“Sir! I have eyes on enemy ground troops coming in from the east. Based on heat signatures it looks like twelve, no, fourteen of them in a loose formation along the tree line.”
“Any word on where they’re from?”
“No Sir. Just have thermal on them so far. Working on bringing a hi-res camera around now to get visuals and see if we can find out.”
“Good work Evans. Thompson, any word from the reconnaissance team that went out last night?”
“I’m just finishing decoding their last transmission now Sir. Full update in two minutes.”
General Stockton took a deep breath and forced himself to relax a bit. Things had been rough lately, but even with the potential for an attack this morning, things were starting to look up. The fact that the recon team had made it through the Colorado lines and had been able to send an update this morning was more progress than any team had been able to make in almost a month.
“Here you go Sir.”
Lieutenant Amber Thompson was the best cryptographer in the entire fighting force. The general was amazed at the length of the message she had just decoded by hand in a matter of five minutes from the first signal coming in. She had just handed him the message from the recon team printed in neat block letters from one edge of the paper to the other to make use of every available inch on the page. Stockton glanced over it quickly, registering the entirety of the message, but making special note of the key words embedded deep within the writing. He knew that not every word Thompson had written down was part of the original message, but could clearly pick out her hidden message based on years of understanding they had with each other.
“I have an ID on the approaching ground troops. They’re from…Ohio”
Stockton raised an eyebrow as he picked up a lighter from the desk in front of him and flicked it on. He held the paper with Thompson’s message on it over the flame until it caught, then tossed it into a metal waste bin on the floor where it became completely engulfed in flame for a few seconds before becoming nothing more than a small pile of ash.
“Ohio? Are you sure?”
“Positive Sir. Eastern Ohio too by the looks of it. Their patches are closer to orange then the normal red that we see from the western part of the state.”
“They’re a little far West aren't they? What was their count again?” Stockton did remember the count of fourteen that he’d been given on this mystery force only a few minutes earlier, but asked again for confirmation and to buy his brain a few extra seconds to sort out this new development. They could easily handle a force that size with the troops they had on hand in this garrison, but the mystery was what an Ohio squad was doing this far west. If they were truly on their own, they would have had to cross over eight hundred miles of various enemy territories. If this was perhaps a recon party from a much larger force, then the intel they had on Ohio was vastly understated.
“Fourteen Sir.” There was a very silent pause in the room. “Would you like me to take defensive action Sir?”
The general stepped forward to stand directly behind Corporal Evans and his bank of twenty one computer monitors. He could see the small forms of soldiers beginning to move across the open field between the tree line and the garrison they occupied on one screen.
“No. Let’s see what they’re up to. Hold fire unless they shoot first.”
The heat signatures in the shape of blurry humans grew larger on one of the computer monitors. General Stockton slowly shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again, hoping that the base would go unnoticed. The entrance was very well camouflaged in the eastern face of the hill. Returning patrols sometimes needed help finding it and they should know where it is and what to look for so there was a chance that this group would pass right on by.
Suddenly one of the blurry heat forms seemed to crumble into a ball and then sprawl sideways on the screen. The rest of the Ohio squad dove for cover.