The Battle Begins

Chapter 6

The Aftermath

(Author's note: This chapter takes place after Jason Gasper's Exorcism and the upcoming Twins story Number 3)

The opening shots were weeks in the past.

Buddy propped his elbows on his desk and rested his face in his hands.

After the appearance of the self styled 'Lord Doom' and Superwoman's abrupt departure (Author's note: See Jason Gasper's new Story: Exorcism), he had ordered camp broke and had the Rebels on the road back to Base Camp in Bolger Texas. No one was surprised when Queen Hippolyota and a majority of Her amazons had decided to travel with him. How the Amazons communicated over long distances was still a mystery to the rebels, yet the Queen had informed Buddy that her people on the Island had been informed that, perhaps, it was time for the warrior women to rejoin the rest of the world. Those that wished, could remain on the Island and those warriors that wished could return there. For herself and those that chose to follow her, it was time to help rebuild a new world….a world where equality among the races and sexes was the reality, not just an empty phrase spoken by mush mouthed politicians.

All in all, the trip home had been uneventful, with the exception of that compound just outside of Wacco.

Buddy new his history and new that, in his world, that compound had been the home of a group of religious nuts that had fun afoul of the then government. In that case, Buddy had sided with the nuts, knowing that the US government had had no business messing with them in the first place. But then, when had the Federal government of the US ever practiced restraint when it came to sticking their collective noses into places they didn't belong?

The group that inhabited the compound in this, Otherverse, reality bore very little resemblance to Religious group in his home reality. In fact, all signs pointed to the fact that the current inhabitants had taken the compound by force, virtually walking in and taking over at the point of a gun.

His advance scouts had tagged the place for later examination as they sped by on their way south to meet the forces of Lex Luthor, now, as they returned at a more leisurely pace, they took the time to give it a close look. What they found had them radioing in to Buddy with disgust.

Buddy had ordered that the word go out that the Rebels fully intended to reestablish law and order, starting in Texas and the southern states and that warlords, punks, and thugs would have a very short life expectancy. So far, especially in the more rural areas, they had been met with open arms and heart felt thanks…..such was not the case in the Wacco compound.

"That place is filthy, General." Captain Diane had reported, the look on her face showing that her words were, if any thing, an understatement. "There has been no attempt to keep the place up or clean the place out. There are skeletons lying around, indicating that bodies were never removed, simply left to lie and rot. The men and most of the women seem to be well fed, but the kids and some of the women are really under nourished. And General, " she paused and spat, her mouth twisting as if she had just bit into something disgustingly sour, "They have slaves."

"Blacks?" Buddy straightened up in his jeep, his gray eyes glinting like hard steel.

"Some." Diane nodded. "But there are others as well. Orientals, Hispanic, and other minorities. And even some whites."

"Well, General, what are we going to do?" Rita, Buddy's ever present bodyguard spoke up from her seat in the Jeep behind Buddy. "We can't let crap like that go on. "

"No…no, we can't." Buddy thought for a moment and then. "Hop in , Captain." He ordered. Almost before Dianne had settled herself in the back beside Rita, Buddy had thrown the jeep in gear and popped the clutch. In the passenger seat beside him, Betsy shot a hand back to grasp Diane to keep her from falling back out while, at the same time silently praying that a replacement driver would be assigned to the General soon. The previous driver had, unfortunately, been one of the few fatalities in the action against Luthor's forces.

Buddy smiled grimly as he swung the Jeep out of the column and sped away to the west towards the compound. Behind him, he knew, the platoon the Brigade commanders had put together to bird dog him would be scrambling to catch up.

The tip to the compound was a short one and, if Buddy was hoping to ditch the guard platoon, he was sorely disappointed. Even as he pulled off onto the dirt road that led to the Compound entrance, a Bradley APC swung in front of him, the Rebel lounging in the top hatch grinning and waving as the vehicle slowed, forcing Buddy to ease off the gas pedal.

"Damn nursemaids." Buddy grumbled while Betsy, Diane and Rita struggled unsuccessfully to hide their amusement. On Buddy's shoulder, Deet, didn't even try, sqwaking his laughter while mentally chiding Buddy for his foolhardiness. "You keep out of it!' Buddy told the miniature Griffen.

The others didn't even bat an eye, having become used to Buddy's comments to the small beast. Queen Hippolyota did the same thing with the griffen that had adopted her and many were now aware that the little things were intelligent and were able to speak to their adoptive humans mentally!

As the lead vehicle came to a stop before the locked gates of the compound, the rest of the platoon swung in behind Buddy's jeep and a squad of rebels swarmed past, taking up positions before the gates.

"Tell that Bradley to crash it!" Buddy ordered Betsy. He pulled his reworked Thompson from its holster and laid the massive weapon across his lap. As if that were a signal, sounds of weapons being readied came from all around and then were drowned out as the lead Bradely shot forward, smashing through the flimsy chain link gate and continuing on.

"Let's go!" Buddy ordered, putting action to his words and sending his jeep bouncing and racing after the Bradley

"No Guards?" Betsy asked, looking around.

"They're there." Buddy answered before Diane could. "But would you want to start a dance with this kind of fire power facing you down?"

Betsy nodded her understanding but remained silent as they approached the main compound. Already people were swarming out the front door and several men could be seen moving into position on the roofs as the platoon of Rebels brought their vehicles to a halt.

At a look from Rita, Dianne dived from the jeep even before it had stopped moving, yelling for her team and throwing up a protective circle around Buddy.

"…turrent gunners watching the roofs." Betsy was whispering into her mic. "Any one even look froggy you take them out!"

"Blood thirsty little thing, aren't you?" Buddy asked, as he heaved himself from his seat. "Ever think I might just be able to take care of myself?"

"I don't doubt it, General." Betsy answered, giving him her warmest smile. She did not, however, rescind her orders to the crews of the Three Bradley vehicles of Buddy's personal platoon.

Buddy gave her a look but knew when to admit defeat. Instead, he gripped the Thompson by the pistol grip and then swung it up on his shoulder, the barrel pointing to the sky and stepped forward to size up the gang of men that that poured out the front doors of the compounds main building.

Diane had been correct in her report. All the men looked well fed, if extremely dirty. All of them seemed to be wearing some form of cover alls, some held up with strips of rope, all stained and grimy.

And all hefting some kind of weapon…Shotguns being the most numerous.

Buddy stopped before approaching the group and took a long moment to look around, being excruciatingly obvious as he turned slowly around, his eyes taking in the run down condition of the buildings, the weed choked gardens, the open cess pool that had been dug when the plumbing had given out, rusted out vehicles, the malnourished animals that wandered aimlessly, and the complete lack of children and women.

"HEY JU!" One of the men mush mouthed, stepping forward, his beer gut jiggling. "You'uns bes git them thare Ve Hicles offen our lan! We got no beef wit you sojer boys and we doesn't wan you here. Now g'on….git!" he stopped and spit a thick line of tabacco juice and then glared back up at the rebels, ignoring the thin stream of spittle that dribbled down his tangled beard.

Buddy ignored the man, continuing his survey, his eyes growing narrow as he took in the complete squalor.

"HEY!" the fat red neck bellowed, "I'm talking to you, boy!"

"Shoot the next man to open his mouth before I give them permission!" Buddy ordered.

The fat redneck blanched and opened his mouth to protest, his flap closing with an audible snap as several rebels brought their weapons up, their barrels pointing in his direction.

"Betsy, take some people and fan out, go over everything, find what you can, and be quick about it." Buddy ordered. As the radio operator picked out rebels and headed off, Buddy finaly turned his attention to the group of men facing him and his rebels. "Who's in charge of this misbegotten rabel?" he demanded.

"Huh?" the fat red neck was obviously confused. His confusion turned to anger as the noticed some of the rebels fanning out. 'Hey now, you jes git yersefs back on outta here! Ya'll got no rat to go nosing round chere!"

"My, he's the eloquent one, isn't he?" Rita muttered just loud enough for Buddy to hear.

'The epitome of arrested education." Buddy agreed, making no effort to lower his voice.

"Haw?"

"I said you're one dumb son of a bitch." Buddy translated loosely.

"You gonna let'em talk at you 'at way, Jebadiah?" One of the other men called out.

"Yeah, stomp the prettly little sojier boy, Jebadiah!" another called out.

"You are, I take it, Jebadiah?" Buddy walked up to the fat redneck,

"Yeah. I'm Jebadiah Scutterlen, an this here's our land. You got no rat trespassing laik this!"

"What did he say?" Rita muttered. Deet let out an amused squawk and reared up, flapping his wings.

"That's a mighty pretty critter there." Jebadiah eyed the Griffen. "I reckon he'd make mighty fine ettin too!" Deet's amusement turned to indignant anger and Buddy had to hide a smile as the griffen let off a rousing mental stream of cursing….a habit it had, it claimed, gotten from him.

"Well, you jes gonna stand there?" Jebadiah demanded as Buddy continued to remain silent.

"I'm waiting." Buddy told the man.

'Waiting? Waitiing fer what?"

"For my people to report in." Buddy answered honestly. Then he relaxed a bit. "I guess we could talk while we wait. Tell me Jebadiah, how long have you people been here?"

"Nigh on four years, why you want to know 'at for?"

"Four years." Buddy nodded and looked around. "And in that time you have made no effort to clean this place up, no effort to get any gardens going, and no effort to put things back into working order."

"Ain't no need for sich." Jebadiah spat. "Gardens is wimen work. Man 'spossed to hunt and fish and take charge of things."

"I'll show him 'wimen's work'!" Rita growled, grippiing her M-16 and stepping forward,. Stopping only when Buddy put a hand on her shoulder.

"Now you jes take 'er easy there, little girl." Jebadiah, commanded, "Afore I take it into my mind to paddle your bottom for being uppity and all!" his courage was growing as the rebels seemed to stall. If he had bothered to look closer, he would have noticed the knuckles on Buddy's hand grow white as he gripped Rita's shoulder, holding her back.

"What about cleaning things up and getting the equipment back in order?" Buddy demanded, making a huge effort to keep his voice calm. "This place is a pig stye!"

"Cleanin's wimens work." Jebadiah spouted, as if reciting a tried and true mantra. "'Sides, we like it the way it is."

"You have children here, Jebadiah?" Buddy asked.

"Yah." Jebadiah spat again. "Lots of little snot noses running round."

"Why don't you call them out here?" Buddy smiled at the man, but the smile did not reach his eyes.

"Now why would I want to do that, Sojier boy?"

"Because," Buddy began, stepping even closer. "if you don't, I am going to order these fine men and women accompanying me to blow you and your pack of thugs to hell in a matter of seconds!" he didn't seem to signal in any way, yet all the rednecks gathered in front of the Compound were suddenly very much aware that there were a LOT of weapons trained in their direction and the faces behind those weapons were hard and determined.

"Simon, you go tell them wimen to bring them brats out here." Jebadiah ordered, swallowing as he glared into Buddy's eyes. "You're letting yerself in for a world of hurt, sojier boy!"

"I'll live, I'm sure." Buddy drawled. As a steady stream of women, each shooing out several children, began filing out of the main doors, Buddy waved the platoon's med team forward.

"Check out the children first, and then the more undernourished women." He ordered. "I would imagine that the ones that look well fed are every bit as bad as the men."

"Bad?" Jebadiah bellowed, over hearing. "We're god fearing folk, Sojier boy. You got not rat to call us bad!"

"Why are those kids under fed, Jebadiah!" Buddy demanded.

"Games scarce round chere." The redneck muttered, "Men's got to eat more so's we can do the hunting and fishing!"

Looking over the children, Buddy estimated there were close to fifty under the age of 9 and close to twenty between the ages of 10 and 15. Of the latter, the males were casting looks of hatred towards the Rebels and Buddy knew, as his father had discovered, that these kids were lost. Had they the resources of a civilized, intact society, they could probably have been salvaged, but in this day and age, in this war torn nation, there was simply not enough time or man power to do the job. So Buddy reluctantly turned his attention to the females and his eyes narrowed. Several of the girls carried bruises. These he pointed out to the Medical team and demanded they be checked over first.

Even as he gave the order, the sound of approaching vehicles caused every one to turn and several more med vehicles pulled in.

"We called for more people, General." His med officer informed him. "We'll set up " he turned and pointed. " right over there." He turned back to Buddy and shook his head. "It doesn't look good so far, General. They are all mal nourished and several of those we have already checked show signs of both physical and sexual abuse."

Buddy nodded and turned his attention back to Jebadiah, no sign of what he was feeling on his face.

"Well, Jebadiah?" he demanded.

"Well what?" Jeb blustered, "Them there's our brats and we can do wif them what we want!"

"Not any more." Buddy made up his mind. "We are going to relieve you of the burden of caring for these children." Jebadiah thought for a moment and then nodded.

"I sorta reckoned you was one of them there liberal social cry baby types." He sneered. "Well you jes go on and take em…we ken mek more!" he pointed a thick dirty finger in Buddy's face. "But you bes leave them older girls here. They tends our needs when the wimen cain't." he turned and pointed at one of the girls…no older than 14. "Jessy girl, you git yer ass back inna house now. Ya hear me?"

The girl looked around, as if uncertain and then moved hesitantly away from the group, back towards the door.

"Jessy, you stay right there." Buddy called out, locking eyes with Jebadiah. He then stepped back and motioned the senior med officer to him.

"Carl, you were with my Dad. You saw this enough to know what to do." He told the officer. "Cull out the ones that are lost and get the rest out of here. Don't bother setting up, you can do that down the road a bit. Just get these kids back to the column."

"Yes Sir!" the med officer sprinted away, bellowing orders.

Buddy started to turn back to Jebadiah, stopping when he saw Betsy jogging up, her face red with anger, her hands gripping her M-16 in such a way to suggest that she would be more than happy to start shooting.

"What did you find, Betsy?" he demanded as she got closer.

"Slave pens, General." The communication tech answered. From the sound of her voice, Buddy knew that wasn't all of it. He waited. "General, most of the men and women have been sexually molested and tortured. And" She took a deep breath "according to those able to talk, many of them are wondering why they haven't been sent down to Austin yet!"

Buddy stiffened. "What are you talking about?"

"These….filth trade the slaves to the creepies in Austin. For ammo, goods from the stores down there, and protection."

"Protection? Austin is not that close!" Rita exclaimed.

"Since when has that had anything to do with Creepies?" Buddy countered. Of course he knew why this group of Creepie sympathizers had lost contact with the creepies in Austin….Austin was now, truly a dead city. He didn't know what had happened, or who was responsible, but he knew something had killed off many, if not most of the Creepies in the city, sending the rest fleeing to the countryside. Many of those fleeing from the city had been caught by his his roving teams, interrogated and then executed. Rebels did not normally take Creepie prisoners. When they did, they didn't have them for long. He composed himself. "Okay Betsy, get those people out and have them link up with the med units that are pulling out." He waited until Betsy was gone and then turned back to Jebadiah.

"What you been whispering about over there, Sojier boy?" Jebadiah demanded.

"Shut your filthy mouth!" Buddy snarled, sending the butt of his Thompson into the beer gut! The red neck folded over, gagging.

The other men present moved forward menacingly, stopping as the hard eyed rebels trained their weapons on them. In the Bradley's the turret gunners atop the vehicles readied their weapons and began tracking the armed men on the roofs of the surrounding buildings.

"Whut the hale 'd you do that fer?" Jebadiah gasped. He pulled himself up, wiping bile from his lips as he glared at Buddy.

"You've been trading to the Creepies." Buddy informed him. The look of confusion on the man's face, he knew, meant he did not understand what he was talking about. Creepie was a term coined by the Rebels of Buddy's home reality to refer to the cannibalistic humans living beneath the blasted and deserted cities. "You've been trading slaves to the Believers! The cannibals in Austin!"

"We ain't not done no sich thang!" Jebadiah denied. The fear that rose in his eyes told a different story.

"You're lying, you son-of-a-bitch!" Buddy sent the fat red neck sprawling with another stoke of the weapon butt, this time straight into the man's face.

"You gawdamned heathen!" Jebadiah mush mouthed, spitting out several broken teeth.

"You hold slaves, you sexually abuse children, and you sell people to the Creepies, knowing what will happen to them…and I am the heathen. Right!" Buddy left him lying on the ground and walked back to his jeep, waiting for word that the slaves and children were clear of the compound. When it came, he was informed that the older, male children, those that would grow up to be the new generation of ignorant red necks, were being held until Buddy gave the okay to release them. He was also informed that many of the women, usually those that showed signs of under nourishment, had requested to accompany the rebels while the rest were being completely defiant.

"Let them stay with the older children." Buddy had ordered, "We'll release them and point them to the north East…let Lex Luthor and his people deal with them."

"What about this bunch?" Rita asked as Buddy got off the horn.

Buddy looked out over the men and all he saw was sullen, smoldering hatred.

Back at the column, the chief medical officer winced as gunfire ripped through the after noon air, the chugga-chugga sound of Buddy's .45 Thompson standing out from the crack and pops of the M-16s carried by most troops.

Once the Rebels had pulled into base camp, Buddy had ordered the women and older male children from the compound to be escorted to the northern border of Rebel claimed territory and released.

He had also been brought up to date on events that had occurred while he was on the road.

Kara had returned to her fortress with a quickly recovering Rogue, the twins and Hippolyota's ward, Donna Troy, had initialed set out to hunt for Rogue but had ended up in at a small monestary, helping them rebuild after an attack.

Buddy had promptly ordered a team of engineers, and a group of Amazon women unable to come to grips with the modern ways, sent to the Haven of Light monastery to offer assistance. Buddy was under no illusion that Sister Angela, the leader of that small group, would welcome his people with open arms. That was okay, though. He had no problem with the Haven of Light. They were a peaceful people who could and would fight when the need arose, not relying on others to fight their battles for them. Those people he could respect and would do what ever he could to forge good relations with them.

There was still no sign of Lar Gand anywhere. The troubled young meta had disappeared soon after the attack that had cost him his eye, his estranged wife's unborn child, and had nearly cost Rogue her life.

Since then, things had been a bit quiet. Buddy had sent teams west to check out Arizona and New Mexico, a few teams north to scout out Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. Colorado he would leave alone, knowing that Kara and her people had setup up their fortress there and would take care of any incursions. He had also sent teams to the east and south east to gather information in those states

So now he sat in his Office, frowning down at the pile of paper work that covered his desk.

"Okay, I am not going to do what my dad did and try to handle all of this myself!" He muttered. Looking up he caught Betsy's eyes. "Betsy, get with the other Brigade coms and tell them I want a small Head Quarters brigade formed…..when that is done, send all this shit to them!" Betsy laughed and turned to carry out her orders. As she bent over her radio equipment she stopped and listened.

"There's a jeep coming in, General." They are flying the flag of the United states of America and a white flag…" she paused. "Correction, it is not the US flag, but something similar. The same red white and blue, stars and stripes, but with a big blue L in the center of the stripes."

"Three guess as to what the L stands for and the first two don't count." Buddy sighed. He stood and hefted his trusty Thompson. "Tell the sentries to let them through and have them guided ….." he paused. One thing he did not want to do was give an enemy any advantages…such as knowing the exact location of the Command Center. "Correction, hold them at the north gate, we'll meet them there." He looked over at Rita who was already shrugging into her battle harness. "You ready?"

Rita smiled and nodded. "You betcha, Boss."

Out side the command post, Buddy stopped, smiling as Hippolyota approached. She was dressed in Rebel fashion now, though Buddy could not, for the life of him, recall seeing any rebel woman that could make the tiger strip fatigues look THAT way.

"I hear we have a visitor." She said as she grew closer. The Griffen on her shoulder rising up and squawking a greeting to Deet. Deet, the griffen that had adopted Buddy, rode on his human's shoulder in a similar fashion and now gave a return squawk.

"So I hear myself. I was just going to greet him. Would you like to accompany me?" he held out an arm and Rita suppressed a grin as the queen of the Amazons linked her hand through the arm and settled in to walk beside him. It was no secret that the Queen and the General were seeing a lot of each other and Rita had been secretly amazed at the way the rest of the Amazons suddenly seemed to be behaving around Buddy. As if he were already their king!

When they reached the north gate, a lanky man in olive drab fatigues stepped out of the jeep and waited, the stars gleaming on his collar identifying him as a general.

"General Raines?" the officer began as Buddy approached. The officer saluted and, bemused, Buddy returned the gesture.

"I am afraid you have the advantage of me, General." Buddy commented.

"Hardly." The officer smiled slightly. "I am General Masterson of the new United States Combined Forces.

"Masterson?" Buddy mused. "There was a Colonel Masterson at the battle of Smithville."

"That would have been me." The officer nodded, if he was impressed by Rebel intelligence, he hid it well.

"So, General Masterson, to what do we owe this visit. I can hardly believe it to be a social call."

"You are quite correct, General Raines." Masterson confirmed. He slowly reached into the jeep and removed a small envelope. "I have here a proposal from President Luthor."

"President Luthor?" Buddy raised an eyebrow. "Did some one hold an election while I wasn't looking?"

"Desperate times require desperate measures, General." Masterson countered with a thin smile. "I am sure you understand. With the New United States of America under martial law, it was necessary that a leader be named. For the time being, that will be Luthor. As things settle down, elections will be held."

"I'm sure they will be." Buddy drawled, making no effort to hide the scorn or disbelief in his voice. "And what, exactly, is Luthor's proposal."

"President Luthor." Masterson began, stressing the title. "proposes an end to the conflict between the New US and the Rebels and would like to begin talks to discover the best method for integrating your troops into the Combined Forces."

"Excuse me?" Buddy frowned at Masterson. "Did I understand you correctly? Luthor wants to discuss how to do what?"

"President Luthor is well aware of the abilities of the Rebels and acknowledges the good you have done here in the short time you have been here. But now that there is a legal US government…"

Buddy cut him off.

"Forget it." He pointed a finger at Masterson. "We don't recognize Luthor as a legitimate President, not that it would matter if he were. From this time on, these southern states are no longer part of the US. They are. " he paused and smiled, remembering what his father had called his old nation. "the Southern United States. Elections will be held soon to determine our President."

"Reviving the old Confederate States, General?" Masterson grinned. "Really."

"No, General. Not the Confederate states. The SUSA, Southern United States since these just happen to be southern States. No more no less."

Masterson thought for a moment and then nodded.

"Okay," he said. "In the event that you refused to rejoin with the New US, I have been instructed to offer a cease fire proposal and to set borders."

"You know what the borders are." Buddy nodded. "and there will be a cease fire so long as your goons stay to the north and east of them."

"Also what about the extreme Western States? You know, of course, that we do have an outpost in Washington!"

"Then I suggest you contact them and have them pull out." Buddy demanded. "We have nothing there and don't plan on expanding any further west than Colorado at this time, but we will not allow fly over of our territory by your forces." He paused. "Also, while we have had little contact with those In Utah, we would consider it extremely unwise of you to interfere with them. We would be forced to ally ourselves with them against you. The same goes for the New Navajo Nation."

"You don't believe much in subtlety, do you?" Mastersaon mused.

"Depends on the situation." Buddy grinned. "In this case, I want there to be no misunderstanding."

"Unfortunately, I can hardly promise that President Luthor will allow renegades and savages to control three whole states. If I am correct, Your Navajos are claiming both Arizona and New Mexico?"

"That's right." Buddy nodded sharply. "And I don't recal asking you to promise anything. I simply informed you what we would do if you moved against either them or Utah!"

"And do you agree to stay south and west of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi?" Masterson demanded, his tight lips an indication that he was just barely holding his temper.

"Hardly." Buddy laughed. "If we get calls for help from north of the line, we'll damned sure help. If some one up there wants fire arms, we'll furnish them. And if we even think your people are starting to push further south than Ohio and West Virginia we'll be there to meet you!"

"That is hardly fair, General!" Masterson protested.

"It's the only game in town, General. Take it or leave it."

Masterson struggled to regain his temper and looked to the fatigued woman. Finally recognition dawned.

"Your majesty." He bowed and, when he straightened, smiled. "I have also been instructed to contact you and your people. It is President Luthor's belief that you have some how come across some erroneous information." A side long glance to Buddy showed where such information could have come from "President Luthor wishes to extend to you and your councilors an invitation to be his guest in the New White House in Metropolis. He would like an opportunity to present his plans for rebuilding this nation and then the world and would appreciate your valued suggestions."

"You may tell your President this!" Hippolyota drew herself up, looking every bit the queen, despite her current attire. ""You can tell him that the Amazon Queen and the Amazons reject the words of the one who defiled the body of the Queen's Daughter. There will be peace between Luthor and the Amazons when the sword of the queen has removed his head from his body and not before!"

She cast a glance around , noting the looks of approval in the eyes of her ever present personal guard. It had amused her that her guard and Buddy's Rita had come to a quick understanding. The small Rebel was already training them in the use of modern weaponry and tactics and the captain of the guard willingly deferred to the Rebel in all matters pertaining to the well being of both Buddy and her Queen. She made a mental note to speak with the captain and discover the best way to integrate Rita into the guard for she was now certain that she would remain with the Rebels and with Buddy. Whether he knew it or not, Buddy Raines was soon to become a King. The very first King of the Amazons!

"The Amazons have cast their lots with General Raines and we shall abide by what ever terms of truce he agrees to." She summed up her thoughts to Masterson. "To that effect, you and your president can safely assume that when you treat with General Raines, you treat with me." She fell silent and waited to discover what Masterson's reply would be.

The General drew in a deep breath, looking around and noticing the number of weapons that were not quite pointed in his general direction, a fact the white faced driver of his jeep had long noticed.

"Very well." He finally broke the long silence. "Perhaps we will talk later. For now, your terms are agreed upon. But know this, Genereal Raines, President Luthor is determined to make this nation whole again and will not leave you to run amok among these southern states for long. It would be to your benefit and the well being of all these people to consider this very carefully."

"Consider it considered." Buddy drawled. "Now, General, I believe it's about time you left and reported back to your master."

"Goddamn you Raines." Masterson hissed as he climbed back into his jeep. "You've had your chance. And we're giving you more time than we should, But you can count on this. I will crush you . You and your damned Rebels."

"You can try, General. You can try." Buddy smiled. Hippolyota moved a bit closer and Buddy was not even aware of the way his arm slipped around her waist.

The movement was not, however, lost on Rita and the Amazon Guards, all of whom exchanged amused, knowing looks. Nor was it lost on Masterson who, with a sharp jerk of his head, ordered the driver to pull out.

"What now, Boss?" Rita ventured as the jeep pulled out of sight, heading north.

"First, make sure General Masterson is followed. I don't want him doubling back and causing any problems."

"Well duh." Rita grimaced. "I meant the overall picture."

"We do what needs to be done, short stuff." Buddy grew serious. "We rebuild and we get ready. Sooner or later Luthor will try something and we will have to face him. One way or another."

"Are we going to abide by the truce?"

"Yes, Yes we will." Buddy frowned. "I don't like the idea of leaving those people up there under Luthor's thumb, but right now all we would accomplish would be the destruction of both forces, nothing more." Buddy turned and looked out of the rebels and Amazons that were starting to gather around him. "Get some leaflets printed up, detailing the truce and have them dropped over the states Luthor controls and those we control as well as the states between us.. At least we can let people know what is going on and give them a choice. Make sure you include the re worked Tri-State Manifesto we worked up. Those that want to live according to that, can make their way to our lines, and those that would rather live under Luthor had best get moving north, they will find little welcome here."

"I'm on it, Boss!" Betsy, who had joined the crowd, took off at a run, her mouth pulled up in a wide, knowing grin.

"Hold it!" Buddy called out, halting her in her tracts. "Get that HQ Brigade together and have them come up with some method of holding a presidential election in the states we are claiming."

"What states are those, Boss?" Rita asked. Buddy thought for a moment and then started ticking of the states on his fingers.

"Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The States of New York, Maine,West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts belong to the New US under Lex Luthor. The states between us and them should be considered a No Man's Land. We won't worry about Colorado, Utah, Arizona or New Mexico. And who the hell knows what is going on with the rest of the states, especially Alaska and Hawaii." He paused and took a breath and smiled grimly. "It's a messed up world, isn't it?"

"But we're working to put it back together." Rita protested.

"But are we working to put it back the way it was?" Betsy asked, her look thoughtful.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we are trying to restore a basic Republic, right?" She spread her hands. "What is to stop it from becoming like the old United States?"

"What would you suggest?" Buddy crossed his arms and gazed at his communications tech.

"Boss, You don't get everything your teams report, but I see everything that comes through." She looked extremely uncomfortable. "And what we are seeing is that many of the people are sick and tired of so-called Republics that go further and further away from the concepts of freedom." She took a deep breath. "Believe it or not, what we are coming up with is that people would prefer a limited form of Monarchy!"

"What!" Buddy stood up straight, glaring now.

"That's it, Boss." Betsy refused to back down. "People want their freedom, hell, their damned near Libertarian in that sense, and they want their individual freedoms guaranteed, but they don't want the haggle of politicians and such. They would rather there were some one in charge…a leader that could make needed decisions with out having to beg and plead with a congress to get anything done."

"Oh Really?"

"Yes sir." She took a deep breath and then took the plunge. "Our intelligence and political teams have gotten together and come up with, I believe, to be a working model of what it is the people are looking for. A constitutional Monarchy.!"

"With a populace armed to the teeth, that might actually work, Boss!' Rita mused, surprising everyone. "Think about it. So long as there is something similar to the Bill of rights, guaranteeing certain freedoms, such as the right to bear arms, the freedom of speech, etc, all written in plain English so some legal leach can't come along hundereds of years from now and say it means something else, then the populace would not have to worry much about a potential Tyranny. They could overthrow the government at any time. After all, isn't that what you and your father advocated to begin with? An armed populace that could get rid of a bad government and replace it if they so chose?"

"They make a good point, Ben." Hippolyota spoke up, using Buddy's given name…a fact that brought secret smiles to everyone…. "And we Amazons have experience. Amazons are armed and, if they wished, could at any time have replaced me as their Queen!"

"No!" Buddy's hand slashed through the air, as if to cut the conversation off. "Absolutely not! We will advocate a Republic and that is the end of it! Understood?"

"Certainly Boss!" Rita was the first to respond, trying hard not to smile.

"Oh of course, Boss!." Betsy chimed in, her eyes twinkling.

"But of course, Ben." Hippolyota agreed, completely straight faced.

Buddy glared at them and then started to walk off muttering.

"Your Majesty?" One of the Amazon women called out.

"What?" Buddy spun around

"Your Command Center is that way, Sire!" She made no effort to hider her amusement as she pointed in a direction completely opposite of the one Buddy had started off in.

Buddy grunted and started heading in the right direction and then stopped again, turning.

"What the hell did you call me?" He demanded. He was greeted with gales of laughter from the surrounding Rebels and Amazons.

End of The Battle Begins.