The idea of revolution had lingered in our minds and crossed our lips in whispered conversations for years, but it had been all talk until one act of violence by one man awoke the nation. Now that man was missing.
But even without him, the next American Revolution was becoming a living entity, feeding on the peoples’ resentment as the government continued taking away individual freedoms. The rebels organized and focused on the tasks ahead, but they needed to find Hunter Benshore. He was the one man who started it all and the one man with the skills to lead the advance against Washington.
He was also the man who had captured a video of President Ronald Sneed being given orders by a private group of billionaires known only as The Council. The rebels needed that video to reveal the truth about the corrupted president and turn the nation to their side. Hunter had the video, and the rebels needed Hunter.
Meanwhile, President Ronald Sneed, now being referred to as Sniveling Sneed by most Americans, had been unable to squelch the rebel attacks on government facilities and unable to sway the angry mood of the country. His relationship with Congress had begun to deteriorate, and The Council had run out of patience.
So, after months of frustration and pressure from all sides, the president had declared a state of “Almost Martial Law” and promoted Aurthor Dennison to be over the newly combined forces of the Homeland Security Organization and the National Guard. Dennison was now the Head of the Homeland Guard.
With his new powers, Dennison had quickly implemented curfews in all major cities and posted checkpoints across the nation’s highways. Homeland Guard agents were now authorized to stop any motorist and search any vehicle with no requirements for probable cause.
Residential Safety Teams (RSTs) continued their unannounced raids on civilian homes, and everyone over the age of sixteen were required to carry either their U.S. Passport, Work Visa, or Amnesty Visa at all times. Anyone without one of these documents, or an equivalent electronic implant, was subject to arrest.
The rebels, now referring to themselves as Loyalists, were focused on restoring America’s self- respect and civil liberties, but the government continued to ignore the truth and focused on hunting down rebel leaders, calling them traitors and threats to society.
The Loyalist creed was based on The Constitution of the United States of America, but the government insisted that change was required for our country to survive in an ever-changing world. The Loyalists believed in democracy and capitalism, but the government was clearly making the transition to socialism. Each side made it very clear. Each side showed their true colors.
Never Do Business with Relatives
11:00 p.m., Washington, D.C., Sunday, January 16, 2022
He stood at the feet of Abraham Lincoln, watching snowflakes magically appear in the light surrounding the memorial. If it were a different night, a different time in his life, he might have noticed the beauty of the falling snow and the serenity of the darkness, but tonight his thoughts were on his country, his friends, and himself. This was a night of intense speculation; his mind was flooded with a million what ifs.
The old man, code name Ranger, stared at the huge statue as he waited. He admired Lincoln for having the courage to put everything on the line for freedom during a time of revolution. Perhaps it was courage driving him to face the current president and his small army of agents on this cold winter night, or perhaps the future of our country had become so bleak he had simply given up on the present. Either way, he was here. He would see this through.
He insisted on speaking to the president face-to-face in spite of protests from his rebel captain. He and the president played together as children, exchanged gifts at Christmas, and were there for each other during their time in Vietnam. In short, they were family.
But now, they followed different paths in their quests to shape the future of America— Ranger fighting for individual rights and democracy, his cousin moving the country ever closer to a socialist republic that would be secretly controlled by The Council.
The old man had sent the cryptic telegram to the president’s aide this morning, just as he had done in the past. Each time he sent a message requesting a meeting, the president had responded, but each time they came together, they grew further apart. Years of ingrained family values had begun to fade, bleached by anger and separated by the ever growing chasm of political and social beliefs.
Since the beginning of our country, even the closest of families had been torn apart by political beliefs… the first American Revolution, The Civil War. Every war takes its toll on the lives of the people and their families. Every war carries a price higher than we can imagine. That’s one of the reasons he was so deeply committed to stopping his cousin and The Council. They weren’t just trying to change a nation; they were trying to change its people— its families.
He paced in small circles as he waited, not adorned in the formal attire one might wear to meet a president but dressed in his old army fatigues, heavy socks, and army boots. He wasn’t appropriately dressed for a presidential parlay, but he found some measure of comfort in wearing the clothes from his past. He also found comfort in carrying his semi-automatic forty-five holstered beneath his jacket and knowing his faithful army knife was sheathed inside the boot on his right leg. Once a Ranger— always a Ranger.
The old man rubbed his hands together and wiggled his toes, attempting to keep his body warm. He thought through tonight’s plan and the reasons he was here, trying to keep his mind and body focused on his task. He knew this meeting was a big risk, but he also knew that a task even more dangerous awaited him in the days ahead.
Headlights returned his thoughts to the here and now. His Special Forces training kicked in gear and flooded his mind with every detail of the night. He watched intently as the limousine and two black SUVs came to a gentle stop in front of the steps to the Lincoln Memorial. The old man carefully counted and tracked all eight presidential guards as they walked the perimeter in the snow, flashlights in hand and holstered weapons beneath the lapels of their matching black suits.
The Secret Service Agents completed their circle around the monument, carefully checking behind each corner and column. Then, being satisfied with the results of their inspection, they signaled to the president’s driver who opened the rear door of the limo. After a slight hesitation, President Ronald Sneed stepped out of the long black limo and began his trek up the snow-covered steps.
The old man smiled a little, amused at the sight of his cousin walking on his toes, but in spite of his best presidential efforts, it was inevitable. Four inches of the wet stuff was just too much for his low-cut shoes. Ranger continued to watch as the Commander in Chief reached the top of the steps, kicked the snow off his shoes, then walked slowly toward the statue until he and his cousin stood face-to-face.
President Ronald Sneed hadn’t changed much since Vietnam, but then neither had he. Ranger kept his six foot, one hundred eighty pound body in top physical condition by following his regimented diet and daily exercise. His cousin was about the same height, but was dressed and groomed as a president should be. The golf games and private dietician kept the scales under two hundred, but he had gotten soft in his old age— too many meetings and dinners.
Now Ranger put on his military face, determined to carry out tonight’s mission without regard for family or feelings. For the next few minutes he would no longer be the president’s cousin. He would be a Loyalist.
Since he had called the meeting, Ranger began the conversation. “Hello, Ronnie.”
“Hello, Johnny. I’m not real crazy about your choice of meeting places. I’ve always liked the Gettysburg Address, but I do wish you would pick someplace a little drier next time. I paid good tax-payer money for these shoes.”
“Did you bring the walkie-talkie?” Ranger replied, ignoring the president’s failed attempt at humor.
“What? No small talk? Okay— I brought it.”
“And your driver has its mate and a pair of binoculars?”
“He does. Now what? Do I have to remember the secret handshake?”
Once again, the old man ignored the president’s attempt at sarcasm and proceeded to remove the stocking cap from his head, revealing his gray ponytail and signaling his hidden team mates that everything was okay— for now.
“Call your driver and ask him what he sees on your back.”
The president’s mood quickly faded. “Let me guess. Laser scopes?”
“Yep, and these are ex-military men who don’t miss. Your driver can confirm it. Give him a call.”
“You put snipers on me, your own flesh and blood.”
Ranger stood firm, showing only a cold, intimidating stare until the president slowly lifted the walkie-talkie and pressed the call button.
“How many, Jackson?”
“I count four, sir. What do you want me to do?”
“Nothing. I’ll just finish my visit with this man, then we can leave. I don’t believe he wants to shoot me tonight.”
The old man interrupted the call with his next set of instructions. “Tell your driver to signal your guards, Ronnie. Have them get back into their SUVs and stay there until we finish our conversation.”
“Signal the teams to get back into their SUVs and start the engines, but don’t leave just yet. I should be through here in a few minutes.”
“Yes, Mister President.”
The limo driver raised one hand in the air, made a circling motion, and pointed to the SUVs, sending all eight guards back into their vehicles.
As the old man focused on the president, the limo driver slipped a hand inside his overcoat, pulling out a long-barreled pistol. He slowly rested the butt of the gun on the top of the limo and set its sights at the heart of the man standing beside the president. He was ready to act if needed, but he was also unaware of the two red dots now resting on the back of his own jacket.
“Alright, Johnny, we’re alone now, and you’re in control of the current situation. What do we need to talk about?”
Ranger took another step toward the president, bringing him within whispering distance. “Two things: First, you were supposed to cut back the budget for the Homeland Guard.”
“I can’t make instantaneous changes to the budget. I submitted the paper work, but it will be at least two more months before anything happens.”
“Sorry, Ronnie, but we find it hard to believe that the President of the United States can’t pick up a phone and make the change happen within a couple of days. You agreed to work with us if we would keep The Council from killing you, and we’ve done that so far. We need to see you hold a press conference next week announcing the Homeland Guard budget cuts. If we don’t see it on TV, we’ll have to move to the next phase of our plan. I don’t want that to happen— and neither do you.”
“Alright, Johnny, don’t get bent out of shape here,” Sneed said, holding his hands up in surrender. “I’ll hold a press conference and announce the changes, but it will still take several weeks for the paper work to make it through all the edits and reviews. I can bypass Congress, but I can’t bypass the paper pushers. So, what is the second item on your late night agenda?”