Chapter Twenty Three – Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA
The news from the radio was incredible. Their ears were glued to the newscast as the operator turned the volume up so everyone could hear. Apparently the ants created a nest in the warren of subway tunnels under Washington D.C. and spread rapidly. The military assumed that congress would be safe in the tunnels beneath the capitol area as they were lined with cement, but the ants had found a weak spot in the mortar and dug their way through. According to the report it was alleged that every congressman and senator along with most of their families had been seeking refuge in those tunnels.
“The military has stated that at least one congressman was saved from the deadly assault,” the newscaster continued. “Congressman James Watkins was rescued after being trapped inside one of the Capitol rail cars. There is neither word of his whereabouts nor the status of his wife Allison and their four daughters. Congressman Watkins, a Tea Party representative from Ohio, is a new member of congress voted into office during the last election. Meanwhile, it is believed that the President and his immediate staff and several cabinet members have been relocated to Nantucket Island. If this information is correct, President Crebbs and Congressman Watkins are the only surviving elected officials of our federal government.”
“Message from Colonel Fuller.” The radio operator handed Huck the tactical handset.
“All air transport has been cancelled,” Colonel Fuller stated. “All available assets have been pulled to be used in a massive redeployment of our military forces. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Hyram McKensey, has ordered all overseas military units and their dependents to be returned to the continental United States. I’m sorry I will not be able to send a plane to evacuate you. At any rate, we have also been ordered to transport all personnel to a secure military post.”
“What about you and the personnel trapped in the mall?” Huck asked. “You simply can’t stay there at the mercy of the ants.’
“A convoy of old National Guard M113 Personnel Carriers has been assembled and is on its way to our location as we speak. I recommend you join us.”
“Where are you headed from here Colonel?”
“My orders are to try to reach Fort Carson. We should be augmented along the route by other armored personnel carriers from other military installations and Guard armories.”
“What about the civilians? Who is going to protect them?”
There was a long period of quiet on the other end of the line. Huck realized the Colonel did not want to give voice to the words he had to speak. Colonel Fuller finally answered. “Based on Doctor Schmitt’s computer diagram, it has been estimated that we do not have the resources to protect the public. We will attempt to salvage what we can of the situation and carry as many civilian personnel with us as possible. However, military personnel and their families are to be given first priority.”
“Understood Colonel,” Huck whispered. “We’ll get back to you.”
Huck related the information to those waiting in anticipation. They did not like the idea of millions of Americans being left without protection; however, there was no viable alternative. If they could save the lives of some, at least there was a chance.
The radio operator turned to Huck again. “First Sergeant Brett wants to talk with you, sir.” Brett was in the lead Bradley.
Huck took the handset. “What do you need, Top?”
“News has spread,” First Sergeant Brett stated. “Most of the guys with us here either have family at Fort Campbell or no wives. Sergeant Smith’s wife and two kids live in a small town east of here called Somerset.”
Brett was telling him that the families of some of the men in the Bradleys would be evacuated with the military, but Smith’s family, living in an unsecured civilian community, was sure to be killed. Huck glanced at the faces of Caitlin and Jacob sitting next to their mothers. “What do you recommend?”
“Recommend we move to Somerset, secure Smith’s family, and then rejoin the convoy.”
“Might need the firepower and we may be able to fit a few more people on board.”
“We have a choice,” Huck told those in the vehicle with him. “We can drop you off at the mall with the military forces there, who are waiting for an armored convoy, or you can go with us to a town east of here to rescue the family of one of the men with us.”
The choice was unanimous; everyone wanted to rescue the soldier’s family. Huck glanced at Sergeant Smith sitting across from him. Smith had said nothing to indicate that it was his family, but Huck noticed a look of relief on his face. Smith was a professional soldier and would do his duty regardless of the consequences. He gave Huck a weak smile and a thumbs-up sign.
“What about you news people?” Huck asked the FOX news team.
They glanced at each other. The woman, Alicia, was quickly recovering from her ordeal and the cameraman Josh shrugged his shoulders. “Our job is to report the news,” Josh replied.
“Might be a good personal interest story in staying with you.” Alicia nodded.
“Are you sure you don’t want to join the military at the mall?” Huck looked at Tappy and Kayle. “The children may be safer with the larger convoy.”
“You said they were waiting for some old armored vehicles to pick them up, didn’t you?” Kayle asked. Huck nodded his head. “Right now we’re safe and secure in a modern and dependable armored carrier. I’d rather be here than waiting with the soldiers who are waiting for unreliable transportation. Not only may that transportation fail to show up, chances are good those old vehicles may break down.” Huck could not deny the logic of what she stated.
“What about you?” Huck asked Colonel Grace. “You may get quicker access to a secure lab.”
Colonel Grace glanced around the interior of the Bradley. His eyes finally settled on Tappy. “I think we are in a good position to find a secure lab facility. I also need the assistance of Doctors Gallagher and Schmitt in the work I’m doing.”
“Take us to Somerset?” Huck told First Sergeant Brett over the phone.
“Take I-65 to the Parkway 9008 and go east through Glasgow, Edmonton, Columbia, Russell Springs, and then Somerset,” Sergeant Smith told the driver so he could pass the word on to the lead Bradley. “It’s about a hundred miles as the crow flies.”
As soon as they reached the cutoff from I-65 to Highway 9008, they filled the Bradleys with diesel and also filled two jerry cans and strapped them on top to pour over the Bradleys to discourage the ants if they were attacked. They also took whatever they needed from the can goods and other edible food found in the gas station quick market. Evidently the ants had not found the place yet, but there was no sigh of people anywhere.
The first large town they ran into, Glasgow was north of the Parkway, and Huck had the Bradleys pull over to look for signs of the ants. They had met no vehicles on the entire trip from Bowling Green. It became immediately apparent as they traveled down Scottsville Road that the ants had been at work. Numerous vehicles rested on the roads, some torn to pieces as if they were made of newspaper, others sitting idly with their doors open. Signs of dried blood were in the vehicles as well as on the asphalt. The large glass windows of many storefronts had been shattered, and trash littered the streets. The area was like an apocalyptic scene.
Huck signaled for First Sergeant Brett to turn around and get back on the Parkway. They did not have time to search for survivors if they wanted to rescue Sergeant Smith’s family. After his family was found they would then take the time to look for others.
As soon as they got east of the town of Edmonton they started seeing signs of people. Several cars passed them heading west and one pulled onto the on ramp heading east in the direction they were traveling. The driver of the car did not signal them as he quickly overtook the Bradleys and zoomed past. He was the only person in the car and the passenger seat and back seat was stacked high with boxes. They did not appear to be boxes of food but containers of very expensive luxury items.
“Stupid prick!” One of the soldiers in the Bradley stated, glancing at the speeding car through the firing port. “Doesn’t even have sense enough to steal food. What good is jewelry and electronics gonna do him when he’s in the mountains starving?”
“Looters like him will never make it to the mountains,” another soldier replied. “Freakin ants gonna get him while he’s setting on the john in some plush motel somewhere playing with his expensive video toys.”
Several hours later they stopped at a roadblock where the Parkway intersected with Highway 27 in Somerset. Several police cars and an old truck with bored National Guard soldiers sitting in the back manned the roadblock. The Bradleys pulled over and lifted the back hatches. Everyone dismounted to stretch their legs, which had, became cramped in the tight quarters.
Sergeant Smith walked over to the sheriff’s deputy who appeared to be in charge of the roadblock detail. Although Smith did not know the deputy, when Smith gave the address of his family on Green Hill Park Drive just off Rush Branch Road, the man nodded his head.
Huck strolled over to join them. “No sign of the ants?” he casually asked the deputy.
“Nary a one,” the deputy replied, looking closely at Huck and back at the women standing near the Bradley. “You government folks of some kind?”
“I’m FBI,” Huck nodded toward the Bradleys. “Got some important scientists with us though. You have been alerted to locate secure shelter for the people? Preferably easy to defend concrete or marble buildings with adequate storage of non perishable food and drinking water?”
“Mayor and Sheriff don’t reckon the ants will make it this far.” The deputy smiled. “We got the Guard boys helping to patrol the streets. Sheriff figures that between them and us we got enough firepower to destroy any number of big ants.”
“Your Sheriff’s figuring wrong,” Huck stated. “The 101st Airborne boys in Bowling Green almost got wiped out by these ants and we heard on the radio that the City of Washington D.C. along with all our congressmen just got hit hard. These ants are nothing to trifle with. They’re big, mean and hungry and could take your patrol car over there and tear it into little pieces, or pick it up and walk off with it.”
The deputy seemed to be impressed by Huck’s knowledge. “You done seen these big ants?”
“Done seen them,” Huck shrugged.
“They that bad?”
The deputy glanced down at his sidearm, a 9mm automatic.
“Won’t penetrate the ant’s hide,’ Huck pointed at the pistol. “Saw a man shoot one point blank with a full magazine and the ant got him. Assault rifles and high-powered rifles will work, but it takes dozens of shots to bring just one ant down. When there’s a thousand of them stampeding in your direction, you don’t have time for dozens of shots.”
“Reckon you ought to tell the Mayor and Sheriff?” The deputy now looked frightened.
“Tell us how to get to city hall?” Huck asked. “I’ll send one Bradley to secure Sergeant Smith’s family and take the other one to city hall and talk with the authorities.”
Several hours later they were prepared to return to Bowling Green and join the military convoy. Despite his urgent plea to the Sheriff and Mayor, and with reinforcement information from Eoin and Tappy, the authorities refused to declare martial law and move the populace to more secure and defendable areas. The Mayor insisted that he had enough military strength with the city police, sheriff’s deputies, and National Guard members, to safely defend the city.
Just before they pulled out, First Sergeant Brett called out to Huck. “Colonel Fuller’s on the line, sir. Says it’s important.” As soon as Huck heard the Colonel’s voice, he knew something was wrong.
“Relief convoy broke down twelve miles north of here,” Colonel Fuller stated. “As soon as the men dismounted to repair several busted M113’s, they were attacked by the ants. Most made it safely back into the carriers, but they refuse to move until they can rescue their friends trapped in the busted carriers. I told them to wait until nighttime.”
“What about you and your men?” Huck asked, hearing the fatigue in Colonel Fuller’s voice.
“We’re running short on water but so far the ants have not breached our security.”
“At lease some good news,” Huck replied.
“That’s not why I called you,” Colonel Fuller hesitated. “I received a call from a military unit near a place named Pikeville, Kentucky. Seems like a government transport broke down and had to make an emergency landing there. General McKensey said there were military personnel, their families, and some other very important people on board. I gave him your location and he asked if you would proceed on to Pikeville and rescue as many of those personnel as possible.”
“We only have two Bradleys,” Huck replied. “And we have very little room left inside either one.”
“After talking with the General two hours ago, I took the liberty of sending three of our Bradleys with crews only in your direction. They should be at your present location in about two hours.”
“I would like to remind you that I have civilian personnel with me along with two very important scientists.”
“Believe me, they will be safer with you than back here. The General did say that the personnel on that plane were vital to the future of our country.”
Huck gave in. “Have the Bradley crews contact First Sergeant Brett and exchange information. In the meantime, we’ll continue on to Pikeville at a slow pace until they catch up with us.”
“That’s a big ten-four,” Colonel Fuller replied. “The Bradleys were also loaded down with additional ammunition and food supplies. Be careful and God protect you Commander!”
Huck gave the signal for everyone to load up. As soon as they were secured, he told them of his conversation with Colonel Fuller. They all accepted the change of plans.
“Why are we leaving now?” Kayle asked. “We could wait for the other three Bradleys to catch up with us.”
Huck shook his head. “I don’t want to be here if the ants attack before they arrive. We may be encouraged to try to save what people we can. If so, our mission to Pikeville will be jeopardized.”