The United States of America; 2017. Sixteen years of endless war has produced a society on the brink of collapse, as the shockwaves race across the world, and reach America. The political divide, between rich and poor, between those who wish to fight and those who wish to guard the borders, between those who want regulation and those who want responsibility, within the United States has only grown wider…and no one dares to back down.
When faced with a massive election dispute, a well-meaning President makes a desperate bid to end the growing tension, but desperate men plot, strike…and the Second Civil War begins. From Mexico to Texas, from Washington to San Francisco, the war rages on…and only one vision of the future of the United States of America can emerge triumphant. As the outside world becomes slowly sucked into the fighting, how much of America will be left to savour the victory?
This is the way the dream dies…
Prologue This is the way the dream dies…
The criminals worked according to a pre-determined plan; later investigation would reveal that they had had the help of several people inside the bank, who had supplied them with all the information that they could possibly have required. Five minutes after launching their commando-style attack, they held the bank, using their weapons to cow bank employees and prevent the security guards from raising the alarm. A tiny – and highly illegal – EMP weapon knocked out mobile phones and radios, sealing the bank off from the outside world.
The bank manager tried to resist – until they shot three of his receptionists right in front of him. Trembling with fear, he led them down to the vault; not the gold deposit room, which in any case held very little gold, but the safe deposit book storage room. The criminals knew what they had come for; moments later, they had selected their targets and were heading back towards the lobby – when the alarm was finally raised.
The police and SWAT teams responded, aware now that shots had been fired inside the bank and the safety of the hostages was in jeopardy. Led by a bold and valiant commander, the SWAT team launched a counterattack – and was wiped out almost to the last man. The weight of heavy firepower was a total surprise; weapons that should have remained firmly in the hands of the military – and out of the criminal underworld – were used against them. Within thirty minutes of the robbery beginning, over seventy people had died – and the city was in a state of panic.
As news helicopters descended over Austin, beaming the results into homes and offices all across America, the State Governor of Texas acted decisively. Invoking the revised Patriot Act, the Governor sent in the troops; the Texas National Guard, backed up by a SOCOM battlesuit unit. Ignoring attempts by the criminals to negotiate, the Guard went in; killing most of the criminals and the remaining hostages in the crossfire. One hour after the robbery had begun, it was all over – bar the recriminations.
The investigation reported that the criminals had been part of a drug gang, operating from Mexico in the chaos following the economic collapse; a gang that the Mexico Government had been unable or unwilling to rein in. The investigation further reported that the bank’s employees, illegal immigrants employed against both state and federal law, had actively assisted the robbers – who were themselves all illegal.
All of this was known; it was just drowned out by the weight of opinion. To those in the north, the Governor had used massive overkill; the National Guard hadn’t even attempted to take the criminals alive. To those in the south, it revealed that the immigration problem had become far too dangerous to be allowed to continue; whatever the cost of stopping it. Slowly, surely, battle lines were drawn as the elections of 2016 drew closer…
Because what no one, not the President, not the Governor, not those who had started the whole crisis, knew was simple; the shots were merely the first fired…in the Second American Civil War.
This is the way the dream dies…
Chapter One: The Approaching Fury
Washington DC, USA “There are no dreams anymore,” General Andrew Robertson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, mused. The car, escorted by several armed military policemen and a Hummer loaded with armed soldiers, swept into Washington DC, heading up towards the Pentagon. The sight of his nation’s capital city didn’t fill Robertson’s head with pride; the sight of the armed policemen, National Guardsmen and soldiers on the street was enough to depress him.
His aide, Captain Gwen Paterson, looked up at him, her blue eyes keen. “I beg your pardon, General?”
Robertson allowed himself a moment of envy. Gwen was young; she’d grown to maturity in a world where terrorists could strike at any moment, where allies were as fading as the sun-bleached sands of the Middle East, but she still maintained her…faith in the system. Robertson sighed; he knew enough from his long years in the Army to know that the system was on the verge of breaking down – America itself was on the verge of breaking down.
He pointed a long finger, scarred from a close encounter with a homicidal terrorist, towards a crowd of protestors. “There are no dreams anymore,” he repeated. “We used to think that the Sixties and then the end of the Cold War would bring universal peace and harmony; instead, we have the War and…”
He broke off as they passed a handful of tanks, modified Abrams; units designed for street fighting. Their presence alone was a constant reminder that America was no longer safe; a terrorist might be around the next street corner or even lurking in his parking lot. The ongoing war in the Middle East had sent thousands of young Jihadis to America, men primed and willing to kill Americans – or British, or Frenchmen, or…
“They expected change for the better,” he said, trying to explain. The collapse of the Democratic Party had sent shockwaves throughout the liberal world; the sensible ones, the ones who had worked for a better America, joined the Republicans. “Instead, we have constant war and no sense of security at all, even on the streets of Washington.”
A silence fell. It was broken by the driver. “We’re just passing through the security perimeter now,” he said, as the car passed a battlesuit unit. The armoured combat soldiers, the only real innovation of the Terrorist War, made an intimidating sight, even as they strove to keep protestors and terrorists out of the heart of American government. Washington itself had been attacked; the United States had stopped dozens of attacks, but there were always more willing to try to penetrate the defences.
“Thank you,” Robertson said, as the protestors fell away behind the barrier of armed soldiers. Tourists to the White House had to be strip-searched these days, after one of them had tried to smuggle in a tiny explosive weapon; the Senate Building was permanently barred to the public. He scowled, allowing some of his tension to show; it was…un-American.
“They might not have been good changes,” Gwen said, her blonde hair glittering in the light. “The world might have been changed for the worse.”
Robertson allowed a smile to shape itself on his face. “True,” he said, as the car reached the secure parking lot outside the Pentagon. The driver stopped as two guards, armed with heavy-duty assault rifles, came over to the car. As Robertson and Gwen climbed out, they ran sensors over their bodies, searching for any of the signs that signified that they were carrying explosives – and checking to make sure that their implants were correctly inserted into their bodies.
“Pass, friend,” the guard said. Robertson frowned, but didn’t say anything; that line might have given the guard the only amusement in a dangerous and tedious job. The guard – and the others in concealed locations – were the first line of defence; Robertson knew, as well as they did, that the planners considered them expendable, if necessary.
It wasn’t fair, not least to the men themselves, but then…the world wasn’t fair.
“The meeting is in the secure briefing room,” Robertson said, as they stepped into the Pentagon lobby. Gwen walked behind him, keeping one step behind him, allowing him to lead the way. “You will have to wait in my office.”
Gwen saluted. “Sir,” she said.
The secure briefing room was buried deep below the Pentagon, guarded by five heavily armed Marines. Robertson nodded to them as he entered the room, even though he considered them an unnecessary expense; if an enemy got that close to the room, the war would be within shouting distance of being lost. The room itself was nothing special; a single table, almost puritan in its simplicity; a drink dispenser and several small computers. Were it not for the flags of the American armed forces on the wall, and the computer map showing the global deployment of American military power, it could have been any business conference room.
“I’m here,” he said, taking his seat. He was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, but between the senior officers, he saw little point in formality. A quick check revealed that there were no unwanted electronic surveillance devices in the room; a necessary precaution since some of Russia’s most advanced systems had become available to people Robertson would have preferred to see in an internment centre, or standing in front of a firing squad. “So, what’s so important?”
There were seven men in the room as he entered; all stood up to salute as soon as the security check had been completed. The other five Joint Chiefs, as he had expected and two other officers. Bernard Ransom, head of the Homeland Security Agency, and General Steve Rogers, the commander of the newly-resurrected Continental Command. Robertson saluted them back, returning their salutes, and then tapped his fingers on the edge of the table.
“Please be seated, gentlemen,” he said. “I apologise for the delay.”
He waited for their understanding. “General Rogers,” he said, “do you have a good reason for asking for this meeting?”
The man in question nodded slowly. His blonde hair, still glossy at thirty-seven, moved as he ran his hand through it. “I’m sorry for breaking procedure,” he said. Robertson shrugged; with a need for ongoing military action against terrorist cells on the Continental United States, no one was sure just how much authority Rogers had. “Unfortunately, there is something of a…situation involved.”
He had their full attention. The last time someone had used those words, it had been to signify a nuclear attack on America; a terrorist nuke in California. They’d found that weapon in time – would they be so lucky the next time?
“You may be aware of the…disputed election reports,” Rogers said. Robertson frowned; it was hard to be unaware of it. “The situation, sir, is about to boil over quite badly. With the…split between the Republican Party and the American Party, the country is poised on a knife-edge.”
Robertson looked at him for a long moment, trying to divine his meaning. “You have no faith in the Supreme Court?” He asked. “They’re currently trying to decide the question of who actually won the last election.”
“And they’ve been doing that for the last month,” Rogers said. He paused for effect. “The problem is that whatever decision they take will be wrong.”
There was a strangled noise from Admiral Westland, Chief of Naval Operations. “What an interesting statement,” he snapped. “Come on; how do you know that?”
Rogers picked up a remote control and tapped it once. The big screen changed to show a map. “The situation is about to boil over,” he repeated. “Politically; almost all of the southern Border States – the only real exception is California – are on the brink of exploding. With the ineffectual attempts to control the ongoing flood of Mexican immigrants, the citizens are voting American in large numbers…and stocking up on weapons. Robert Graves, the Presidential Candidate for the America or American party, has promised to handle the problem – by any means necessary.”
He looked around the room. “Robert Graves, by the way, has promised to end the terror war and concentrate on Fortress America,” he said. “That’s a very popular viewpoint in some parts of America, including large parts of the North. He’s also promised low taxes, reduced involvement in the rest of the world, internal development…and sealing the border with Mexico.
“In contrast, Michael Scott, the Republican Candidate, has vowed to continue the war until final victory, and to work on developing new relations with Mexico. For those in the Border States, that’s…well, fighting talk. The immigrants have already begun to build up arsenals, just to prevent any attempt by either the hundreds of militias or the National Guard to evict them. You may remember the recent…incident in Austin itself.”
Robertson nodded slowly. The Mexican bank robbers had been armed with more weapons than the average paramilitary group. In the end, the National Guard had had to shoot them all down – and had been pilloried for it in the press.
“I won’t go into details, but they’re desperate,” Rogers said. “The endless immigration, most of it illegal, is allowing…elements the Mexican Government wants to be rid of to enter our country. The State Governments, the National Guards, the militias – many of which are led by real combat soldiers and veterans – have been very pro-American Party; either though being directly linked to Graves, or though civilian pressure.”
He paused again. “The Republicans, by the way, have vowed to terminate this lawlessness, at least in their eyes,” he said. “The…influx of right-wing Democrats from the remains of the Democratic Party has moved the core of Republican support to the left, while…”
“Fine, everything’s not right,” Robertson snapped. He understood politics; no General could afford to be a virgin where politics were concerned. “General – what is the point?”
“They’re desperate,” Rogers said flatly. “The current President is a lame duck – and no one knows which of the candidates is the real successor. If Graves becomes President…you know what the left has said about him.”
General Adam Cross, Commandant of the Marine Corps, scowled. “Racist. Fascist. Homophobe.”
“Exactly,” Rogers said. “If Graves becomes President, then there will be trouble. If he does not become President, or does and fails to keep his promises, there will be an explosion in the Border States. At best, it will be like the Paris Uprising of 2010; at worst…”
He stared up at the map for a long moment. “At worst, we could be looking at a second civil war.”
There was a long uncomfortable silence. Admiral Westland broke it. “A second civil war,” he said. His tone wasn’t quite a sneer. “We had a disputed election in 2000, remember? There wasn’t any violence then, was there?”
Rogers didn’t react to the tone. “The situation is different here,” he said. “If something is not done about the immigration situation, then there will be an explosion in the Border States,” he said. “There are countless other issues, from abortion to state’s rights and law and order; take your pick. The bottom line, sir, is that the country is about to have a violent spasm.
“When the Supreme Court makes their decision, it will be the wrong one – for around half of the country. With all of the reports about ballot-box stuffing, pressure groups, blackmail, funding from dubious sources…such as the Mexican voters in the Border States voting Republican in a body…it won’t be the right decision.” He sighed. “Whatever the decision is, it won’t be right.”
General Cross spoke gruffly. “I may be a dumb Marine, but can’t they just pick a name out of a hat?”
“They might come down to that,” Rogers said. “The problem…the problem is that the country will not accept the vote. The Border States want firm and brutal action against immigration and its consequences, such as the criminal gangs that are infesting the inner cities. The…rest, by and large, think that Graves is a would-be Hitler. They won’t accept him as President.
“The Supreme Court will make its decision…and the country will rupture,” he concluded. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this, with Bernard” – he nodded at Bernard Ransom – “and I’ve been doing a lot of research. The National Guards are very pro-Graves; pro-American, and they’re hardly what they were before the terror war began. The militias are just waiting for the outcome of the election – before beginning a…purge of illegal immigrants anyway. In effect, there are several separate outcomes.
“First is an explosion of violence, one that forces whoever is the President to crack down, hard,” he said. “That would be bad, but it wouldn’t be a disaster.
“Second is an attempt by the border states to secede, like in 1860,” he said. “They might succeed, if everything was even, with Graves as their Jefferson Davies – except that there’s no way that the rest of the country will accept it. In that case, there will be a war – we will have to bring them back into the fold, or accept our complete death as a country.
“Third – and worst – there will be a total civil war,” he concluded. “They might be able to attack outwards against the rest of the United States, as Graves – I suspect – is as devoted to the United States as we are – and destroying it is probably unacceptable to the rest of his Party, whatever he wants. Whichever man becomes President will be doing it for all of the marbles…and the cost will be horrific.”
“And exactly what can we do about this?” Robertson asked. “This is not some banana republic; the Joint Chiefs are not a hidden government. By rights, we should end this conversation now…”
“It’s about to blow,” Rogers said. His tone became harsher. “Sir…which side will you be on?”
Robertson glared at him. “I have served the United States for years,” he snapped. “My loyalties lie with Old Glory and the state.”
“Perhaps I wasn’t clear,” Rogers said. “Whose vision will you follow? Which Party do you like more?” He waved a hand around the room. “Which party has more registered voters in the military, in the army, in the navy, in the airforce…?”
“I don’t know,” Cross said. He sounded disturbed. “General, its not going to split the entire armed forces…”
Rogers shook his head. “It is,” he said. “There are extremists on both sides, Southern fire eaters talking about a second secession, northerners calling for a purge of Graves and his so-called fascist party…”
He gazed around the room. “I repeat my question,” he said. “Which side are you on?”
Admiral Wilson, Deputy Chairman, lifted an eyebrow. “And what side are you on?”
“I don’t know,” Rogers admitted. “I could go for Graves on some issues, and Scott on others.”
“And that’s why this is all blown out of proportion,” Westland said. “This is all going to come to nothing, and I will tell you why, young man. Some people will protest, like they did against Bush. Some people may even start throwing bombs – like some are doing right now. The majority of the population will…not support one group or the other.”
He sat back, somehow giving an impression of fat smugness. Rogers frowned. “It’s not that simple,” he said. “The State Governments in the borders have a popular mandate to end immigration, something that has been…limited by the federal government for reasons of their own. They…don’t see the world in the same way as a person here, in the heart of America’s power and soul.
“To them, the federal government has been allowing immigrants to enter the country and take good jobs from Americans,” he said. “To them, most of the immigrants are criminals – and a good many of them are – or increasingly radicalised terrorists. To them, the federal government has been disarming them, while proving reluctant to mount attacks on armed immigrants.
“Texas has the largest number of illegal weapons in the United States,” he said. “The Governor has been blocking the BAFT agents from doing anything about it, something that Scott has been complaining about. Most of those weapons are in the hands of the militias, many of which are…redneck white trash. The kind of people, in effect, who will think nothing of starting American Civil War – round two.
“If Graves wins the election, many in the north will take up arms behind Scott,” he said. “Even if that worst-case scenario doesn’t come to pass, there will be an insurgency in our own cities – us against the immigrants – that will make Iraq look like a tea party. If Graves loses…than that insurgency will be against Scott…and there are already militia leaders discussing coordinating actions against federal targets.
“Graves himself, as far as Bernard can find out, is not the problem,” he concluded. “The problem is that people are desperate…and that desperation is about to lead them to disaster.”
Wilson shook his head. “That’s…irrational,” he said.
“That’s what they said about the Confederate States of America,” Rogers said. “This time…the war will not be the South wanting to be left alone, as they claimed, but for which Party takes power over all the United States. It’s a tinderbox, sirs, and all it needs is for some idiot to strike a match.”
He took a long breath. “What I am about to tell you is in the strictest confidence,” he said. “Technically speaking, I have a suspicion that it won’t be taken lightly, and under a strong government would result in me spending time in the Leavenworth Hotel. You are all cleared for this, but…
“As you know, I have no regular formations under me, but a handful of Special Forces have been attached to Continental Command, just for anti-terrorist operations. A week ago, I was asked – in strictest confidence – to draw up a plan to kidnap Graves – by the current President.”
There was uproar. General Adam Cross won the right to speak by talking louder than anyone else. “The President asked you to do that?” He demanded. “The lame duck?”
“The lame duck,” Rogers confirmed. “The idea, I think, was for us to kidnap him, and then keep him under wraps until the result is announced and the new President is inaugurated. I’m sure you know just how many rules, laws and unwritten conventions that that undermines.”
“It’s unconstitutional,” Wilson said flatly. Robertson silently agreed. “I don’t believe a word of it.”
Rogers shrugged. “It’s true, sir,” he said. “The tinderbox is about to be lit, gentlemen…”
Robertson took a long breath, wishing that he had the right to scream. “If that is true,” he said slowly, “then it’s very clear who the next President is.”
Rogers nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said. “And there will be an explosion.” He paused. “I told the President that it couldn’t be done, and I’m pretty certain that it cannot be. Graves is guarded by a crack National Guard team; there have been thousands of threats made against his life. Assassinate, perhaps; kidnap, no. All it needs is for someone to think that it can be done and…”
“Fine,” Robertson snapped. “We’re on the verge of civil war. What do you fucking suggest that we do about it?”
“I don’t know,” Rogers admitted. “We have three choices; we declare our support for either of the candidates, which will cost us our careers at least – or we do nothing and hope.”
General Cross shook his head. “The entire military machine will collapse,” he said. “People will go with their states, or with their parties and…”
“Civil war,” Rogers whispered. “Brother against brother, father against son…”
Robertson drew all of his authority around him. “We cannot take part in the political debate,” he said. “Even if we were to attempt to pressure Congress, it would be a disaster for the country and the entire future of America.”
“And what happens when other countries become involved?” General Adder asked. The Chief of Staff of the United States Army had tried to stay out of the conversation. “What about Mexico; it might decide to send some troops north into Texas or New Mexico or…”
Wilson snorted. “Against the teeth of our army?” He asked. “The National Guards, the weight of the Air Force?”
“All of which will be tied down in civil war,” Rogers said slowly.
“Or, what about China, which still wants Taiwan?” General Adder asked dryly. “Russia, which has ambitions in Central Asia? All the little trouble spots we keep an eye on; Korea, Iran, Iraq…?”
Rogers sighed. “We have to do something,” he said. “How the hell did it come to this?”
“Is that helpful?” Robertson said. “Is there anything that we can do?”
“I think that a military coup would be a seriously bad idea,” General Cross said. “In fact…”
“I knew that,” Rogers snapped.
“I knew that,” Cross agreed. “I was wondering if you did.”
Rogers started to say something and stopped himself by sheer force of will. “I don’t ever intend to serve in a…rebel army, or a split army,” Cross said. “If this happens, well they’ll have to fight without me.”
“I still think that this is all overblown,” Westland said. “Even if its not, what can the Navy do?”
Rogers sighed after the others had finished. No one knew what to do, Robertson realised; their hands were tied in more ways than one. “Thank you for listening,” Rogers said. “Perhaps we’ll get though this without major trouble.”
“Perhaps,” Robertson said. He scowled. “Not a word to anyone about this, understand? The last thing we need are more rumours flying around.”