Read Copperheads - 12 Online

Authors: Joe Nobody

Copperheads - 12

BOOK: Copperheads - 12
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Holding Their Own XII: Copperheads

 

By

 

Joe Nobody

 

Copyright © 2016

 

Kemah Bay Marketing, LLC

 

All rights reserved.

 

Edited by:

E. T. Ivester

 

www.joenobodybooks.com

               

             
This is a work of fiction. Characters and events are products of the author’s imagination, and no relationship to any living person is implied. The locations, facilities, and geographical references are set in a fictional environment.

 

Other Books by Joe Nobody:

Secession: The Storm

Secession II: The Flood

The Archangel Drones

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart

The TEOTWAWKI Tuxedo: Formal Survival Attire

Without Rule of Law: Advanced Skills to Help You Survive

Holding Their Own: A Story of Survival

Holding Their Own II: The Independents

Holding Their Own III: Pedestals of Ash

Holding Their Own IV: The Ascent

Holding Their Own V: The Alpha Chronicles

Holding Their Own VI: Bishop’s Song

Holding Their Own VII: Phoenix Star

Holding Their Own VII: The Directives

Holding Their Own IX: The Salt War

Holding Their Own X: The Toymaker

Holding Their Own XI: Hearts and Minds

The Home Schooled Shootist: Training to Fight with a Carbine

Apocalypse Drift

The Little River Otter

The Olympus Device: Book One

The Olympus Device: Book Two

The Olympus Device: Book Three

The Ebola Wall

 

Chapter 1

“I’ll never go back, Lord,” Jeb prayed as his beefy right arm worked the Freightliner’s gearshift. “I swear it. Once I get across this river, I’m never going to set foot south of the Rio Grande as long as I draw breath. I don’t care how much money they offer me. I don’t care how much they beg. If your good graces will protect me long enough to reach Texas, God, I’ll never leave her again.”

The trucker’s eyes were burning tired but remained in constant motion, motivated by both habit and fear. After verifying the road ahead appeared clear, the next stop on his visual inventory was the 12-gauge shotgun riding beside him. It was right where it should be, but provided little comfort.

His eyes moved to the side mirrors, scanning to make sure Jake’s white Peterbilt was still behind him and double-checking that the now-familiar grill of his friend’s 18-wheeler was the
only
thing on his tail.

Next, he surveyed the Freightliner’s dash, Jeb’s experienced eye sweeping the cluster of gauges in less than a second, satisfied all were reporting normal levels and outputs. The exercise confirmed what his ears already knew – the powerful Cummins diesel under the hood was humming like a sewing machine.

He began repeating the cycle.

A roadside sign answered his next question; the Amistad Dam was only 14 kilometers ahead. Despite his exhaustion, his brain managed to calculate the distance at just over seven miles until they were home.

Jeb’s mind reverted to events three weeks prior. He’d just finished fueling his over the road truck and gulping down a quick lunch when a well-dressed man had approached.

“Would you be Jeb Hewitt?” the stranger had inquired.

“Yeah. Who’s asking?” responded the trucker, his frame tensing for either fight or flight.

“Relax,” the gent had smiled, showing his open palms in a peaceful, ‘don’t shoot’ stance. “My name is McCarthy, and I work for the government. I just want to offer you a job.”

Driving a semi in the post-apocalyptic world of southern Texas wasn’t the safest occupation. Despite the recovery, teamsters still encountered a few highwaymen, scavengers, and the occasional outlaw gang. An ambush could occur anywhere, at any time.

“The Alliance?” Jeb questioned.

“No, not
that
government. The United States of America. I’m here for Washington, to hire truckers for a special haul. I hear you’re one of the best around.”

With a wave of his hand, Jeb dismissed the man. After all, it paid to know who you were working with during these dubious times. “Nah. I’ve got plenty of work, Mister. Right now, I’m taking this load of lumber to El Paso, and then bringing back several tons of lettuce. I’m all booked up. Thanks, though.”

Thinking the conversation was over, the driver pivoted and made for his cab. The sound of footfalls behind him forced another jolt of concern through his now alert mind.

Jeb flipped around to see the stranger was following him, and that pissed the big trucker off. “You wanting trouble, Mister?”

“No,” the bureaucrat responded in a calm, stoic voice. “I was just curious what kind of truck you drove.”

“It’s a Freightliner,” Jeb replied, an obvious edge to his voice. “Anything else?”

The man from Washington seemed to be checking out the vehicle as if he were in the market for his own rig. “How many hours on the engine?”

Jeb didn’t know whether to be alarmed or exasperated. “Too damn many,” he spat. “She’s due for a rebuild but try and find a competent mechanic around here these days. What’s this all about, man? What is your endgame? ‘Cause right now, I gotta tell you … you’re beginning to annoy the hell out of me.”

The civil servant smirked as if he were privy to a secret. “How would you like a brand new semi? Same model? Updated diesel, and the new generation of magnetic suspension,” he baited the driver, grinning ear to ear. Finally, to seal the deal, he added, “Even in the dusty Texas plains, you could see yourself in her chrome.”

For the first time since the odd conversation had started, Jeb’s full attention was now completely focused on the stranger. “You’re kidding me? Right?”

“Nope. Up north, in the worst hit areas, there are hundreds and hundreds of rigs sitting on the dealers’ lots. I’m authorized to offer you and 14 other drivers free and clear title on a new tractor – if you’ll make a series of runs for the U.S. government.”

The mention of a new transfer truck had the driver’s attention, the Alliance’s recently implemented rules of property ownership putting an immediate halt to scavenging the car lots. Besides, he wasn’t the sort to take what he didn’t earn, no matter how bad things got.

Rubbing his chin, Jeb was skeptical. After all, his dad had taught his that if an offer seemed too good to be true, it probably was. “And just what kind of haul would you be talking about?”

“We need 15 trucks to go to Central Mexico, about 100 miles south of Monterrey. Agents of the U.S. government have made an agreement with the local farmers there to purchase badly needed foodstuffs. We are recruiting drivers who know this region, speak Spanish, and can take care of themselves and their cargo. I was told you were the best.”

“Food? Like produce and stuff? You don’t need to go all the way to Mexico to get groceries, Mister. You can get that here on the north side of the river,” Jeb countered, pointing toward a nearby trailer full of greens.

It was Mr. McCarthy’s turn to grunt, “Washington would be happy to buy locally, but we were told in no uncertain terms by the Alliance leadership that Texas-grown commodities weren’t for sale in the quantities we require. According to the people in Alpha, this region’s population needs every calorie they can produce. They don’t have any surplus to export to our hungry citizenry.”

The trucker had to admit there were a significant number of “bone bags,” walking around. Still, it had been a while since he’d seen anyone with the swollen stomach associated with severe malnutrition. Progress was being made; it was just slow.

“I suppose that’s up to them,” Jeb replied, “I’m just a truck driver. I go where someone will pay me to haul a load.”

“Does that include Mexico?” McCarthy asked.

It was a fair question. Jeb was a man who spent his days crisscrossing the territory and his travels often included meeting and talking with a variety of people. News was always in high demand for those who pulled a trailer. The difference between profit and loss might hinge on word of a downed bridge or blocked road. Diesel fuel was always in short supply, as were spare parts and the men who could install them. A driver’s life might depend on hearing about bushwhackers or raiders working a certain section of the roadway.

Rubbing his chin, the huge trucker thought about McCarthy’s question for quite a while. “There are always rumors and gossip about life south of the river. According to some, it’s pretty dangerous in places, not so bad in others.”

In fact, Jeb had heard it all. He knew most of it had to be bullshit, made up stories told by blowhards who’d like nothing more than to see a man piss down his leg when a funny noise reached the sleeper’s bunk alongside a desolate stretch of road.    

Uncle Sam’s representative beamed, “So you’d be willing to accept the job?”

“I didn’t say that,” Jeb answered. “I don’t know enough to say yes or no. Did you mention 15 trucks? A convoy?” A group of trucks might mean safety in numbers. But on the other hand, if its route were general knowledge, it might become a target for the starving and desperate.

“Yes. So far, I’ve recruited a grand total of three drivers.”

While he wasn’t a sophisticated man, Jeb was no fool when it came to negotiations. He sensed desperation on the other side of the table. “And how much does this trip pay?”

McCarthy acted puzzled by the question. “Like I said, a new truck upon delivery of the freight.”

“No, no,” Jeb responded, shaking his head. “That’s the bonus. How much per mile?”

Indeed, the trucker’s read had been accurate. McCarthy was becoming discouraged by his lack of success. There had been a drought in Ohio and West Virginia, the lack of rainfall reducing the anticipated harvest by over 50%. If Washington didn’t procure a ready source of nutrition soon, the food riots would start all over again.

“I’m sure we can arrange suitable compensation for this first venture,” the government’s business broker stated, hoping to entice the driver even more. “And this could prove to be a lucrative business. We’re planning on this being a long-term relationship with our neighbors to the south. Make this a regular run, and you would become a very prosperous man, indeed.”

It occurred to Jeb that Mexico was only part of the problem. According to some people, parts of the U.S. were far more dangerous. “How far north do we have to go to deliver the freight?”

McCarthy shook his head, dismissing the concern. “Only to Texarkana. Our drivers will take it from there.”

The two men haggled for another hour, eventually arriving at an agreement. Jeb, as well as any of his friends he recruited, would each receive a new truck, 200 gallons of diesel, and two ounces of solid gold. The fuel would be delivered up front, the remainder paid upon delivery. The drivers would commit to ten trips and receive legal title to their rig after the final leg.

Jeb spent the next week talking to his trucker buddies, bringing as many hearty souls into the fold as he could manage. After a week and a half, he had rounded out the 15-rig convoy.

Next came the security.

Jeb was no fool. The U.S.A., or anybody else for that matter, wouldn’t offer such a huge payday for a round trip to Disneyland. Jeb figured they would run into more than just Minnie and Mickey. They were going to need some serious hombres to ride shotgun, and the driver knew just the men to come along for the trip. The fact that he had survived the downfall was in no small part due to having cultivated such acquaintances.

Now, as he drove like a maniac for the Texas border, Jeb wished he’d hired more rifles. Of the five armed shooters that had entered Mexico with the convoy, only one could still draw breath. Again, his eyes sought the shotgun wedged between the console and the passenger seat. They had lost three drivers and four rigs as well.

The shining waters of Lake Amistad filled the driver’s soul with relief, a signal they were almost out of Indian country. Texas, and the safety of Alliance territory, were on the other side of the man-made body of water. The blacktop between his truck and the bridge appeared free of roadblock or barricade. They were almost home.

Jake’s voice sounded over the CB, “Woohooo! Ain’t that a sight for these sore eyes. We did it!”

The convoy of 11 trucks began the ascent from the south, the final leg of the harrowing journey taking them onto the lake’s massive dam that also served as a bridge. One of the rigs behind Jeb was laying on its horn in celebration.

At the apex of the bridge, Jeb spotted movement alongside the road ahead, but his concern was only minor. They were rolling into Texas now, and while law and order weren't guaranteed, the Alliance territory was a far more secure environment than the blood-soaked madhouse of chaos and anarchy looming in their rear-view mirrors.

As the line of semis started the descent across the bridge, Jeb let his right foot relax off the gas pedal. Diesel was still a precious commodity, and they no longer had to drive like the devil riding their asses. A few moments later, that same foot was slamming on the brake.

A series of spider webs exploded across the windshield, sending a blizzard of safety glass flying through the cab. At the same moment, an earthmover appeared from nowhere, its bright yellow mass pulling onto the road from a gully next to the dam.

The huge construction machine strategically blocked the highway in the narrowest section of road. Despite his tires smoking from locked brakes, Jeb knew he wasn’t going to make it. There was no place to go around, not enough room to stop.

The Freightliner’s front bumper slammed into one of the scraper’s massive rear tires, the impact of the barreling semi barely prompting a shudder through the 250,000-pound machine’s frame. Jeb was killed instantly.

The trailer jackknifed into the air, flipping in a nearly perfect summersault over the cab and landing on the earthmover’s rear engine with a screeching explosion of compacting metal.

A fraction of an instant later, the second truck in the convoy skidded into what remained of Jeb’s rig, and then the third truck in line continued the chain reaction of destruction.

Before the billowing, grey clouds of burning rubber had begun to drift skyward, two dozen armed men rose up from both sides of the dam. With battle cries booming a song of fury and rage, they began firing into the disarrayed line of trucks, a maelstrom of lead pelting the shocked and confused drivers.

Volley after merciless volley of high-velocity death raked the convoy, the frenzied assault seemingly fueled by hatred and unbridled spite.

The truckers tried to defend themselves, a few managing to return one or two shots from their cabs before being slaughtered. Just as abruptly as it had started, the thunderous roar of gunfire stopped, its echo rolling across the otherwise calm surface of the lake.

The ambushers had needed no more than 20 seconds before all of the drivers were dead, the kill zone now covered in crushed sheet metal and a snow-like blanket of glass.

BOOK: Copperheads - 12
13.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Endless Night by R. M. Gilmore
The Waterfall by Carla Neggers
Before the Frost by Henning Mankell
The Sleeping Fury by Martin Armstrong
The Family by Jeff Sharlet
The Hawk and the Dove by Virginia Henley