Adjacent to the spired terminal at Denver International Airport stood a forty foot statue of the Egyptian god of the afterlife. The half-man–half-jackal deity, erected to herald a touring exhibit of antiquities, stood guard over the Domestic Security Force’s headquarters. The DSF nick-named him “Jackie” and rechristened the DSF base as “Camp Anubis.”
Rollins spent his morning disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling his rifle. He could break it all the way down to the firing pin and reassemble it blindfolded. He spent an hour after that surfing the list of armed forces approved websites. He ate brunch, then went to the lounge.
Many new faces had just arrived at camp, coming from Fort Carson located just eighty miles to the south. They came well-equipped, bringing along with them all their newest and most expensive toys including urban MRAPS, tanks, gunships, and predator drones. It was an awesome spectacle of modern mechanized Shock and Awe. But Rollins felt as if the potpourri of clashing camouflages and jumbled command structures was compiled haphazardly. It seemed rushed or sloppy. The new DSF lacked continuity. Disorder made him anxious.
The rumor circulating among the grunts was that they were all being combined into one super, mixed division, fully mechanized and nearly self-sufficient. They were being trained to live off the land, which meant requisitioning whatever they needed from the civilian populace and paying for it with Reagans and Roosevelts.
Blisters of civil unrest flared up like teenage acne all across the western states. Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, west Texas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, in addition to Colorado, all had situations that were coming to a head. Denver was seen as something of a rebel lynchpin. It was the biggest city to dissolve into chaos and if it could not be subdued quickly, the anti-federalist rebellion might erupt nationwide. The feds were giving the DSF a force upgrade to better equip it to re-establish federal hegemony.
Further complicating matters were the massive number of AWOLs that had undermined the DSF’s operational effectiveness. The division was hampered by hundreds of defections in the wake of the Denver Civic Center security operation—or “massacre” as it was known to the civilians.
“Traitor,” Rollins mumbled as he marched into the lounge. He took a seat on a sofa and kicked his boots up on an ottoman. He was thinking about Jimmy Marzan. His anger boiled while he screwed his Osiris ring down on his finger.
The lounge was a large tent containing casual furniture, a 100 inch television made in China, a ping-pong table, a weight set requisitioned from an Aurora sporting-goods store, and a video game system where soldiers could take a break from real firefights by immersing themselves in virtual ones. Rollins fixed his eyes onto America One, the brand new cable news network that combined the top talents of Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, and MSNBC into one super-network with one singular message—to promote the legitimacy and authority of the federal government. America One only provided news that was fit for public consumption and served the greater good.
“An illegal demonstration in Denver turned unexpectedly violent yesterday,” said the reporter. “Widely reported acts of violence and vandalism, including arson and several assaults on law enforcement officers, left officials with no choice other than to take action. Units of local police, the Colorado National Guard, and the U.S. Army’s Domestic Security Force were called in to restore order. We have received word that at least six members of the joint security cooperative sustained serious injuries. One soldier remains in critical condition at Denver General…”
Rollins was disappointed by the report. He didn’t recall any National Guard anywhere near the riot that day. What he heard was that the Colorado Guard was deployed 200 miles away in Grand Junction. Probably too risky to put weekend warriors into a battle with their neighbors, Rollins thought. He had heard that the Guard was suffering terrible rates of attrition. Some units had lost 50% of their troops. Just wait ‘til those traitor videos find their way into the Guard’s cell phones. Soon there won’t be any of the cowards left. It don’t matter, anyway. They’re worthless. America One reported two dozen civilian casualties. Rollins knew it was more like a three hundred.
The entire Denver situation continued to explode. The morning after the sweep of Civic Center Park saw a flurry of sporadic violence. An enraged cadre of civilians firebombed a federal office in the suburb of Lakewood. Several lobbyists and legislators having breakfast on Colfax Avenue were pelted with feces. The Denver Department of Public Safety was decimated as nearly two-thirds of their force stayed home from work to protect their families.
“Yo Gollum!” shouted a shirtless private named Black who had just finished pumping himself up with a set of curls.
“Why do you call me Gollum?” Rollins asked.
“Cuz of that ring you’re always fucking with. And cuz you look like an ugly-ass troll, too.”
Black sat down next to Rollins. His tone changed. “So, did you hear?”
“Another officer jumped. That’s three this week.”
“Yep. He was out with Hazlitt this morning. Intel-gathering and such. Well they took ten guys out and I guess nine never came back. Can you believe that shit?”
“Maybe they got ambushed?”
“Nope. They sent Cheeks back in a Hummer all by himself. I guess he had second thoughts about defecting. Drones spotted the torched-out Hummers parked at an abandoned grocery store. No bodies. Old Captain Rick and his boys just melted.”
“They ought to shoot those bastards.”
Black nodded faintly.
“I’m telling you, they should’ve micro-chipped us all at basic and said, ‘next asshole that even talks about deserting and we’re dialing a hellfire missile right up your ass.’”
“Well, they’re doing just the opposite. Word is brass is pissing their pants over all these defections. They’re worried the whole division will bug out, so they’re downplaying everything. I guess they don’t want to give it any more legs.”
“Command’s got a pussification complex.”
“That’s politics I guess.”
Rollins was disappointed that Black spoke of the deserters with insufficient scorn. Then the rat wheel in Rollin’s brain started to turn. “So tell me, Black, what do you think we should do with deserters?” he asked, with his lie detector glare turned on.
“Hey, chill out dude. I’m just telling you what I heard. That’s all.”
“Well, what are you gonna do, Black? You gonna turn traitor too? You gonna puss out on us? Become an insurgent? Go join Al Cracker?”
“Fuck you, Gollum,” Black replied and stormed off.
Rollins added Black to his personal watch-list—soldiers he intended to keep an eye on and frag if necessary.
Rollins attended a briefing that afternoon in the Big Top—the headquarters tent.
“As part of the new Block-and-Control strategy,” said the new colonel brought in from the National Security Agency, “municipal water purification and private gas stations will be shut down in the city and surrounding counties. Potable water and fueling stations are going to be set up at seventeen points around the metroplex. See them here on the map? Civilians will need to go to these centers to obtain their drinking water and fuel. While there, they will need to present their ration card for scanning. This is essential intelligence gathering. We’re building a database on every citizen. We’re going to track the movements of everyone. This is…well, think Fallujah, people. These distribution centers will be manned by what’s left of the civilian police units. Civilian police need a job that’ll better leverage their unique talents. What we’ve learned is that they tend to lose discipline when the opponent is returning fire.” The colonel paused and chuckled faintly. “When we describe civilian police as ‘paramilitary’ it has less to do with military and more to do with them being paralyzed when it comes to military situations.” The soldiers laughed, just like they chuckled when the colonel back in Shariastan mocked the local police, there. “Gentlemen,” he continued, “we know that the police are poorly conditioned and insufficiently trained for counter-insurgency. They are a liability, so we need to keep them out of the way so we can conduct our operations efficiently. I’m sure they will protest, but deep down inside they will be relieved. They aren’t trained for this. Counter-insurgency is a quantum leap from writing speeding tickets.”
The colonel shuffled through his notes. “Now, that being said, we don’t want to alienate them. Being a part of the community, the civilian police have some sense of what is going on out there. They have ears in the field. That makes them a valuable information resource. We have to keep the communication lines open with them. Always maintain a cooperative attitude with civilian police, even if they are essentially useless.”
Rollins raised his hand.
“Question?” asked the colonel.
“Why don’t they just evacuate the city?”
“Some have suggested that. Unfortunately, evacuating two million people is an inconceivable logistical nightmare. How would we move two million people? Where would FEMA house them? Feed them? Not to mention the march to the relocation facilities would be portrayed as some sort of a modern day ‘Trail of Tears’ by the insurgents. It’d be a public relations disaster. So we are left with the prospect of an Army division of 15,000 men patrolling a city that spans over 400 square miles, with double that area in wooded, mountainous terrain immediately to the west. Historically, it has taken an entire division to sweep and clear a single square mile in one day. We have to do better than that. I don’t know about you all, but I don’t want to be here for eighteen months. We must conduct our operations with highest efficiency.”
“Cakewalk,” Rollins muttered under his breath.
The Colonel continued. “We’ve learned from past experience that any endeavor to pacify an enormous civilian population that has access to arms, that has empty bellies, and has nothing to lose, is going to present us many unique challenges. You are each expected to rise to meet those challenges.”
“Gentlemen, in all of the history of warfare, there have been only three kinds of soldiers. There are conscripts who are unmotivated and require a tremendous amount of leadership. Conscripts are what we used to refer to as ‘cannon fodder’.” More laughing from the gallery. “Then there are professional soldiers who are here by choice. That would be each of you. You are self-motivated to do your job—to accomplish your objectives and follow the rules of engagement. But gentlemen, there is another type of soldier. He is the insurgent…the guerrilla. The guerrilla doesn’t care about you, the Geneva Convention, past treaties, your bullshit rules of engagement, or even rotating back home in one piece. The guerrilla is already in his home. He fights you from within it. His only mission, his only reason for existence is to drive you out or to kill you. He has nothing to lose. Dying might even be considered a luxury to him. The guerrilla is not an American. He is not a patriot. He is a rebel. He is an anarchist. He’d murder your grandmother if he thought it would damage your morale. Do not forget that when you encounter him.” The Colonel handed the podium over to a captain who briefed them on the details of the block-and-control strategy.
Wars with an enemy who has a “fuck it” mentality should be avoided at all costs—at least according to Sun Tzu. But every generation of insular, BMW-driving, officer candidates comes to believe: “This time it is different. This time, my side has total technological and tactical superiority. This time, I cannot lose.” But from the third century Huns to the Warsaw Jews to the Viet Cong to the Mujahideen, the lesson is retaught to the patricians who make up the officer class. Some officers are so dense that they have to be retaught respect for insurgents three times on three different continents.
The captain described an expansive network of insurgent cells that were feared to be metastasizing in the wake of the Civic Center Park massacre. The concern was that a little dose of leadership from the defecting Army and Guard officers might be just enough to galvanize those guerrillas into a pesky adversary, especially under the cover of the wooded foothills to the west.
An occupation force may have tactical superiority, but the resister still has many advantages. His simple strategy is to poison the mind of the occupier, to make him constantly fear that he could be killed by a sniper or a bomb at any moment wherever he goes. The guerrilla strives to take away every sanctuary, to make the occupier hold his rifle in one hand while he wipes his ass with the other, to break down his morale and ultimately his mind with paranoia.
“Thank god it’s winter,” a soldier near Rollins smirked. “I bet they’re loving the cold.”
The plan was to force the populace to submit by keeping them dependent, tracked, and properly supervised with daily check-ins for water, fuel and rations. Any uprising of middle-aged men would be snuffed out by DSF patrols or would quickly dissolve due to hunger and cold. Hegemony would be quickly restored.
If that failed, there was a Plan B—aka the Sherman Doctrine. But that was only if Denver could not be subdued and the insurrection was beginning to fuel a regional revolt.
When Rollins heard the rumor of Plan B, he almost got an erection. But somewhere—somewhere buried deep down within his rodent brain—a synapse flickered. Rollins briefly understood why some of the officers, who had heard of Plan B, defected. He shook the cognitive dissonance out of his mind with a vigorous nod and resumed anxiously twisting down his precious Osiris eye ring.
 Al Cracker: A pejorative slang evoking Al Qaida for American insurgents.