Sunday, June 24, 2012

As Lane continued to drive East on I-10 he and Justin kept a constant watch of the vehicles around them. They were constantly checking their mirrors and camera monitors to make sure that there were no vehicles that were maintaining the same speed as they were or following their movements through the light morning traffic. They also knew that the task force in Langley would be keeping a close eye on the traffic both through their camera monitors and using satellite imagery. It was good to know that they had someone else watching them as they made this run, Lane thought to himself. He knew how bad it would be if this cargo were to fall into the wrong hands. They had picked up this load in New Mexico, not at a warehouse or industrial facility, or even in a town. This load had come from a top secret government research facility in the desert just across the state line from El Paso. The facility was housed entirely underground and less than sixty people, including the employees who worked there even knew it existed. This facility specialized in analyzing new forms of biological weapons that the U.S. government had seized from terrorists during raids on their training camps around the world. Anthrax had been chemically analyzed here, as well as many other chemical and viral weapons. This one was by far the worst and most dangerous weapon ever confiscated. It had been retrieved from a terrorist training facility in Afghanistan only three months ago, and the scientists at the lab had determined that it was the most deadly virus they had ever come in contact with. It was so extremely potent that it killed its victims within thirty six hours of exposure and there was no vaccine. They named the virus ID77 for the HIV virus from which it was derived. No one had ever seen an aids virus that was so potent or deadly. It was totally immune to any drugs that the government had developed so far. Jackson's task force had been given the job of delivering the virus to the port in Mobile, Alabama where a government freighter would deliver it to a scientific colony in Peru. The scientists there wanted to experiment with it in a local species of monkey they had found which was immune to the common strain of HIV found in humans. Lane knew that this virus could not fall into the hands of anyone who might use it against humanity, he also knew that the terrorist group they had stolen the virus from was bound to still be looking for it. This group he knew all too well. First Strike was the latest organization to fall into the CIA's top ten security threats to the U.S. and had already proven that they could and would operate on American soil. Less than a year ago they had claimed responsibility for a bombing in Atlanta, Georgia which had claimed seventy three lives and wounded over a hundred others. These people didn't care about innocent civilians and their target in Atlanta only proved that. They had bombed a middle school at 2:55 pm on a Friday afternoon. Almost every child was present as well as all of the staff, plus most of the parents who were picking their children up. They claimed that it was to send a message to the United States that they would do whatever it took to make the government pull all of its military and para-military sources back inside the borders. The two men who executed the bombing were killed in the blast and the internet broadcast which announced responsibility was filmed the day before by the two men and set to be emailed to the major news networks on a timer. No arrests were ever made and there were no leads to follow. First Strike had proven that they were deadly and that they were very good at covering all traces to their leadership.
"So, you think that I can help fight the war on terror? You truly believe that a nobody from a small town in North Alabama could possibly make a difference against these people? I just don't see how that could even be possible Mr. Jackson." "Please, call me Tony, Mr. Jackson is my father. We believe that you could help us teach our men how to spot the terrorist hijackers before they could get to our drivers. We had cameras and all kinds of hi tech tracking equipment on our trucks on this last run, but it was all no use. Our men never saw them coming and they were able to steal our trucks and kill two of our best agents. We need your help Lane." "And if I say no Tony, what then?" "Well, obviously you can never be allowed to tell anyone of this meeting. We would have to take preventive measures to ensure that." "You mean you would have to make me disappear, is that what you are saying to me?" "That is exactly what I am saying. In fact, we have already started making that process happen. Ten minutes after you were picked up by our men, the small camp stove you keep in your truck for cooking purposes ignited a fire which completely destroyed your truck and burned it to the ground. Your body will be found inside by the fire marshall when they finish putting out the flames." "What? You burned down my rig, and planted a body inside it to look like I caused a fire? You're crazy!" "No matter what your answer is to me, we had to make it look like you died in the fire. If you refuse our offer, then we will have to dispose of you, but even if you accept it, you have to drop completely off the face of the earth and become a ghost." "So, what's next Tony? Are you going to put a bullet in my head and bury me out here?" "No, that is not our plan. We carefully selected you out of thousands of candidates. You have no living relatives, which means no one will come looking for you. We fully expect you to accept our offer. IF you do, you will never want for anything again. You will never have to wonder about job security, or retirement. You will have everything you could ever want." "Yeah, everything except a normal life! I don't know, man this is totally crazy!" "Look, Lane, I know this is a hard choice to make, but we need you. If it wasn't so important to us, we would never have taken the measures we have to ensure your cooperation. Please, consider what I am offering you before you make your choice. I will give you an hour to think this over, in the mean time, one of men will bring you some dinner." Jackson opened the door and stepped out of the room leaving Lane speechless and bewildered. What should he do? If he didn't take this mans offer, they would surely kill him, and if he did, he was dead to the rest of the world. That shouldn't be a new feeling to him. He had been dead to the world for a long time now. He was just an employee number to his boss and he had no friends, and as Jackson had said, he had no living relatives to speak of. Oh, he had a few cousins somewhere, but he hadn't spoken to them in years, and none of them had ever gone pout of their way to talk to him either. If he took this job, he would have an opportunity to make a difference in the world. If only he knew exactly what this mans agenda was. He knew he had to take the offer, but it just didn't sit right, the way they kidnapped him and brought him here. Oh well, he didn't have many options at the moment. He would eat the dinner and then talk to Tony and tell him, that he would take the job.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The inside of the farmhouse was just as modern and pristine as the outside was dilapidated and ramshackle. Lane had a hard time processing exactly what he was seeing. It was like he had stepped from one century to another in time. Outside the house looked like what the movies would show in an 1850s era western and the inside resembled an extremely advanced communications center. The three men who had been in the suv with him led him down a brightly lit hall way to a small room with a table and two metal folding chairs in it. Lane noticed almost immediately that the room was windowless and was completely devoid of any artwork or furniture save the table and chairs. This was all really strange and yet somehow resembled almost every spy movie he had ever watched. These were the type of rooms used to interrogate a prisoner, usually through various methods of torture, in order to extract much needed information. But he had no information that anyone might need. He wasn't some high ranking official who might know how to save the world, hell he wasn't totally sure the world was worth saving in the first place. Who were these men,and what could they possibly want with him? "Mr. Rogers," the driver of the suv was speaking to him. " Please have a seat,and everything will be explained to you in a matter of minutes." "What could you guys possibly want from me? If it's money, I already told you I am broke,and if it is information, well, I am not privy to anything you guys might wanna know." "Please,take a seat and someone will be with you shortly." "Do I have a choice?" "Well, I can tase you again,but it won't help your visit here to be over any quicker and it could make your driving tomorrow rather painful." "As if that's not already going to be the case!" Lane was getting angry again,and he knew that if he were going to get out of this situation, he had to get control of that so he could focus on what they wanted from him. "Alright, I'll cooperate. Just hurry up and let me get out of here." "Thank you sir" the tall man replied, " we will expedite this as quickly as possible." Lane didn't have to wait very long before the door swung open and a huge bear of a man stepped into the room. He was so tall and broad that his body nearly filled the door frame and he almost had to stoop a little to keep from hitting his head on the top plate. "Oh great" Lane thought, "here is the one who gets to run bamboo under my fingernails to get me to talk about something I have probably never even heard of." "Hi there fella",the grizzly bear was speaking to him. "I heard your trip over here was a little rough. I'm truly sorry about that." "A little rough is a major understatement! Those goons tried to kill me before they got me here!" "Mr. Rogers, I am sorry they had to tase you,but it was necessary as I am about to explain to you. We have a matter that we believe you can help us with. Your qualifications for this type of problem are outstanding." "And what matter might that be? Who is 'we'? I don't know who you think you have,but  I am not the right guy." "I assure you sir that you are most definitely the right guy. By the way,my name is Tony Jackson, I am sorry we haven't been properly introduced. We are part of a task force created back in the 90s by President George Bush, the senior Bush, to help with the fight against terrorist groups throughout the United States." "Mr. Jackson, I know for sure you have the wrong man now. You deal with terrorists, and I am just a trucker from North Alabama. I ain't got any skills,you could possibly use against terrorists." "Mr. Rogers,you have already used those skills for which we have detained you twice against terrorists,without even knowing it sir." "Stop callin me Mr. Rogers! I ain't got no tv show,and I don't wear a sweater. My name is Lane! And when in the world could I have possibly fought terrorists? I have never served in the military or in law enforcement!" "Ok, Lane, I will tell you when you faced off with terrorists. Do you remember last summer when your truck was nearly hi-jacked on its way to the port of Pensacola, Florida?" "Yes I do! There were four men in an suv who followed me for over 300 miles. I noticed them and kept track of their movements and when I called my dispatcher, he put in a call to the Georgia Highway Patrol and we were able to lure them into a rest area near Valdosta. I had a load of Dell computers worth around two million dollars onboard that they were trying to steal. The officers who responded got into a shootout killing three of the men and critically wounding the other man. I suppose he died in the hospital later." "Actually, he did not die. He is a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay even now as we speak. Those men were part of a terror cell known as First Strike. The man who was wounded was interrogated several days after the incident and we learned much useful information from him." "What would terrorists want with computers?" "Well, they would resell them on the black market and use the money to purchase supplies and weapons." "Wow, why didn't my dispatcher ever tell me about this?" "Well, he didn't know. As far as anyone needed to know, it was simply a blocked hi-jacking attempt. We even let it leak to the press that the man had died from his injuries. We did all this because, if First Strike didn't know he was alive, then we could possibly gain some insight into their organization without them knowing we were doing so." "Ok, all of that makes a little sense, but how do I fit in? I don't understand what you want me to do." "It is really simple Lane. You can spot when someone is trying to hi-jack your load and you know how to respond to it. We need that skill,so you can teach our agents how to do what you do." "You have agents who drive trucks?" Lane was almost disbelieving. "Yes, we do. Sometimes,we need to move special cargo around the country, cargo that the general public can not know is being moved. So,we have a special fleet of trucks and three agents dedicated to that task. However, we lost two of our agents this year. They were hi-jacked at gunpoint and later shot and killed. We need someone who can spot these kind of things,before they happen. We believe you to be that man."
 As they rolled across the great expanse of Texas, Lane thought of how he had come to be an agency employee. He had not been in the military, had no law enforcement experience, nor had he ever been involved in the intelligence community. The agency had contacted him in the summer of 2008 while he was employed by a small trucking company in southern Tennessee.

 He had worked for Universal Freight as an over the road driver for almost 3 years when the agency first contacted him. It was an unconventional job offer at best. He had just finished his shower in a truck stop in Temple, Texas and was walking back through the dimly lit parking lot to his old "Freight Shaker" rig. As he stepped out from between two trailers on the row of trucks facing his, a black suv rounded the corner and started down the aisle.
 He didn't think much of it as the police constantly cruised through this particular truck stop quite often in hopes of catching a "lot lizard", or prostitute in trucker slang, plying her trade. But this suv was acting strange. It wasn't taking its time like they normally did,but rather was accelerating to at least thirty miles per hour as it came toward him. It screeched to a stop right in front of him and before the sound of the tires screeching stopped, the two passenger side doors opened and two large men jumped out and grabbed him.
 Lane swung and caught the first one on the chin with a huge roundhouse that nearly dropped him to the ground,but to his surprise, the man didn't go down. Instead he came back with a jab of his own that connected with Lane's nose and brought tears to his eyes. Before he could clear his vision, he felt two little pricks in his left side and a sudden electric shock that brought him to his knees in convulsions.
 He realized he had been hit with a taser and was alert enough to know that he was quickly being loaded in the suv and kidnapped. But why? He quickly ran through a list of people who might be mad at him and want to kidnap him, but he couldn't think clearly enough to sort it out.

 As the vehicle sped out of the parking lot and onto the interstate, he made mental notes of their direction of travel and tried to guess about how fast they were going. He had never had any special training in escape and evasion tactics, but he had seen enough movies to know that he needed to keep track of his approximate location so that he would know which way to run if he should get the chance. He knew that they were headed North on I-35  for now.
 As the vehicle continued up the highway,he guessed their speed to be around eighty miles per hour. These guys were really flying up through here. He had passed several state troopers scattered through this area less than an hour before, surely one of them would pull these guys over and he would get a chance to get away.
 But as he slid to a fully upright position in the middle seat between two men, he watched as a state trooper allowed them to race by uncontested.
 "What is going on here?" He asked himself. That trooper never even gave us a second glance. He should be writing them a ticket at this speed. "Who are these guys that the cops don't mess with them?"
 "Hey,what do ya'll want with me?" He asked. "If it's money, I'm afraid you picked the wrong guy for that. I'm broke and I ain't got anybody I can call to get any large amount from, so ransom is out."
 "We don't want your money Mr. Rogers. You'll find out soon enough why your here."  "Why else could you possibly want to kidnap me out of a parking lot? What else besides money could you possibly hope to gain?"
 "Everything will be explained to you shortly. For now,just sit back and enjoy the ride."  "Where are you taking me? Who are you? The cops didn't bother to stop you and you're doing twenty miles per hour over the speed limit. Am I under arrest?"  "We will explain everything back at the office in just a few minutes. Just calm down and everything will be alright. We don't want to hurt you and we aren't kidnapping you."  "You don't want to hurt me?" He asked incredulously. You just hit me with a stun gun so hard I nearly crapped myself. My side feels like someone parked a Volkswagen in it,but you don't want to hurt me."  "You hit one of our men. We had to put you in a position to where you couldn't hurt us."  "Well hell yeah I hit him. He was trying to grab me in a parking lot and take me against my will. That's kidnapping,no matter how you spin it."  "Look, I'm sorry how we had to take you,but it was necessary as you will see in just a few more minutes."  "Yeah,well how bout you pull this thing over and let me out. I'll take you on one at a time and hand you a whuppin that you're grandkids will feel."  "Mr. Rogers, please remain calm for just a few more minutes,or we will have to tase you again."  "That's another thing. How do you know my name?"  "We know everything Mr. Rogers."  "Yeah,well you better start letting me know something or your buddy here is gonna get his blocked knocked off again."  "Sir! I have asked you to calm down. If you make one hostile move I will have you tased to the point of total immobility! Now,sit down and shut up!"  They rode in quiet for several minutes and then took an unlit exit to an FM road out into the country. They drove approximately ten miles into the bare wilderness of Texas. The driver slowed and turned into an old dirt driveway that wound through a stand of trees and down into a bottom. Lane's heart and stomach were in knots as they came to a stop in front of an old farmhouse.

Monday, June 18, 2012

  The morning sun rose with a glaring ferocity and speed that nearly blinded him. As the brilliant flashes of multicolored light bounced off the chrome trim of the big Kenworth W900 and refracted through the windshield, Lane Rogers winced and squinted his eyes into the harsh glare. His aviation styled sunglasses were almost useless against the bright light and his brow was furrowed as he squeezed his eyes tighter to try to block some of the rays.  
  "Cowboy,you ok up there?" Justin Hall's voice crackled over his cb radio's external speaker. "You're weaving and swerving just a little bit. You aren't going to sleep on me are you?"
  "I'm alright Gunner" Lane replied. "This sun popped over the horizon like a missile out of a Kansas silo and caught me by surprise,that's all."
  "10-4, just checkin' up on ya. We can't afford an accident today."
  "I know that's the truth!" Lane replied again. "I don't even want to think about how bad that would ruin my day."
  "Ha ha! Your's and a whole lot of other people around here" Justin retorted.
  "Hey! You guys watch your mouths on those damn cb radios. Those are public channels you're yackin' on. You're going to put yourselves in one helluva bind if you aren't careful!" This new voice crackled in an ear bud inserted in Lane's left ear and it belonged to his and Justin's boss, Tony Jackson.
 "Yes sir" Lane and Justin both replied at once,knowing the microphones mounted in the cabs of their trucks would easily transmit everything they were saying directly to Langley,Virginia where Tony was sitting in his conference room with 4 other men monitoring their progress. They also both smiled into the tiny cameras mounted on the drivers side windshield panel,knowing that those grins would only infuriate Tony that much more.
  The smiles had their desired effect as Tony sputtered in their ears "Just remember,if you guys wreck,or in any other way compromise yourselves, you are not the only ones affected. You need to keep in mind that what you are doing is severely dangerous and that you could be responsible for thousands of lives."
  "Yes sir!" 

 The two behemoth trucks continued to roll down the highway into the morning sun. Lane was thinking about all the work that had been done to these two giant trucks to get them ready for this one single run. Over a half million dollars had been spent customizing the machines to make them perfect for the task they were designed for. The new video monitoring system consisted of four cameras inside the truck as well as four on the cabs exterior. They were all disguised to look like normal parts of the truck's custom decor and trim,but in reality,you couldn't get within thirty feet of the rig without being seen on the two sets of in cab monitors as well as the ones connected via remote feed to Jackson's office in Virginia.
 There was also the new high tech alarm system that would render the truck's computer inoperable without the thumbprint recognition of the driver assigned to the rig. It could also be remotely shut down from Virginia in the case of a hostile takeover.
  Then the highly unconventional steel armored plating that had been added inside the body panels of the doors and cab. This increased the truck's overall weight by nearly twenty thousand pounds.
 The specialized communications equipment including scrambled radios to reach Langley and Jackson's staff had cost nearly thirty thousand dollars. But, Jackson had insisted that it was better than their agency issued cell phones.
 The final touch was the expensive cb radios which Lane and Justin had each chosen for their rigs. Both of these were professionally tweaked and had huge five thousand watt linear amplifiers built in. With these radios,they could communicate with each other from as far apart as 60 miles,although they never hoped to be out of sight of each other.
  As they continued to roll towards the Louisiana state line on I-10 through Texas,they chattered back and forth on their radios and with other drivers around them. Little did they know, that someone else was listening in on every word they said, someone who had yet to speak back to them.