From Archer Garrett:
Chapter 6 is available exclusively at TSLRF
Chapter 7 should be available soon at Ad Parare (it is a separate storyline, so not having read it will not affect the Chapter found below)
Capitol Building; Austin, Texas
Governor Baker reclined in his chair and closed his eyes, while impatiently waiting to hear from the governor of Wyoming. He had been promised a call back in fifteen minutes – but that was over an hour ago. Baker was beginning to worry that the Commonwealth of the Free West had forgotten about the Republic of Texas.
Texas’ situation was becoming increasingly dire with every passing day. Everything about the U-2 mission had been a huge risk. From stealing the planes from Beale, to flying reconnaissance, Baker was all too aware that Washington’s discovery of his intentions would likely lead to a very bloody war.
A war Texas would likely lose.
Scott Baker rubbed his temples and sighed deeply.
Sure hope this doesn’t backfire.
With Lobo on the ground, assumedly still alive, the situation had reached critical mass. It could be argued that the fate of nations, some in flames and others emerging from the ashes, may truly rest with the fate of one downed pilot.
The governor tried ignore the thought, for it was heinous to even consider, but still it nagged at him with a dull persistence. If only Wyman Wolfe had died in that plane, the secret of who had stolen and flown it might still be safe. He was disgusted with himself for even thinking such a thing. To wish the death of a man that was undeniably a hero? Such a thought, that the suffering of the few was in the collective’s best interest, made him feel wretched. These were the very ideals that he was warring against. Yet there it was, as much as he loathed its existence and tried to banish it from his mind.
Baker rolled across the office in his chair and retrieved a bottle of half-empty scotch from within his credenza. He poured a splash of the amber liquid into a crystal tumbler and downed it with a quick gulp. He splashed the tumbler again and swirled the liquid about as he rose and began to pace the room.
All was not well in the North, he mused. Dylan Langston, the governor of Wyoming, was becoming increasingly difficult to reach. When they did speak, Dylan sounded haggard and full of worry. Baker feared that the council in the north was not going as planned, and may have even reached a stalemate.
The closer one gets to the precipice, the clearer the view of what waits below.
The sound of the phone ringing on the desk startled Baker momentarily. He swirled the scotch and took a sip as he crossed the room and grabbed the handset.
“Scott, it’s Dylan.”
“Dylan, it’s been a while; how are things?”
“In a word, it’s been a nightmare. The council can’t agree on anything. The first line of the Commonwealth’s Constitution isn’t even written. Hell, we can’t even agree on what type of government we should have. It was foolish of us to think that, as independent as our group is, we could simply sit down and craft our Declaration of Independence and Constitution in a matter of weeks!”
“What are some of the impasses?”
Dylan laughed sarcastically, “What isn’t an impasse at this point? Some states are getting nervous about making the leap. Others, afraid that they’ll eventually face the same problem with the new union, are considering going it alone. Some want less government, while others want one step above anarchy. We’ve had shouting matches and even fights break out on the floor between representatives. And then there’s-” Governor Langston’s voice trailed off.
“And then there’s what?”
Dylan paused for several moments, before replying, “Scott I’m lobbying hard; you have my word, you know I am. Everybody up here respects what Texas has done, and they’ll all agree that you’ve taken Washington’s crosshairs and placed them firmly on your own chest. You’ve set the precedent and you’ve forced Washington to focus its attention solely on you. Everyone is grateful for that.”
“But I don’t have the support for a military alliance with Texas, Scott. Not anymore. I’m sorry.”
“I’ll hang from a light pole for treason. You know that, right?”
Dylan’s voice was wrought with grief. “I’m sorry.”
“You know they’ll come for every single one of you next, don’t you? They know where their enemies lie.”
“We hang together, or we hang separately. It’s that simple.”
“Believe me, I know. I’ve pleaded your case to anyone that’d listen.”
The line fell silent as Baker abandoned the last threads of hope that he had been desperately clinging to. It was all over. Finally, he spoke again.
“I just can’t believe this is how it ends. I mean, I’ve fought so hard, Dylan. I’ve risked countless lives of good men, one of which may have a gun to his head as I speak. And you mean to tell me that your friends can just sit around their tables and speak with empty tones about freedom and sacrifice, and look at those pictures, and not act? It’s inconceivable; I can’t even fathom such cowardice!”
“Scott, wait, wait-”
“I’m tired of waiting!”
Baker paused, ashamed of his outburst and the admonishment by his friend.
Dylan, seizing the moment, continued, “Scott, no one’s seen any pictures. If you’re talking about the package you sent, it just got here today. I came straight from the council to my office to call you, and it was here on my desk. I haven’t opened it yet, but I’ll do that right now.”
Governor Baker, still embarrassed, listened intently at the sound of rustling paper on the other end of the phone. After several minutes of examining the package’s contents, Governor Langston spoke again.
“What, what exactly am I looking at here, Scott?”
“Look at the first aerial, that’s Chicago, or what’s left of it. You can see a lot of the burned out buildings, and some that are still smoldering. Most streets can’t be navigated because of the heaps of trash and debris. On a windy day, you can smell the stench of the city for miles away. Our contact in the east says that conditions in the city are similar to Stalingrad or even Sarajevo during their sieges.”
Governor Langston was speechless. All he could muster was a despondent groan. Baker continued with his narrative.
“Go to the second picture.” Governor Baker paused for a moment before continuing, “See that well-lit area? Do you see the fences and tents? That’s a prison camp, Dylan. Political prisoners, people like you and me, are corralled there. They’re starved, tortured and finally killed. Oh by the way, that’s in Cleveland, Ohio.”
Baker could sense the trepidation that now hung heavy over his friend, so he seized the moment and continued.
This may be Texas’ last chance.
“Go to the third picture.” A pause and then, “Are you there?”
Dylan groaned in confirmation.
“This is just north of Syracuse. The acres and acres of open fields and ditches – those are shallow, mass graves. We’re looking at the killing fields of the Northeast. Of course, why are we surprised? These ideologies always end the same way, Dylan. They always end the same way.
We could go on and on. We could talk about New Hampshire and Vermont, the Wyomings and Montanas of New England. I could show you what happened to those states. Or, we could look further south. We could shake our heads and bemoan what happened to the brave men and women who were too few to withstand the tide of evil that swept over them. Hang together or hang separately, Dylan.”
The conversation lulled into a heavy silence for several minutes. Baker heard the occasional shuffling of papers as Langston viewed the remaining images. Finally, Dylan spoke.
“How, how did you?” His voice trailed off.
“It doesn’t matter how I got these pictures. All that matters is that they’re in your hands now. Show them to your colleagues and tell them that their fate will be the same if they stay idle. Stand with us, Dylan. Texas is waiting.”