, the other three aircraft

continuing to fly in perfect formation to the south.

       The ceremony concluded they began walking back towards the house. As they did,

Aaron felt his secure phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw ‘mad’ on the caller

ID. He noticed that Bill, Jake, Sandy, and President Brown were all looking for their phones at

the same time.

       “We need to get to Mr. Daniel’s study, sir,” Jake told him quietly.

       Aaron directed the paged individuals to follow him into the house and when they got

there, Jake was already working on the link. The call was not, of course, from Mark, but sent

from his office by Diana. General Landers had called and needed to talk to them urgently. By

the time they were all situated, Tony with them in his chair, Jake had General Landers, the Vice-

President, and Marilyn Conyers on the monitors in Mark’s study.

       “What’s happened, General,” President Brown asked.

       “At exactly 11:30 pm, 31 minutes ago, a United States missile battery fired five missiles

at our people guarding the pumping stations and valves at Shreveport, Louisiana from a site

located twenty-five miles west of Jackson, Mississippi. We detected the launch and had four

fighters in the air at the time. They were immediately tasked with taking out the missile site,

which they did in less than five minutes, but the missiles had already been fired.”

       “They were very accurate and we had substantial losses. The pumping stations were

destroyed and we are still assessing the loss of life, but it will be in excess of 150, certainly, with

at least that many injured. The pumping station was a natural gas station and along with the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     255


direct damage caused by the attack, there were numerous natural gas fires before the crews could

get them contained.”

         “Our satellite surveillance shows the missile site, and two other mobile launchers within

two miles, were destroyed with casualties on the US side, but it’s impossible to know how

many.”

         “Our current status is stable. I believe the target was picked by the US command to do

two things, first cause some significant loss of life by the Coalition personnel while causing

significant, but repairable damage. Second, to find out what our response would be in the case of

an attack. From that standpoint, they were successful on both points.”

         “General Landers,” President Brown said, “I’m not going to Monday Morning

Quarterback you, it sounds to me like you executed to the best of your abilities the orders you

were given. Having said that, as you assess this situation, is there anything you would have done

differently? Was there anything you needed from me to be more effective?”

         “No ma’am, I don’t believe so. We are most likely going to suffer more losses like this,

but I don’t think many. The US Government knows as they inflict damage on facilities like this,

they are only hurting themselves in getting the energy back on line at some point. This was a

preliminary strike, a test of our defenses. It will happen again, but not often.”

         “Do you feel we need to respond to this attack, General?” Aaron asked.

         “Yes I do, but I’m constrained both by order and personal agreement with those orders, to

minimize the loss of life outside our borders, but I’m open to suggestions.”

         “Madam President, I think we were all aware this was coming but we’re all reluctant to

expand the loss of life much beyond our borders, if at all possible. I do have a proposal,” Aaron
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         256


aid, “I believe we need to attack a base deep within the borders of the United States, but one that

will cause a minimum loss of life.”

         “Sir, if I might make a suggestion,” Tony said.

         “What’s on your mind, Tony,” Aaron asked?

         “If we have some cruise missiles, they should have a range of about 900 kilometers, more

than enough to reach the runway at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, is that right

General?”

         “Yes, that shouldn’t be a problem,” General Mays said, “any reason to target Redstone?”

         “Yes, I was stationed there for a time, that’s where the missiles they just fired at us came

from. It would send a message that we know where you are, and would also make it hard for

them to move them in the future.”

         “The distance is only about 250 miles especially if we air launched from west of Little

Rock so flight time would be less than 30 minutes. I believe it would have a high probability of

success in reaching the target and a very low probability of taking any lives,” General Landers

said.

         “Would this attack send the message we wanted delivered, General?” President Brown

asked.

         “It’s not ideal, ma’am, but it’s a very good suggestion, yes,” the General said.

         “Very well, make your preparations and launch when ready. By the time you know the

results, I’ll be back in my location, and you can contact me there with an assessment of the

operation.” President Brown said.

         “Yes ma’am, you’ll be hearing from me in about 1 hour.” General Landers said and

signed off.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       257


       “Mr. Adams, that was an excellent suggestion, thank you,” President Brown said,

“Aaron, now you have more work to do. Your communications people need pictures of the

damage and reports, factual, of the lives lost. They need to get that out to the people

immediately, on both sides, but especially on the US side, delivering two messages. First, this

was an unprovoked attack by the United States against Coalition workers and second, that

attacks such as this are only going to lengthen the time that it takes the coalition to restore energy

delivery to the United States once the embargo is removed. This is of the utmost urgency and

has to be out as soon as possible.”

       “I understand, ma’am, and I’ll get it done,” Aaron said.

       The President left immediately following their conversation. Angela elected to stay

behind and return with Aaron to Kansas City to help with the communications efforts. Tony was

reluctant to return to the hospital but Aaron convinced him in order that he could recover as

quickly as possible and get back to work.

       Bill and Ella had flown up from Tulsa in his S76 and offered to fly Ed, Aaron, Angela,

and Jake back to the Ivory Tower. The timing of the strike, at exactly 11:30 when they were in

the middle of Mark’s services, bothered Aaron. It might indicate that the US Military was

regaining some of their surveillance capability and if so, it was certain they were watching

Mark’s estate.

                               ******************************

       President Collins had completely run out of patience. Mark Daniels had been attacked

and killed, without his authorization or being consulted, and to top that off, his Military was

dragging their feet on taking any action. He intended to light some fires and get people moving.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        258


       “Admiral Torrin, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘If General McClellan does not want

to use the army, I would like to borrow it for a time’, Admiral, if you’re not going to use the

United States Military, I’d like to borrow it,” President Collins said.

       “Mr. President, I don’t think you realize what we’re facing. Our enemy is very capably

led. They are flooding the United States with the message of ‘just leave us alone, we want to be

friends’, your actions are seen by many in the military as unconstitutional, particularly when you

suspended the elections for President, and to top all of that off, this ‘coalition’ has honored it’s

word and not tried to take one foot of soil outside their borders, the only losses we’ve had are

when we’ve penetrated into their territory,” Admiral Torrin tried to explain.

       “Admiral, it is not their territory, it is a part of the United States of America,” President

Collins exclaimed, frustrated, “your officers need to have the situation explained that my actions

were not against the Constitution any more than Lincoln’s were during the Civil War. I am

trying to hold the Union together, what can be more Constitutional than that? For Christ’s sake,

are you telling me that you can’t control your own men? If that’s the case, I obviously have the

wrong man for the job!”

       “My men are dedicated and devoted, sir, they will obey their orders, as long as they see

them to be legal orders.”

       “Admiral, in a time of national crisis such as we have now, I AM THE LAW. I AM

THE LEGAL AUTHORITY! 200 years of history bear that out,” the President shouted.

       “Then what exactly are your orders, sir?”

       “We’re paying the Russians enough for their satellite data, where so they have troops we

can strike?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        259


         “The closest are near Shreveport, Louisiana sir,” Admiral Torrin said, “we can strike with

missiles at a facility that appears to have nearly 1,000 troops for protection of the facility there.”

         “Fine, then make it happen, Admiral, I want to send them a message, as well as to the

people of the United States and the world, we are going to resolve this and once again have a

United States, and I want it done quickly,” President Collins ordered.

         “Yes sir.”

         “Now, what can you tell me about the ships protecting their coast?” President Collins

asked.

         “Ships from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela have taken stations along the

border. They are no match for our Strike Force that just arrived, but they do include one carrier

of their own and they have the potential to inflict damage.”

         “What have they done?”

         “Nothing, yet. We challenged them on two occasions and each time they locked their

missile batteries on our ships and ordered them to turn around. We decided not to test their

resolve and did as we were directed, for now.”

         “Do you really think these countries want war with the United States?”

         “No sir I don’t, but they have said they will aid in the defense of the Coalition and I take

them at their word, they may not want war, but that doesn’t mean they’ll run from it either.”

         “It’s pretty hard to have a show of force when you can’t get within 20 miles of shore,

Admiral. I want a plan developed to get through this blockade and get our ships on the coastline,

and without getting us into another war. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and now a Civil War are really

quite enough.”

         “Yes sir, I understand .“
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    260


       “Good. Sam Poyner is waiting outside, send him in when you leave,” the President

ordered.

       “Yes sir,” the Admiral said as he left the Oval Office.

       Sam came in as soon as the Admiral left and closed the door behind him.

       “You wanted to see me, Mr. President?”

       “I’m just wondering, who you think you are?” the President asked.

       “Excuse me sir, I’m afraid I don’t understand,”

       “Oh, I think you do. You were never elected. You were certainly never confirmed by the

Senate to do anything. Hell, I didn’t even hire you, you just came with the office, yet somehow,

you have it in your head you have the authority to order someone killed, so I’ll ask you again,

just who is it you think you are? Are you the head of the CIA? The NSA? Some shadow

government that thinks they control me? Who, Sam?”

       “I am that person that keeps you in office, sir. I am that person who does the things that

you need done, but can’t do and can’t ask anyone to do. In most cases, you don’t even know or

admit they need to be done. I am never here, I don’t exist, yet I’ve always been here. I or those

that came before me have been behind every King, President, or ruler throughout civilization. I

don’t care if you like me. I don’t care if you think you don’t need me. That doesn’t change the

fact you do need me and you need someone to do these things, even when you don’t know it.”

       “So God, or something else, in their infinite wisdom, gave you the power and knowledge

to unilaterally judge what I need, and who lives and dies?” President Collins asked, “If God did

select someone to do this kind of work, I’m pretty damn sure he wouldn’t have picked you.”

       “God didn’t pick me. I don’t do God’s work, if there even is a God, but I am necessary.”

       “Why did you have Mark Daniels killed? That made no sense.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         261


         “Several reasons. First of all, he had no sense of his place in the order of things. He

thought he was above those of us actually trying to change society, and even the world, and he

disdained us for it because he didn’t have the power. Second, he was a central figure in this plot

to destroy the United States. Just by seceding they’ve set our nation back 20 years, even when

we do manage to get the states back into the Union, and he may have been the central figure.

My hope was if he was gone, the group would fall apart. That apparently didn’t happen. Last,

he was rude to me.”

         “Oh, well, if he was rude to you, then by all means, have him killed.”

         “You scoff? Go ahead, but being rude to me is not allowed, not by anyone. Not even

you.”

         “So when you killed him, you gave the coalition a martyr and a hero instead. Well

done.”

         “Perhaps, but I also took away, as near as we can tell, at least 1/3 of their actual brain

trust, and that’s going to be hard to replace.”

         “Let me make this perfectly clear. Your independent action priveleges are revoked,”

President Collins said, “from now on you clear everything through me.”

         Sam sat in his seat for a moment, then got up and walked over to the small bar hidden in

a credenza and poured himself a drink. As he turned around, he was smiling, then he started to

laugh.

         “Clear it through you? Now that’s a good one,” Sam said, then he got deadly serious,

“Now you listen to me, you blithering idiot, you couldn’t even get laid until I paid Sharon to fuck

you, and you jumped all over that, didn’t you? Yes, I know. I have all of her notes and reports.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        262


For a month after she left you pined around like schoolboy. If it wasn’t interfering with what I

needed you to do at the time, it would have been funny.”

       “Now let me explain to you how it’s going to be. From now on, you won’t do anything

without clearing it through me, is that clear? I’m running this show from now on, and if you

don’t like it you can go screw yourself because I really don’t care. If you don’t play ball, at best

you’ll leave office in disgrace. I’ll make public in graphic detail all the nasty little things you

and Sharon did, a military officer under your command at that, who went AWOL in coalition

territory just before the States seceded. Hell, she’s probably working for them right now and

who knows how much information you gave her while you were between her legs. And if that

doesn’t worry you, take a visit to Walter Reed and look in the long term care wing to say hello to

your predecessor for me, he didn’t want to go along either. Now are we clear?”

       President Collins just sat at his desk, not saying anything.

       “I’ll take that as you saying you understand, I feel sorry for you, Mr. President, you really

had no idea who you were fucking with, did you?”

       With that Sam left the room feeling better than he had in quite a while. Mark Daniels

was no longer a thorn in his side and he had finally explained to that dullard Collins just exactly

who was in charge. Yes, it had been a very good day.

       The next day Admiral Torrin had developed a plan. The Russian satellite they were

paying to borrow was better than being blind, but not by much. It wasn’t nearly as sophisticated

as the US versions, although Torrin was certain they had better available but they would never

let the US know what their real capabilities were, however it did show a fairly large defensive

force at a location just west of Shreveport, Louisiana. There were also forces at other areas, all

of them corresponding to energy distribution centers.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      263


       According to their information, this was a pumping station for natural gas, it should

inflict heavy damage if used as a target for a missile strike. He had also decided to test both by

air, and sea, what the small naval force would do if challenged and the carrier strike force

attempted to move closer to shore, within the twelve mile radius.

       The President approved his plan and ordered him to proceed immediately. The missile

strike was successful, but the Coalition aircraft had removed the US missile sites within minutes.

Fortunately, or perhaps by design, the US military lost less than a dozen people. The Coalition

lost well over 100, they estimated.

       He ordered two of the missile cruisers to attempt to move inland, with air support. They

were challenged by missile frigates and when the US ships were targeted, turned around. As the

aircraft approached, they were ordered out of Coalition airspace by A4 Skyhawks launched from

the Brazilian carrier. The Skyhawks were no match for the FA-18’s on the Carl Vinson, but the

8 F-16’s coming in at full speed from the west to assist certainly were, so the aircraft turned

back. Admiral Torrin was quite convinced had they continued inland, they would have fired on

the US Naval vessels.

       What the Admiral wasn’t prepared for was what came less than two hours later, when a

Cruise missile launched from Coalition airspace struck the runway at Redstone Aresenal,

removing 2/3 of its length from the middle. There were no casualties in the strike, but the only

way in or out of the facility now was by surface or helicopter. It would take a year to repair the

runway. The message was clear, you strike us, you lose a base.

       Thirty minutes after the missile struck Redstone, the Pentagon received a message

through the Canadian embassy. It explained the next time a coalition target was struck with
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      264


casualties, the United States would pay twice as badly, there would be no more bloodless facility

strikes.

           While the US military had successfully struck the Coalition, they had effectively gained

nothing in the process. Torrin was now convinced to inflict enough damage to force the Coaltion

to return to the Union an armored assault would be inevitable.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      265




                                             Chapter 13

        Aaron spent Sunday at Mark’s estate watching football with Marcus and Jake. An

unintended consequence of the secession was a completely screwed up professional football

season. As a result, the networks had gone to broadcasting a lot more college games and moving

some to Sunday to fill the airtime. That Sunday happened to be the game between Oklahoma

State and Colorado. At least the Big 12 could still have a champion, but there would have to be a

redefinition of a ‘National Champion’.

        They had a short meeting with President Brown but after the previous day’s attacks and

responses, everyone was pretty much licking their wounds and trying to decide what to do next.

There had been no movement and the Carl Vinson strike group had made no further attempts to

come close to Coalition waters.

        After the game, Aaron and Marcus were finishing up some snacks after Jake had left and

Marcus said, “Dad, I want to talk to you about something.”

        “Dad, do you think this can last? The coalition I mean, do you think it’s even possible?

My history instructor said there’s no way, and the people left behind, the ‘little guys’, will pay

the price, just like after the Civil War.”

        “Tell me the name of that professor and I’ll have the President disappear him.” Aaron

said with a smile, “Actually, the White House would more likely have him disappeared for
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      266


saying things against the government than we ever would. To answer your question, though,

yes, I think we have a chance. There are a lot of things going on I can’t talk about, political

things. If we can last until February, we have a very good chance. If not, then I guess we’ll just

have to see.”

        “Did mom tell you and Kelly that you two are going back with Angela and Ella

tomorrow? Bill is going to stay a day or two so I’m sending a plane down to take Angela and

Ella home.”

       “Yes, she told us. Is mom going to stay here for awhile?”

       “Yes, Shar wants her to, and I think they’ll be good for each other. Mark’s death was a

huge blow to your mom and Shar is going to be lost for awhile, so maybe they can help each

other heal.”

       “I’m beat, Marcus, I’ll see you in the morning before I leave,” Aaron said.

       “OK dad.”

       The next morning Aaron woke early and decided since he was awake, he might as well

be up. He had always been one that once he awoke, at whatever time that might be, he was up

for the day, and his body had decided that today he should start at 4:05 am, according to the

bedside alarm clock. He dressed and as he was going into the kitchen to see if he could find the

coffee to start a pot, he noticed a light on in Mark’s library. Thinking someone had just forgotten

to turn it off, he went in and found Shar there, legs tucked under her on the leather couch in her

robe, with a book open on her lap.

       Aaron went in and said “Looks like I’m not the only one that’s having some problems

sleeping.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          267


       Shar had apparently been dozing as she jumped slightly, “Aren’t you going to bed,

Aaron?”

       “I’ve been to bed, honey, and now I’m up for the day. I guess you can’t take the farmer

out of me. Mind if I sit down for a while?”

       Shar patted the the couch beside her and said, “No, I’d like the company.”

       “We haven’t gotten a chance to talk much, but I want to thank you.” Shar said.

       “For what?”

       “A lot of things. For being such a good friend to Mark. For letting Nikki stay with me.

For being so kind to me. I haven’t always had good friends, or people that were kind to me.”

       “Well, first of all, Mark was a better friend to me than I could ever have been to him.

Second, if you think I’m allowed to ‘let’ Nichole do anything, then you give me far too much

credit, and last, if you haven’t figured it out yet Shar, you’re family, and you’re also a

sweetheart, it’s easy to be kind to you.”

       “Did Mark ever tell you about when my Dad died?” Aaron asked.

       Shar shook her head no.

       “It was a tough time for me. Mom died when I was in college and away from home, and

she had been sick for quite a while, but since I wasn’t there it probably was never all that real to

me. I had been working with Dad, though, for quite a few years on the farm and to me, he was

nearly indestructable. I guess I thought he’d go on forever, or at least outlive me. When he died,

the first week or so it was hard, but I dealt with it. After that, it got worse. Everything I saw on

the farm reminded me of him, and how I never measured up. Dad was pretty hard on me

growing up, I was an only child, and nothing was ever good enough. I think he was proud of me,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        268


and he adored Nichole, but I was never really good enough in his eyes, I don’t think, at least he

never told me I was.”

          “Didn’t you hate him for that?”

          “No, not really. He was demanding, but fair. He had a problem telling me I did well.

Anyway, after a week or two, I was having problems with him being gone, and decided to stop at

a local bar for a couple of beers. No big deal, until I did it the next night, then the next. Pretty

soon, happy hour was starting around 3:00 pm and I wasn’t getting home until midnight, or

later.”

          “Back then, I had a teenage daughter at home and Marcus was maybe eight or nine,

Nichole didn’t really knowing what was going on with me, or how to help. She turned to Mark.

I didn’t know it at the time, and it probably would have ticked me off if I had, but she was

talking to Mark on the phone every couple of days for over a month while I was sliding down a

very dangerous slope.”

          “One day, out of the blue, I got a call from Mark, he asked to meet me at my hangar. We

sat down and he laid it all out for me. He told me if I kept going as I was, Nichole was planning

to leave me and take the kids back to her people down around Lawton. That’s about 200 miles

south of where we live. I told him he was full of shit, he didn’t know what he was talking about,

and we were fine.”

          “He told me no, we weren’t fine, and in fact this was pretty much the last hope for

keeping the two of us together and if I was enough of a damn fool to let Nichole walk away, then

I wasn’t the same man he considered to be his best friend and he was going to walk away as

well.”

          “Wow. Do you think he was serious?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     269


       “You knew him, do you?”.

       Shar thought for a minute and said, “Yes, I do. Mark almost never bluffed, and he would

never have bluffed about that.”

       “I hadn’t been at the drinking long enough to really develop a physical problem with it.

Truth was, I really wasn’t very good at it and would have made a shitty alcholic, but it was

enough to open my eyes to what I was doing to Nichole and my family, and he put me back on

the right path.”

       “He never told me anything about that, but I’m not surprised. He always had a very

distinct line about what was private, and what was public, what was to stay in confidence, and

what you could tell others.”

       “I suppose you’ve heard about how Mark and I met,” Shar said quietly.

       “Not from Mark, and only recently. It doesn’t matter, though, and I haven’t said

anything to Nichole.”

       “Nichole knows. Honestly, she’s my best friend. I know we haven’t known each other

long, but in a lot of ways you guys and Mark were my only friends. My family is all gone, that’s

one reason I was doing what I was doing. I never finished high school, but got me GED after I

was making some money.”

       “Mark never judged, never questioned. I know a lot of his friends didn’t approve of me,

but he didn’t care, he treated me so well and I loved him so much, and now I don’t know what

will happen to me, but I know I’ll get by, he taught me I could do that if I had to, and not by

doing what I was doing before.”

       Aaron thought she’d get by just fine, particularly considering she had the estate and about

$50 million in the bank.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         270


           “How long can I stay here, Aaron? I haven’t even had a chance to look for anything else,

I was hoping Nikki could help me.”

           “Why would you leave hon, don’t you like it here?”

           “Of course, I love it. It’s the only real home I’ve had since I was nine, but I just assumed

it would be sold.”

           Aaron suddenly realized nobody had told her what Mark had left her. She had spent the

entire week not even sure if she had a place to live, and probably no real money of her own

except Mark’s credit card she had to use, and she probably figured it didn’t work anymore.

Aaron was going to have a long talk with Mark’s attorneys about this.

           “Shar, I’m so sorry, I thought they had explained the arrangements to you, the house is

yours. So is the rest of the estate. Everything here except Mark’s helicopter out in the hangar,

he said he didn’t think you’d want it anyway, but everything else here is yours.”

           Shar looked at him, disbelief in her eyes. “Aaron, you don’t have to do that, I’ll be OK,

really.”

           “Shar, I’m not doing anything, although I would and I’m glad he did it, Mark left it to

you, to do with as you wish. He also left you with a trust fund of a little over $50 million dollars.

You can use the interest and draw up to one and a half million dollars per year out of it. You’ll

be fine for the rest of your life.”

           Shar simply stared at Aaron and said, “You’re not teasing me, are you Aaron?”

           “Of course not, I wouldn’t do that to you. Like I told you, we’re family. We always will

be.”

           Shar leaned over and hugged Aaron, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Thank you

Aaron, I’d be lost without you and Nikki.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      271


         “I didn’t do it hon, Mark did, and since you didn’t know about his arrangements for you,

you probably didn’t know he left a video for me to watch when he was gone either. I’ve been

remiss, I’m afraid, in carrying out my friends last instructions.”

         “I don’t understand.”

         “In the video, he said a couple of things about you and left some instructions. The first

thing was he had few regrets, but the main one was he never got around to marrying you. The

second was an instruction for me. He told me to, ‘Give Shar a hug and a kiss for me. Tell her I

love her and I’m sorry we never got around to that wedding, I should have done that.’.”

         “I always try to keep my word, so…..” Aaron said and leaned over, giving Shar a hug and

a kiss on the cheek, holding her close.

         “Thank you Aaron,” Shar said, “although Mark would have said that was a pretty lame

kiss.”

         “Really, I thought it was pretty nice,”

         Shar cuddled up against him and said, “It was one of the sweetest kisses I’ve ever had.”

         In just a couple of minutes, she was asleep. Aaron sat there like that for almost two hours

and heard Nichole’s voice softly say behind him, “She’s finally sleeping?”

         Aaron motioned for Nichole to come sit beside him on the couch, which she did, reaching

over and moving the hair out of Shar’s eyes. “I don’t think she’s slept more than thirty minutes

since Mark died, I’m glad she finally got some rest.”

         “I don’t blame her. Mark’s attorneys never even told her she got the house, or anything

else about Mark’s arrangements,” Aaron said, “I’m surprised she didn’t say anything to you

about it.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      272


        “Maybe she did and I didn’t understand, she said something about looking for an

apartment, but I didn’t put it together I guess. I haven’t exactly been thinking clearly either.”

        “It wasn’t your place to tell her but I’m going to look into WHY she wasn’t told and if it

had anything to do with her previous life, heads are going to roll, I promise that.”

        “So you know about that?”

        “Yes, but only after Mark was gone. It doesn’t matter, that’s ancient history and Mark

loved her, that’s enough for me, and she’s never been anything but a sweetheart to us.”

        Nichole leaned against Aaron and said, “I love you so much.”

        “Do you think we can get her to bed, without waking her?” Aaron asked.

        “No, but she needs to rest, you go on, I’ll stay here with her.”

        Aaron got up gently and Nichole moved over so Shar’s head would lie on her lap and

Aaron went to the kitchen, closing the library doors behind him.

        Izzy was up and had the coffee going, getting ready to put some rolls in the oven. Aaron

poured himself a cup and told her that Shar was asleep in the library and she needed to rest so

just leave her be, that Nichole was with her.

        Bill came in and helped himself to a cup of coffee. “What time are you going to be ready

to go in?” Bill asked.

        “In an hour or so, Ella and Angela can decide when they need to leave, just let Jake or I

know so the plane will be ready.”

        Bill flew them in to the office at 8:00; Jake and Diana were both there.

        “Good morning Mr. Shear,” Jake said, “you have someone waiting to see you. I thought

it best he wait in your office.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         273


       “OK, I always like to start the day with a little mystery, but you’d better have the coffee

on along with it.”

       “It’s waiting on your desk.”

       Aaron walked into Mark’s, or now his office and found Mr. Jerome York.

       “Mr. Shear, I presume, my name is Jerry York,” he said, holding out his hand.

       “Mr. York, this is unexpected, and I’m curious as to how you even got here.”

       “Well, it’s a long trip, but it can be done. I flew into Winnipeg from New York, then

Seattle, then San Diego. The border into Mexico is still open at San Diego, after a fashion, even

though it’s been ordered closed by the President, there is just too much transit back and forth

there to just shut off, then I made my way down to Ciudad Júarez, then back up to Fort Bliss

where some very nice military gentlemen and one extremely attractive female major got me here.

I’d say it was a 30 hour trip that I don’t really care to make again if I don’t have to.”

       “So, what is it you’d like to discuss?”

       “With Mr. Daniels gone, I thought it best we meet face to face, to make sure we were on

the same page,” York said, “I know what Mr. Daniels wanted, but what do you want?”

       “Perhaps we should get President Brown in on this.”

       “No, perhaps we shouldn’t, this is between the two of us, I like to keep things private,

when possible. So, tell me, Mr. Shear, what is it you want from me?”

       “I want you to get Virgil Romero elected to the office of President of the United States, I

thought that was clear. The question is, are you the man to do that?”

       “Sir, I could get Martin Luther King elected as the Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK,

if I had enough money and time. I presume you have the money, but the time is an issue. We’re

on a pretty tight schedule.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      274


        “Yes we are, as I understand it, neither the Republicans or Democrats have a ticket

selected, so we’re ahead of them, and as for money, how much are we going to need?”

        “You’re right; we are ahead because at least we have a candidate with some kind of name

recognition. As far as money, that depends on how much the other guys spend. Fortunately for

us, they pretty much shot their wad leading up to the elections this year and they’re tapped out.

In fact, the Democrats are in debt almost $15 million. It’s still going to cost a shitload, though,

because we don’t have the volunteers, at least not yet, so everybody’s gonna wanna get paid.”

        “Well, at least with unemployment what it is, labor shouldn’t be hard to come by,” Aaron

said.

        “That’s true enough, we may just have our own little economic stimulus package before

it’s all said and done, but back to your question, it’s already cost you about $2 million. You’re

probably wondering what that’s for. A little over half of it is my fee, I get paid up front. The

rest I spent leasing space in California, New York, Florida, and Chicago, for offices to

coordinate our activities. I also hired three polling companies to exclusive contracts and that

wasn’t cheap, and the payments will have to be made monthly. Two reasons for that, first,

they’re the best; second, they’re also the ones both the Republicans and Democrats used in the

last election. They’re going to go back to them and want them back and they’re going to hear ‘so

sorry, already booked’ and have to start from scratch.”

        “Winning elections isn’t just about spending money, although you aren’t going to win

one without it, it’s much more about keeping the other side off balance and confused.”

        “So how much money are we talking about and when do you need it?”

        “I need access to at least $20 million right now, another $40 million by Christmas, and as

much as another $75 million from then until election day.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      275


       “I’ve been doing some calculations on the electoral votes. The 12th amendment says to

be President, you have to have a majority of the electoral votes appointed, and that is 270. If that

doesn’t happen, then the top three vote getters are immediately voted on by the house, each state

having one vote, and the winner is chosen that way.”

       “Now, here’s the deal, to do that the house needs to have a quorum of the states, and that

means 34 states have to be there to vote. Even with the coalition states out of there, they could

still muster a quorum and that means, if it goes to a House vote, they’re probably going to pick a

Republican, since more STATES are red states than blue ones, although it’s not as big a

discrepancy as you might think since 14 of the red state aren’t in the Union any longer.”

       “So what you’re saying is since the US Government says we’re still a part of it, our

electoral votes are still considered, and to avoid a really screwed up mess, we really need to win

270 electors?” Aaron asked.

       “You got it. To be blunt, I don’t think even I can do that with a Libertarian.”

       “If we could swing ALL of the ‘conservative’ states to Libertarian, we’d end up with 159

votes. That means we’re about 81 votes short. California is 55 votes, so that gets us to within 26

votes. Florida is another 27 votes, and that would put us over the top, but I have to reiterate I

don’t think it’s possible with a Libertarian.”

       “We would have to swing a minimum of 20 conservative states along with Florida and

California, maybe Illinois and another minor state or two, to be safe. We’re looking at spending

probably ½ million dollars per electoral vote, and to be frank, I don’t think it’s going to make it.”

       “So what are our alternatives?” Aaron said.

       “We can flood the media in those states. They won’t be able to pick up a paper, listen to

a radio, or turn on a TV without hearing about Virg Romero. That creates some risk as well,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        276


though, in they might get sick of us and actually vote against us because they’re too familiar with

him.”

        “Are there any other alternatives?”

        “Turn him into a Republican, he’ll have to accept a known Republican running mate, but

if we can do that, and you have the money, I can almost guarantee you a victory.”

        “Have you approached Virgil with this idea?”

        “Yes I have. He doesn’t like it, but I think he’ll do it because he realizes it’s his only

hope of winning the election and in spite of everything, he knows to make changes you have to

be in a position of power before that’s ever going to happen. Up until four years ago, Mr.

Romero was a life long Republican, and even donated to Republican state and federal candidates

this last election.”

        “Would the RNC accept him, and how could they even go about it? There’s not going to

be time for a conventional Primary.”

        “The RNC leadership is receptive, although there are several Representatives and Senate

members that see this as their golden opportunity to gain the White House and they might cause

some issues, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. As far as selecting the ticket, each state is going to

be sending two delegates to Philadelphia for the Republican Party, and they will select their

candidates the Saturday after Thanksgiving.”

        “If we can get Romero on the Republican ticket, we have access to their volunteers, their

party recognition, and even some of their money, although they don’t have any either. The big

thing would be they can legitimize his candidacy, something we may never be able to buy for

any price. But now I have a question for you, sir, who is financing this, you or the coalition?”

        “Why do you ask?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         277


        “If the coalition is financing this, it’s going to have to go to the President, whatever

committees you have set up, etc., etc., etc. If you are financing it, I don’t really care what

anyone else thinks, it’s your baby.”

        “It’s my baby, although the President and some of the Coalition council know about what

we’re trying to do. We left it completely up to Mark and now me, so if the source of the funds

was actually ever discovered; it wouldn’t come back to the actual Coalition.”

        “So you get hung instead of all of them, nice for them, not so great for you.”

        “If this Coalition fails, we’re all so screwed anyway it won’t matter, so we need to keep it

from failing.”

        “So, there you are, sir,” York said, “I need a decision. I can do my best with him as a

Libertarian and in fact if the states in the Coalition would still have their electoral votes,

especially Texas, I could pull it off, but without the Coalition’s 111 electoral votes, the odds are

not good.”

        “I presume you need your answer right now”.

        “Of course, the minute I get an answer I’m out of here. Either I’m going to Washington

to the RNC headquarters, or I’m going back to New York to my offices to start the media

campaign, but I need to know which way to go.”

        “If you are certain Virgil will go along with it, go to the RNC. I don’t think you’ll have

much problem getting them to agree, since you’re taking $150 million dollars with you, but

make sure before you commit to anything Virgil is onboard, I get a feeling he wouldn’t take

kindly to being stabbed in the back.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        278


       “I agree. The purpose of the meeting in Washington would be to lay the ground rules,

and Mr. Romero has already laid down several, although a Vice-Presidential choice isn’t one of

them beyond the fact any choice has to be a staunch defender of the Constitution.”

       “Then we’re agreed, but now I have some questions for you. What’s going on out there?

We’re well aware of the military aspects of what’s going on, but our ability to filter out the

bullshit from the news is limited. As much as you travel, what’s the opinion of the people?

       “Depends on where you’re at, on the East Coast, they think you’re all traitors and idiots

and some even support nuking the Midwest until it glows. I spend a lot of time in Chicago and

they’re scared shitless. The government is putting out the word the Coalition is massing for an

attack on Chicago.”

       “Well, that’s a bunch of crap, but it doesn’t surprise me much.”

       “Oh, the government propaganda campaign is huge, Mr. Shear. You are all, and not just

those of you in leadership positions, EVERYONE that’s remained in the Coalition, traitors and

seditionists. They are trying to build support, I think, for an assault on the Coalition states, but

so far they don’t have it from the people, and from what I’ve heard, from the troops themselves.

The consensus of the actual soldiers is ‘Why go in? They’re not hurting anyone.’.”

       “If the President orders the troops to come in, they will, but they’re going to have a hard

time fighting a war here,” York said.

       “What about daily lives? How are the lives of people being affected?”

       “I assume you’ve been watching the markets. The Dow is trading at under 3,500, but it

has stabilized and it’s trading up and down about 100 points a day, but hanging in there.

Gasoline prices on the East Coast are well over $10 a gallon. California is not as bad, they’re at

around $6. First time in a long time California has been accused of having ‘cheap gas’.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     279


       “To the west of the coalition, unemployment is still running close to 20%, and that’s not

good, but it hasn’t gotten any worse since Election Day. Back east, and in the Rust Belt,

unemployment is well over 30%, although you’re not going to hear that number from the

government. Most food items have doubled in price since you folks did your thing, and there are

rolling brownouts from the shortage of coal and natural gas.”

       “Do you think people are going to freeze to death?”

       “Possibly, but if they do it’s really their own fault. Shelters have been set up for anyone

to come to if they need them, and it’s been well publicized. Same thing is true for food. The

government still has a huge surplus of commodities located outside the Coalition, although a lot

of them are in California. Canada has said they’ll remain neutral, but will allow rail and truck

shipments of food and fuel to pass through their territory, but no military or weapons.”

       “If there were an imaginary vote today on whether or not the people wanted to allow the

Coalition states to secede, what would be the result?”

       “In my estimation, if it meant gas prices would come down, food prices would come

down, and people would be able to start rebuilding, it would pass overwhelmingly, but the US

Government is really laying all of the ills of the people right now squarely on your shoulders.

You’re the cause of it, and nobody believes you want to help, you’re just being ‘selfish’, as it’s

being portrayed in the papers.”

       “We were afraid of, and prepared for that, we are pushing very hard a media campaign

saying we want to be friends and trading partners with the United States, but only as an

independent nation,” Aaron said.

       “Too complicated,” York said.

       “Excuse me?”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      280


          “That message is too complicated. Keep it simple. Blame it on the President. Tell the

people ‘we want to help but he won’t let us, you need new leadership’. Put it all squarely on the

shoulders of the current administration and party in power. It will serve both of us better. You

don’t have to convince the people you’re good, you only have to convince them to get a

President in there that will recognize you as a nation and stop the war.”

          “Mr. Shear, I need to go. Time is one thing you can’t buy,” York said, “and I need to

make the most of it if I’m going to pull this off.”

          “I understand, if you can, try to get word to me when you find something out for certain

from the RNC.”

          “I will, and I should know by the end of the week.”

          “Then I won’t keep you, you have a long trip ahead of you,” Aaron said, standing up.

          “Thank you for your time, Mr. Shear” York said, shaking Aaron’s hand and leaving the

office.

          As soon as York left Aaron called Jake and told him to get the President on the line.

When she appeared in the monitor, Aaron ran through the conversation with Mr. York. President

Brown had reservations about having Romero switch parties, but overall agreed with Aaron’s

decision.

          Three days later, Aaron got a message from York saying the RNC had agreed to accept

him as their candidate. The nomination would be formalized the Saturday after Thanksgiving

and a running mate selected. In the meantime, York was hammering the country with spots

praising Romero’s steadfast loyalty to the United States, and his defense of the Constitution.

The goal was when he did switch parties and was named to the ticket; his would be one of the

most recognized names in the country.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         281


       On Friday, the US military attempted to cross the Mississippi River at Vicksburg,

Mississippi on Interstate with 20 M1A1 Abrams tanks with air support. Two made it across the

river before the bridge was blown. Unfortunately there were 3 more tanks on the bridge when it

went down, plunging them into the river below. Although they had air support, the Coalition

sent in five A10 Thunderbolt “Tankbusters” with a squadron of FA-18’s for support. The US

lost both tanks, but the Coalition lost 1 of the A10’s and one FA-18 in the brief battle.

       The Carl Vinson launched FA-18’s to support the attempted crossing, but the Brazilian

Skyhawks delayed enough of them that they didn’t affect the battle. No Brazilian aircraft were

lost, and all of the Carl Vinson’s aircraft made it back safely.

       Tony got to go home the following weekend and was even walking with the assistance of

a cane. Aaron talked to him daily, telling him Jake was doing fine, but he was looking forward

to Tony making it back.

       With the uncertainty around the world caused by the split in the United States, the

financial and stock markets around the world didn’t want much to do with the US. The market

had fallen so far and so fast that those still owning US stocks figured they might as well keep

them, but nobody else really wanted to buy them either. Nobody knew what was going to

happen, and investors hate uncertainty.

       Daily life in the Coalition seemed to be much better than in the rest of the United States.

Gasoline and diesel fuel were much cheaper, since the rest of the US wasn’t buying it, at $1.10

per gallon. Food, especially meat, was also inexpensive at less than ½ the price of the meat in

the United States.

       Over ½ of the regular military in their territory agreed to support the Coalition and even

those stationed at Schriever Air Force Base forced to continue monitoring their systems there
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        282


were, one by one, coming over to the realization that up until then they may have been

supporting the wrong side. Over 90% of the State Guard personnel were now on the Coalition

side, those that wouldn’t support the Coalition were sent home to their families if they were in

Coalition territory, after promising to sit this conflict out. If they didn’t have family in the

seceded states, they were told they were free to go, but couldn’t leave the Coalition.

       As Thanksgiving approached, things were at a stalemate. The United States Government

had no real desire to begin a blood bath and the Coalition was true to its word unless they were

attacked on their soil, they wouldn’t attack the United States forces. There were some brief

missile attacks, Admiral Torrin’s preference for stand-off battles hadn’t changed. The first US

strike near Shreveport was tragic for the Coalition, but devastating for the US as the photos and

videos of the dead and dying were leaked to the world press. Not only did it greatly turn world

sentiment against the United States, it also caused the US Military itself to examine exactly what

it was they were doing.

       The Coalition had not invaded. They had taken great pains to avoid the loss of life on

both sides, only taking lives when forced to defend themselves. The second missile attack from

the US was directed against Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. The US had to rely on Russian satellite

imagery and it wasn’t very good. They saw the base was occupied with occasional flights of

transports in and out of the base. They mistakenly assumed that the base was being used by the

Coalition in some kind of support capacity. What they could not tell was that the base was

actually being used to house the officers of the US military that would not come over to the

Coalition side. The missiles struck an area of the base that had Coalition troops, primarily some

of Sandy’s former Mexican military used to guard and care for the prisoners. The casualties

were light, 12 dead and 27 injured.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        283


       In most conflicts, the prisoners would have used the confusion to escape, but in this case

the US officers helped in rescue and extrication, then treatment of the injured and removal to the

makeshift base hospital. That night, a B-2 Spirit left Ellsworth Air Force base and flew east,

delivering 12 BLU-107 precision bombs designed to put massive craters in runways and

munitions storage at both airfields, Pope Air Force Base and Simmons Army Air Field looked as

though they would be more at home on the surface of the moon than in North Carolina.

       So far, there had been nothing in the way of activity from the West. General Landers and

General Mays were both concerned about this. Although bases west of the Rockies had little

armor, they had a large quantity of aircraft and men, particularly Marines that could have been

mobilized against the Coalition, yet they had not been utilized.

       Bowing to US pressure, the Canadian government completely closed their borders to the

Coalition States. Up to that point, Canada was allowing limited “necessary” travel. The US

Government had cut off all aid payments to Mexico, which hadn’t been more than $100 million

per year anyway, and that was more than made up by the trade and payments from the Coalition.

       The other nations assisting in the sea defense of the coalition had also received limited or

no foreign aid from the US so there was little pressure the US government could exert on them

beyond trade embargos. Those weren’t even attempted when Mexico and Venezuela informed

the US that any embargo against any nation in South or Central America would result in an

immediate halt in oil shipments to the United States.

       The world press was, for the most part, confused. The Coalition ad agencies were doing

their best to explain the States’ side of the dispute and get it publicized and the rest of the world,

particularly Europe, was coming around to the view the United States Government’s chickens

had finally come home to roost. Most in Europe and Asia had a generally favorable impression
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    284


of Americans, but an overall unfavorable opinion of the government itself. They didn’t know

anything about the Coalition or what they were attempting to accomplish, but they felt it had to

be better than what was currently in place.

       The coalition could receive the same radio and television broadcasts as the US, but it was

so heavily controlled the news was worthless. The states bordering the coalition could receive

coalition broadcasts which were much freer in content, but still heavily inundated with their own

propaganda and message.

       Thanksgiving came and Shar had invited Aaron, Nichole, along with the kids, and Bill

and Ella with their kids, to the estate for Thanksgiving dinner. The Nebraska-OU game had been

moved from Friday to Thanksgiving, since the NFL season had been cancelled, except for some

exhibition games.

       Both the Republican and Democratic parties met the Saturday after Thanksgiving to

announce who their candidates were. The nation was shocked when the Republicans announced

their Presidential candidate Mr. Virgil Romero. For his running mate, he chose the Junior

Senator from South Carolina, a 48 year old African-American man named Thomas Dunston, an

outspoken critic of affirmative action programs and other programs he felt were destroying the

lives of minorities around the country. This fit in well with his running mate’s Libertarian views.

       The Democrats selected as their candidate the Senator from New York, Nicholas Cassel,

and the Governor of Ohio, Jacob Wiseman, as his running mate. Cassel had some fame

nationally as a Senator from a large state, but Wiseman was relatively unknown outside of Ohio.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      285




                                           Chapter 14

       President Collins, Sam Poyner, Tom Ferris, Admiral Torrin, and Dave Williamson were

in the Oval Office the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

       “Gentlemen, the nation is looking to me to get this situation resolved. We’re approaching

the coldest winter months and by the most optimistic projections, people are going to start

running out of fuel to heat their homes by Christmas,” President Collins said, “This is not an

acceptable situation, gentlemen, I want options.”

       “Sir, as long as we’re relying on this crap Russian intelligence, we might as well be blind.

It’s impossible to develop a plan without the proper intelligence,” Admiral Torrin said,

“especially when the Coalition apparently does have full access to our intelligence satellites and

data. Their strikes on our bases were done with almost zero casualties and high precision.”

       “So, get our birds back,” Sam Poyner said.

       “It’s not quite that easy, Dr.,” Admiral Torrin said, “The command and control of those

satellites is at the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains. To get there, we either have to fly

over the Rockies from the west or cross 1,000 miles over Coalition airspace, which they

currently dominate. Once we get there, unless we take it almost instantly, they will simply

destroy it and deny both of us access.”

       “Right now, we have gotten messages from the facility telling us they are still manning

the early warning systems. If they detect a launch of missiles from a foreign power, Russia,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      286


China, whoever, they would relinquish sufficient control of our missile bases in North Dakota,

Montana, and Wyoming, to retaliate and activate our missile defense systems. The coalition has

also made this information available to the Russian, Chinese, and North Korean governments. If

we fail to take Schriever intact, we lose that defensive capability.”

        “To retake Schriever, the best option would be to come in over the Rockies from the

West. The problem is we are having limited communications with most of our bases in

California.”

        “What are you talking about, ‘limited communications’, I thought our communications

throughout the country were restored?” Poyner asked,

        “What he means is we have the capability, they’re just not talking to us,” NSA Director

Ferris said.

        “How can they not be talking to us?” President Collins demanded.

        “Sir, it would appear the military bases on the West Coast have decided to reorganize

themselves,” Admiral Torrin said, “As you know, we have our forces commanded throughout the

world by regions. Pacific Command, Southern Command, Central Command, European

Command, and the area covering the continental US, Canada, and Mexico, the Northern

Command. The bases west of the Rocky Mountains have announced they are no longer a part of

the Northern Command and have set up their own Command, the West Coast Command. They

are limiting their activities to the defense of their own borders.”

        “I don’t believe it. How can they do this?” President Collins asked.

        “It’s really not difficult, sir. All they have to do is get the base commanders to agree on a

joint policy and refuse all other orders from Washington. The states out west haven’t seceded

and it appears at the moment the Governors of the states aren’t involved in this, it’s just a matter
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        287


of the commanders refusing orders to approach the Central States borders as an order in violation

of the Constitution and therefore an illegal order,” Admiral Torrin said.

       “Has this spread to our forces here on the East Coast?” Poyner asked.

       “Not in an organized fashion, no, but we’re regularly seeing the refusal of orders among

our pilots to fire on coalition targets that haven’t acted aggressively,” Torrin said, “and as long as

the Central States forces stays in their borders and doesn’t aggressively strike the US forces, that

situation is going to get worse for us, not better.”

       “Not strike aggressively? What the hell was that at Fort Bragg?” Poyner asked.

       “Defensive. That strike was in retaliation for our missile strike on Fort Chaffee,”

Admiral Torrin answered, “and if you can believe the reports, they had 20 people killed or

injured, we had none.”

       “Sir, if we try to take back the Central States, by force, it is going to make the first Civil

War look like a training exercise. They are simply too well equipped to just roll in and take

over. They have armor and a significant amount of air power to control their airspace. I strongly

suggest you negotiate with them, anything else is not going to end well, I guarantee it.”

       “All I’ve been hearing from you, Admiral, is what we can’t do. I want to hear from all of

you what we can do,” President Collins said, “I refuse to accept a few Governors in some

Podunk states can tie the hands of the US Government and the US Military.”

       “What are the polls showing, Dave?” Poyner asked.

       “When the States first seceded, 69% of the remaining US Citizens were outraged and

disagreed with them even having the right to secede. The Coalition has done very well in the 4

weeks since secession in getting their message out and is now down to 48% disagreeing they can

secede,” the Chief of Staff answered, “Every time we strike and they lose people, it gets worse.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     288


Currently, only 17% want the US to go in with military force and reclaim the seceded States. If

we’re going to pursue military action it has to be swift and decisive. Even a brief conflict will

result in even more civil unrest than we already have now, Mr. President.”

       “Mr. President, normally we have a 1.4 million man force. What we can muster for a

fighting force without drawing people from the Middle East operations is just over 250,000

people,” Admiral Torrin explained.

       “We know this ‘Coalition’ probably has 90% of the state guard units, that’s about

200,000 people. Remember, sir, we brought as many Guard units home as we could and

replaced them with regular military. We have no idea how many of our regular military have

switched sides, but for the sake of argument, let’s say ½ of them have, that’s another 75,000, that

means their force numbers about 275,000. We also have intelligence they have recruited another

50,000 or more to serve in non-combat positions, truck drivers, cooks, and mechanics, all of the

things that keep a military running, so they may have a force numbering close to 300,000.”

       “Mr. President, a modern 200,000 man fighting force is nothing to be taken lightly. The

people in the uniforms of the Coalition are going to be highly dedicated and motivated. They are

fighting for their homes, family and friends. Our troops are equally equipped and trained, but

they are not convinced of the rightness of their mission.”

       “Sir, it’s one thing to tell them to go to the desert and shoot a bunch of camel jockeys

they don’t even know, but if we order them in, we are asking them to kill their brothers and

sisters, and they may or may not consider that a lawful order. Lincoln had the same problem in

the Civil War, but times were different. If a soldier disobeyed, they were taken out and shot.

We don’t do that anymore, we train our men and women to think and reason. We teach them to

consider if the orders they’ve been given are lawful and constitutional and act accordingly.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        289


Believe me, sir, they are going to do just that if we order them in on a full scale assault, and a lot

of them won’t go.”

       “How many won’t follow orders, Admiral?” Poyner asked.

       “Until the order is given, we have no way of knowing, but if I had to guess, 1/3 or them,

maybe as many as ½. There is another factor as well. If we go into the Central States in force,

we have 200,000 men and women ½ a world away that may very well demand to be brought

home, for both sides, but certainly the war in the Middle East will be lost.”

       “Is there any good news here?” President Collins asked.

       “I don’t know if it’s good news, sir, but we’ve received a message from the Lieutenant

Governor of Iowa. It seems he feels he acted hastily in supporting secession and joining the

Coalition. The ratification of the secession and joining of the Coalition comes before the Iowa

Legislature next week and he believes it will fail there,” Dave Williamson said.

       “Mr. President, this is the first chink in their armor. We need to cultivate the Lieutenant

Governor and as soon as possible, get him out of Iowa and here to Washington,” the NSA

Director said.

       “I agree, Mr. President, although he needs to stay in Iowa until after the Legislature

votes,” Poyner said, “if he leaves now, it may make the Legislature vote to ratify.”

       The President thought for a moment and said, “Admiral, I want a definite plan drawn up

to take back the facility at Schriever, and have it ready to go operational sometime after the Iowa

Legislature votes next month. I also want options and plans to retake at least some of the oil

pumping facilities to get the fuel turned back on to the eastern part of the country. Dave, I want

you to contact the Iowa Lieutenant Governor’s office. Tell them we’re ready to give the

legislature and him whatever aid and support we can and will welcome the State of Iowa back
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       290


into the United States. Until Iowa votes, I want all efforts made on intelligence. I want to know

where the Coalition is, what they have, and what they’re doing. I want no more missile raids at

targets we don’t know what’s there, is that clear?”

       “Yes sir, I understand,” Admiral Torrin said.

       “We control the media. I want the Central States to have NO access to the US media. I

want any information coming in from foreign countries to be closely watched and if it does not

meet our criteria, blocked,” the President said.

       “Sir, we can’t control it all, especially the internet news sites,” Tom Ferris said.

       “I’m aware of that, Tom, but we can at least keep them from getting the Central States

propaganda on the networks and cable news while they’re eating their dinner, and keep it out of

the papers and magazines,” President Collins said.

                              *******************************

       Aaron was back in the office the Monday after Thanksgiving listening to the General’s

regular report. It was getting old because to be blunt, nothing was happening. After the few

brief skirmishes, the US had apparently decided to play a waiting game. The problem was,

nobody knew for sure just what it was they were waiting on.

       “We are about to have the first of our legislatures vote on the ratification of the States’

secessions. The Texas legislature is voting tomorrow and we’re confident secession will be

ratified handily. Nebraska’s unicameral is scheduled to meet on Thursday and we expect it will

pass there as well,” Angela said.

       “Iowa’s legislature is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, and our best count shows the

resolution will not be ratified in Iowa.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     291


         “Mr. Shear, I thought you were supposed to take care of this kind of thing?” Marilyn

Conyers asked.

         “We’ve known all along we probably would not hold Iowa and have been very clear on

that point. We worked very hard to get the Governor on our side to secede originally and join

the Coalition when it was formed.” Aaron said, “We would also have liked Minnesota to join,

but to be blunt, there was no way we were going to get a Governor there to secede, even though

the numbers in the Legislature could have probably been worked to ratify it more easily than in

Iowa.”

         “So what does this do to us,” President Brown asked?

         “In effect, nothing ma’am,” Aaron said, “we have no bases there, we’d of course love to

keep Iowa, but if we can’t, we can’t. We’re certainly not going in with troops to demand they

stay or we lose all moral high ground we have in the world and the United States.”

         “If Iowa is lost, Madam President, there are about 8 major bridges we should remove

from Iowa across the Mississippi that have remained intact. We have units positioned there now,

ready to destroy them if they can’t hold those choke points, but if the Iowa legislature votes to

rejoin the United States, we are going to have to withdraw those units immediately,” General

Mays said.

         “Why is that, General,” President Brown asked?

         “The coalition Constitution closely follows the US Constitution, ma’am, and there are

prohibitions on where we can move and base our troops without permission. If the Iowa

legislature votes not to ratify, then we will have to withdraw as soon as possible,” General

Landers said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        292


        “Our timing is going to be tricky. If we blow the bridges and leave now that will indicate

we’ve already given up on Iowa and will certainly result in the State rejoining the Union. If we

wait until after the vote and do it, then we’ve technically destroyed facilities and could be viewed

as trying to increase our sphere of influence, which we promised not to do,” the General

concluded.

        “I don’t agree, General,” Aaron said, “We’ve attacked targets outside our borders before,

directly related to our security. I think these bridges are the same thing. If Iowa wants to leave,

then they get to leave, but we don’t have to make it easy for them to allow the US Military to

enter our territory. It’s going to be an issue as it is.”

        “Why will it be an issue?” President Brown asked.

        “Each State is mostly having its borders guarded by units of their State National Guard.

Of course there are regular military units as well, but the primary responsibility is with the State

Guards,” General Landers explained, “If Iowa leaves the Coalition, we have roughly the same

amount of border to defend as before, but now we have a decreased number of troops to do it

with when we lose the Iowa Guard.”

        “Suggestions,” President Brown asked?

        “You are the Commander in Chief of our armed forces ma’am, but here are my

recommendations,” General Landers said, “First, allow me to begin moving troops to the Iowa-

Missouri and Iowa-Nebraska/South Dakota borders. Second, have our field commanders

immediately talk to the troops under their command in Iowa to find out if Iowa votes to leave the

Coalition and return to the US, what they want to do. Be certain to explain it is their choice, if

they wish to stay with the State of Iowa, that’s fine, but they will be relieved of duty

immediately. Third, have every preparation made to destroy the bridges completely and the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      293


instant the results of the vote are known, blow the bridges and withdraw to positions outside of

Iowa.”

         “There are a couple of problems here. The Iowa Guard has a quantity of aircraft. Not a

lot, but some. We need them and I suggest they should be re-based immediately into Nebraska

or South Dakota. That’s not going to go over well, but it needs to be done. The other is if the

Lieutenant Governor has made a deal with the US already, he may replace the governor and

attempt to secure the bridges. If that’s the case, and we wait, it could mean a firefight. If we’re

ready for that, it won’t stop us from destroying the bridges, but it could result in some casualties

on both sides. We could avoid that if we blew the bridges now, but then we would almost

certainly lose Iowa.”

         “Our best estimate, General, Iowa is lost,” Angela said, “we need a majority of the

representatives and senators to vote yes on secession, and we have less than 1/3 that will vote

that way. Many are simply not going to be in the chamber and we didn’t put in the secession

resolutions how many were required to constitute a quorum.”

         “An oversight?” Marilyn said, somewhat smugly.

         “No Marilyn, it was discussed,” Angela explained, “but the text of the resolution was

already two pages in length. The average person understands the word ‘majority’ but polling

showed less than 20% understood the word ‘quorum’. Sample balloting showed we got 8%

more votes for the resolution without the word ‘quorum’ in it than if it was included. We

considered it to be an acceptable risk. I still believe it was the right way to go.”

         “Ms. Basgall, Mr. Shear, in your opinions, is there any possible way Iowa is going to

remain a part of the Coalition, or do you believe Iowa is lost to us?” President Brown asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      294


       “I believe Iowa will vote to rejoin the United States, no matter what we do Madam

President,” Aaron said.

       “I agree with Aaron, Madam President.”

       “Very well,” President Brown decided, “General, at your earliest opportunity, I want your

field commanders to find out which of the Iowa Guard are going to stay with the Coalition and

which want to stay in Iowa. Once that is determined, do what you must to eliminate the

crossings over the Mississippi River and begin a withdrawal from Iowa of Coalition troops.

Begin immediately repositioning your troops to the Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota

borders as you deem necessary.”

       “I realize this will certainly reinforce the decision of the Iowa legislature they should

rejoin the Union, but practically speaking, I don’t believe that will make a difference. One final

order, from this moment on, the Iowa Governor is out of the loop. The Governor receives no

reports, no updates, and no information. The Governor is not an idiot and knows the same things

we do and has most likely begun negotiations with the US Government. Any questions?”

       “No Ma’am,” General Landers said, “I agree with your decision and I’ll get started

immediately.”

       “General, if you can stay for a few minutes there is something else.” Angela said, “Our

feelers to the Governor were rejected in the past regarding secession, and there really were no

likely people to replace him, so we assumed Arizona was not a viable candidate at the time. Two

weeks ago I was contacted by an aid to the Governor through the Governor’s office in Texas; it

seems we may have been wrong.”

       “Arizona residents passed the secession resolution overwhelmingly in the election 2 years

ago so the governor definitely has the citizen’s authority to secede if he feels the conditions have
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        295


been met. The information I received stated it was imperative I have personal discussions with

the Governor regarding information of vital importance to both the Coalition and the State of

Arizona.”

       “With the assistance of the Mexican Government, I traveled to Nogales, Mexico where I

met with the Governor for nearly 4 hours. He supplied me with documents consisting of written

orders and battle plans delivered to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Luke Air Force Base, and

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Commanders. They have been put on alert to be prepared to

execute these plans with 24 hours notice after December 20. The plans are quite detailed and

specific and it would mean a full assault on Fort Bliss in Texas and New Mexico, removing any

Coalition armor and air support. Although the orders don’t say what the overall strategy might

be, it would be a logical first step for a ground incursion into Coalition territory to retake Fort

Carson, Petersen, and Schriever in Colorado. I have transmitted those orders to you, General

Landers and General Mays.”

       “Generals, does either or both of you know personally the Commanding Officers of the

bases I just named?”

       “I know the CO of MCAS Yuma quite well,” General Landers said, “we served together

several times including in Washington, I know slightly the CO at Davis-Monthan.”

       “I know the CO at Luke extremely well,” General Mays answered, “why do you ask, Ms.

Basgall.”

       “According to the Governor, none of the three have any intention of carrying out those

orders. He believes if given an option or opportunity, they could be persuaded to come over to

the Coalition and if they do, and if we allow the State of Arizona to join the Coalition, the

Governor will sign the order to secede,” Angela answered, “and before anyone asks, we are over
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      296


85% certain the Arizona legislature would ratify the secession resolution. The legislature in

Arizona was never an issue, we thought the Governor was.”

       “This is an interesting development,” President Brown said, “ladies and gentlemen,

opinions?”

       “From a standpoint of relations with our neighbor Mexico to the south,” Sandy said,

“they would be hugely in favor of it. After recognizing the coalition and working so closely with

us, as well as providing ships to help protect our shores, tensions are strained with the United

States and Mexico. This would remove about 400 miles of US-Mexican border and leave only

the border of California adjoining Mexico.”

       “From a military standpoint, it would definitely help us. MCAS Yuma has a large

number of Harriers, an aircraft the Coalition has almost none of, but more importantly, not just

pilots, but instructor pilots and support for the aircraft,” General Landers said, “Davis-Monthan

has at least 3 squadrons of A-10’s that could prove invaluable if the United States starts coming

in with armor from the east.”

       “Luke normally has over ½ dozen squadrons of F-16’s and more important, is a primary

support facility for them, it could be invaluable,” General Mays said.

       “Everything we’ve been able to determine from our Mexican contacts indicates the state

of California is going to sit this one out,” Aaron said, “an aide to the Governor has said if any

regular US Military ground units leave the state, California will consider that an act of

abandonment, leaving it defenseless, and they have threatened to secede and form an

independent nation themselves. The governor has also ordered all California state guard units on

alert for the defense and security of California’s borders. In other words, California has told the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      297


US Government they’re sitting this one out, which would explain the orders to the bases in

Arizona.”

       “Downsides?” President Brown asked.

       “Not many, ma’am,” Angela answered, “we would need to try to convince the rather

large Native-American reservation population to agree to substantially the same terms those in

the Coalition States have agreed to, but I think with help from the tribal leaders here that

shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Long term, Arizona has a very large older population and

that’s going to add strain to our economy in the form of having to honor the Social Security

obligations under the terms of the Coalition. Overall, if we can work out the details, I believe

it’s to our advantage to welcome Arizona.”

       “More important than that, Madam President,” Aaron said, “Arizona belongs with us.

We share so many of the same values and independent heritage; they’re a part of us in almost

every way except a state border.”

       “Generals, I want you to contact the base commanders. Find out if they are willing to

take an oath of allegiance to the Coalition Constitution. Make sure you’re straight with them, if

their forces are needed to defend our eastern border, they will be re-deployed, but it will only be

in defense of our borders, and you, General Landers, are in command,” President Brown said.

       “Ms. Basgall, you contact the Governor, tell him we are considering his request and will

do so as quickly as possible, but this is unexpected and we need to consider it carefully,”

President Brown instructed, “in the meantime, I’m going to talk to the Coalition Governors and

try to determine their feelings on the matter of allowing another state into the Coalition. I will,

of course, wait until after the Iowa Legislature has removed Iowa from the Coalition, but I would
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      298


like you people to get your inquiries and negotiations complete before I meet with the

Governors, so please make it a priority matter.”

       “Yes Ma’am, we will,” Angela said.

       “Now, if there’s nothing else, I’d like to meet on Wednesday evening after we know for

certain the results of the Iowa Legislature vote,” President Brown said.

       With that, each screen blanked off leaving Aaron and Jake alone in the room.

       “Arizona wanting to join is a surprise,” Jake said.

       “Not Arizona so much, but the Arizona Governor is,” Aaron said, “I suspect he’s more

concerned with his own skin. Arizona is not in a good position stuck between the Coalition and

California. If California secedes, it pretty much leaves Arizona with the choice of joining

California or us, and apparently they aren’t wild about letting California run their lives.”

       “I suppose not. I got a call from Tony today, he didn’t want to bother you, but he wants

to come back to work. He said he’s going nuts at home.”

       “I’ve been waiting for him to call,” Aaron said, “ever since he got out of the chair and on

crutches. Does he want me to call him?”

       “Yes sir, but he’s afraid you don’t trust him.”

       “I’ve been waiting for that, too, I’ll call him this afternoon. I presume you have no

problems with him resuming his duties as head of security?”

       “No Sir, in fact, my old job never looked so good. I’ve been overwhelmed the last few

weeks.”

       “Not so overwhelmed you couldn’t make the time to give Diana some extra training.”

       “She’s very good at the job, sir,” Jake said, “and I came to realize we all need to have

someone to replace us, just in case.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      299


       “Doesn’t hurt she’s cute either.”

       “Is she, sir?” Jake asked with a perfectly straight face, “I really hadn’t noticed.”

       “Tony trained you well, young man,” Aaron said laughing.

       The Texas Legislature ratified the resolution with over 90% of the vote in favor. The

Nebraska Unicameral ratified as well, although in a closer vote, with 60% in favor. After the

Coalition troops removed themselves, and the bridges were taken out, the Iowa legislature failed

to ratify with over 70% voting against the resolution. The Iowa Governor sought political

asylum in the State of Nebraska, Coalition territory, leaving Iowa to the Lieutenant Governor

who suddenly became the “lone voice of reason in this secession madness”.

        Almost 70% of the Iowa Guard troops elected to stay in Iowa, but virtually all of the

regular coalition military troops took up stations in Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota

borders. The Coalition decided for the time being, they would leave the roads in Iowa intact

unless they saw movement of the US Military in that direction, however the borders were closed

to Iowa residents coming into Coalition territory and with no bridges across the Mississippi in

Iowa, anyone wanting to leave the state had to do it through Minnesota.

       General Landers and General Mays were convinced by the base commanders as long as

the Coalition continued its practice of releasing the officers and enlisted personnel that chose not

to support the Coalition with a promise to become non-combatants, the bases would come over

to support the them. This would add nearly 25,000 personnel and a huge amount of hardware to

the Coalition arsenal. Angela was convinced the Governor would secede if Arizona was given

the opportunity to join the Coalition and everyone agreed President Brown should convene a

meeting of the Coalition Governors the next day to discuss Arizona.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     300


         At the Governor’s meeting, there was little discussion or dissent about Arizona. Most of

them felt much like Aaron, that Arizona belonged with the Coalition all along, and should be

welcomed. The following day, President Brown placed a call to the Governor of Arizona and

within four hours he announced Arizona had seceded under the authority of the resolution and

declared the state’s intention to join the Independent Coalition of Central States.

                               ******************************

         President Collins had his staff in the Oval Office and he was not happy.

         “That’s some fine intelligence agency you have there, Dave.” the President said, “You

can tell me weeks in advance some Podunk state like Iowa is coming back to the Union but you

don’t have a damn clue Arizona is going to secede!”

         “Mr. President, there was no way to know the base commanders would have such a

strong reaction to our orders to prepare to attack the coalition,” Admiral Torrin said, “much less

take their misgivings and their bases to the Arizona State Governor.”

         “No way of knowing? After having difficulties even finding pilots to fly escort for the

AWACS missions,” Sam Poyner said, “for crying out loud, you didn’t have to have the psychic

hotline for that one, Admiral, you knew there would be reluctance to obey those orders.”

         “Admiral, what do we have left on the west side of the seceded states,” President Collins

asked?

         “Quite a lot, sir, but we now have the problem of either cross an additional 400 miles of

Coalition territory just to get to where we were going to have them start from, or try to penetrate

through the Rocky Mountains which our best intelligence tells us will be deep in snow, and the

Coalition would be foolish to try to clear that, or some of the key passes will have been closed by

the Coalition itself,” Admiral Torrin said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      301


         “So, even if we could talk them into fighting, it wouldn’t do us any good,” Sam said.

         “I’m afraid that’s right,” Admiral Torrin responded, “If we’re going to have an invasion

into the Coalition states, it’s going to have to come from the East.”

         “For now, Admiral, let me think about this. I’m very hesitant to do anything before

Christmas, as long as the Coalition is remaining on their side of the lines, but at some point we’re

going to have to begin action,” President Collins said.

         “Mr. President, have you tried talking to President Brown?” Chief of Staff Williamson

asked.

         “Dave, in the first place, she is not a president, she was a Governor of some backwater

state,” President Collins said angrily, “and in the second place, I won’t negotiate with traitors.”

         “Sir, I understand, but perhaps if we knew what this ‘Coalition’ wanted, we could

appease them in some way,” Dave answered.

         “THEY ARE NOT THE ONES THAT NEED APPEASEMENT, THE UNITED

STATES OF AMERICA IS!” President Collins shouted.

         “What does it take to get through to you people? These states were not harmed. They

have seized assets belonging to the United States People. They have taken the lives of United

States Military Personnel. They have destroyed roads and military bases and now they are

withholding food and fuel from other United States citizens causing untold hardship on them.

They are not the ones wronged here.”

         “Admiral, you get to work on a plan to be executed after the holidays, and this time keep

your cards closer to your vest, don’t be telegraphing what we’re doing until it’s absolutely

necessary, do you understand?”

         “Yes sir, I do.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      302


       “It would help if we had some REAL intelligence on what was going on over there,”

Poyner said.

       “The Iowa Governor kept the Lieutenant Governor out of the loop for the most part,

telling him only as little as possible.” NSA Director Ferris said, “We’re still talking to him here

in Washington, he might know something he doesn’t even realize.”

       “Well, if he doesn’t know much he should fit right in with you guys at the NSA,” Sam

Poyner said.

       “Sam I haven’t heard any brilliant suggestions out of you lately about any of this.”

President Collins said, “All you’ve done is made the situation worse so keep your smart ass

comments to yourself and maybe we can discuss a topic you can help with, the upcoming

elections.”

       “Sir,” Sam said, “it was a surprise to everyone when the Republicans nominated Virgil

Romero. Right now our polling shows him in a dead heat with Cassel & Wiseman. We’re

having trouble with fund raising because it’s difficult to get the word out to the West Coast.

Romero seems to have little trouble raising money and has had an influx of PAC money.”

       “Although he’s running as a Republican, he hasn’t changed his strict Constitutionalist

views.”

       “Is that message popular with the people?” Chief of Staff Williamson asked.

       “At first, no, but it’s catching on, particularly in the south,” Sam said, “we’d have done

better with a southern candidate at least for Vice-President, but the party thought otherwise.”

       “I don’t believe Romero has the money to keep pushing as he has been, it will dry up, and

then we’ll own the ads in all sectors when it counts, just before the elections. We have access to
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    303


more credit than the Republicans do, considering most of the major banks owe us their very

survival,” Poyner said.

       “You stay on top of this, Sam, and Dave, whatever Sam needs, you make sure he gets it,”

President Collins ordered, “and for God’s sake, keep those idiots out of an airplane unless

they’re over US soil.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     304




                                          Chapter 15

       Following the entry of Arizona into the Coalition, the Governor of Arizona had to be

brought up to speed on what was happening and what his part in the operation was. He flew into

Kansas City and Aaron, Angela, and Jake spent three days of the second week in December

getting him up to speed. President Brown came in on the last day of his briefing to welcome him

and Arizona into the Coalition and to thank him personally for his support.

       After making clear he was to follow his doctors’ instructions, Aaron told Tony to come

back to work. He stayed in his office for the most part, but took much of the load off of Jake.

Tony had never been chatty, but since Mark’s death and his injury, he seemed even quieter and

Aaron couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but if he had to pick a word he seemed to be “plotting”.

Aaron was glad he wasn’t the one Tony was plotting against and had a pretty good idea who the

target was.

       There was absolutely nothing happening on the military front and both General Mays and

General Landers were hopeful President Collins was leaving this mess for the new incoming

President. Collins was, after all, the worst kind of lame duck President, non-elected and having

only served a year or so with no intention of ever staying in the office. It was possible he simply

decided to leave everything alone until he was gone.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      305


       The people of the United States East of the Mississippi River weren’t doing well. The

economy there was in a shambles. The stock market had stabilized at a bit less than 4,000 on the

Dow. Gasoline was $14/gallon and subject to rationing unless you were in a “Nationally

Critical” position requiring travel. Many stations had no fuel as a huge amount of the crude was

going to home heating oil and diesel fuel. The unemployed and below poverty level people were

given vouchers to help pay their utility bills through the winter with the price of home heating

oil, natural gas, and electricity going through the roof. Some energy suppliers balked at

accepting the vouchers given the US Dollar was trading at 42% of the Euro, but the threat of

nationalization of these companies and the reality the US Government had already virtually

nationalized the banking, auto, and healthcare industries made the energy suppliers realize it was

no idle threat and they accepted the vouchers.

       Many of the largest delivery terminals for tankers had been located in the Texas and

Louisiana areas so those that were in the Eastern part of the United States were being pushed to

their capacity with tankers arriving from the Middle East and Venezuela constantly. Canada was

doing it’s best to help with natural gas deliveries to the United States, but again many of the

infrastructure pipelines came down through the Midwest. As a concession to the Canadian

government in exchange for limited travel of Coalition citizens through and into Canada, the

Coalition permitted some of the pipelines to be opened to deliver natural gas to the Eastern US.

       Food was available, but with limited selection. Beef was in very short supply. Pork and

poultry, with most of those farms being east of the Mississippi, were still available. Grain

products had become quite expensive relative to what they were before the split.

       Nobody was starving or freezing in the United States, but the lifestyle change was sudden

and dramatic for those living in the Eastern US.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    306


       The US Government had shut down sites such as YouTube in the United States from re-

broadcasting Coalition news, but they couldn’t stop sites originating in other areas like Mexico

and Europe from getting copies and placing them there. The US attempted to block those as well

but as soon as they made some progress in doing so, the programmers found a way around it.

The world was hungry for news.

       The conflict at home was having an effect on the wars in the Middle East as well. NATO

nations had to bring in an unprecedented number of troops to assist as many US Personnel, while

not laying down their weapons, were practicing their own brand of ‘civil disobedience’. APC’s,

tanks, aircraft, HMMWV’s, and even communications equipment would often have mysterious

failures, only to fix themselves if it became critically necessary. These ‘failures’ seemed much

more prone to the units that came from Coalition bases or had members that were primarily from

the Coalition region.

       The United States Government tried to keep news of the breakaway nation from its troops

overseas and in the Middle East with some success, but it came at a very high cost. The only

way they could manage this was by severely limiting access to communications by the troops

with home. Mail was opened and censored. Telephone service was severely constrained and

monitored. Internet access was simply denied. This made the troops serving there feel even

more isolated. While this was common in World War II, it was a radical departure from the way

things had been done for the last 20 years or more in the US Military, and the troops didn’t like

it.

       Life in the Coalition was different. It had been almost 6 weeks since independence had

been declared and there were a lot of complaints about the 12% sales tax on everything, but once
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       307


people realized there were no more payroll deductions for Federal Income Tax, Social Security,

and Medicare, there was grudging acceptance.

       The US Currency had been about 80% replaced with Coalition currency. There had been

a brief attempt to counterfeit the bills, but having a tiny magnetic encoded strip in each bill and

other security measures made that easy to detect with just a simple $20 scanner the bills passed

through. At first merchants didn’t want to buy them for each register, but since banks had and

used them, and would not accept for deposit any bills that didn’t pass through the scanning

process, it became commonplace for merchants everywhere, and also virtually eliminated the

efforts of counterfeiters. The Coalition Dollar was granted a huge measure of credibility when it

began being accepted and traded in both the Hong Kong and Singapore markets and it appeared

Tokyo was about to begin trading it as well. The two largest trading markets, London and New

York, were not likely to trade the Coalition Dollar unless and until the US recognized the

Coalition as an independent state.

       President Brown had been an excellent choice by the Governors. She was on the radio

and television at least weekly, talking to the citizens of the Coalition and the rest of the world,

calming and informing them of what was going on inside the Coalition. Although the US

government didn’t allow any of the Coalition news to get out, at least officially, the Coalition

blasted with high power transmitters into the US territories from Missouri up to Chicago and out

to Memphis, Nashville, Montgomery, Huntsville, and often as far as Tallahassee so the word

spread by mouth and on the internet.

       Other than Iowa removing itself, ratification of the resolution to secede had gone

smoothly. The Colorado Legislature made it close, but eventually did pass with some help from

funding from the group with a last minute ad campaign. The ratification of the Constitution was
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         308


going to be on the ballot of all 14 coalition states that fall, as well as voting for the first Congress

and Executives.

        The citizens of the Coalition were debating where to have their capitol and it was a matter

needing attention. The permanent residence for the President couldn’t remain in a bunker, but

practically speaking from a security standpoint, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have the capitol of

the coalition close to a secure facility similar to one. An architectural firm was contacted and

they agreed to donate their services to design 6 buildings for the Coalition. They would design a

Presidential Residence, Vice-Presidential Residence, Senate Chamber and office building, House

Chamber and office building, Military Command Center, and Supreme Court Building. The

Presidential Residence would have an annex containing nearly all of the offices for the

President’s Cabinet. In exchange for donating their fees for the design of these buildings, the

firm was given the exclusive rights to design, for a fee, the Representative’s Apartments as well

as fees to design the layout of the city that was sure to arise around the Coalition seat of power.

        The Coalition Legislature, unless called into special session by the President, would only

be seated beginning March 1 and ending August 31 of each year. It was constitutionally

mandated not to be in session 6 months of the year. As such, it was hoped those legislators

would not look at this as a full time job and to that end, they would receive housing in a

government owned and maintained apartment complex for them and their immediate families

while they were in session for no charge.

        A location 40 miles East of Denver, Colorado was chosen just north of a little town called

Deer Trail. This site was chosen and land purchased due to the fact it was the only abandoned

Titan I missile silo complex within Coalition territory. One of Mark’s real estate companies had

been quietly buying these abandoned sites over the last 6 years and this site was included in
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     309


those purchases. It cost the company $2.5 million and Aaron sold the 210 acre property to the

Coalition for $5.00.

       The Titan I complexes housed three missiles in the early 1960’s and had very elaborate

interconnecting tunnels with a control station and communications. These facilities, when

occupied with missiles, could support 150 people for up to thirty days. If retrofitted with modern

equipment, and with the additional space available due to the absence of the actual missiles, it

was estimated the site could support three times that many people for up to six months.

       The site was located in plains of Colorado, with the Rocky Mountains for a backdrop,

and was for the most part unoccupied. It was only five miles from Interstate 70 and a 30 minute

drive to Denver International Airport. Ample groundwater was available and the open plains

made it very attractive to the design of a modern city, with an existing major city located less

than 1 hour away.

       The city planning was to begin immediately as well as the initial drawings for the first

buildings. The firm estimated within 4 years a small city of 20,000 would spring up growing to

nearly 75,000 within fifteen years and was planning accordingly.

       Late Friday afternoon Aaron and Ed left for Mark’s estate, hoping to spend the weekend

with Nichole. They hadn’t seen a lot of each other since Thanksgiving so while he had the

opportunity he planned to make the most of it.

       After one of Izzy’s patented ‘lunches’, which could happen at any time of the day and

consisted of more food than a small army could consume, Aaron, Nichole, and Shar were

relaxing watching a movie in the home theater. Aaron sat beside Nichole with his arm around

her, and Shar in one of the recliners just a couple of seats away. When the movie was over, Shar

got up and brought them all back some soft drinks while they were discussing whether or not to
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      310


watch something else or just go to bed, and sat down beside Aaron with her feet pulled up under

her.

        “This is trouble,” Aaron said, “you’re both being way too friendly.”

        “Why do you say that,” Shar said smiling.

        “Because the one thing I’ve learned about you ladies is when you get friendly, you

usually have a reason, so what is it?”

        “Aaron Shear you’re a cynical old man,” Nichole said, “how dare you insinuate we have

ulterior motives.”

        “Yeah, right, whatever, now what is it you want?”

        “Well, nothing much, really, but we were talking we’d like to spend Christmas on the

farm.” Nichole said, “We haven’t been back since the elections, and I miss it, and Shar thought it

would be nice to get away too.”

        “That’s it, just Christmas at home?”

        “Yeah, pretty much,” Shar said, “well, other than we thought we might like to leave on

Monday. There are a lot of things to do and it would keep us busy.”

        “You’re a lot safer here, you know. Mark’s security is a lot better here at the estate than

we can ever have on the farm.”

        “We still have Frank and Carrie, don’t we,” Nichole asked?

        “Yes, they’re still there, I talked to Frank yesterday,” Aaron said, “He’s been helping

Kyle a little with his cattle.”

        “Then Carrie’s probably going out of her mind with boredom.” Nichole said, “Please,

Aaron? We really want to do this.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       311


          “I’ll talk to Tony tomorrow and have him talk to Frank and Carrie, and we’ll discuss it

with Jake and Ed, and I’ll let you know what I decide, but there is going to be one condition.”

          “We’ll do whatever you want,” Shar said.

          “If you’re not in the house, you’re wearing your vests, if you won’t, then you’re not

going.”

          “Oh, Aaron, they’re not very comfortable,” Nichole said.

          “I don’t care, if they don’t fit you can take them in and have them fitted properly before

you leave, but if you don’t agree then you’re both staying here.”

          “OK, fine, you old spoil sport,” Shar said, “I’m pretty much used to mine anyway, Mark

made me wear it every time I was out of the house unless I was with Tony and him.”

          “So, what are we going to watch,” Aaron asked?

          “Watch? You need to go call Tony and Ed,” Nichole said.

          “No, I don’t. Tony needs his rest and Ed will be here in the morning, you two can just

wait a few hours.”

          “OK, honey, but if I have to wait, YOU have to wait,” Nichole said and got up, heading

to the bedroom.

          “If I were you I’d call,” Shar said, laughing.

          “Nope, not gonna happen,” Aaron said smiling as he also headed to the bedroom, “I can

hold out. Me big strong he-man, me no bow to the wiles of the Indian Princess.”

          Aaron didn’t give in, but neither did Nichole, and the next morning neither of them could

remember what it was they were trying to prove.

          Aaron called Tony first thing in the morning and talked to him about the ladies’ plans.

Tony agreed it was a higher risk, but he said he could send a couple more people out to help with
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      312


security and they could stay with Frank and Carrie, they had remodeled the old house with extra

bedrooms in the basement, and they’d work on more security for more people when Christmas

got close. Tony would call and make sure Frank and Carrie were there to pick them up on

Monday.

        Aaron said, “Tony, do you want to go on a little trip?”

        “Sure boss, where to?”

        “Well, I figured if we were flying the ladies down anyway, maybe I’d take the Twin

Comanche down and put her to bed, hard telling when I’ll be flying again, then come back on the

jet when it comes home. I thought you might like to ride along, fly a little if you think your legs

are up to it.”

        “I’d like to do that, Mr. Shear; it would get me out of here for a few hours.”

        “Good. Set things up so the Twin Comanche is ready to go Monday morning, and have

Rollie get the Citation out.”

        “I’ll take care of everything, Mr. Shear.”

        Monday came and the ladies made it back to the farm. Aaron and Tony had a nice flight

down, although it was a little hard for Tony to get into the Twin Comanche, but once he was

there he felt right at home. Aaron let him fly the whole trip and Tony never even bothered to

turn on the autopilot. Aaron was intent on watching Tony; few people other than himself ever

took off or landed his baby, and he never noticed the Coalition Apache helicopter following them

all the way to Alva. Tony had lost one of his charges, he wasn’t about to lose another.

        Rollie was not willing to let Tony fly the Citation back, however, telling him to sit in the

back and enjoy the ride, something Tony had a real problem with. If he wasn’t up front, in some

kind of control of the situation, he was never comfortable.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      313


        The next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas were both uneventful and very busy.

Nichole and Shar had decided aside from their family, they’d invite Bill and Ella and their kids,

as well as Kyle, who had made a habit of stopping at the Shear farm every morning since

Nichole got home, and Tony and Martha. Just where everyone was going to stay Aaron didn’t

know, but that was up to Nichole.

        Carrie was glad to have Nichole back and the two of them with Shar made trips to

Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Wichita shopping. When they went to Wichita five days before

Christmas, Nichole dropped off presents for her kids at the reservation and showed Shar around.

        The US military was doing essentially nothing. They attempted to place a floating bridge

at St. Louis, but it was destroyed by Coalition fighters before it was even completed. There was

never a real attempt to come down from Minnesota area as that would have left the armored

column exposed for hundreds of miles to coalition air strikes.

        The time the US military was giving the Coalition was invaluable. The Coalition had

almost 80,000 recruits from the ranks of everyday citizens and illegal aliens wanting to take

advantage of the service for citizenship options the Coalition offered. Within the Coalition were

the best military training bases and instructors in the world and by the first of January, while not

fully trained, the new troops would be a formidable force to reckon with. General Landers now

estimated the Coalition forces in sheer numbers were probably larger than what the United States

could bring to bear against them unless they began immediately airlifting troops from the Middle

East.

        Aaron spent his days running Mark’s various companies and keeping up with all of the

various legislatures to make sure they didn’t lose any more States from the Coalition. 4 states,

Wyoming, South Dakota, Missouri, and Montana, still had to ratify the secession resolution, and
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    314


it appeared they would all do so handily. Aaron was now working mostly on making certain the

campaigns to get the Coalition Constitution ratified at the general election went smoothly in all

states. Aaron’s job was to answer questions and try to calm the fears of those having problems

with the changes. Fortunately, the bulk of the Constitution was very similar to the United States

Constitution.

       Aaron couldn’t help but wonder if the Coalition actually pulled this off, how long it

would take the politicians to corrupt and pervert this Constitution. He hoped, they could at least

make it more difficult and he wouldn’t be around long enough to see it destroyed as the US

Constitution had been.

       Christmas fell on a Tuesday so the plans were laid and arrangements made for Aaron,

Tony, and Martha to leave for Oklahoma on Saturday. Saturday morning was cold and clear

when they landed the Citation at the airport in Alva. Aaron was looking forward to sharing his

own bed with Nichole again. The months leading up to this had taken a heavy toll on him with

the loss of Adam and Mark and all of the time he had been away from Nichole.

       Bill landed the S76 at the farm at 2:30 on Monday afternoon and he, Ella, Anna, and

Adrian joined the growing numbers in the house. It was crowded, but had the feel of family at

home for the holidays.

       Christmas morning Aaron woke early, but not early enough to beat Tony and Martha.

Martha had already sent Tony over to Frank and Carrie’s for coffee, since Nichole didn’t keep

any in the house. She was lucky she found the coffee pot. She had bacon and eggs cooking,

cinnamon rolls in the oven, and the table set when Aaron came down at 6:30 am. It wasn’t long

before they saw a small head peeking around the basement door and it was Anna, to shy to come

up on her own.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      315


        Aaron went over by the door, knelt down, and said, “Come on, let’s see if there’s

anything under the tree for you.”

        The temptation was too much for her; she came over to Aaron and said, “I better wait for

Daddy and Mommy.”

        “OK, we can wait, but I bet Martha can find you something to eat for breakfast,” Aaron

said.

        She put her arms out and Aaron picked her up, taking her over to the table. Martha

poured her a glass of milk, brought her a roll and she dove right in. By the time she was

finished, Ella had come up dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt.

        “How did you ever get her up here?” Ella asked, pointing at Anna.

        “I bribed her with cinnamon rolls. It’s my special way with the ladies.”

        Anna had waited long enough and said, “Mommy, come on, let’s see if Santa found me,

come on.”

        “No, honey, you just wait for your brother and daddy, they’ll be up in a bit,” Ella said.

        “Mommy! When? When are they coming up?”

        “They promised they’d be up no later than noon,” Ella teased.

        “NOON!” Anna said, nearly crying.

        “You’re a tease,” Aaron told Ella, “Come on, Anna, I’ll bet we can find something under

there for you.”

        Aaron and Anna went to the tree and Aaron found the package Nichole had gotten for

Anna. “This one isn’t from Santa, but it’s from Nichole and I, Merry Christmas sweetheart.”

        Anna took the package and tore it open finding a porcelain Native-American doll Nichole

had gotten for her. With most kids seven years old, Aaron would have been leery of giving them
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        316


a gift as delicate as this, but Ana held it with great care, and then said, “It’s beautiful Aaron,

thank you so much.” She came over and gave Aaron a big hug and kiss, and then ran off saying,

“Mommy! Mommy! Look what I got!”

       Ella put down her coffee and said, “Oh, sweetheart, that’s gorgeous, be careful with it

honey.”

       “I will mommy; I just have to keep it away from Adrian.”

       At that moment, Adrian came running up the stairs yelling, “You have to wait for me!

Wait for me!”

       Bill was following him up and said, “Have you ever tried to sleep in on Christmas

morning with two kids?”

       “Yes,” Aaron answered laughing, “as a matter of fact I have. And I’m pleased to be the

one to tell you that you have at least another five years of Christmas’ just like this one.”

       “Oh, God, don’t say that,” Bill said, feigning desperation.

       “Yes, and I’m also going to tell you, treasure every one of them because you’ll never

have them again.”

       Against Adrian’s protests, Bill and Ella made him sit at the table and have some milk and

a roll, but his thoughts were elsewhere.

       Aaron said, “I’m going to see if Nichole and Shar are up, they won’t want to miss this.”

       He went upstairs and found their bedroom empty, but he heard voices in Kelly’s room.

He knocked on the door and said, “Are you two decent?”

       “Sure, honey, come on in,” Nichole said.

       They were both sitting on the bed and Aaron could tell they’d both been crying, Shar

more than Nichole. He didn’t need to ask why.          “We all miss Mark, honey, but this isn’t how
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      317


he’d want us to celebrate Christmas.”“I know, Aaron, but when I woke up and realized he wasn’t

going to be here, it was just too much.”

       “There are two kids down there about ready to lose their minds if they don’t tear open

some packages,” Aaron said.

       “You go on down, honey,” Nichole said, “We’ll be down in just a couple of minutes.”

       “OK, but don’t be long, I’m not sure how long I can keep them out of the presents.”

       Nichole and Shar came down a few moments later and as if on cue, Kelly, Marcus, and

Kyle walked in the door saying “Merry Christmas”.

       “OK,” Nichole said, “Who gets to play Santa’s helper? Marcus?”

       “Ahh, mom, let Kelly do it.”

       “The heck with you guys, I’ll do it!” Kyle said, “I love this stuff, but I don’t know all of

you well, so you’re going to have to help me.”

       Kyle went over and pulled a package out and said, “Let’s see, is there an Adrian here?”

       Adrian raised his hand and said, “Me! That ones for me! I’m Adrian!”

       Kyle looked around seriously and said, “No Adrian, huh? That’s too bad………”

       “It’s me!! I’m Adrian!”

       “Oh, there you are!” Kyle said, handing him the gift smiling, “but you have to earn it,

you have to help me deliver all of these, if we can find someone else to help it would go faster,

though.”

       “ME! I’ll help!” Anna said.

       “OK, get over here then and let’s get this done.” Kyle said.

       The three of them handed out the gifts to everyone. Nichole was sitting on Aaron’s lap

and when they each got gifts from Bill and Ella they were surprised. Each gift Ella brought was
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    318


perfectly wrapped as if it had been done by a professional, and inside each was something

handmade with a note from Ella saying it brought her so much joy to make these gifts for her

friends. Nichole got a beautiful Native-American style wind chime with turquoise and

arrowhead designs. Aaron got a backlit stained glass picture 18” square designed with his Twin

Comanche.

       “I don’t know what to say, Ella,” Aaron said, “thank you, I’m going to put it in the office

at my hangar. It’s beautiful.”

       “Yes, Ella, you were so thoughtful to make this for me,” Nichole said, “its perfect.”

       Tony and Martha gave Kelly, Marcus, and Kyle each some of Martha’s homemade

candies.

       Tony asked all three of the kids to come into the dining room along with Aaron. He got

out a box containing three cases with their names on them. He handed each of them their case

and said, “This is from me, if Mr. Shear doesn’t object.”

       Each case contained a new 9mm Glock with extra magazines, a cleaning kit, and for the

boys, a shoulder holster and waistband holster, and for Kelly a waistband holster and a small

holster that appeared to go around her thigh, putting the weapon between her legs.

       “I know this isn’t a normal Christmas gift, but I’d like each of you to have them and the

next day or so, I’ll work with all of you and I guarantee when we’re done, you’ll be able to

defend yourselves and do it safely,” Tony said.

       “Daddy?” Kelly looked at Aaron.

       “Honey, you have security but even the best take several seconds to get to you. I won’t

make you wear them or take them, but I have to say I agree with Tony on this.”

       “If you don’t have one, dad, why do we need one?” Marcus asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      319


        Aaron put his foot on one of the dining room chairs and lifted his jean leg, showing his

9mm. “I’ve had one since last March,” Aaron said, “ and your mom has one as well.”

        “Mom has one what?” Nichole asked from behind him as she walked into the room,

“what are you guys up to?”

        “Mom? You carry a gun?” Marcus asked.

        “I’ve carried one since you were a kid, you know that,” Nichole said, “now I just carry it

for a different reason, but yes, I do. I also agree with your dad and Tony, it’s not a bad idea, as

long as you let Tony teach you how to use it.”

        “Who taught you, mom?” Kelly asked.

        “Tony did, and he’s very good at it. In fact, I did better than your dad at the range which

reminds me…….you never paid off on that bet!”

        “Thanks a lot, Tony, I owe you one now,” Aaron said, laughing.

        Tony closed the cases back up and put them in the boxes, “This afternoon, if the weather

holds, we’ll go over to Frank and Carrie’s, they have a range over there, and we’ll get started, if

that’s OK with you guys,” Tony said.

        Marcus and Kelly agreed, but Kyle just stood there, not saying anything.

        “Kyle, are you OK?” Aaron asked.

        “Yes sir, I was just thinking if dad or Kevin had one, things might be different right

now.”

        “Maybe,” Tony said, “but maybe not. Sometimes you can do everything right and things

still don’t work out like you want them too. Mr. Shear finally helped me realize that.”

        “Let’s go back in the family room,” Aaron said, “I have some things that were sent I need

to deliver.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         320


        When they had all taken a seat, Aaron opened a package and said, “This was sent to me

from President Brown. There is a DVD in here she asked me to play when we were all

together.”

        Aaron loaded the DVD and turned on the big screen, then hit play. An image of

President Brown came up on the television and she began to speak.

        “Merry Christmas to all of you. I’m sorry I can’t be there in person for this, and I

appreciate the gracious invitation Aaron and Nichole made, but my security people here felt the

risk was too great not just for myself, but for all of you as well.”

        “We have had an interesting and trying few months. Many lives have been lost on both

sides, more than any of us ever wanted to see. We prayed this day and these events would never

come, but they have and now we’re in the middle of it.”

        “For some of us, the losses have been distant, numbers and statistics. For others, it has

been much more personal. I was told Kyle Ritchie would be there when this was played. Kyle, I

can’t begin to express my sorry at your loss. I am truly heartbroken. Your father and brother

were actually two of the first, if not the first people to lose their lives in this struggle. I know

there is no way to make you whole or to ease your pain, but I would like to honor their, and your,

sacrifice for the Coalition.”

        “Mr. Shear has two cases. I have commissioned these medals for you, to honor the

sacrifice made by your father and brother, and to remind us all they were patriots and their

sacrifice was not made in vain. Mr. Shear, if you would present Mr. Ritchie with the Coalition

Medals of Sacrifice.”

        Aaron took the cases and opened them, and gave them to Kyle.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      321


       “Lest we never forget the innocent lives sacrificed for freedom. God bless you Kyle

Ritchie, and God rest the souls of your murdered family.”

       “A loss to all of us came when Mark Daniels was gunned down in the street by hired

assassins in a manner beneath contempt. Mark left many friends and loved ones behind and to

the end, his thoughts were what he could do for the Coalition. I understand Ms. Shar Davidson

is present as well.”

       “Shar, your sacrifice was not just in losing Mark, but in the time the two of you could not

spend together before he was killed as he was performing his services to aid the Coalition. Now

you will never have an opportunity to catch up on that lost time and it is truly appreciated by all

of us in the Coalition. I don’t think any of us will ever know everything Mark did to get us to the

point we are now. We owe it to his memory to see this through.”

       “Mr. Shear, if you would take Ms. Davidson her cases please. In these cases there are

two medals, one is the Coalition Medal of Sacrifice for you to keep to remember what Mark was

fighting for, and why he died. The other, my dearest Shar, is for you. It is the Coalition Medal

of Valor. So many women would be unable to do the things you’ve done and bear the burdens

you have borne. For these acts of scarifice, it is my honor to present these medals to you. God

Bless you, Shar, and God rest the soul of Mark Daniels, a true Patriot.”

       Aaron took the medals over to Shar and handed them to her, kissing her on the forehead,

and she was crying softly, Nichole beside her with her arm around Shar’s shoulders.

       “Finally, Mr. Anthony Adams is in the room as well. Tony, your service to the Coalition

and Mr. Daniels has been steadfast, loyal, and without flaw. We have gone back countless times

to the night of the attack on yourself and Mark, looking for flaws or errors in your protection to

learn from it. Former secret service agents, who are now my security personnel, military security
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       322


specialists, and former FBI agents have all agreed there was absolutely nothing that could have

been done differently to protect Mr. Daniels. In short, there were no flaws. There were no

mistakes in judgement. There is no conceivable way the attack could have been stopped save

never allowing Mr. Daniels to leave his office.”

        “For your courage and valor under fire, and suffering serious personal injury while

discharging your duties, it is my honor to award you with the Coalition Medal of Honor, the

highest award the Coalition will ever bestow on a living Patriot to the Coalition. You have our

gratitude and thanks, Tony. God Bless you for your service.”

        “Finally, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas. To Kyle, Shar, and the rest of you, it is

going to be difficult for you, I know. I wish I could ease that pain, but I can’t. The best I can

offer is my understanding and the gratitude of a new nation. God Bless all of you, and God

Bless and Save the Independent Coalition of Central States.”

        Aaron took Tony his medal, who accepted it, and remained seated with no expression.

Finally he looked at the medal and said, “She’s wrong, you know, there is more I can do. I can

make it right, and I will.”

        Tony looked directly at Shar and said, “I promise you, this will be made right. I would

give anything to make this so it never happened, I can’t, but it’s not over. I will make it right.”

        Tony took all three of the kids over and worked with them at the range. They all did very

well, especially Kyle, and by the end of the afternoon Tony was comfortable that if necessary,

they were all able to defend themselves and handle the weapon safely.

        Aaron, Tony, and Martha flew back to KC the next day. Nichole and Shar decided to

stay at the farm and bring in the New Year with Frank, Carrie, and Kyle, if he wanted to come

over.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     323


       The election was approaching and so far, only the Republicans and Democrats had

anyone on the ballot although rumors were the Libertarian Party was attempting to field a

candidate as well, but were having problems since Romero had switched to the Republican Party.

The polls were showing Romero with a four to five point lead at the moment, but the margin of

error was generally four points. Jerry York was spending more money than he initially thought,

but staying within the Coalition expectations.

       Winter had set in with a vengeance after beginning mildly. The northern 1/3 of the

Eastern US was bitterly cold with temperatures well below 0°F almost every night. Had

President Collins asked, the Coalition would have turned on the petroleum distribution system,

but he held firm the US not trade with the seceded states.

       There had been two attempted cruise missile attacks on Schriever, apparently Washington

determined that if they couldn’t use their satellites and systems, then the best option was to deny

the Coalition access to them as well. Fortunately for the Coalition, they had to fly so far over

Coalition airspace, they were destroyed before reaching their target and no damage was done.

       Both sides were reluctant to raise the body count. After the disastrous public relations

nightmare of the released photos from the missile attacks early on, with almost no loss of life in

the coalition retaliation, the US government decided it was better to go after sparsely or non-

populated targets. The Coalition had moved their A-10’s and Apaches East to critical expected

choke points in case the US decided they had waited long enough. There had still been no

official contact between the US government and the Coalition government, although President

Brown had sent three different letters to President Collins with no response.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     324




                                               Chapter 16

       The Oval Office in the White House was once again filled with President Collins’ staff.

The US citizens in the northern ½ of the country were becoming very disenchanted with their

leaders and the colder and hungrier they got, the more disenchanted they became.

       “Where are we at on our heating oil and natural gas supplies, at least until after the

elections,” President Collins asked Sam Poyner.

       “DOE says right now, we are going to be running short within 3 weeks, particularly on

home heating oil, if this weather stays this cold. The problem is not crude, we’re bringing it in to

the East Coast ports as quickly as possible and if we continue to push everything to the limits, we

can keep up. The problem we have is one of refining capacity. East of the Mississippi River we

have about 60% of the US population but we only have about 20% of the refining capacity, so

during the best of times, we have difficulty keeping up, and these are far from the best of times.”

       “So what we need is the importation of more refined fuels, particularly heating oil,”

President Collins said, “where is the best and fastest place to get it?”

       “The best and fastest would be Texas and Louisiana, sir,” Chief of Staff Williamson said,

“and I think it’s something we should consider. The ‘Coalition’ has been blasting the US with

messages they stand ready to help, if only the President would allow it, and it’s working for
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         325


them. More and more we’re hearing demands to normalize relations with them, even if it means

we have to recognize them as a nation.”

         “That simply can NOT happen,” Poyner said.

         “You would prefer our citizens freeze, and starve?” Williamson answered, “make no

mistake, Doctor, before that happens the White House and Congress will be in flames from the

angry mobs.”

         “You’re being a little dramatic, aren’t you Dave?” President Collins asked.

         “No sir I am not,” Williamson responded, “we are not that far away from total anarchy.

The only thing that’s kept the rioters at bay in the north is the fact it’s just too cold to have a

riot.”

         “Then why haven’t we seen rioting in the south?” Poyner demanded.

         “Because it’s not as cold, people don’t have to have much heat, particularly below the

37th or 38th parallel. Think from the middle of Kentucky and Virginia south,” Williamson

explained, “the further south you go, the more food you have that’s grown locally and able to be

grown year round, so they don’t have the hunger issues we’re beginning to see up here. Oh,

sure, they’re complaining about the high electric costs and the high gasoline prices, but they

aren’t looking at an issue of survival the way the people up north are.”

         “If the Coalition is out as far as fuel sources, the next fastest and cheapest is from Mexico

and Venezuela,” Poyner said, “Tankers from Venezuela can be unloading in Florida in about a

week after they’re loaded, five days from the Mexican ports. However, if this is the plan we’re

going to take, “ Poyner said, “we need to act now to line up tankers and get them moving or they

won’t be able to get to Venezuela, load, and get back and unload before the end of the month.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      326


       “Very well, Sam, get on this immediately. Dave, give Sam whatever he needs to support

finding and delivering heating oil,” President Collins said, “Admiral, I take it you’ve had no

success in dealing with the Coalition on a military level?”

       “Given the constraints I’m working under, no sir,” Admiral Torrin answered, “We

attempted to take out Schriever with air launched Cruise missiles, but in every occasion they

were detected and destroyed long before reaching their target. We are considering trying the

same approach from the West with an air launch in the Salt Lake City area, but doing that during

the winter, over the Rockies, is very difficult as well.”

       “I see,” President Collins said, “Admiral, consider yourself relieved of duty.”

       “Sir?” Admiral Torrin said.

       “All I’ve heard from you since this started was how we can’t do things. What little you

have done has backfired in a public relations disaster, and I need a new viewpoint on things, so

consider yourself relieved,” President Collins repeated.

       “Yes sir,” Admiral Torrin responded and rose from his chair striding out of the office.

Dave Williamson wished he could have gone with him, he thought Torrin may be one of the

lucky ones.

       “Sam, is our guest in your office?” President Collins said, “If so, send him in. It’s too

bad about Torrin, I liked him, but his inaction on this meant somebody’s head had to roll.”

       Sam Poyner left and in five minutes returned with General Allen Bradley. Bradley had

taken General Landers place on the Joint Chiefs for the Army. He was the youngest General on

the Joint Chiefs and had been an instructor at the US Army War College with Landers when

Landers had become a Brigadier General and Bradley a full Colonel. They had maintained a

close friendship ever since.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       327


        “General Bradley, thank you for coming in,” President Collins said, “I’m pleased to

announce your appointment to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Admiral Torrin has been relieved

of his duties.”

        “The reason he was relieved was due to his inaction on the situtation in the middle of the

United States. I am charging you with developing a military plan to first and foremost regain

control of our petroleum supplies and distribution centers in Louisiana and Texas and after that,

bring military action to return the seceded states to the Union. Are you willing and able to carry

out those orders?”

        “Yes sir, I am,” General Bradley answered.

        “You are aware the Coalition forces are led by General Landers, correct?” Sam Poyner

asked, “Is that a problem, I know you two are friends.”

        “We are friends, and I have the utmost respect for the General, but no sir, it is not a

problem.”

        “How long before you can bring me plans to review, General,” President Collins asked?

        “I will have rough concepts to present by the end of the week, sir.”

        “Fine, then get to work, I’ll expect to see you no later than Friday with concrete

proposals,” the President said, dismissing him.

        “Yes sir, and thank you sir,” Bradley responded and left the room.

        “Now maybe we can get somewhere,” Poyner said, “Have you seen the new poll

numbers, sir?”

        “How new? Today? No, the last ones I looked at were a couple of days ago,” President

Collins said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      328


       “Our internal polling shows Romero up by 10 points as of today,” Poyner said, “the

network polls have been showing it within or just barely out of the margin of error, but it’s

costing us dearly to keep them under-reporting, and if the spread goes much wider they’re going

to have to start showing it or risk losing all credibility when the election results come in and

Cassel gets beat by 15 points while they were showing 5.”

       “So the election is lost, for all intents and purposes,” Williamson asked?

       “There’s a good chance it was lost when the Senator’s plane went down,” Sam answered,

“It was a stroke of genius for the Republicans to bring in Romero, and all the money he brought

with him helped tremendously as well. He’s a better candidate and he can outspend us 3 to1, and

he has Jerry York running the campaign.”

       “I know I’m no real benefit to campaign, but Sam I want you to put pressure on the high

profile Senators and Representatives to get out and campaign with, and for, Cassel,” President

Collins said, “you personally shake the money tree, work the phones with these guys, tell them

flat out the Democratic Party has a long memory and won’t forget them. The only question they

need to ask themselves is how do they want to be remembered?”

       “I’ll make sure they understand, sir,” Sam answered.

       “I want some of our own polling done. Find out what the sentiment is going to be if I

decide to send ground troops in to reclaim the seceded states,” President Collins said, “we may

have to suspend the election again if we are in an actual shooting war with these states.”

       “Sir, I would seriously reconsider that,” Dave said, “if you try, you’ll be impeached so

fast you won’t know what hit you, I can guarantee you that.”

       “So? What do I care? I’m going to be out of here anyway, no big loss to me, and this is

a time in history I’d just as soon forget,” President Collins said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      329


        “If you don’t care about your own legacy, sir,” Dave said, “then you might give some

thought to what’s left of our country. If you suspend the elections again, I can almost guarantee

you’ll lose what’s left of the country west of the Mississippi River and several states in the

South. You’ll leave a nation less than ½ of what it used to be.”

        “I’ll take it under advisement, Dave,” President Collins said, “but only advisement. I’m

still considering it.”

        “Yes sir,” Williamson said.

        “Now, I believe you all have work to do, so get to it,” President Collins said ordering

them out of the office.

                                **********************************

        The Friday after New Years, Tony flew down and brought back Shar and Nichole.

Nichole had made arrangements to sell most of Aaron’s cattle. They decided to keep a few for

sentimental reasons and also to give Frank and Carrie something to do. They both enjoyed

working with the cattle, it gave Frank a chance to run the equipment and Carrie an opportunity to

ride the horses.

        The news had gotten out Admiral Torrin had been dismissed and General Bradley had

been named to replace him. From everything General Landers and General Mays could gather,

the US Military was convinced the time of inaction by the over and they were just waiting on

new plans and orders.

        General Landers was particularly concerned because he knew Bradley well and respected

his intelligence and was concerned about his tendency towards aggressive combat tactics.

        Monday morning Ed asked to see Aaron and he came in at 10:00 am. Aaron asked him

to have a seat.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    330


       “What’s up, Ed?”

       “As you instructed, I ‘ve been keeping a close eye on the progress of our friend that we

had the talk with at the hospital.”

       “I assume he’s recovered?”

       “Yes sir, he was taken out of the hospital just before Christmas, and he had an appearance

before the judge on Friday. His bond was set at $1 million Coalition. It seems someone has

posted his bail for him.”

       “I assume you know where he’s at?”

       “Yes sir, we have someone on him at all times. Should I inform Tony, sir?”

       “No. If our friend should have some kind of accident, Tony will be the first place people

look and I’m pretty sure he’s going to have an accident. His future doesn’t appear very bright.”

       “No sir, it doesn’t.”

       “I am going to leave this in your hands, Ed. I want you to share this with nobody else,

other than those you need to assist you. I don’t want Jake, Tony, or anyone else involved, do I

make myself clear?”

       “Perfectly, sir.”

       “If possible, our friend should have an accident. If that’s not possible, well, Kansas City

can be a dangerous town in the area our friend lives, I would imagine.”

       “Yes sir, it can be quite dangerous.”

       “All I want to know is when you expect our friend to have his accident so I can be sure

Tony and I are in public with a lot of people around.”

       “Yes sir, consider it done,” Ed said, and got up to leave.

       “Ed, be careful.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    331


       “I will, sir,” Ed said as he left the room.

       That night Aaron had Ed drive him back to Mark’s estate, he wanted to spend the night

away from the office and with Nichole.

       When they had gone to bed, lying in the dark, Aaron said, “Honey, I have a question for

you, and I want you to think about it before you answer.”

       “I already don’t like the sound of this, what’s going on?”

       “You’re no fool, the man that killed Adam and Kevin died in front of you with a bullet

from Frank’s rifle. Carrie shot the woman that was about to kill you and she was alive when

they took her from the yard. You know very well she never left the area alive. I knew about it, I

agreed with it. I have my reasons. What I need to know from you is if you were the one making

the decisions, would you have had her killed? If so, would it have been justice, revenge, or

something else?”

       “Are you trying to get absolution? If so, you need to go talk to a priest or Pastor Deb or

someone, not me.”

       “No, not absolution, I’m comfortable with what happened, probably because I didn’t

make the decision, Mark did, but Mark’s gone and now these are my decisions. I can make

them, but I don’t want to make them for the wrong reasons.”

       “I’m not sure why you’re asking, but I can answer the question. If it had been up to me

I’d have taken Grandad’s pistol and put a bullet in her head. Not because I wanted revenge, and

not because I wanted retribution, but because she was one of the two that killed our friends.

There was no question or doubt, her death was required of her for justice. If we’d have called

the police, Carrie and Frank would probably be in jail and she would have been back in
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                  332


Washington and there would have been no justice for Adam and Kevin. So yes, I’d have blown

her brains out the back of her head.”

       Aaron knew coming from Nichole, this was not just idle boasting. She would have, and

was certainly capable of doing it.

       “OK, thanks honey, I just thought I had to know.”

       “You can’t leave it like that, Aaron, you have to tell me what’s going on.”

       “If I do, it never leaves this room, and is never spoken of again?”

       “I understand.”

       “The night Mark died, they had the surviving shooter in a room just down the hall from

Mark’s. Ed and I paid him a visit and got a name, the name of the person that hired them. I also

promised him he was a dead man. He was released on bail and the bail was a lot of money,

someone with a lot more than him paid it. I think he’s getting ready to take off and we may

never be able to get to him again. He’s not going to escape my justice.”

       Nichole never said another word, she just reached over and took Aaron’s hand.

       The next morning, Ed called Aaron as soon as he got into the office. The conversation

was short.

       “Mr. Shear, I think tonight would be a good night for you to take Nichole, Tony, and

Martha out to eat, maybe a late supper would be good.”

       “I understand,” Aaron said and hung up.

       Aaron called Nichole and asked if she and Shar would like to come into town and have a

late dinner at Antonios with Tony and Martha. They could just stay at the apartments after

dinner and go back in the morning. Nichole and Shar thought that sounded like an excellent idea

and would be ready when Tony got there to pick them up.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    333


        The evening went very smoothly. The food was good and the company was better.

Aaron heard nothing from Ed and they got back to the Ivory Tower at about 11:00 pm. The next

morning, Jake had a copy of the Kansas City Star on his desk and at the bottom of the front page

was a short article reporting their “friend” had met an untimely end when he was found dead, a

victim of a hit and run driver. His blood alcohol was .09 and he had cocaine in his system as

well.

        Jake came into Aaron’s office and told him the President had called an emergency

meeting of the council in ten minutes and was setting up the link, Tony would join him in five.

Exactly ten minutes later, the video screen came alive with General Landers and General Mays

as well as the rest of the group.

        “General, I’m going to turn this over to you,” President Brown said.

        “Ladies and gentlemen, last night beginnning at 0200 the US military began moving a

very large force toward our borders. These troops were heading for three different locations.

The largest force, a full armored division, was moving towards Baton Rouge and Layfayette,

Louisiana. In fact, they have already penetrated 16 miles to a town called St. Francisville.

We’re unsure if they’re moving on Baton Rouge or Layfayette at this time, but our guess is

they’re marching to Layfayette and then on to the petroleum facilities at Lake Charles.”

        “General, you said there are three groups,” President Brown asked?

        “Yes ma’am, there is a second smaller group, mostly light armor but about 12,000 men

strong, advancing on Vicksburg, Mississippi and a third group of roughly the same strength

moving towards Memphis. In total, we’re looking at a ground invasion force of approximately

50,000 troops.”

        “It appears the US military is done waiting,” Aaron said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        334


         “So it would seem, sir,” General Mays responded.

         “Your plans, General,” President Brown said.

         “We have no option but to repel the enemy invaders, ma’am. The reason I called you all

was to inform you things were about to get bloody on both sides. We have been watching the

US mass forces in the Jackson, Mississippi area since yesterday afternoon when they broke off

into the two groups, one heading south on I55 and the other waiting to begin moving. In all three

locations they have been attempting to place floating bridges and we have so far stalled them, but

eventually they will get them in place. They are receiving close air support from the Carl Vinson

as well as ground based fighters.”

         “In order to minimize our losses, we intend to use ‘hit and run’ tactics to delay their river

crossings and set up more fortified defenses in several locations with primarily armor of our

own. Our strongest defense is almost on site, just east of Lake Charles. We also intend to try to

stop them with air strikes against their armor 30 miles west of Memphis and 80 miles west of

Shreveport.”

         “This is where the first battles will be fought,” General Landers said.

         “Is there anything you need, General, anything we can offer to help,” President Brown

asked?

         “No ma’am, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, but you do need to inform the governors of

Louisiana and Arkansas what’s going on..”

         “Consider it done, General, good luck and keep us informed. How long before you think

the battle will begin in earnest?”

         “Probably by noon, Madam President, I’ll keep you informed,” the General said and both

his and General Mays screens went blank.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   335


        “We might all want to say some prayers now, folks, and stay close to your

communications,” President Brown said and her screen went blank.

        The battles raged for 8 days in Louisiana. The US military air dropped Army Rangers at

two of the pipeline locations. They lost two aircraft with the members still on board before they

deployed on the way in and the other three units had poor intelligence and were dropped into a

hornet’s nest of Sandy’s forces at the facilities. No matter how good you might be, when you’re

less than 60 against a well armed and trained force of 1500, you’re probably not going to win in

spite of what the movies show.

        The US battle tactics were confusing. Their armor would meet heavy resistance by either

ground or air and seemingly stop the advance, even when not badly damaged, only to continue a

few hours later. General Landers could only guess the US was having problems with their men

obeying when ordered to move into and through small and medium sized towns where collateral

damage would be unavoidable.

        The push at Memphis and towards Shreveport was an unquestionable defeat for the US

forces, they came in with too few men and too little equipment, pushing into an area General

Landers had set up some of his strongest defenses. Virtually all of the hardware was destroyed

and those captured were placed in Fort Chaffe which continued to be used for officer detainees,

but now was also used as a POW camp.

        The forces advancing towards Lake Charles nearly made it there and had it not been for

General Landers use of the Coalition bombers to destroy the supply lines behind the advancing

armor may have been successful. That tactic, along with a scorched earth policy leaving no fuel

for the advancing forces left them helpless against the A-10’s being covered by F-16’s and F-

18’s.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       336


       At the end of the 8 days, the US was forced to abandon it’s plan and withdraw what it

could, and Landers made sure there was nothing much left to withdraw.

       The elections were now two weeks away and Jerry York was proving he was worth every

penny to Romero’s campaign. It seemed every week he was gaining one to two points on his

challengers.

       “Mr. Shear, President Brown has called everyone for a meeting, she seemed to sound like

it was urgent,” Jake told Aaron.

       “When?”

       “Now, sir,” Jake responded while bringing up the link on the screen. The entire group

was there except for Marilyn Conyers, and she was online in just a couple of minutes.

       “I’m glad all of you were available on such short notice,” President Brown said, “we

have a situation and it’s probably best if I just let Sandy take over, since he’s the one with the

background on it.”

       “Early this morning I received a call from Senor Jorge Maldonado. Senor Maldonado is

the minister of Industry and Minining in Venezuela, this came as something of a shock to me.

Part of his duties include the operation and management of the Venezuelan port facilities. The

ports have been run non-stop with oil tankers bound for the US to attempt to supply some of their

lost oil requirements.”

       “Late last night the harbormaster at Puerto La Cruz called him with a report on a

Panamax class tanker just loaded and set sail this morning. This particular tanker is operated

under the Panamanian Flag but was previously an Iranian ship reconditioned in the ISOICO

shipyard at the Port of Bandar Abbas in Iran. Although the Jóse de Fábrega is flagged

Panamanian and owned by a company in Panama, the ship is still crewed and operated by
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         337


Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines. The reason for the harbormaster’s call was they didn’t

load nearly enough oil on the ship.”

          “Why is that a problem?” Marilyn asked, “My trucks aren’t always full either.”

          “The problem, Marilyn, is as the ship left port, it’s draft was enough it should have been

carrying a full load of product, the ship was much heavier than it should have been given it’s

cargo.”

          “I guess I still don’t understand,” Marilyn said, “could the loaders have miscalculated, or

made inaccurate entries? It sounds to me more like somebody got away with some oil.”

          “That is a possibility, but it’s not very likely,” Sandy said, “the ship came straight from

the shipyards at Bandar Abbas loaded with Iranian refined fuel oil that was discharged at Cape

Town, South Africa, then it sailed directly to Puerto La Cruz, presumably to take part in the

massive effort to bring heating oil to the US.”

          “The Venezuelan loaders realized they weren’t taking on as much product as they should

have and asked about it but were informed one of the tanks did not pass inspection so it could not

be loaded, but that did not explain why she was riding low enough in the water to be fully

loaded.”

          “Both Senor Maldonado and I believe there may be a weapon of mass destruction hidden

in the unused tank, and that ship is currently sailing at 14 knots to the US to unload it’s cargo at

Port Everglades.”

          “Sandy contacted me with this information at 3:00 am this morning and I had some of my

people run some numbers,” Angela said, “depending on how well the device is shielded within

the tank, and whether or not it is surrounded by oil, which is a possiblity, the difference in weight

would lead us to conclude if this ship is carrying a nuclear device it would be in the 100-150
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       338


kiloton yield range. Port Everglades is located in Fort Lauderdale. A 100 kiloton blast would

have a near total fatality radius of approximately 1.5 miles with blast effects extending out to 5

miles capable of causing instant second and third degree burns. Potential fatalities would

approach 150,000 instantly with another 300,000 possible due to fires, building collapses,

accidents, etc.”

         “Did this come from the Venezuelan government?” Aaron asked.

         “No, it did not,” Sandy said, “Senor Maldonado first contacted the government of Mexico

who suggested he contact me. Maldonado did try to inform the US government directly, but he

had to be discreet as he took this action on his own. He has not informed the Venezuelan

government and does not plan to. He fears President Chavez may simply decide to not inform

anyone about this and let whatever might happen do so.”

         “Don’t US ports have rather sophisticated radiological detection equipment now?” Bill

asked.

         “Yes, but if it’s shielded as we believe, given the weight in the empty tank, and then

covered with oil products, that equipment might never pick up any signature and certainly not

until the ship is within the harbor entrance, at which point it will be too late,” Angela said.

         “In it’s need for petroleum the US is not taking this warning seriously,” General Landers

said, “I have been concerned enemies of the US might try to take advantage of the current

situation here, and this fits one of the profiles we’ve discussed when I was in the planning areas

at the Pentagon and on the Joint Chiefs.”

         “Where is the ship now?” Aaron asked.

         “At this moment, it’s only about 150 miles off the coast of Venezuela, steaming

northwest in the shipping lanes in the Caribbean. It is well off the coast and out of Venezuelan
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       339


waters. It will pass about 100 miles south-southwest of Jamaica, then take a more northerly

course to pass about midway between the Yucatan Penninsula and Cuba, turning east after

passing Cuba and steaming towards Florida,” Angela said.

        “The ship will not be in anything other than international waters until it reaches Florida.”

General Mays said, “It is too far from any forces to intercept it or do anything about it until it

turns back east and passes north of Cuba where our forces or the Mexican Government forces

could reach it, there is only a small window of opportunity for us when it arrives at a point

approximately 100 miles north of Havannah.”

        “The Mexican government has offered us their assistance, but they have only a small air

force not really capable of performing this mission. They have told us if we have permission to

fuel and launch our attack aircraft from the Merida International Airport on the Yucatan

Penninsula, and they would send two of their aircraft as observers and camera ships, but beyond

that there is little they can offer.”

        “Are you suggesting we have Coalition aircraft sink this ship?” Marilyn asked.

        “Yes ma’am, we are,” General Landers said, “This ship cannot be allowed to get within

50 miles of US shores, or any other shores for that matter, and with the US refusing to take this

threat seriously, if we don’t intercept it, nobody will.”

        “I tried to make contact with the USS Carl Vinson, it could have it’s aircraft intercept the

ship,” General Mays said, “but they aren’t talking to us and won’t respond in any way.”

        “General Landers, exactly what is it you have planned,” President Brown asked.

        “Madam President, what we propose is to take two of our FA-18 aircraft and arm each of

them with 2 AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles,” General Landers explained, “Our aircraft,

along with the 2 Mexican aircraft, will approach the ship and challenge it to change course to the
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        340


northwest 250 miles where it will lay to when met by a Mexican Allende class Frigate for

boarding and inspection. We will fly in radiological specialists by helicopter and transport the

helicopter on the Frigate to a point 50 miles from the rendevous point. When the tanker is in

position and the Frigate within range, we will send the helicopter with the inspection team to find

out just what, if anything, is on that ship.”

          “Should the captain of the Jóse de Fábrega refuse to follow instructions by turning

towards Cuba, or continue on, or not respond to our calls, we will have no choice but to destroy

the tanker at sea.”

          “If we do that, General,” President Brown asked, “what happens to the device if it is

indeed on board? Will it go off?”

          “Not from us sinking the ship, Madam President,” General Mays said, “however, if what

we suspect is true, they will not allow themselves to be boarded or sunk and will probably

detonate the device themselves if for no other reason than to demonstrate how close they got to

the US. There is also a chance they will comply with instructions, go to the rendevous point, and

detonate when the inspection team is close or on board.”

          “At this point, we have no way of knowing what their response will be, but the fact

remains if this ship is carrying the weapon we suspect, and it makes it to Port Everglades, it

could very well result in as many as 500,000 people dying,” Angela said.

          President Brown said, “General, how much time before the ship gets to the interception

point?”

          “Tankers like this are slow and from it’s current position we estimate it will be just under

5 days,” General Landers answered.

          “And how long to get everything in place?” the Vice-President asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        341


       “The Mexican Government can have their Frigate at the inspection area in less than two

days after our team gets there with the helicopter and it will take two days to get our people and

equipment to the ship, so four days total to get the Frigate on site,” General Landers said.

       “The FA-18’s can be armed and waiting at Merida along with the Mexican Air Force F-

5s in two days, and I would suggest getting them there as soon as possible in case the ship

changes course and our plans have to change. From Merida, the range of our FA-18’s will cover

almost all of the Caribbean, it’s a much better location than the Texas coast for this mission,”

General Mays added.

       “Very well, General Landers, make your preparations and proceed as planned,” President

Brown authorized, “I also want that ship positively located and a constant watch on it as soon as

possible, can that be handled by satellite, General Mays?”

       “Once the ship is positively identified, yes ma’am it can, but we have to know where it is

and which one it is, the Gulf is full of tankers at the moment,” General Mays said.

       “Ms. Basgall, Jamaica has recognized us, could werequest they try to identify the ship

and send us coordinates and time? What do you believe their response would be?” President

Brown asked.

       “I believe that can be arranged, ma’am, the ship will be within 100 miles of Jamaica at

it’s closest point, they could just wait in the area at the expected time of arrival and verify

position,” Angela answered.

       “Make those arrangements, the sooner we know exactly which ship it is, the better off

we’ll be,” President Brown ordered.

       “Madam President, we’ve been tracking 5 ships that could all be our target, so we can

help them narrow down when they should be passing Jamaica,” General Mays said.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     342


       “Excellent, relay the information through Angela to the Jamaican government,” President

Brown ordered, “How long before the ship could be close to Jamaica?”

       “A little over two days ma’am, at the soonest,” General Landers answered.

       “Then you’d all better hurry, and good luck.” President Brown said, “One last thing,

when the time comes our people are challenging the ship, I want real time audio and video piped

into us so we know what’s going on, is that clear?”

       “Yes ma’am, we’ll get it done,” General Landers said and the screens went blank.

       The days following the meeting crawled by while they waited for word on the actual

location of the tanker.. The HMJS Middlesex, a County Class Jamaican Coast Guard Cruiser,

patrolled the area for almost 18 hours and identified the Jóse de Fábrega relaying the location to

the Coalition forces. From that time on, the ship was never out of sight of the Coalition

satellites. There were a few tense moments as the ship altered course and headed toward

Nicaragua, but it shortly resumed it’s previous course and caused everyone to heave a sigh of

relief. They desperately needed the ship within range and in as much open water as possible.

       The tanker was 1 hour from the planned interception point when the 4 fighters took off

from Merida International Airport and headed northeast approximately 450 miles. Bill had

flown into Kansas City and he, Aaron, and Tony were in Aaron’s office, watching the picture

they were receiving from the nose camera of one of their FA-18’s.

       “Jóse de Fábrega, this is Major Martin Wilson of the Independent Coalition of Central

States calling you on guard, do you read me?”

       There was no response from the ship.

       “I say again, Jóse de Fábrega, this is Major Martin Wilson in the Coalition Fighter west-

southwest of your location, respond please.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     343


         Again there was only silence.

         “Could they be on the wrong frequency?” Bill asked.

         “No sir, all commercial marine vessels monitor the ‘guard’ frequency at all times, they

can hear us.” Tony said.

         “Jóse de Fábrega, this is Major Wilson in the Coalition fighter accompanied by aircraft

from the Mexican Air Defense Force, you are ordered to respond or risk being fired upon.”

         “This is the Jóse de Fábrega, Major Wilson, you are interferring with a commercial

merchant vessel on a peaceful trade mission in violation of international law, what do you

want?”

         The accent was definitely middle eastern and if the stakes weren’t so high, hearing them

try to say Jóse de Fábrega with the accent would have been somewhat funny.

         “We have reason to believe you are carrying banned cargo and order you to set a new

course to a rendevous point and prepare to be boarded for inspection.”

         “You have no authority to order us anywhere, we are a peaceful commercial vessel

carrying petroleum products to the United States.”

         “That may be, sir, but you will comply or I am authorized to use deadly force to make

you do as instructed or to sink your vessel. Now alter your course to 282 degrees and make your

best speed to north latitude 25.87043° and west longitude 87.85711°. I say again, change course

to heading 282 degrees and proceed to north 25.87043°, west 87.85711° immediately.”

         “Those coordinates are going to take us 18 hours to arrive, we will miss our unloading

time, we will not comply.”

         “Sir, you have no choice in the matter, you will begin turning your vessel immediately or

we will commence the use of deadly force against your ship.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   344


        There was no response from the tanker.

        “I say again, Jóse de Fábrega, you will immediately change your heading to 282 degrees

and proceed to north 25.87043 latitude, west 87.85711 longitude at once, you will comply

immediately.”

        The screen showed the ship turning slowly, but the wrong way.

        “Coalition Command, the Jóse de Fábrega is turning to the south, towards Cuban waters,”

the pilot of the second FA-18 reported.

        “Jóse de Fábrega, do not turn towards Cuba. We will not allow you to approach any land

mass. Turn left to a heading of 282 degrees immediately.”

        The screen showed the ship beginning to turn towards Cuba. Another screen came on,

splitting the nose camera with a feed from Schriever satellite command made the turn to the

south even more apparent.

        “Coalition Command, he’s not stopping the turn, confirm we are weapons hot,” the

second FA-18 asked.

        “Coalition fighters, this is Coalition Command, confirming you are weapons hot, give

him a shot across the bow with the cannons, see if it will change his mind.”

        “Roger that command, 2 is breaking left.”

        The FA-18 screamed towards the ship, firing it’s nose cannon at the bow of the ship,

missing it by just feet.

        “Command, there are crew going in and out of a hold area in the center of the ship, they

are not altering their course.”

        “Current heading of the Jóse de Fábrega, Coalition fighter?” General Mays asked over

the radio.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     345


       “She’s on a course of 185 degrees, sir, and holding that course,” the pilot reported.

       “Heading is confirmed via satellite observation, hold for orders,” General Mays said.

       “I am about to give the order to sink the Jóse de Fábrega, are there any dissenting

opinions watching this feed?” President Brown asked.

       Nobody dissented.

       “I have invited President Castillo of Mexico to watch the events as well. Mr. President,

do you have any objections, your pilots are up there too?” President Brown asked.

       “Madam President, the captain of the Jóse de Fábrega is leaving us no choice,” President

Castillo answered.

       “Very well then, General, you have authorization to open fire and sink the Jóse de

Fábrega on my orders and with the agreement of President Castillo, the Coalition Vice-President,

and my advisors,” President Brown said, “Good hunting and may God have mercy on the souls

of those sailors on board her.”

       “I understand Madam President. Coalition fighters, Mexican Air Defense fighters,

proceed with your attack profile, release of weapons to sink the Jóse de Fábrega is authorized.”

General Landers spoke directly to his pilots.

       “Roger that command, commencing attack profile now,” Major Wilson responded.

       The FA-18’s were to back off 60 miles, which would only take about 5 minutes, turn

towards the ship and fire their Harpoons. The Mexican fighters were to overfly the ship, then

turn and head back towards Merida. As they passed over the tanker, the Harpoons would be

launched and the F-5’s would go to full afterburner, attempting to keep their tail cameras on the

ship for as long as possible. The flight time of the Harpoons would be just under 5 minutes, so

by the time the misssiles arrived the F-5’s would be just able to see the ship over the horizon.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       346


       “Missiles 1 and 2 away,” Wilson reported.

       “Missiles 3 and 4 are away,” the second FA-18 reported.

       “Get out of there guys, you can’t do anymore, form up on the F-5’s and head back to

Merida,” Landers ordered, “and good luck”

       “Yes sir, we’re out of here,” Wilson said.

       They watched on both the satellite and the tail cameras and suddenly Tony said “Here

they come, see them just over the water?”

       Aaron couldn’t see them, but just then the screens went white. The tail camera screen

never came back on, but the satellite image slowly came back, showing a cloud of steam rising

from the Gulf.

       “Coalition and Mexican fighters, are you still with us?” General Landers asked.

       “Respond, please, are you guys still with us?” he said again.

       “Yes sir, we’re all still here. A bit of a bumpy ride, but other than that we’re all intact,”

the FA-18 reported.

       “Attack commander, break away and make a circle, the explosion fried the tail cameras in

the F-5s, let’s see what’s going on back there,” General Landers said.

       “Yes sir, breaking left. Holy God, command, we didn’t do that.” Major Wilson said

quietly.

       “No, son, you didn’t. You probably just saved over half a million lives, though. Well

done, come on home,” General Landers said.

       “Yes sir, on our way,” Major Wilson answered.

       Speculation was rampant as the detonation was detected all over the world. It was

decided the best thing to do was simply give the world the truth, or at least as much as they
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     347


possibly could. Rollie flew President Brown and her security to San Antonio in the Gulfstream

while Tony flew Bill and Aaron down in the Citation, stopping in Dallas to pick up Angela.

Mexican President Castillo was brought by Tony’s people from the airport to the PBS Station in

San Antonio KLRN where it had been announced the President of the Coalition would have a

statement and take a few questions on ‘recent events’.

       At exactly 9:00 pm President Brown and President Castillo came into the small studio

with the Coalition President taking the microphone.

       “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to thank you all for coming on such short notice. As I’m

sure you’re all aware at exactly 3:44 pm this afternoon there was a massive explosion in the Gulf

of Mexico approximately 165 miles west southwest of Florida and 100 miles north of Cuba. I

would like to explain to all of you what happened there.”

       “Five days ago, we received information from intelligence sources working with the

Coalition and Mexican governments making us aware of a ship, the Jóse de Fábrega, that was

believed to be carrying a nuclear device. The ship left Puerto La Cruz, where the device was

first believed discovered bound for Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.”

       “Both the Coalition and Mexican governments attempted to notify the United States of

this threat but our warnings were rejected or ignored. President Castillo and myself agreed we

could not allow this ship to reach land without being carefully inspected to determine, for

certain, whether or not it carried a weapon of mass destruction.”

       “Two days later, with the aid of the Jamaican Coast Guard, the Jóse de Fábrega was

positively identified and tracked to a location distant enough from land, yet close enough for our

aircraft to strike. This afternoon the ship reached that point. The intention was to force the ship

to turn northwest into even more open water where a Frigate, provided by the Mexican
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        348


Government and carrying a Coalition helicopter and inspection team, would meet the ship and

inspect it before allowing it to proceed.”

        “Two coalition fighters and two Mexican fighters, working together and with the

cooperation of the Mexican government, left Mérida International Airport and within 1 hour met

that ship. The ship was challenged and ordered to turn to the new heading and proceed to the

inspection point. I’d like to play for you now the radio exchange and video from the cameras

aboard those aircraft.”

        It took 4 minutes to listen to the audio and watch the video, being cut off at the point the

missiles were fired at the ship.

        “Once the aircraft fired their missiles, they left the area but attempted to keep their tail

cameras on the ship. This is what they recorded,” President Brown said, showing the explosion

of the ship and the failure of the tail camera.

        “I would like you all to watch the last 6 seconds of this video very carefully and I’m

going to play it at a much slower speed. In the first ½ second, you can see the first of the four

missiles our aircraft fired enter the picture, followed immediately by the second, then third, and

finally fourth missile. Each of these weapons can be clearly seen approaching the ship. Watch

the position of the first missile.”

        “1.2 seconds before the first missile even arrives, the Jóse de Fábrega disappears in a ball

of fire. 1.2 seconds of flight time for the missile is approximately 900 feet, meaning while the

first missile was still over 900 feet from striking the target, the ship exploded. The device on the

ship was clearly detonated rather than being found on inspection or left to be later recovered and

inspected from the Gulf floor. The device detonated at precisely 5:01 pm central standard time.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        349


       “The Independent Coalition of Central States and the government of Mexico regret being

forced into taking this action. The Captain of the Jóse de Fábrega had a choice and he made the

wrong one. The people placing the device in that ship and then deciding to use it had a choice

and they made the wrong one. We were not going to allow that vessel to get close enough to any

land area to cause the massive damage the perpetrators of this heinous plan so desperately

desired.”

       “Although the United States government and the Coalition of Central States have

differences of our own, neither the Coalition nor the Mexican government wish any harm or ill

will on the citizens of the United States and particularly, in this case, the people living in the Fort

Lauderdale, Florida area. We regret the loss of life aboard the ship, but those crew members

made their choices and paid the consquences for them.”

       “All of the data we collected following the explosion has been provided through the

Mexican government to French, British, and Russian embassies to be used in discovering

whatever information they can, as independent entities, about the detonation. President Castillo

and I will take a few questions now.”

       “President Brown, Allan Cross, KGBT, how and when did you first become aware of the

possiblity of a device being on board the ship?”

       “We first became aware about 5 days ago, I’m not going to be any more precise. We

became aware as the ship left Puerto La Cruz. We had the approximate time it left port and

found it’s exact location with the help of the Jamaica government where we were able to track

and monitor it constantly,” she answered.

       “Ma’am, a quick follow up, what governments aided you in this operation? Was

Venezuela involved?” Cross asked.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      350


        “This operation could not have succeeded without the steadfast help of President Castillo

and his government. At no time was there any question about the support of Mexico. We

formulated a plan to deal with this issue in cooperation with Mexico. The operation was staged

out of Mexico with the support of the Mexican Air Force and Navy. Likewise, it would have

been very difficult for us to positively identify the ship without the help of the Jamaican

government and the brave members of the Jamaican Coast Guard. The governments of Cuba,

Belize, Honduras, and Nicaragua were also informed and each of them offered and stood ready

to provide whatever assistance they could provide to stop this attack. This was a cooperative

action involving the Gulf and Caribbean States of the region,” President Brown answered.

        “President Castillo, Jan Anders CNN, did you come to the Coalition or did they come to

you?”

        “That is a difficult question to answer, Ms. Anders, and I’m not trying to avoid it. The

Mexican government received information a ship bound for the United States may be carrying a

dangerous device. We attempted to inform the US Government but were unable to relay the

information in a manner they would act upon. We then contacted the Coalition government and

they proceeded to develop more sources confirming what we had discovered. As you can tell,

we discovered the information first, but only had pieces of the puzzle, later the Coalition put the

pieces all together,” President Castillo answered.

        “Madam President, Sheri Cross, Fox News, Why didn’t the United States government

take action with this vessel?”

        “I don’t know, Ms. Cross, that would be a question better asked of the United States, I

imagine,” President Brown said, “I’m sorry, but that’s all the time we have, thank you for

coming.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      351


         As they entered the small waiting area off the main studio and closed the door President

Brown said, “There are some unhappy people in Washington right now, I would imagine. The

fact Mexico tried to tell them of the danger and they did nothing is not going to go over well with

the American people.”

         “No ma’am, I’m sure that’s right. I don’t imagine it will make Senator Cassel very happy

either,” Aaron said.

         “You managed to get the information to Mr. Romero and Mr. York?” President Brown

asked.

         “Yes ma’am, they’ve received it almost immediately after the incident,” Aaron said.

         “Just so Romero doesn’t forget where all this help is coming from,” President Brown

replied.

         “I don’t think he’s going to do that, Madam President, he seemed like a very straight

shooter to me,” Aaron said.

         “I hope you’re right, Mr. Shear, I really do, but all my years in politics has made me quite

cynical when it comes to political motives and I’ve found it best to not believe any politician.”

         “Does that include you, Madam President?” Aaron asked.

         Laughing, President Brown said, “Present company excepted, Mr. Shear, of course.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    352




                                           Chapter 17

       Connie rang into President Collins office telling him General Bradley was on the line and

wanted to speak to him immediately.

       “General, I assume this is important since we weren’t scheduled for a briefing.”

       “Mr. President, you need to know just 6 minutes ago we detected a very large explosion

in the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles north of the coast of Cuba. The size of the explosion

could only have been a nuclear device. We have reports from Key West, Florida, of seeing an

extremely bright flash to the west at that time.”

       “Did it cause any damage?”

       “I imagine there are some fried electronics due to EMP in Cuba, and perhaps a few in

Florida as well, but the blast occurred about 170 miles from the Florida coast and it appeared to

happen on the water, which limited a lot of the EMP to the horizon, and we haven’t yet gotten

reports of any damage to any other ships or facilities.”

       “General, I’d like you to gather all the information you have and bring it to my office as

soon as possible. I’m going to call a meeting of my staff for 8:00, if that will give you enough

time to get your information together.”

       “More than enough time, Mr. President, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

       General Bradley arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled meeting to brief the President.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      353


       “General, tell to me what you know,” President Collins said.

       “Unfortunately not a lot yet, sir,” the General answered, “at 4:01 eastern time we

recorded a very large explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. It was so large it was first mistaken for

an earthquake but it was too localized. It appears to have been a surface detonation of a nuclear

device approximately 100 miles north of Cuba and 100 miles west of Key West.”

       “Why would anyone do that, what would be the point?”

       “They probably didn’t mean to, sir, remember the Iranians had their weapon at Ariel go

off prematurely in Israel. It could have been an accident or they may have had to detonate it for

other reasons.”

       “What else do we know about the incident, General?”

       “We know from radar returns from the Carl Vinson and other sources immediately before

the blast, four fast moving aircraft approached the target area from the Yucatan Penninsula. we

also know a Mexican Navy Frigate had steamed to a location about 250 miles northwest of the

target location the previous day and was waiting there.”

       “Waiting for what?”

       “Unknown, but we believe the two actions to be related, sir,” Bradley said.

       “OK, that’s what we know. Now you’re free to speculate, I’m sure you have some

theories.”

       “The most likely theory is a device was placed on a ship, probably a tanker, headed for a

US port. The Mexican government discovered it and sent their Frigate to a rendevous point for

inspection. Mexican fighters, probably with the aid of Cuban aircraft, challenged the ship

ordering it to the inspection point and when it refused to comply, they either destroyed it setting

off the device or the ship’s crew simply detonated it rather than be caught.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      354


        “So you’re telling me we owe hundreds of thousands of US lives to the Mexican and

Cuban governments? That’s going to be a hard one to explain to the American people. Why

didn’t we know about this ourselves?”

        “I can’t answer that, Mr. President, but I received no reports of any suspect ships.”

        The two talked about their options and discussed the possibilities of what had occurred

until the others began arriving and by 8:00 everyone was assembled in the President’s office.

General Bradley repeated the facts as he knew them to the men assembled there and when he

was finished, Sam Poyner was the first to speak.

        “How is it even conceivable the Mexican government could find out about something

like this and we not even have a clue?”

        “Mr. President, 5 days ago we received a message from the Mexican counsel saying they

had information a Panamanian flagged ship, the Jóse de Fábrega, had behaved suspiciously.

They had information it was loaded with substantially less product than it was capable of

carrying, it left port in Venezuela drafting the same as if it had been fully loaded,” NSA Director

Ferris said.

        “We had our people look into the ship and found it had just gone through refit and

purchased by a Panamanian company and presumed it had a problem with one of it’s tanks

making it impossible to use for petroleum storage and filled the tank with seawater to ballast the

load,” Ferris explained.

        “Where did the ship originally come from?” Poyner asked.

        “It came to Venezuela after stopping at Cape Town, South Africa.”

        “And before that?” President Collins asked.

        “It loaded from Iran.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   355


       “And you didn’t think that to be worth looking into more closely?” Poyner said,

exasperated.

       “What’s done is done, we’ll have to deal with it now when we find out the facts,”

President Collins said, “General Bradley, has there been any change in the battle in Louisiana?”

       “No sir, not at this time. I am moving troops in from several locations and we intend to

make another push towards Lake Charles the first of next week, but we are having problems

getting the men to understand your orders, to take no unusual precautions as the Coalition forces

withdraw to populated areas, are lawful orders. Almost 80% will refuse to enter what were US

cities and towns on search and destroy missions.”

       “If I might be blunt, sir, I don’t blame them. Attacking US civilian centers with heavy

armor is not something any US Officer wants to do without a whole lof of reasons.”

       “How many God damn reasons do they need? The rebels withdraw to the towns and

need to be hunted down and eliminated,” Sam said.

       “No, sir, they don’t. They do withdraw THROUGH the towns, but almost none stay.

They make a fast withdrawal and then try to stop or slow us just as we exit the towns, pushing us

back into the areas forcing us to fight among the population,” General Bradley explained, “It’s a

very effective tactic.”

       “What are our casualties,” President Collins asked?

       “In the two northern pushes, we have 862 confirmed dead, but there are more than that.

Out of the 20,000 troops we sent in, over half made it back out, mostly the support personnel, but

we have at least 7,000 missing at the moment. We assume most were captured, but there were

more casualties than we’ve confirmed.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     356


       “In the southern attack, we have lost almost 100 tanks and 37 aircraft. The Coalition has

lost about 70 tanks and 18 known aircraft. Our casualties are 3,822 confirmed dead on our side,

unknown on the Coalition side, with nearly 6,000 unknown. Although I hate to say it, we

believe a large percentage of the unknown are probably desereters, and that will get worse.”

       The group argued for nearly an hour when Connie knocked on the door and said, “Mr.

President, I think you should turn on the television.”

       “Now what,” President Collins asked while turning on the TV.

       CNN had a talking head on saying they had been informed to be ready for a statement by

President Brown of the Coalition regarding the day’s events in the Gulf.

       “Christ, even CNN is calling her ‘President’ now,” Sam said.

       President Brown gave her announcement and answered the questions and when she left

the studio, President Collins turned off the set.

       “Well, could you all make the United States government look any more foolish than it

does right now?” Collins asked, “If so, I really can’t imagine how.”

       “Sir, there was no way we could have put this all together,” Ferris protested.

       “Really? The Mexican government didn’t have any difficulty. The Coalition didn’t have

any difficulty. In the space of five days they managed to gather the aid and cooperation of at

least 6 nations in the region, maybe even Venezuela, and we couldn’t put it together? If you

couldn’t put it together, Tom, then perhaps we need some new people connecting the dots.”

       “Good Christ, General, we had the Carl Vinson less than a day from where this happened

and didn’t know about it? It was close enough for an air strike without it even moving and we

did nothing?” Poyner asked, “you’d better tell us you had no information about this beforehand.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     357


       “Personally, no sir I did not, the first thing I knew about any of this was when it was

reported there had been an explosion. I have since found out the captain of the Carl Vinson did

receive messages from the Coalition stating they had information critical to the security of the

United States and needed to talk to the Captain. On Presidential orders, US military officers are

not allowed to respond to contact by forces from the seceded states, so the request was ignored.”

       “I understand that, General, but why didn’t they respond to the Mexican government?”

Poyner asked.

       “You’ll have to ask the State Department about that, Doctor, the military was never

contacted by the Mexicans as far as I know.”

       “You all realize this is going to make the Coalition look like heroes and us incompetent

fools, don’t you?” Sam Poyner said.

       “Sometimes looks aren’t all that deceiving then, are they Sam,” President Collins said.

       “General Bradley, continue your preparations. By the time you’re ready, we’re going to

be a week or less away from the elections and I’m going to leave any other operations to my

successor. Let him deal with it, not me. After this debacle in the Gulf, we’ll all be lucky to get

out of here with our skins intact.”

                               ******************************

       The aftermath of the thwarted nuclear attack on the United States dominated the news for

the next two weeks, the upcoming elections often being ignored by the world media. The

information provided by the Coalition and Mexican governments to other world governments did

make it back to the United States as well and the history of the Jóse de Fábrega was quickly

made public. Analysis of the blast determined the nuclear material originated from the former
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       358


Soviet Union. It couldn’t be traced to the Russians directly, but that was the most likely

possibility even though it was also possible it came from some black market arms dealer.

       The news of the US military being stopped less than 200 miles from the Coalition borders

and the loss of lives on both sides was devastating to the image of President Collins and those in

power in Washington.

       Virgil Romero had pulled out to a thirteen point lead over Senator Cassel in the latest

polls only one week before the elections. Romero repeatedly campaigned on the pledge of

bringing back the Constitutional Republic on which this nation was founded and promised every

decision, every rule, every executive order would be based on and supported with Constitutional

citation or it would not be signed or enacted. The Coalition already had just such a requirement

in their Constitution.

       He also contrasted with Cassel in the Senator repeatedly referred to the seceded states as

‘Rebel’s’ and ‘bordering on treasonous’ while Romero called them ‘Our brothers and sisters who

could no longer stand the tyranny of an unconstitutional leadership’. The sides were clearly

drawn on that issue, with Cassel taking a hard line and Romero one of reconciliation.

       With Shar’s permission, Aaron made it a point to invite each of the group to her estate to

watch the election returns. It seemed fitting with the fate of the coalition in the balance, they

watch the results there. Even with a commanding lead overall, the outcome was far from certain.

None of the seceded states were selecting electors as they were, at least in their own view, no

longer a part of the United States. President Collins toyed with the idea of making each of the

seceded states’ representatives electors, but it appeared he had pushed a very loose interpretation

of the constitution as far as he was willing to go.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       359


       The United States government, however, still considered the states a part of the US and

their electors would be considered in the total, meaning it would still take 270 electors to keep

the decision from going to the House of Representatives. This made the larger states of New

York, California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania even more important than usual.

Those states accounted for 177 of the electoral votes needed.

       Jerry York projected while Romero would carry almost 55% of the vote, the electoral

votes would be close. If the seceded states were able to vote, it would be a landslide, but they

weren’t voting and that made it close.

       On election night as the polls closed and results began coming in Aaron sat with a pad

and paper taking notes and tallying electors.

       The media was still strongly on the side of the Democratic party and the first state they

called was New York for Cassel. Since they had agreed to not call any states until the polls had

closed everywhere, they had several hours to check their figures. Cassel won Massachussetts,

New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. Cassel was about ¼ of the way to his required vote total.

       Maine gave three of it’s four electoral votes to Romero, New Hampshire, and Vermont

went for Romero, some of them quite close, as did Rhode Island and, surprisingly, Connecticut.

Romero now had 21 votes, but the results were moving south where Romero was much stronger.

       The rest of the Eastern Seaboard including Florida all went for Romero with Florida

going overwhelmingly for Romero. Apparently Floridians did not appreciate those saving as

many as 500,000 of their people from a nuclear holocaust being called ‘Rebels’. There would be

no need for a recount in Florida this election and the electoral total was now essentially a tie.

       Every state west of the Coalition except Washington went for Romero along with Iowa,

Wisconsin, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. California went for Romero handily and Jerry York had
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        360


told them without California for Romero, the election was lost, although it may still end up in the

House. With the three electoral votes from Maine, it gave Romero exactly the 270 required for

election.

       Romero had won with 53% of the popular vote cast and even though a couple of states

were close enough to cause court ordered recounts, at 1:25 am when the state of California was

projected to go to Romero, Cassel gave his concession speech saying there would be no court

challenges to the elections, it was well past time for the United States to begin healing it’s

wounds.

       In Romero’s victory speech, he thanked Senator Cassel for finishing the election with

class indicative of a true statesman and patriot of his nation. He called for a time of healing and

to stop waging war against one another, whether that be in the streets of the cities or across the

Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains. He promised a renewal of vows to the Constitution on

which the United States was established and pledged again to have all decisions based on the

Constitution and not what happened to be politically expedient.

       Virgil Romero was sworn in as the 47th President of the United States of America on

February 18th, 2013, which also happened to be the observation of President’s Day. His

inaugural address was one of healing and reconciliation for the country and a pledge to govern

with Constitutional authority and priciples rather than governance based on entitlement and a

near monarchy. He reminded everyone although elected as a Republican, he held dear his

Constitutional and Libertarian values and would always be true to them. He also reminded the

US about the recent attempted attack on it’s homeland and vowed to redouble the US efforts to

eliminate the threat of terror in the middle east region not just to the US, but to the rest of the

world as well.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      361


        The Coalition watched, and waited, but they didn’t have to wait long.

        In his first action as President, he fired every advisor in the White House from any

previous administration. He wanted to start over with a clean slate. He immediately ordered the

US military to withdraw their forces to the nearest base outside of Coalition territory from where

they were currently positioned and he ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group recalled to it’s

original homeport of Naval Station Norfolk.

        President Romero brought in Constitutional Law Professors teaching at Yale, Harvard,

and the University of Chicago as an advisory panel on Constitutional law and their first task was

to determine if the Constitution of the United States prohibited the secession of states from the

United States of America.

        President Romero sent a letter to President Brown saying he would rely on the findings of

his advisory panel to make his decision and it would be made in no more than 30 days. In the

meantime, the Independent Coalition of Central States was to be treated as the brothers and

sisters they were and he removed all restrictions on trade and travel to the Coalition areas.

        This was promising and President Brown announced she would immediately authorize

the resumption of food and fuel shipments to the eastern United States but entry into the

Coalition states would still be closely monitored and controlled. For the first time in over six

months, the American people were getting uncensored news and the troops in Iraq and

Afghanistan were able to have much more unrestricted communications with the folks back

home. Within two weeks gasoline prices had fallen by half and home heating fuels fell by 2/3 or

more.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      362


       Because of the damage to the interstate highway system, President Romero began a

program of major infrastructure repair awarding no-bid contracts to repair and rebuild the

bridges and highway systems in the United States.

       His cabinet was nominated in less than 2 weeks and he asked Angela Basgall to serve as

Secretary of State, but she declined saying she had previous obligations and responisbilities.

Congress, not knowing really what to do with this relative political unknown in the White House

and being virtually evenly split between Republican and Democrat, approved his cabinet

nominations in record time and unlike some previous administrations, the President’s Cabinet

was filled in three weeks.

       After 25 days of deliberation, the panel of Constitutional Law experts, citing the

Constitution itself, the Federalist Papers, and independent writings of the men that actually wrote

and signed the Constitution, agreed there is no prohibition against a state seceding from the

United States as long as it could be reasonably determined secession was done by the will of the

people. They concluded in the cases of the 14 states, they demonstrated that first by passing the

resolutions in a general election authorizing the states’ governors to seceded and then confirmed

that decision by ratifying the articles of secession. It was their opinion any state wishing to

secede and doing so with the full consent of it’s citizens, may secede.

       President Romero, true to his word, went on television that night and announced the

opinion of the panel the states’ secession was legal and had been done properly, but he urged

them to re-consider and ask to rejoin the United States.

       The following day, President Brown made an announcement the Governors of the 14

seceded states would meet in Denver, Colorado on Monday, March 18th, to determine the fate of

the Coalition. Nobody really knew what to expect at this meeting, and there had been no
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       363


discussions or negotiations, as of yet, regarding amnesty or what might occur if the states wanted

to return to the United States.

       The meeting was held at an undisclosed location, which was at the Hotel Teatro

conference rooms. President Brown called the meeting to order which included the Governors

and Lieutenant Governors as well as General Landers, Vice-President, and the five members of

the advisory group. Only the governors got to vote on any issues called to be voted upon.

       “Ladies and Gentlemen, this may be the single most important meeting affecting the

United States of America that’s ever been held and certainly the most important since the

formation of the Coalition.”

       “We have before us a choice. Do we wish to continue building this new nation, or do we

wish to rejoin the United States of America. This is the fundamental choice we have to make.

To begin, I would like to set down just a couple of ground rules. First, our fundamental belief is

each state is sovereign. That was one of the, if not the single most important issue which caused

us to secede. To run our group any differently would be the height of hypocrisy. Therefore, the

first rule is every state must decide for itself whether or not to rejoin the United States or remain

outside of that union.”

       “Second, once we’ve determined who will remain outside of the United States, we should

decide whether to remain in the Coalition as we have it now, or try to do something differently. I

don’t intend to influence anyone but I am obligated to tell you all if any state decides to return to

the United States at this point and leave the Coalition, I will tender my resignation as President

immediately after this meeting is concluded.”

       “Ladies and gentlemen, we got to this point by standing together as one nation, no state

more or less important than the other, and if we’re to continue in this form, it’s my belief that’s
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      364


how it must stay. I understand some may want to return to the United States, and I would never

do anything to prevent that, but I believe we are one, and if we are no longer one, someone else

would be better suited to lead this Coalition, even for just the next few months, than I.”

       “I am going to just open up the floor to discussion. Please remain orderly and civil, and

please allow your fellow governors to speak freely and without inhibition. Every point of view

is valid and should be heard. The decisions we make here at this meeting, however long it may

take, are going to affect our people for generations. Ladies and gentlemen, the floor is yours.”

       “Madam President,” the governor of New Mexico stood, “we are all aware President

Romero has reached out and invited us all to return to the United States, however what is the

status of those that worked so hard, many giving their lives and loved ones, in the struggles we

were in? Has he contacted you about amnesty for Generals Landers and Mays, for example, or

the commanding officers of the bases that helped us, or even for yourself and the Vice-

President?”

       “No, he has not,” Governor Brown said, “nothing has been talked about privately or

publicly regarding this issue. However let me address that. I commend you for your concern for

our military officers, I’m concerned as well, but I don’t feel we can give the lack of an offer of

amnesty much weight in our deliberations. We all knew we might face consequences if our

effort to form a Coalition failed and we did it anyway, now what must guide us is what is best for

the people that elected us to represent them.”

       “Madam President, I know I don’t have a say in this, but I would like to make a

comment, if you’ll allow it,” General Landers said.

       “Of course, General, if we didn’t want to hear from you we would not have invited you.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      365


       “Ladies and gentlemen,” General Landers said, “General Mays and the other officers

supporting us knew if we did not succeed in this, most likely our lives would be forfeit, yet we

did it anyway. We believe in this Coalition and the basic tenet that our Constitution should

control what our leaders can and cannot do. The United States moved away from that, in my

opinion, and frankly was the reason I resigned my commission, because I could no longer obey

orders while upholding my oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I

could obey orders, or I could uphold the Constitution, but I could no longer do both.”

       “From the first order President Brown gave me, she has been weighing that against

whether or not the Coalition Constitution will permit her to give that order. In my entire military

career, I have never seen such devotion to that principle. I am quite certain we will never see

that devotion in Washington D.C. ever again. I may be wrong, but sadly, I doubt it.”

       “Another item to remember is we’ve made promises to people, particularly those here

illegally, that if they served for 3 years they would be fast tracked in the system for Coalition

Ctizenship,” President Brown said, “I would not expect the United States Government to honor

that commitment.”

       “I believe the hardest work is just starting if we remain independent of the United States.”

the governor of Colorado said, “Although we in the Midwest definitely have a different mindset

than those on either coast, we still have a huge number of people with an entitlement lifestyle

and mentality. I do not see our Coalition remaining faithful to our Constitution and continuing

that enabling of citizens.”

       “I agree,” Vice-President Ortez said, “and again we must come back to what President

Brown was saying, is the best thing for our citizens to continue that mentality, either through us

or the United States government, or to end that now. I’m not saying we should just let people
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         366


starve or die, but without motivation, they will never attempt to help themselves. Yes, we are

going to have to come up with some type of ‘safety net’, but that doesn’t mean it has to be what

was previously done in the United States. If we stay independent, we have the freedom to try

something different and hopefully better.”

        “My constituents have two over-riding concerns that keep coming up,” the governor of

Kansas said, “and that may be because our average age is higher. What will happen with their

Social Security benefits and what can they expect to replace Medicare? This may sound trivial,

but I guarantee if we tell our citizens ‘oops, sorry, that’s just all gone’ and it were put to a vote,

every state here would be back in the United States faster than we can get home. This issue will

not go away and it is not inconsequential.”

        “I agree,” President Brown said, “it needs to be addressed. The first thing we need to do

is find out just who is entitled to what. In my view, Social Security is not an entitlement, it

always should have been a trust fund. We all know the idea of it being a trust fund has been so

perverted by the US Government it’s nothing similar to that any longer. What I would tell my

constituents, were I still governor, is we are going to honor those obligations. It may not be the

way they were done in the United States, but they will be honored. Hopefully, if we remain

independent, the US Government will share with us the data of those recipients receiving

payments having home addresses in the Coalition so we can make an analysis and determine

what benefits are owed, but there is no guarantee of that.”

        “Folks,” Marilyn said, “all of the things you’ve brought up are important, we recognize

that, but in the final analysis, these are management details that have to be taken care of should

you decide to remain independent. To me, there is only one factor to consider. Do we want to

return to the system we had before, so filled with corruption that only a few months ago we all
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       367


honestly believed was beyond saving? I still believe the US Government and the economy it has

created for itself will soon collapse, with us or without us, because in spite of President

Romero’s good intentions, he is not going to change the establishment. So do we forge out on

our own hopefully better path, or do we rejoin the United States and allow it’s collapse to take us

with it?”

       Aaron was impressed. They had all talked about this privately and Marilyn had remained

very quiet during these discussions. He thought it was because she didn’t understand the issues

or simply didn’t care. He was wrong, she didn’t say anything because she felt it so obvious it

was not worth debating, but it was definitely worth it to her to convince others of the certainty of

the coming US economic collapse.

       “Madam President,” the governor of Missouri asked, “has there been any discussion

about the military hardware or other former property of the United States government captured,

or siezed, or liberated, whatever you want to call it, by the Coalition? Are we going to have to

return everything?”

       “No, there has not been any discussion,” President Brown said, “but speaking for myself,

we will give nothing back. We might exchange some things. For instance, we have no ships. I

don’t have a problem if it can be negotiated to trade 3 or 4 B2’s for a destroyer and a battleship,

for instance, but speaking for myself, we give nothing back without a fair exchange. Now

having said that, the ladies and gentlemen that have aided us with time, money, and expertise

from the beginning are some of the shrewdest business negotiators in the world or they wouldn’t

be where they are right now, so I’m not concerned about getting a fair value in any exchange.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      368


       “General Landers, if you don’t mind I have a question for you,” the governor of Kansas

asked, “If we remain independent, will you continue to serve as the military commander of our

forces and do you have any idea if General Mays would be willing to continue to serve?”

       “I’ll only say this,” General Landers said, “I serve at the pleasure of the President. As

long as the President of the Coalition asks me to serve, I will serve her, or him. I can’t speak for

General Mays, but I know he feels a great deal of loyalty to the Coalition and what it could

become, beyond that, I won’t comment further.”

       “My friends, we left the United States of America for several reasons,” the governor of

Texas said, “almost none of those reasons are gone. Now I know Mr. Romero is a different

President. Maybe he’ll follow the Constitution to the letter, maybe he won’t. Unless he wants to

go back and undo a quarter of a century of improper actions, the United States will not be a

Constitutional Republic again.”

       “No, you folks can do what you will, but the state of Texas will remain an independent

state apart from the United States. Many Texans have been demanding we secede for years and

they were thought kooks or worse. Well, the kooks were right.”

       “There are just under 200 ‘recognized’ nations in the world,” the Governor of Colorado

said, “how many have so far recognized the Coalition, Madam President?”

       “When President Romero ordered the troops back, there were many nations that came

around. We are now recognized by 133 nations by formal declaration from their governments,”

President Brown answered, “I’m curious, though, as to why you ask?”

       “If we are to survive as a nation we are going to have to have the legitimacy of

recognition by other nations to trade and be a viable state,” the Colorado governor responded,
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                          369


“Look at the Palestinians. On the one hand they claim to be a nation, but without recognition

and trade ability, they’re nothing more than a gang.”

           “Madam President, I’d like to say something,” Aaron said.

           “Mr. Shear, of course, you have our attention,” President Brown answered.

           “Almost a year ago a good friend came to me and asked me to be a part of a group. He

asked me to join not with a promise of wealth, or power, but because the United States of

America had lost it’s way. It lost that direction a long time ago, I think we all recognize that,

through several administrations of both parties, through several different elections of Congress,

and rather than realize it was going down the wrong path, it continued straying further and

further from the Constitution that states plainly the most important beliefs are first the rights of

the individual are paramount and second following those individual rights the individual state

rights.”

           “The Constitution gave the federal government very certain and specific powers and said

all other powers are reserved to the people and the states. At some point, it changed. The

Constitution itself didn’t change, but the judges that have been appointed and the politicians

themselves decided they changed.”

           “This group is the first since the Civil War that has stood up to the federalists and said

‘We have had enough’. I’m proud to have been a part of that but in my heart, I believe if we

rejoin the union, nothing will have changed in the United States.”

           “We sit here debating as to what is the right thing to do. The right thing, my friends, is to

follow the Constitution. Both Consitutions, the United States Constitution and our own

Coalition Constitution demand we retain our sovereignty. Now I probably know President

Romero as well as anyone in this room. I believe him to be a man of honor and a strict
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        370


Constitutionalist. He’s a good man. I don’t think that’s enough, though. To get the United

States returned to a Constitutional Republic is going to require a fundamental change in the

citizens attitudes about what the role of the federal government really is, and to put it bluntly, I

don’t think anything has changed from when Mark Daniels first came to visit me in Alva,

Oklahoma nearly a year ago. I still see the majority of the people in the east waiting for the

government to give them their fuel oil, give them their food, give, give, give, give.”

       “The people in the coalition states as a group, I think, are different. Maybe they’re just

not quite as far down the path, maybe it’s just my bias, but it’s been almost 6 months since the

last social security check was paid in the Coalition, we’ve seen no riots. It’s been nearly 6

months since the last federal welfare check was received and we’ve seen no riots. True, we are

going to have to address these issues, but we have the opportunity to stop this mentality and stop

the usurping of power and responsibility from the people and the states. I believe if we rejoin the

Union, we will not have that opportunity.”

       “Beyond that, everything I see, everything I read, everything I’ve learned tells me the

United States Government is doomed to economic collapse. It is going to see a depression that

will make the economic issues of the 1930’s pale in comparison. Even if we stay as a separate

nation, we’re going to feel it as well, but I believe the best thing for our citizens is to remain

independent. Mark Daniels believed that, and they murdered him for it. Tony over here

believed that and they nearly killed him as well. They killed my neighbor and his 19 year old

son just to show they could and send Mark a message, and nearly killed my wife. We have many

thousands of aliens that have risked and many lost their lives in this struggle we will be forced to

turn our backs on if we rejoin the Union.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        371


       “No, ladies and gentlemen, if we are truly only interested in what is best for the people of

the Coalition, honoring the sacrifices of those that died and were injured in this struggle, and

most importantly, restoring liberty to the people of the Coalition guaranteed by a Constitutional

Republic, then there is no choice to make, we must remain independent.”

       “I have no vote here, I represent no one but myself, but I urge you to remember.

Remember the sacrifice and more importantly, for God’s sake, remember history as recently as

one year ago. Don’t put us in a position where we might have to do this all again in 20 years or

less. I’ve said my piece now, and I hope you’ll listen, but the decision is yours. Please choose

wisely.”

       “Like Mr. Shear, I’m just some dumb dirt farmer from the midwest,” Marilyn Conyers

said, “but I saw the situation in the United States unfolding in 2002. I had hopes after the attacks

of September 11, 2001, the United States of America would find itself and it did, for a while. In

less than a year, it fell back into the same routine as before the attacks, following a ‘path’, as

Aaron so aptly put it, bent on the same self destruction we all saw with the former Soviet Union

and is coming for the nations of Europe. China’s problems are just beginning. They are trying

to bring over 1 billion people out of state slavery into some type of middle class and they are not

going to be able to support that.”

       “I fear we are going to see one of two things from the major world powers in the coming

years. Either a totalitarianism the likes of which the world has never seen, or anarchy. Neither

will be in the best interests of our citizens. We have the opportunity to remove ourselves from

this disaster and correct the errors simply by following the basic principles of a document written

over 200 years ago, the Constitution of the United States. We need to do this, ladies and

gentlemen, because we may be the last nation on earth that has a chance to do it.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                         372


        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” President Brown said, “it’s after noon and I suggest we take a

break. I have ordered a buffet luncheon where we might take a break and relax, then I suggest

you all take some time to consider what’s been discussed here so far. I would like to re-convene

this meeting at 3:00 pm for further discussions, unless there are objections.”

        “Madam President, when are we scheduled to vote on this matter?” the governor of

Missouri asked.

        “When we’re ready,” President Brown answered, “I have no set schedule for this meeting

to conclude however it will not conclude until we have a resolution and can provide President

Romero with an answer. He has dealt honorably and openly with us and we should show him

the same courtesy and respect. Now, if there’s nothing else, we’ll meet back here at 3:00.”

        The governors and their lieutenants left the room leaving the group alone.

        “I fear we have some governors tired of the struggle,” Marilyn said.

        “We are all tired of it, Marilyn,” President Brown said, “but with freedom comes two

things, responsibility and trust. We have to trust the governors will do whatever is most

responsible for their citizens. They were elected to do just that and we have to give them the

freedom to decide on their own.”

        “I agree,” Aaron said, “and I will say no more to the governors unless asked a direct

question, but I will tell all of you now if they vote to rejoin the United States, I will investigate

the possibilities of leaving permanently. I agree with Marilyn, a storm is coming and I’ve done

all I can, sacrificed all I can, to minimize the storm for our people, if they choose to ignore that,

and they have every right to do so, and I have every right to not stay and watch it happen.”

        “That’s a little drastic, isn’t it Aaron,” Bill asked?
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     373


       Aaron laughed and said, “As opposed to helping 1/5 of the United States secede? No, I

don’t think so.”

       At 3:00 President Brown called the meeting to order.

       “Both myself, Vice-President Ortez and the rest of the group intentionally stayed out of

your lunch so you could all talk freely among yourselves without feeling as though we’re

directing or leading you in one direction or the other. This is a decision all of you have to make

for your states on your own, and with the advice you seek from others. Now I’d like to open the

meeting for more free discussion, I thought what we were doing this morning was useful and

helpful, and I’d like to keep going with that, if we could.”

       “Madam President,” the governor from South Dakota said, “there are simply so many

things we don’t know it’s hard to make an informed decision.”

       “If you could, would you give me an example,” President Brown said.

       “For one, what is the status of the military bases in the various states? Ellsworth, for us

here in South Dakota, Whiteman, which has been bombed heavily and abandoned in Missouri for

another,” the governor said.

       “You all have to realize what was strategically important to the United States may or may

not be to the coalition, and some changes are inevitable,” President Brown answered, “however,

in the case of Ellsworth, it is uniquely suited to housing the B-1 fleet. Whiteman is in a similar

situation to take care of the B-2’s. We may as well get this out there right now as well. There is

an excellent chance Schriever and Offutt will be jointly manned by Coalition and US troops.

They are critical to both of our missile defense and intelligence gathering, but both are located

within our borders. It just makes sense we both share the facilities. There may be more in that

situation, but I doubt there will be many more.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      374


       “If we continue our split, do you anticipate a very close relationship with the United

States?” the governor of Montana asked.

       “Yes I do,” President Brown answered, “President Romero will be there for four years

and he realizes the condition the US and World economies are in, we have a lot of work to do to

rebuild facilities and roads and it just makes sense to cooperate in getting that complete.”

       “You’re putting an awful lot of faith in President Romero, it seems to me,” the governor

of Oklahoma said.

       “I am.” President Brown agreed, “remember, he is not an unknown entity to us, we

supported him and it’s safe to say without us he would never have gotten elected. Even so, he

has kept his word. He promised he would follow the US Constitution in dealing with those of us

that seceded and he did. This was not an easy thing for him to do, he could have just as readily

sent the armor in and retaken the Coalition states.”

       “Madam President,” the governor of Colorado raised his hand, “I don’t know about the

other governors here, but I really would like the opportunity to consult with some of my people.

In my case, I can just go over to my office, but others may require conference calls or video

links. I’m pretty sure the way Colorado will vote, but I’d still like to talk to my staff. I would

suggest we adjourn for today, take the rest of the afternoon and evening to consult with our

various advisors, and meet tomorrow morning to make decisions.”

       “That is not unreasonable, Governor,” President Brown replied, “but before we adjourn,

is there anything else anyone would like to discuss before talking to the folks back home?”

       Nobody said anything so President Brown said, “It appears there are no more question for

the time being, so we are adjouned until tomorrow morning at 10:00 am. I do thank all of you

for your attention and careful consideration, until tomorrow morning then.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     375


       After the govenors had left the room Aaron said, “Madam President, I have arranged to

have a dinner served for the five of us, along with Mr. Adams, in the Chancellor’s Suite. We

would consider it an honor for you and Vice-President Ortez to join us.”

       “A wake, Mr. Shear?” President Brown asked, with a slight smile on her face.

       “Perhaps, ma’am, perhaps a celebration of what we’ve accomplished, or perhaps a

keynote for what lies ahead, regardless, we would be honored if you would join us.”

       President Brown looked at Vice-President Ortez, who nodded slightly, “Mr. Shear, it

would be our honor, when would you like us to arrive?”

       “7:00 pm, ma’am, consider it either your first, or last state dinner, depending on if you

view the glass as half empty or half full.” Aaron said smiling.

       “We look forward to it,” she said, and left the room.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       376




                                                Chapter 18

       Aaron and Nichole left their suite to go to the dinner. Aaron was wearing a tuxedo, only

the third time he’d done so in his life and the first one he’d ever owned, and Nichole was

wearing a long, black evening gown. Aaron didn’t think she had ever looked more beautiful.

       Aaron had no idea what the clothes or the stylists cost, only that the day before he had

called the concierge and told them of their requirements and within 30 minutes someone had

been there to measure both him and Nichole. At lunch a tailor had been waiting in his room for a

fitting and when he arrived back after the meeting everything was ready. It was truly amazing

what money could do.

       Aaron was surprised Denver was the home of several fashion designers and the concierge

recommended to Nichole a custom couture who could work quickly without sacrificing quality.

Nichole did have to go to her atelier but between fittings, the designer secured her an

appointment with some of the most exclusive stylists in Denver for her hair and nails, and they

came to the studio to perform their artistry.

       As they walked into the room, Bill and Ella immediately came over to them and Ella said,

“Wow, Nichole, you look gorgeous!”

       Ella looked stunning herself, but she was accustomed to being seen in designer clothes,

Nichole was much more likely to be wearing something from JC Penney’s.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        377


       “It may be the only state dinner we ever get to attend, even if I am throwing it,” Aaron

said, “and I decided we’d dress for the occasion. If you wouldn’t mind keeping Nichole

company for a few minutes, I need to have a word with Tony.”

       Aaron walked over to Tony and spoke to him for a moment, then left the room. When he

came back, he had Martha on his arm. Tony was surprised, Aaron had sent Rollie back to KC

with the Gulfstream just to bring Martha back to Denver. If this was to be their last dinner as a

part of the Coalition, or the beginning of something most would have thought impossible, Aaron

felt Tony and Martha should be together for it.

       Aaron brought Martha over to Nichole and Ella and said, “I’m sure you ladies are more

than capable of mingling and amusing yourselves, so mingle away.”

       Aaron saw Tony nod towards him and walked over. Tony informed Aaron their guests

had begun arriving. The suite could comfortably seat 40 at a formal dinner, but with the group

including General Landers and his wife, and their guests, the President and Vice-President and

their spouses, and the few others, only amounted to less than 20.

       “Ladies and Gentlemen, if you’d take your seats please, I’d like to get this started. It’s

been a long day and we’re going to all need our rest for tomorrow,” Aaron announced, “if you

check, you’ll find there are placeholders on the tables, I’d appreciate it if you all find your seats.”

       Everyone found their seats, and Nichole at the second table with Martha seated beside her

and an empty chairs waiting for Tony, Aaron, and General Landers at the table who were still

standing by the door.

       “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony said loudly, “may I present the President of Mexico, Luis

Castillo, and Mrs. Castillo.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                  378


        President Castillo walked into the room, nodded to Tony, and Aaron showed them to

their seats at the head table.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony said again, “may I present the Prime Minister of Jamaica,

Dr. Allan Ross Tarrant and Mrs. Tarrant.”

        Prime Minister and Mrs. Tarrant came into the room and met General Landers, who again

showed them to their seats.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony said, “may I present the President of Argentina, Corinna

Maria Rosa and Mr. Rosa.”

        Again, Aaron seated them at the head table.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony said, “May I present the President of Brazil, Fernando

Luiz Azevedo and Mrs. Azevedo.”

        Once more, General Landers seated them.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony announced again, “May I present Minister Senor Jorge

Maldonado, Minister of Industry and Minining for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and

Mrs. Maldonado.”

        Aaron shook the hand of Mr. Maldonado and seated them at the table.

        “Ladies and Gentlemen,” Tony announced, “May I present Ms. Sharlene Davidson-

Daniels.”

        Aaron met Shar at the door, hugged her, and took her to her seat beside Nichole. Aaron

hadn’t told anyone he was bringing Shar and she came on the plane with Martha. Nichole was

delighted to see her.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      379


        “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the Independent Coalition of Central States,

Marjorie Galashaw-Brown and Mr. Brown, and the Vice-President of the Independent Coalition

of Central States, Mr. Jay Ortez and Mrs. Ortez,” Tony made the final introduction.

       Aaron walked over and held his arm for President Brown who took it, appearing rather

embarrassed, and walked her to her place at the table. General Landers extended his arm to Mrs.

Ortez, and followed.

       As they walked to the table, President Brown leaned over to Aaron and said, “You could

have warned me, Mr. Shear.”

       “Didn’t I tell you it was a state dinner? Isn’t it normal to expect foreign dignitaries and

leaders at state dinners?” Aaron said smiling.

       “Yes, it is, but you know very well what I mean,” President Brown said, her voice

slightly cross but Aaron noticed a slight smile also.

       As he and Tony seated them, Aaron said, “Before anyone has indigestion before they eat,

I promise I will not give a speech. In fact, there are no speeches at all scheduled or prepared for

the evening. I just felt it appropriate to have those nations that stood by us in our time of need to

be here and share an evening and a meal with us.”

       “You all might notice there is an empty chair at the table. That place is reserved for the

President of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. He was unable to attend but sends his

regards and best wishes to the Coalition and President Brown. Although I realize many of us

here may not agree with President Chávez politics, the nation of Venezuela also stood beside us

during our recent trials and we owe them our respect and thanks for their support.”

       “With that, I am going to sit down and enjoy our dinner along with the rest of you.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       380


       There was a round of applause as Aaron sat down and the servers began bringing dinner

which was centered around Roast Black Angus NY Sirloin and Smoked Brisket with Pancetta

Potato Purée, Caramelized Onion Marmalade, Asparagus, Tomato Demi Glace from one of the

finest restaurants in Denver, Restaurant Kevin Taylor. The meal took nearly 2 hours from the

time the first appetizer was served until the dishes were cleared following dessert.

       When the dishes were cleared, President Brown stood up and said, “I wasn’t planning on

giving any speeches tonight, but I feel like I need to say a few things. First of all, thank you to

Mr. Aaron Shear and his wife Nichole. The dinner was both delicious and a wonderful way for

us to spend our time together this evening. Thank You.”

       There was a very large round of applause.

       “Second, I was not aware we were going to have our distinguished guests with us tonight,

but believe me when I say it is an honor and privilege to have you all here, ladies and gentlemen,

the Coalition owes you a huge debt of gratitude, particularly to President Castillo, who literally

within minutes of our Coalition being founded, pledged his support and recognized us as a new

nation. I would like to propose a toast to President Castillo, and also Presidents Azevedo and

Rosa, and Prime Minister Tarrant. Without all of your help, we most likely would not be sitting

here tonight and more than that, there would probably be over one half million United States

citizens dead or dying in Florida at this very moment. Thank all of you; we owe you our

gratitude.”

       Everyone in the room raised their glasses and President Brown said, “To our steadfast

friends, may we one day be able to repay you.”

       When they had finished the toast, President Brown said, “One last thing I’d like to say.

General Landers, you and your officers and service people have served admirably, suffering
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     381


losses of friends and comrades in this struggle. The Coalition can only offer you their thanks and

gratitude and I would like to propose a toast to those that fell in this struggle. The men and

women in the service of our armed forces, and those that perished or were injured that served

without wearing the uniform, to absent friends.”

       President Brown raised her glass and everyone repeated, “To absent friends.”

       “With that,” President Brown said, “I’m going to sit down and shut up. Enjoy the rest of

the evening.”

       Everyone retired to their rooms by 11:00 pm, preparing for the day ahead.

       When they were in bed, Nichole asked Aaron, “Am I going to have to do that often?”

       “Was it that bad?”

       “No, not really, but I wasn’t very comfortable in the situation. I’m glad Martha and Shar

were there.”

       “I considered not bringing her, I was afraid it would be very hard on her with Mark gone.

Do you think I was wrong?”

       “No, I think she earned the right to be here.”

       “So do I, and that’s the biggest reason I decided to have her here. She’s earned it over

several years,” Aaron said.

       “Is the Coalition going to make it, Aaron? I would hate to think it was all for nothing.”

       “I honestly don’t know, but we’ll know tomorrow by noon, I think. All we can do now is

trust in the governors’ judgment and hope for the best,” Aaron answered.

       After an uneasy night, Aaron woke up early and got ready for the morning. He and

Nichole had breakfast in their suite and although he didn’t order coffee, she called down and
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    382


asked to have a pot sent up. Tony arrived at the room an hour before the meeting and Aaron

poured him a cup of coffee.

       “Who’s watching the President?” Aaron asked.

       “I have Ed permanently assigned to her, and the people we had with her at the bunker,

she’s in good hands. I brought Jake in yesterday to organize security for our guests, and I’m

comfortable with them and their own security people, but next time you bring in heads of state,

would you mind cluing me in first, sir?” Tony answered.

       “I was afraid you wouldn’t care much for that, but I was assured they have their own

people and they gave me their requirements,” Aaron said.

       “So, what’s your opinion on the chances of the governors staying in the Coalition, sir?”

Tony asked.

       “Your guess is as good as mine, Tony, I’d say 50/50, but I have one more ace to play, just

make sure the dignitaries are ready to come in at 10:00 for about 15 minutes,” Aaron said.

       “I got your message, I didn’t understand it, but I’ll make sure they’re ready,” Tony said.

       Aaron looked at his watch and it showed 9:55 and he said, “Well, we better both get

going, we don’t want to be late.”

       When all the governors were assembled President Brown said, “I’d like to call this

meeting to order and start by asking if anyone has anything to add to our considerations?”

       “Madam President,” Aaron said, “I do have someone that would like to say something, if

the governors would hear him, President Luis Castillo of Mexico would like to say a few words

to the governors.”

       “Do any of you have any objections?” President Brown asked.

       No one spoke.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    383


        “Please, Mr. Shear, ask the President to come in,” she instructed.

        Aaron went to the door and President Castillo, along with the other heads of state and

ministers, filed into the room. While the others stood behind President Castillo, he approached

the podium.

        “My friends, I commend each of you,” he began, “I commend you on your courage in

doing what you felt needed to be done. For decades the United States has been a beacon of hope

and freedom to the rest of the world, even when we disagreed politically. Nowhere else in the

World have people so universally strived to emulate or immigrate to. That alone should have

been a sign to the United States.”

        “Yet, somehow it lost its way. You were all brave enough to stand up and tell them their

way was lost and instead of recognizing what you were saying, they attempted to wage war to

pull you back in. Like all freedom loving people before, you resisted. You fought the battles

and did not waver. You are to be commended.”

        “Now there is a new leader in Washington who offers to try to put the country on a

different path. I stand before you now to say while I believe President Romero to be a good and

honest man, he will not succeed. While he might alter the path for a while, he will not change it

permanently. We all know this from our own bitter experiences. Short of a full revolution in

Washington, nothing has changed or will change. With your independence, you have a chance to

right what went wrong in your Coalition. Help your brothers and sisters, certainly, as we shall,

but do not follow them down that dark and lonely path. Remain independent, remain free, and

remain strong. You may be the only hope, as an independent state, for the United States to

survive at all.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     384


       “Consider what I’ve said, I beg you, and stay true and steadfast to your beliefs. I thank

you for giving me this opportunity to be heard, and I pray you will make your considerations in

the best interests of your people. You’ll likely never get another chance. Thank you.”

       The group behind him began to applaud, and Aaron found himself applauding as well.

Tony showed the group outside and thanked them again for their help.

       When they had left, President Brown said, “While I appreciate the sincerity of President

Castillo’s remarks, this is still your decision so consider them with whatever weight you feel

appropriate to give them. Now, is there anything else anyone would like to say?”

       Nobody spoke.

       “Very well, what I’d like to do is to call each governor in alphabetical order and have

them first answer a simple question, ‘Will your state rejoin the United States of America?’.

Simply answer yes, or no. No explanation or comment is needed, just Yes if you wish to rejoin

the United States, no if you wish to remain an independent state, is everyone clear?”

       “Arizona?”

       “Arizona says no, we will remain independent.”

       “Arkansas?”

       “Arkansas will remain independent”

       “Colorado?”

       “Colorado says no.”

       “Kansas?”

       “Kansas will remain independent, no”

       “Louisiana?”

       “Louisiana says no.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                   385


        “Missouri?”

        “Missouri says no.”

        “Montana?”

        “Montana chooses to remain free and says no.”

        “Nebraska?”

        “Nebraska shall remain independent and says no.”

        “New Mexico?”

        “New Mexico says no.”

        “North Dakota?”

        “North Dakota says no.”

        “Oklahoma?”

        “Oklahoma says no.”

        “South Dakota?”

        “South Dakota says no, we will remain free.”

        “Texas?”

        “Texas says Hell No; we should have done this a long time ago.”

        “Wyoming?”

        “While our answer lacks the flair of the governor from Texas, we also vote no.”

        “Ladies and Gentlemen, it appears we remain unified in our decision,” President Brown

said.

        Aaron heaved a sigh of relief. He honestly thought to that point at least one or two would

return to the United States.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      386


       “We have two more questions to consider,” President Brown said, “I’d like to put the

question to you this way. If there is any state wishing to leave the coalition, I’d ask you to please

make those wishes known now.”

       Nobody answered.

       President Brown said, “There is one final question I must have answered. Does anyone

wish to challenge the current leadership of the coalition? If even one among you wishes to

challenge, I will step down and you all may choose new leadership until the elections next fall, in

accordance with our Constitution. Please, I had no aspirations or desire for this job, but I will

continue if that is the unanimous wish of all of you, and under no other circumstances will I

continue.”

       “Madam President,” the governor of Texas stood up, “I had reservations about you when

you were elected, but let me be the first to say I don’t believe anyone else in the Coalition could

have led us more capably or honorably throughout this ordeal. I believe you are the best person

to hold the office of President and you have my support unconditionally.”

       With that, all of the governors began applauding, until President Brown raised her hand

and said, “Thank you, I truly appreciate your support and I pledge to continue to represent you to

the best of my abilities. I will draft a letter of response to President Romero and I think each of

us should sign it before we leave.”

       “Now, if we have nothing further to discuss,” she said, “we all have a lot of work to do

and not much time to do it, this meeting is adjourned.”
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    387




                                            Epilogue

       The decision of the states to remain independent and joined by the Coalition did not play

well in the eastern papers. President Brown appointed just four ambassadors, leaving the rest for

whoever would come after her.

       She appointed Angela Basgall as Ambassador to the United States of America, and she

was received by President Romero and opened the first Coalition embassy in Washington D.C.

There were suits filed in the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear them citing prior case

law that once an emissary of a foreign nation was received by the President, acting as the chief

diplomat of the United States, and an embassy permitted, that nation was recognized as a

legitimate nation.

       The Coalition was also invited to apply for membership to the United Nations, which it

respectfully declined at that time.

       The Lieutenant Governor of Arizona was appointed the Coalition ambassador to Mexico.

       The former governor of Iowa accepted appointment as ambassador to Canada and was

received in Ottawa by the Prime Minister.

       The other original members of the group were all offered positions in the President’s

cabinet, but all declined saying they had promised to not serve in the government if one were

established out of the secessions. Aaron didn’t think he would make a very good politician
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       388


anyway. Angela argued the same reason to not accept as ambassador, but President Brown

convinced her she was the best person for the job and she received the overwhelming support of

the rest of the group.

       The war still raged in the Middle East and the Coalition offered 20,000 troops and

materials to aid the war in Iran and allowed them to be placed under UK command under NATO,

providing NATO kept an equal number of troops in place at any given time. This helped free up

the US military to finish business in Afghanistan and while that appeared to be a long way off, it

did appear progress was being made.

       Six months after President Romero took office, the unemployment rate showed its first

decline in nearly 5 years. Although a large number of the jobs were government funded

reconstruction projects, at least it had people working. The long term issues of the massive US

debt were still to come, Aaron and the others still believed within five to ten years it would

collapse the US economy, but for now the citizens of the United States had some hope.

       Angela worked many days with President Romero’s staff negotiating the return and

exchange of some military assets captured by the Coalition. The Coalition really didn’t require

the 14 B-2 bombers and kept 4 of them, returning the other ten. Likewise, they captured 52 B-

1B Lancer bombers and 9 B-52’s. All of the B-52’s were returned as well as 40 B-1’s, the

Coalition keeping 12. The US Government didn’t want the Coalition retaining any nuclear

weapons and that was a very sticky subject because they had captured over half of what was in

the US arsenal, a fact neither side ever released to the public. As far as the rest of the world

knew, the US had always retained control of its nuclear weapons. Eventually the Coalition

agreed to allow the return of all nuclear weapons to the United States Government, something in

dispute by many of the representatives who were acting as the President’s advisory and oversight
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                      389


council until the Constitutional Senate and House could be elected and convened. They were

convinced they should be returned and if the Coalition ever determined they were in need of a

nuclear arsenal, they had the materials and expertise to become one.

       All of the fighter aircraft and rotary wing aircraft were retained by the Coalition.

Likewise, the Coalition returned none of the captured armor or ground assets. For returning the

air power and nuclear weapons, the Coalition received a Navy. Not a huge Navy, but certainly

the second most formidable Navy in the western hemisphere. They received the following ships:

       Two Los Angeles class submarines

       One San Antonio class amphibious landing dock

       Three Cyclone class patrol boats

       Five Ticonderoga class missile cruisers

       Three Arleigh Burke class destroyers

       The Coalition decided against asking for any of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers because

of the enormous maintenance costs and crew requirements they entailed. Nearly all of the ships

they accepted had been originally been built in Louisiana. The United States government got an

extremely generous exchange considering the fourteen ships were valued at $22 Billion and the

aircraft returned were valued at $77 Billion. The value of the nuclear weapons was never really

considered since they were considered to be of nearly unlimited value to the United States. The

aircraft and helicopters, as well as armor both light and heavy, was much less than 20% the

Coalition felt was their fair share and all were retained by the Coalition.

       Mutual defense agreements were negotiated by the parties particularly in defense of

North America in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                    390


       The tax structure was so far working surprisingly well in the Coalition and they were able

to make their payments on the bonds purchased by the foreign governments when the Coalition

was first formed. The Coalition also agreed to make payment on the first 10% of the existing US

bonds that came due over the next several years. Both the US government and the Coalition

hoped this would give the US some breathing room and work to reduce it’s debt load, but would

only happen if the US Congress could limit it’s expenditures in the future, something Aaron and

the rest of the Coalition government was not convinced could ever happen.

       Ground had been broken on the new government facilities in Colorado with the first

buildings being the new legislative house and the Presidential and Vice-Presidential residences

along with road construction to give a direct route the 45 miles to Denver International Airport.

Planning was well underway for the new national office buildings and overall design of the new

city as well as a high speed rail connection to both Denver and DIA. A smaller airport within 10

minutes of the new city was also planned. Most of the construction was projected to be done

within 5 years and it was hoped whoever was elected President in the fall could be the first

Coalition President to spend at least part of his term in the new residence.

       In April of 2013, Aaron and Nichole were back at their farm, having been flown back by

Tony in the company’s Citation. Aaron was meeting with an auctioneer, finalizing plans on

what he would and would not sell at auction in May. He had decided to sell nearly all of his

farm equipment, giving some of it to Kyle. He had received a Presidential Order exempting

Kyle from any taxes on the transfer of equipment for one year in recognition and gratitude of the

loss of his family during the Coalition’s struggle. He had rented his farm ground to Kyle, who

was engaged to a local girl and planning to marry that fall. Kyle had asked Aaron and Nichole to

act as his family, and they were honored to do so.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     391


       Frank and Carrie had decided to get married themselves and stay on the farm Mark had

purchased for them to live in while they were security for Aaron and Nichole. As a wedding gift,

Aaron signed the property over to them. It seemed Frank enjoyed farming and was going to

work with Kyle, at least for some time, while Carrie seemed happy with the life of a farm wife.

       Shar was doing well on the estate, she and Nichole spent days together and although they

didn’t make the cruise they had planned, they were determined to see it through the following

fall. Tony, Aaron discovered, was a rotary wing flight instructor, and he was teaching Aaron to

fly Mark’s Hughes 500 at the estate. Aaron wanted to move the helicopter so their lessons

wouldn’t bother Shar, but she insisted they keep it there and it could stay as long as Aaron liked.

It gave her the opportunity to see Aaron and Tony regularly and sometimes she would ride along.

Aaron told Tony if she ever expressed the interest, to teach her to fly it as well.

       Aaron stood in the yard, amazed at all that had happened in a year. He and Nichole were

going to keep the farmstead and house, their place to run away when they needed to. Tony

wasn’t very happy with that idea, but Aaron convinced him as long as Frank and Carrie were

living across the road their security was more than adequate. After all, if it was good enough for

them during the tumultuous times, it should be more than adequate now, Aaron reasoned.

       Aaron and Nichole were building a new home over the missile site that had been the

home of the President during those long months. They intended to leave the site itself and its

furnishings just as President Brown left them for historical value. Who knows, maybe in 200

years people would want to look at it just as they now viewed Monticello or Mount Vernon?

       Sam Poyner found himself ‘Persona Non Grata’ in the inner circles of Washington but

that didn’t stop him from trying to pad his already sizable Cayman Island bank accounts by

dealing in information he had accumulated over the last several years.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                       392


       “Dr. Poyner?” a man asked as he walked into one of Washington’s most exclusive

restaurants.

       “Yes, you must be Mr. Tyrell,” Poyner answered, “Please, sit down.”

       Tyrell was supposedly an Italian arms and information broker who had contacts in

eastern and Western Europe as well as Russia.

       The two men had dinner in a private booth, talking about what information Poyner would

be willing to sell and negotiating a price. In this instance, it was the names of most of the CIA

agents stationed in Western Europe and he was asking $2 million. As dinner continued, Tyrell

negotiated him down to $1 million Euros, with the resurgence of the dollar equating now to

about $1.6 million US.

       The agreed to make the exchange in Poyner’s limousine after dinner and Sam was

silently congratulating himself on another feather to put in his nest as they left the restaurant.

Tyrell had called someone and a woman met him outside the door, handing him a briefcase.

Tyrell told the woman to follow them to East Potomac Park just off the Jefferson Memorial; they

would take Poyner’s car there.

       On the trip over, Poyner made sure to tell Tyrell he had much more information, some

even more sensitive, available if he was ever in the market. They made the exchange and when

they arrived at the Jefferson Memorial, Tyrell asked if Mr. Poyner would like to get out and

discuss what else he had to offer. They walked over to one of the many benches; the park nearly

deserted at that hour of the night, and sat down.

       “What else do you have I might be interested in?” Tyrell asked.

       “What are you looking for?” Poyner responded.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                     393


       “What I’d really like to know is who ordered Aaron Shear and his friends killed, as well

as the person ordering the murder of Mark Daniels.” Tyrell said.

       Although it was dark, Tony, playing the part of the Italian information dealer, could see

Poyners face go ashen. He reached for his jacket pocket and Tony grabbed his wrist with a grip

that could have broken bones had he squeezed any harder. Tony reached into Poyner’s pocket

and removed a small .38 automatic, tossing it into the tidal basin just behind them.

       “That won’t help you, Dr. Poyner,” Tony said.

       Poyner started to shout for his driver, also his bodyguard, when Annie came around the

back of the car. The driver got out and Annie fired twice, hitting him once in the chest and once

in the head with a silenced handgun. The driver slumped to the side of the car and Annie placed

him back in the front seat, shutting the door.

       “He won’t help you either, I’m afraid,” Tony said, “Sam, it seems the time has come to

pay your bill. You’ve caused so much suffering and so much pain although I’d like to cause you

just as much; I really don’t want to be around you that long.”

       “You’re making a big mistake, I have information on so many people, if I die or turn up

missing it will all go to the media, you’ll be responsible for destroying more lives than you can

even count.”

       “I don’t care.” Tony said flatly, “You see, for a threat to work, the person you’re

threatening has to have something of value you might take away from them, their family, their

friends, their reputation, something. You have nothing I value.”

       “I can make you a rich man,” Poyner said, begging.

       “I’m rich enough,” Tony answered, holding the gun to the back of Poyner’s head.

       “Please don’t do this,” Poyner begged.
One Country, Indivisible – Stricker                                                        394


       “Sorry, Sam,” Tony said, “when I watched Mark Daniels die, when I saw Adam and

Kevin Ritchie’s bodies and Adam’s remaining son weeping as he held his dead brother, when I

saw Aaron and Nichole Shear and Shar Davidson nearly crushed with grief, when I gave Sharon

Dawes that last big shot of morphine and felt her heart stop, I lost all sympathy I could have ever

felt for you. The only reason I’m wasting my time telling you all this is so you know your deeds

aren’t going unpunished, both the ones I mentioned, and the countless other lives you’ve

destroyed. I’ll sleep soundly tonight knowing you probably won’t have 3 people at your funeral

including the priest, if one will even bury you, and knowing you died alone as a coward.”

       “Dr. Sam Poyner, for the crimes I just stated, and the countless others undiscovered, I

sentence you to death,” Tony said, “oh, I almost forgot, for all of the service men and women

you put in harm’s way by advising the President to remove troops, General Landers asked me to

tell you he doesn’t make idle threats and I am the instrument he sent to send you to the Hell you

so rightly deserve.”

       Tony pulled the trigger twice, the silenced handgun making little sound, both bullets

entering Sam’s brain killing him instantly and for the first time in Tony’s life, out of all the lives

he’d had to take in the service of his country or in the defense of those he was protecting, he felt

absolutely no remorse.

								
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