Edge of Valor: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller(10)

Hamilton’s brisk, cheerful voice filled the room. “How’s Fall Creek this morning? By the way, you’re speaking to a newly promoted major.”

“Congratulations, Major Hamilton,” Dave said.

“It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It’s been a long time coming.” They could hear the grin in his voice. No matter the difficulties arrayed against him, he always maintained a positive, jovial attitude. Hannah liked him. “Now, how’s my favorite Delta?”

“Recovering.” Hannah filled Hamilton in on the craziness of the last few days—including the threat from the General.

“I’ve received standby orders,” Hamilton said. “From the Governor himself. No details. Brass is tight-lipped about everything. Communication is crap.”

“For now, we’re keeping our people within the town’s borders,” Dave said. “If someone can pick up supplies, we can offer some fresh vegetables for the kids, at least.”

“As always, we appreciate your generosity,” Hamilton said. “I’ll send one of my men tomorrow morning. And stay alert. We’ve had reports of large movements south of the Michigan state line. A large group of organized criminals calling themselves the Syndicate, led by a man named Alexander Poe. They’ve amassed a civilian army with military-grade weapons. They’re taking over towns and FEMA shelters, using forced labor, and selling supplies, drugs, and weapons. Rumor has it they’re selling people, too. Women and children.”

Hannah stiffened. “Liam ran into them outside of Champaign.”

“Then you know. They’ve taken over Chicago and most of Illinois. Last night, they breached the Indiana border. A fighting force of over two thousand men poured into Gary. We have reports of dozens of civilian deaths and other atrocities.”

“I caught similar chatter from my contacts this morning,” Dave said. “It’s like a war zone.”

“It’s not like a war zone. It is one.”

Dread scrabbled up the notches of her spine. Via I-94, the city of Gary, Indiana, was less than sixty-five miles from Fall Creek. “You think Poe might invade Michigan?”

“It’s a distinct possibility that we can’t afford to rule out. They may push into Michigan City or head toward Mishawaka.”

“Either city is too close for comfort,” Dave said.

“I agree. Indiana obeyed the President’s edicts and sent their National Guard to aid in the rioting in D.C. They’re vulnerable. Poe is bulldozing through the state with little resistance.”

“Aren’t folks fighting back?” Dave asked.

“They are, but we’re talking small groups and individual homesteads. It happened so fast, the civilians didn’t have time to organize a fighting force. They were taken by surprise.”

“Hot damn,” Dave whispered.

“Take care, Fall Creek,” Hamilton said.

“We will,” Hannah said. “Over and out.”

Hannah and Dave exchanged a heavy glance. Dread curdled in her gut. Threats were closing in from every direction.

War. Tyranny. Human slavery.

How could this be America? How could the tiny town of Fall Creek stand against such evil?

She sensed the danger lurking just outside their line of sight, invisible but ever present, drawing closer and closer, gathering strength and power as it came.

A tsunami of darkness about to crash down upon them, destroying everything in its wake.

The General

Day One Hundred and Three

The General tipped his head back, swallowed the last of the cheap whiskey, and tossed the plastic cup on the concrete floor.

He wanted to wash his mouth out with soap. The whiskey had held none of the complex tableau of rich, dusky flavors of cognac, his beverage of choice. He relished a well-aged cognac rich with spices, leather, citrus, and tannins, like velvet on his tongue.

He glanced at his watch in increasing frustration. He was sick to death of the Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan, near Battle Creek.

Fort Custer was the federally owned and state-operated Army National Guard training facility where Governor Duffield had sent him to gather the National Guard to defend Michigan from the Syndicate.

A mere eighty miles from his true destination of Fall Creek.

So close. And yet.

Their departure had been delayed when one of the two Black Hawks requisitioned for the mission broke down. Obtaining the specialized parts in the middle of a worldwide collapse had proved an exercise in frustration and futility.

They were down to one helo.

So be it. They could do plenty of damage with their remaining arsenal.

Five hundred National Guardsmen armed with M4s. Twenty armored Humvees equipped with .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns, along with additional transport vehicles. Crates of LAW anti-tank rockets and belt-fed machine guns. Modest supplies of mortar and artillery. He’d requested more; the Governor had not yet complied.

No drones, though. Resources were rapidly dwindling: fuel, ammunition, food. Military bases, at least in Michigan, derived their power from civilian power sources. 100% of them were offline.

Communication was failing. Chaos and confusion reigned at every level in the chain of command.

He wasn’t worried. Irritated to all hell, though.

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