The Un-coyote

Foreword – This is not, nor should it be construed to be, a political commentary.  It is only a look at one possible future out of many.  While parts of the story are based upon facts, the remainder is only conjecture of how the current political situation in the world might develop and the resultant consequences of that development to the individuals involved.

 

“Como estas? Puedes continuar o necesitas descansar?”

Those were Maria’s words to the six people, two women and four men, we were leading through the desert.  This group was our second that month since there were two new moons, and things were going well.  Once we reached the border, we’d have to talk in whispers, but the border patrol never came this far out so there was nobody else around to hear me.

“You can speak English”, said the woman on my right.  We all speak English and we’re doing fine.   How much farther to the border?”

“About three miles, but it’s gonna get too hot to be outside pretty quick now.  We’ll spend the day in a cave about two miles from here and then go on once the sun goes down.  They won’t start their air patrols again before the sun comes up because the batteries in their solar powered ultralights don’t last very long without sunshine.  By that time, we’ll be across the border.”

My cave had served me well on many such trips across the border.  It was impossible to spot from the air because of the rock that hung over the entrance.  From the ground it was hard to spot too because the entrance was through a sort of maze of cactus and large rocks.  I only knew about it because it was on what had once been my grandpa’s vineyard about fifty miles from Chula Vista before the Second Civil War.

It was large enough to house at least thirty people, but we never took that many.  It was too risky to get that much food and water to the cave.  It would also have been too easy for more than twelve to get separated, and we couldn’t afford to waste time trying to find them.

It would have taken a week or more to haul enough supplies for more people and would have required help and some sort of transportation.  Since internal combustion engines had been outlawed in Sacrevista for over ten years, that meant other people, electric vehicles or burros.  Other people helping us would have been a potential security leak.  An electric vehicle didn’t have the range required.  Burros were noisy and they required feed and water. Maria and I could pack enough food and water to the cave for a dozen by ourselves the night before the new moon

We got to my cave and everybody got something to eat and drink.  They went to sleep while I turned on the radar scanner and looked at the screen for a few minutes.  

My radar dish sits on a ledge above the cage in a fiberglass enclosure that looks like a big rock.  As soon as I turned it on, the dish began scanning a little more than three fourths of the area in front of the cave.  The other fourth was the solid rock behind it.  There was nothing abnormal out there within the twenty mile range of the scanner, so I had a couple of hours to sleep.  Maria and I would alternate sleep periods so if anybody got closer than twenty miles, one would wake the other.

That night, after another meal and a long drink, we started the twelve escapees toward the border again.  About one AM and a half a mile from my planned crossing point, I motioned for them to stop.

“We’re about a half a mile away.  We might have to run for a while.  Does anybody need to rest again?”

I knew the answer before I asked.  All of them were so excited they’d have run all the way from my cave if I’d asked them to.  They all shook their heads and grinned.  One of the men asked how many guards we’d find and if they’d chase us or not.  I smiled back.

“All the guards except one will be back at the guard station and asleep.  They’ll change guards in about another hour, but the one walking the post will be pretty sleepy by now.  He’ll probably be more worried about staying awake than watching for anybody crossing.”  

I touched the night vision goggles on my head.  

“I’ll be able to see him before he can see us and we’ll just walk around him.  Everybody has to be quiet though or he might hear us.”

The man standing by my right shoulder tugged at my sleeve.  He looked worried.

“If they do see us, will they shoot at us?”

I had to grin.

“They won’t see us if everybody’s quiet.  Even if they hear something, they’ll just think it’s a coyote.  They don’t carry guns anyway.  All they carry is a can of pepper spray in case they get attacked.”

I found the guard fifteen minutes later.  He was sitting on a rock and his head was nodding like he was almost asleep.  I motioned for the group to fall in behind me with their left hand on the shoulder in front of them, and led them away from the guard’s position.  Maria brought up the rear to make sure nobody got left behind.

Half an hour later, we crossed the border into North Mexico and their new home.  After walking another half an hour, the North Mexico Immigration bus returned the quick blink of my flashlight with a double blink of its headlights.  My six were safe and on their way to a new life of work and prosperity.  Maria and I rode with them until the bus reached Rancho.  From there we drove to our place in the country for a rest before starting the next trip.

Maria and I got home about half an hour later, and while we were undressing she asked when we’d be taking the next group out.

“It’ll be another month.  Juan had some sort of trouble getting them ready.  Why?”

Maria stretched seductively and then scratched under her breasts as she smiled.

“You know what nights like tonight do to me.  I get all excited and it doesn’t go away for a while.  If we have that long, you’ll have time to get me all settled back down again…if you start right now.”

I was tired, but not that tired.  As Maria slipped out of her panties and climbed into bed, I pulled off my clothes.  When she held out her arms, I hopped on the bed and pulled her close.  I felt my stiffening cock brush the hair on her mound at the same time she mashed her breasts into my chest.

Maria lifted her thigh over me and pushed her mound down against my cock.  She kissed me then, and the feeling of her lips mouthing mine finished raising my cock.

“I’m ready right now”, Maria whispered.  “Don’t make me wait.”

I couldn’t have waited even if I’d wanted to…well, I would have if she’d needed that, but after a trip, she never did.  Maria was always a great lover, but after a trip, she was so aroused it was more like she was making love to me than the other way around.  Already I felt her hand on my cock and guiding it between her open thighs.

A while later, after Maria had cried out and took me over the edge with her rocking hips and fingernails that dug into my ass, she sighed.

“I didn’t want it to end, but when it did…wow.”

I chuckled.

“I know what you mean.  Remind me to take you along on the next trip.”

Maria stroked my chest.

“I’ll remind you, if we can do this again before we go to sleep.”

It was always like this, or had been since the night I brought Maria and her mother out of Sacrevista.  In my experience, women are aroused by a variety of things, but until Maria, I’d never met a woman who was aroused by danger.  It’s like something inside her starts getting wound up like a clock spring, and that spring keeps getting tighter and tighter.  Once we have the clients safely on the bus and we get home, nothing but sex can unwind that spring.  When it does unwind, it’s more than I ever even dreamed about.


It probably seems difficult for a reader to understand what I’m talking about and why Maria and I were doing what we were doing.  The reasons are many, but all boil down to just simple economics and an experiment in government.  I was only ten when it started, so most of what I know I read in my history classes in high school.  Like most history, it’s probably half true and half the opinions of the scholars on the US side.  I’m sure the students in Sacrevista get another version that has been sanitized to agree with Sacrevista politics.

A little after the turn of the century - about 2022 is the date agreed upon by most scholars - the United States was heavily engaged in the second civil war of its history.  It wasn’t a war fought on a battlefield.  It was a war fought mainly in the courtrooms in California and New York, and to a lesser extent in several other states.

The state governments of those states were composed of ultra-liberals who called themselves Democratic Socialists. The Federal Government was composed of a majority of conservatives who called themselves Republicans and  who were in opposition to the ideals of the Democratic Socialists.

The goals of the ultra-liberal leaders of the Democratic Socialists reflected the opinions of the most vocal citizens in the major cities.  The ultra-conservative Republican Party reflected the opinions of the most vocal citizens in the more rural areas. Neither party understood their policies didn’t reflect the opinions and needs of the population as a whole.  

That lack of understanding led to a lot of turmoil in the US.  Little by little, those Democratic Socialist states passed state laws that reflected their vision of how society should function but seemed to be in direct violation of federal laws and the US Constitution.  The conservative Republicans strongly objected to these laws and filed lawsuits to overturn them via the court system.  The Democratic Socialists counter-sued.

The same things were happening at the state level too.  Just as the ultra-liberal states were at war with the federal government, the more conservative, rural county governments in those states were at war with the liberal state governments.  For a while, most legislating was actually done by the judicial system and the outcome was determined by the makeup of the particular court.  

Liberal judges tended to interpret the US and state constitutions using the logic and morals of the current time.  Their belief was that the US and state constitutions were fluid documents, and because of that belief, they usually sided with the Democratic Socialist positions.  Conservative judges interpreted the federal and state constitutions as written and used other documents from the time those constitutions were written to interpret laws according to the conservative position.  Ultimately those lawsuits ended up as proposals for a hearing by the US Supreme Court.  Had the court heard every case, it would have taken decades, so only those cases that were the most controversial were actually heard.  

Usually the left was outraged at the outcomes of those cases that were heard.  In response to the Democratic Socialist’s idea to pack the court with liberal judges, the Republicans beat them to the punch.  The US Supreme Court had been increased from nine to eleven and then to fifteen by the Republicans in power and all those new judges held a conservative view of the responsibilities of the US Supreme Court.  It was usual for the laws passed by the Social Democratic governments to be found to be unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

Since the average age of the US Supreme Court judges was only about fifty, the Social Democrats lamented the fact such judgements would continue to limit their transformation of society for probably the next twenty years at least.  They began attempting to impeach the conservative judges and these actions threatened to bring any congressional activity to a halt.  Real problems were not being solved and the people of the US were growing tired of all the political infighting.

Out of this mess a third political party arose.  The candidates and campaign planks of the “Practical Government Party”, or PGP as they called it, were not ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative.  They were a compromise both centrist liberals and conservatives could live with.  Their party symbol was a dove holding an olive branch in one foot and a sword in the other.

The economic plank was simple.  The US would not import anything that took away American jobs unless it was not possible to produce the materials or product in the US.  There was to be a ten year grace period to allow American industry to rebuild and an increasing import tax system collected by the Federal Government on imports to encourage this rebuilding.  The money collected from import taxes would be channeled back to American Industry through government grants and loans.  Government funding would be made available to re-train workers in new technology.

The social plank was also simple.  No American would be homeless, hungry, or without medical care, but with some conditions.  Any person who could work had to do so to receive assistance.  That work could be an actual job, community service, or pursuing an education, but the days of sitting at home and drawing a check for doing nothing would be over.  

Those who were able to work but refused to do so would be drafted into federal work programs similar to the CCC of the Great Depression era.  Those refusing to answer the draft call would be tried for the Federal felony of refusing service and sentenced to two years in a low-security Federal prison during which they would perform trash pickup and other simple maintenance on federal and state highways.  After release, those people would again be required to work to receive assistance, and if they did not, the same punishment would apply.

Relative to crime, their plank was both more lax and more harsh, and as such was at least acceptable to both liberals and conservatives.  

PGP recognized the US prisons were overflowing with people convicted only of drug abuse.  This split up families and ruined lives because of what was in reality a social and medical problem rather than a criminal problem.  PGP’s solution was to sentence those arrested for possession and use of any drug to rehabilitation programs paid for by the health care program.  These programs would concentrate on eliminating the reasons for drug abuse as well as just removing the drugs from the person’s system.  States could not impose prison time for the offense nor could they enact any law that increased the severity higher than federal law in an attempt to do so.

Manufacture and sales of all formerly illicit drugs, even in very small amounts, would be treated as a federal felony and the sentence was a mandatory twenty years in prison without the possibility of parole.  States could mandate longer, but not shorter sentences.

The only exception to this policy was marijuana.  Marijuana could be grown, sold, and used in any amount by anyone over the age of 18.  States would be free to regulate and tax growers, sellers, and users as they saw fit, but could not enact laws that made marijuana cultivation, sales or use a crime or raise the federal legal age.

Any crime other than a crime committed with a weapon and homicide was to be treated as a social disease.  The Department of Justice and the various states would be permitted to determine appropriate sentences with the condition that prisons would become more than holding pens.  Privately run prisons would be abolished and all prisons would be again administered by the state and federal governments.  

All prisons would have to offer GED programs and training in the skills required by the US economy.  Completion of these programs by inmates would result in reduced sentences.  Subsequent employment using those skills for two years would result in the erasure of the incarceration from the inmate’s permanent record.  Continued employment and compensation of prison wardens and employees would be linked to the employment rate of prior inmates after release from prison.

Factories in the prison system would manufacture goods and sell them on the open market at five percent less than the average price charged by any other US manufacturer.  Doing work every day while incarcerated would give the inmates purpose and would help train them to transition back into society as working members.  The resulting profits would be used to pay the prison detainees at the federal minumum wage and to defer the costs of running the prisons.  The PGP plank would also make it a federal crime to refuse employment based upon an applicant’s former convict status.

In response to the growing uproar about shootings and gang activities, PGP proposed a solution that was at least practical if not one that satisfied everyone.  Any person convicted of committing any crime with a weapon of any type would be sentenced to a minimum of twenty years in prison with no possibility of parole.  Repeat offenders would be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. To guard against the weapons charge being dismissed, no longer would it be legal for a prosecuting attorney to waive the weapons charge in order to obtain a guilty plea to another charge.

The death penalty would be abolished and could not be reinstated by any state.  Any person convicted of homicide with any type of weapon would be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole unless judged by the majority of a panel of seven psychiatrists to be mentally incapable of determining right from wrong.  If that determination was made, the sentence would be confinement for life in a state or federally operated mental institution without the possibility of release.

Prisons housing inmates for long-term sentences would be specially equipped to make incarceration undesirable.  There would be no television and no radio.  Phone calls would be restricted to one per week and no incoming phone calls were permitted.  Any inmate who caused trouble would be housed in solitary confinement for the duration of sentence.  

Critics of this crime policy claimed the punishment was cruel and unusual.  The PGP’s reply was that this punishment wasn’t as cruel and unusual as the taking of another’s life, permanently maiming someone or addicting them to drugs.

Mental institutions for those deemed to have a lack of understanding of right and wrong would not just house patients.  They would be required to counsel patients, teach skills, and allow the patients to use these skills to the best of their abilities.  As with the prisons, products produced would be sold on the open market and the proceeds used to pay patients at the minimum wage.  While patients would be counseled, no medical experimentation would be allowed and no patient would be confined in solitary confinement or in a drugged state unless it could be proven to a Federal judge that patient was a danger to others.

For the purpose of the proposed new laws, all prior categories of homicide, such as aggravated murder, first and second degree murder, manslaughter, and the like were abolished.  Homicide was defined as the taking of a human life by any means or by any weapon unless done in self-defense or to defend another person or persons.  

Attempted homicide was to be defined as a crime that would have resulted in a homicide if it had been more successful.  It was not a requirement to show premeditation for a death to result in the charge of homicide.  The law would state that engaging in any act that caused the death of another was “demonstrated intent” and as such was inexcusable.  Thus, even an auto crash caused by driving after drinking or when under the influence of drugs, or by ignoring traffic laws was to be considered either attempted homicide or homicide depending upon the survival of the victims.

“Weapon” was defined as any object or substance to include fists, feet, and other body parts used by the perpetrator to intimidate or cause injury to or death of the victim.  All laws governing ownership and transportation of firearms, ammunition, knives, brass knuckles, and other items formerly considered as weapons would be removed from the books and no state or city could enact any such law.

Appeals for all criminal cases would be limited to three – one to the state appeals court, one to the state supreme court, and one a federal appeals court.  The US Supreme court would not hear any cases relative to crime.  They would only hear cases involving the constitutionality of state and federal laws.

An appeal could only be made based upon evidence or testimony not included in the original trial or upon judicial error, and the time limit for all three appeals was five years.  If any court of the three declined to hear the appeal or when the time limit expired, execution of sentence was to be immediate.

The foreign policy plank was more complicated, but was an acceptable compromise.  The plank stated the United Nations had not lived up to its stated purpose and had instead become a body of people spending a lot of US supplied funding with non binding resolutions and resolutions that threatened the sovereign status of member states being the only product.  The US would withdraw from the United Nations and engage with the rest of the globe as it saw fit.  The United Nations would be encouraged to move its headquarters to Europe or another country of its choice by limiting access to the US to representatives of member countries who’s goals and actions were aligned with US interests and policies.

Most people in the US did not want any American service personnel engaged in policing the world, but they also realized a strong military was necessary to avoid another nation attacking the US.  The PGP position was that the US would remain a member of NATO, but would no longer be the world’s policeman and would withdraw all its military back to the US unless specifically requested by an ally to maintain a deterrent presence.  That ally would pay the total cost of keeping the deterrent force in place.

To guarantee an acceptable level of military strength, every citizen of the US,  both men and women, would be required to serve two years in one of the branches of military service.  This service could be performed either before or after the individual completed education at the college level, though service would earn the individual free tuition to any state university.

Instead of policing the entire world, the US military would be maintained at a strong level and used to maintain border security by manning guard posts along the entire southern and northern US borders.  This effectively produced the “wall” between Mexico and the US that had been demanded by conservatives for decades.  Some of the billions that would have been spent on a physical wall would be diverted into social and infrastructure programs.

Immigration had been a big area of dispute between ultra-liberals and ultra-conservatives.  The PGP plank was logical to most of the population.  There would be no shortage of unskilled and low-skilled labor in the US since all able-bodied people would be required to work at some job in order to receive financial assistance.  Therefore, there was no need to import more.  

Any and all immigration would be regulated by demand for workers in the US.  If an industry could not find an American citizen with the required skills, an immigrant work visa would be issued to the first applicant in line with those skills after that applicant had passed an extensive background check.  If the applicant’s country of origin could not provide adequate information about the applicant, or if the background information revealed any criminal activities, that application would be denied.

That visa had to be renewed every year and required proof of employment submitted not by the individual, but submitted by a representative of the employing US company in person to the nearest Federal judge.  If the request for visa renewal was not submitted, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would investigate, and when the person was located, he or she would be deported to the country of origin and barred from returning.  Temporary workers and their families could be come US citizens according to the existing requirements for citizenship after the visa holder had worked ten years in the US.

So-called “chain immigration”, the ultra-conservative term for family reunification visas, would be restricted to spouses and children under the age of eighteen by revising the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.  Other family members of legal immigrants would be permitted to immigrate based upon job skills and need.

All illegal immigrants currently in the country would be issued work permits upon registration as such, and would be allowed to remain in the US for five years in order to pursue citizenship according to the current laws in effect.  Failure to register as an illegal immigrant would result in immediate deportation of that individual and all family members upon identification and arrest.

If one parent of a legal family unit obtained citizenship, that would satisfy the conditions for remaining in the US for the other parent and any children under the age of eighteen. Those not achieving citizenship after that time would be deported back to their country of origin along with all family members including children under the age of eighteen.

In a landmark decision two years before, the mostly conservative judges on the US Supreme Court had surprised the world by determining the language of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution gave birthright citizenship to children born to parents legally residing in the US, but not to children born to parents in the US illegally or merely visiting as tourists.  Therefore, children born to parents, at least one of which was a work visa holder, were US citizens by birth and need not go through the naturalization process.   Those children who were born to illegals or tourists had no such rights.

The PGP stance on this ruling was that children over the age of eighteen born to parents in the US illegally or while tourists prior to enactment of the law would be treated as any other person in the US illegally.  They would be required to register and could remain in the US for five years in order to pursue citizenship.  Those who did not achieve this goal for any reason would be deported to the country of their parents’ origin, and could return only by following the new law regarding legal immigration.

Employing any worker who was not an American citizen or who didn’t have a work visa would be punishable by a mandatory fine of one million dollars per illegal employee and mandatory ten years imprisonment for the employer.  If that employer was incorporated in any manner, the CEO, his direct reports, and the board of the corporation would be charged and sentenced if convicted.  “Whistle-blowers” who reported such employment would be exempt from prosecution and from retaliation by the employer.

 

The campaign for federal government offices in 2024 was a landslide victory for the PGP.  The PGP won the Presidency and had supermajorities in both the House and the Senate.  The PGP quickly began implementing the promises they had made during the campaign.  During the first year most of these promises became law.

The ultra-liberal states and ultra-conservative states reacted as one might suspect.  They passed more laws to counteract those passed by the PGP and clogged the court system with lawsuits seeking to overturn the new laws.  After a week of meetings between the President, the President’s cabinet, the leaders of the House and Senate, and several prominent Constitutional lawyers, the President spoke to the Nation about this reaction.  

In her speech, President Shenoah Dalita Graham stated the election results were an obvious indication the ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative sides of the country did not truly represent the feelings and opinions of the majority of Americans.  She also stated it would be impossible for the United States to survive as a country in such a climate.  Too much time and money was being spent on implementing far-left and far-right agendas at the state and local levels and as a result, the economy and social programs were suffering.  Time and money that should have been expended toward these two goals were being utilized to resist the new laws and the entire court system was backlogged with cases that would take over a decade to resolve.  

The legal bickering had to stop and states had to begin working for the betterment of all their residents, not just those with the loudest voices or the most wealth.  To facilitate this change, the White House would request four bills in the House and Senate, bills that were certain to be passed by the PGP majorities and that she would sign into law.

The first bill, titled “Return To The Constitution Act”, would make it illegal for any state or local government to pass any law interfering in any way with the responsibilities assigned to the Federal Government in the US Constitution and by Federal Statute to include mandating non-cooperation with Federal officers.  The elected or appointed leaders of any state or local government convicted of enacting such a law would be sentenced to ten years in prison and fined one million dollars for each offense.

The second bill, titled “Establishment of Sovereign Immunity Act”, would eliminate most of the lawsuits brought by states to challenge the authority vested in the Federal government by the US Constitution.  The bill would state that for any entity to sue either the Federal or a state government, that entity had to demonstrate the government had violated a legal Federal or state law.  

It would leave intact the ability of citizens to sue for the actions of a Federal or State employee, but would eliminate the lawsuits arising from political motivations.  Thus, all lawsuits relative to immigration, international trade, and any other area designated as the responsibility of the Federal government by the US Constitution would be illegal, as would any lawsuit brought against a state for similar reasons.

The third bill, titled “Expansion of Statehood Act”, would allow the voters of any state to split that state into two or more states, with the new states comprised of the largest metropolitan areas and the other the balance of the original state.  This would satisfy the cry of the more rural areas of some states for meaningful representation. The number of senators and representatives for each new state would be established by the existing constitution.

The fourth bill was aimed at those states that still refused to comply and would allow any state to secede from the United States and become a separate country, and was titled “Activities Toward Legal Secession Act”.  The US would establish diplomatic relations with that new country in the same manner as with any nation, and would treat that new country according to the laws currently in effect.

All four laws were debated in both houses for several weeks before passing, and were signed by the President a week later.  All were immediately challenged in Federal court by the Attorney’s General of California, Washington State and New York.  Since the second law governing sovereign immunity impacted the constitutionality of the others, it was tried first.  

As was usual at that time, various courts gave conflicting opinions.  The President asked the US Supreme Court to immediately hear the case relative to sovereign immunity in order to end the judicial fencing match.  

The US Supreme Court ruled that disagreement with a legally enacted law did not constitute grounds for suit so long as that law did not conflict with a legally enacted law of a state or other municipality.  The opinion also confirmed the first new law and ended the lawsuits for that suit and the third.  Only the suit relative to secession remained viable.

Since no state had seceded from the Union since the Civil War, the constitutionality of such a thing was in question.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments about secession from both sides instead of forcing the law though the lower courts first.  After a week of arguments, their opinion was that since the US Constitution granted the power to grant statehood to the House and Senate, those government bodies had the power to allow a state to secede.

New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington State held special elections to decide their fate and voted to create the new states of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Seattle-Tacoma.  California amended the state definition of a metropolitan area to form one urban area they called “Sacrevista”.  It incorporated all the cities and surrounding area on the Pacific side of California from a hundred fifty miles east of Interstate 5 to the Pacific Ocean and from Sacramento to the border with Mexico.  The voters of California voted to make Sacrevista a separate state.

Once Sacrevista was declared the fifty-fifth state and had written a constitution and formed a government, the new government immediately petitioned the federal government to secede.  The debate in the House took two days.  The debate in the Senate took only one.  In the end, the only opposition came from the Representatives and Senators from New York City, Chicago, and Seattle/Tacoma.  On July 1, 2031, the President signed the bill that made Sacrevista a stand-alone country, and appointed an ambassador.

A second series of events was happening unbeknownst to most Americans outside of the CIA and DEA. After fighting amongst themselves for decades, the Mexican drug cartels had taken a page from the old Mafia playbook.  The leaders of the various cartels met at a hotel in Mexico City and voted to organize.  Areas of influence were defined and the price for transportation of drugs and other contraband through a rival’s territory established.  There would be no more infighting between cartels though specific assassinations would be permitted by vote of the cartel leaders.

During the meeting, their political advisors urged the cartels to promote the candidacy and election of cartel members to government positions in order to establish control of the Mexican government.  After the next election, the cartels had taken over most local and state government positions and were in virtual control of the Mexican military.  Only the President of Mexico and his cabinet were untouched as their terms of office had not yet expired, though there were suspicions about some of the cabinet.

In a secret meeting, the President of Mexico asked the US Ambassador to Mexico for help.  The US Ambassador tactfully asked why the US would want to do so since Mexico had not been very cooperative in ending the traffic in drugs, sex trafficking, and illegal immigrants.  The President of Mexico took a deep breath and then said if the US would drive out the drug cartels, Mexico would give up sovereignty and petition to become a state or states of the US.  

The proposal was classified at the highest level, so members of the US House and Senate received special clearance to view it.  It was then debated in both the House and Senate behind closed doors.  The transcript of the debate was never published, but it isn’t difficult to imagine the topics and arguments for and against.

The US had stopped sending foreign aid to and trading with Mexico three years prior.  This was because in spite of billions given to Mexico to fight the drug trade, the government had actually lost ground in eliminating the cartels once the cartels had organized, and in fact, had granted amnesty to several cartel leaders.  Since most of the government of Mexico was now in the hands of the cartels, the problems with the southern border would only intensifiy.

If Mexico joined the US, aid would resume at a much higher level.  While there was an acceptable infrastructure around the largest cities, there were still vast areas of the country with inadequate basic water treatment, sanitation, education opportunities, and transportation.  The US would have to fund the needed improvements as well as furnish financial benefits to the people of Mexico until a thriving economy could be again established.

The benefits of Mexico joining the US were many.  Mexico had a huge labor force, and many Mexican universities rivaled those in the US.  Labor costs would increase once Mexico fell under the minimum wage laws of the US, but that increase would result in the Mexican economy growing.  The growth in the Mexican economy would result in a new source of tax revenue for the US that over time would pay for the initial increase in financial aid.

If Mexico joined the US, no longer would the DEA have to stop its drug war at the border.  The cartels could be pursued and eliminated on their home ground.

After a week of debate, the House, Senate, and the President were in agreement.  The US would take on the cartels on their home ground, and Mexico would join the US.  The President signed the bill the same day though the bill and the signing ceremony were kept secret for several months pending the necessary military planning.

I graduated from high school in Phoenix, Arizona the year Sacrevista seceded, and turned eighteen that summer.  There were jobs to be had in construction.  Three new retirement communities were being constructed just outside of Phoenix, and many of my classmates went there for work.  I didn’t think a life of swinging a hammer was for me.  I wanted glamour and excitement.  While I was watching an old movie on TV one night, a commercial for the US Army came on.  The guys in their battle gear looked pretty glamorous and exciting to me, so the next day, I drove to the Army recruiting office and signed up.

Five months later, I was a PFC stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas and assigned to 1  BN 37th Armor as a tank gunner.  It was then, as our platoon sergeant said, “the shit hit the fan”.

My tank battalion along with five other tank and ten infantry battalions received orders to mobilize in the desert on the US/Mexican border.  We weren’t told why we were there so we assumed it was some sort of training exercise.  A day before the formal announcement of the deal between Mexico and the US, we rolled across the border and headed into the Sonora desert.  I heard the news about the US/Mexico agreement while sitting in an M1A4 tank and firing the remote controlled 50 cal at drug cartel members fleeing while the US Air Force bombed and strafed their compounds.

It took us a little over a year, but by June, 2033 the drug cartels were a thing of the past.  There were no cartel members in any prisons.  The orders to the troops on the ground and the Marines assaulting the ports along both coasts had been unwritten, but very clear. There would be no prisoners taken from any attack on the cartels.  As our battalion commander put it, when you weed a garden, you kill  all the weeds, not just the big ones.  Special Forces would clean up the corrupt government officials in the same manner.  The US Army occupied Mexico until the government could be reconstituted.

On August 24, 2035, the same date on which Mexico had become independent of Spain in 1821, Mexico was admitted to the United States of America as two states, North Mexico and South Mexico.  The DHS quickly established border defenses between South Mexico and the neighboring states of Guatemala and Belize, and this border was unique in American history.  

This border consisted of a wall of steel reinforced concrete ten feet thick that reached from twenty feet underground to forty feet above ground.  Only two gaps in that wall were left to allow travel to Belize and Guatemala, and both were designed such that once a person or vehicle entered, there was no easy way to return.  All entrants were searched, and if the search of the person or vehicle found nothing banned and the person had the appropriate travel or work permit, the person or vehicle was allowed into South Mexico.  If any contraband was discovered, the person was arrested and held for trial.  

Guardhouses manned by the US Army were stationed at five hundred foot intervals at the top of the wall and were equipped with radar, night vision, and seismometers to detect digging.  The orders to these troops were to open fire on anyone attempting to bridge the wall.

As the US Army guarded the wall, the US Navy patrolled the oceans on both sides and the US Air Force flew continuous coverage by AEW&C aircraft to detect any unauthorized attempts at landing.  Any ship, boat, submarine or aircraft that would not stop to be searched or could not prove it was on a legal mission was to be immediately destroyed.

Sacrevista had ignored most of these happenings.  The new country was in the process of making Sacrevista into the country the ultra-liberals had visualized.  Every resident of Sacrevista was made a voting citizen of the country by virtue of residence, and there was no restriction on immigration from anywhere.  All residents were guaranteed a living wage, free medical care, free education to include all college programs, and a retirement income equal to the last year’s earned wage or established minimum living wage, whichever was greater.  

These guarantees were financed by several different taxes.  Businesses were taxed at seventy percent of net income and individuals were taxed according to a sliding rate.  That rate ranged from negative taxes, i.e. payment to make up the difference between earnings and the Sacrevista declared minimum living wage, to taxes of seventy percent of net income over the equivalent of ten million US dollars from the highest earners.  

The manufacturers of goods landing in Sacrevista ports were charged a port tax of thirty percent of the declared value, and goods manufactured in Sacrevista had a value added tax of fifteen percent appended to the selling price if they were exported from Sacrevista.  

Life in Sacrevista was good and people were happy, well except for businesses and the middle class.  The high earners in Sacrevista had a little less money at the end of the year, but not enough for them to feel any real discomfort.  Most of them were supportive of the socialist state Sacrevista was becoming and thought their high taxes were a small price to pay.  The middle class was hit hard by taxes that took from forty to fifty percent of their net income.  They were also hit the hardest by the means by which business reacted.

In order to maintain profitability and thus stockholder dividends, businesses were forced to raise prices of what they produced.  While this worked to the benefit of their stockholders, the higher prices pretty much negated Sacrevista’s minimum annual income program and made any exports from businesses in Sacrevista more costly than the same items manufactured in other countries.

Sacrevista had foreseen disagreement by business and knew some would attempt to relocate to more tax-friendly areas.  To counteract this, Sacrevista passed a law requiring any business leaving the country to pay to the Sacrevista government an amount equivalent to the estimated earnings of each displaced employee had they worked to the age of seventy.  Business grumbled, but stayed, settled for lower profits, and paid the high tax rates.  It was less expensive in the short term than moving back to the US.

It took ten more years before Sacrevista sat up and took notice of their neighbor to the South.  Both North and South Mexico had made huge expansions and improvements to their Pacific ports.  Where before, some ports had only been large enough to accommodate cruise ships, they now could handle loading and unloading of the largest tankers and container ships traveling the Pacific shipping lanes.  Labor costs were lower in the new ports, and the new highways linking them to the rest of the US made transportation by truck cheap and fast.  By the time Sacrevista realized the trend taking place, nearly as much cargo was being offloaded in North and South Mexico as in Sacrevista.

As transportation improved, so did industry in both North and South Mexico.  Prior to the infiltration of the drug cartels, Mexico had enjoyed several US factories that assembled electronics, appliances, and autos and trucks.  Once the cartels were driven out, those industries were ready to return and expand and many other corporations were more than willing to build new factories there.

By 2040, the corporations in Sacrevista had realized a quirk in the law regarding displaced employees – it only applied if they moved their headquarters or relocated production of existing goods.  It had been assumed by the legislation that the end of a product life-cycle would result in continued employment of the same workers to construct a new, replacement product, so the law did not include payment for workers furloughed because of lack of production.

Instead of expanding in Sacrevista, the corporations headquartered there added production capacity for new products in North and South Mexico.  It was cheaper to manufacture there and there was also no port tax or value added tax to be paid.  Since many of the products produced in Sacrevista were electronic with a short life span, more than one corporation was still headquartered in Sacrevista but had no manufacturing facilities there.

The same situation existed for agriculture.  Most of the fruits and vegetable products grown in Sacrevista were also cultivated in North and South Mexico.  Before, transporting them to the US made the cost to the consumer nearly as high as for the same products grown in Sacrevista.  That changed when the highway, rail, and air travel system infrastructure in North and South Mexico were upgraded.  Transporting fruits and vegetables even from South Mexico cost less than the value-added tax on the same goods from Sacrevista.

Some of the Sacrevista corporate employees and field workers began following their jobs from Sacrevista to North and South Mexico.  Wages were lower there, but there was no state income tax and the cost of housing and other living expenses were much lower.  

Sacrevista wanted them to stay.   If they left, there would be fewer workers to pay the taxes that would maintain Sacrevista’s ability to continue the benefits for income, education, health care, and retirement they had established.  

The response of the Sacrevista government was to make it illegal to leave Sacrevista without obtaining an emigration permit.  The permit fee was fifty thousand dollars for individuals employed in high-tech industries and ten thousand dollars for farm, construction, and other workers.  Spouses paid the same fee.  The fee for dependent children under the age of eighteen was half the fee for adults.  

The other deterrent to leaving Sacrevista was the requirement that all emigrants would relinquish half their assets to Sacrevista. In enacting this law,the government of Sacrevista explained that since the government infrastructure and legal system was responsible for any person’s success, that government was therefore entitled to half the results of that success should the person decide to leave Sacrevista.

To guard against illegal emigration, Sacrevista constructed a border fence at each highway and road in and out of the country and established the Sacrevista Border Patrol to man them.  The rest of the Sacrevista border was patrolled by units of the Sacrevista National Army.  There were rumors of electronic monitoring devices in those areas as well that could detect the motion and body heat of anyone attempting to cross the border.


It was at that time I made a career change, though I didn’t anticipate the career I chose.  My tour of duty with the military was over and I didn’t really want to sign up for more.  I still liked the glamour and excitement of the military, but I was tired of all the regulations on everything I did.  

I also had a problem with my grandparents.  They were ready to retire and desperately wanted to leave Sacrevista.  Grandpa figured his land, house and vineyard were worth around two million US dollars, so by selling his vineyard, he could easily afford the emigration permits for him and Grandma.  He just couldn’t see why he should give Sacrevista half of what his father and then he had worked for all their lives.

Grandpa was smart enough to know any electronic communication was risky.  While Sacrevista had formerly decried the US government eavesdropping on email and phone calls, Grandpa knew of one other farmer who was of the same sentiments and who had conveyed his desire to leave Sacrevista via several emails and phone calls to his daughter in Texas.  That farmer had been hauled into a police station and grilled for a day before they finally let him go.  Even then, the farmer suspected his communications and daily activities were monitored.

Grandpa wrote me letters instead, and I responded in the same manner.  Neither he nor I were certain about the confidentiality of written correspondence in Sacrevista.  I would suppose it was because it was easier to eavesdrop on email and phone calls than open letters and then re-seal them, but the first six we exchanged didn’t appear to have been tampered with.  Even so, we were very careful in the wording of those letters.

Grandpa wrote me and said he was thinking of retiring and moving back to the city. He said since he’d been born in the city it would be kind of like going home.  Grandpa asked if there was any way I could use my truck to help him move so he wouldn’t have to hire a mover.  

Only he and I knew the city he was talking about was Phoenix, because that was where he’d been born.  His parents had moved to that same vineyard in California when he was two.  Asking to use my truck was his code for getting him back to Phoenix.

It didn’t take much thought to realize I could get him and Grandma across the border.  I wasn’t a Ranger or Special Forces guy, but I’d had training in navigation and survival and I’d spend a lot of summers roaming all over Grandpa’s vineyard.  I’d just use my military training to locate and avoid the border patrols.  We’d have to go slow because Grandpa and Grandma weren’t up to much running, but his house was only a few miles from the North Mexico border.

I wrote back that I’d be happy to help him move with my truck if he could make sure everything was ready because I could only take off work for one day.  That was my code for telling him it would have to be done in one night.

Over a period of about two months, we formulated a plan that was simple, but would probably be successful.  Grandpa would put his farm up for sale.  Once it sold, he’d hold back a few a hundred thousand or so and invest the rest on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.  To any nosey Sacrevista tax investigator, it would look like Grandpa had banked enough to live on and pay his taxes and invested the rest in the stock of companies friendly to Sacrevista.  Sacrevista had a strong economic relationship with both Hong Kong and Mainland China because of the electronics industry so those investments wouldn’t attract attention.

Grandpa’s farm sold on the first of March, and just like we’d planned, he paid the first and last month’s rent on an apartment in Campo as soon as the deed transferred to the new owner.  Grandpa and Grandma had until the first of April to move out.  From the first of March until the tenth, I camped in North Mexico within a mile of the border.  I spent all day doing nothing except eating, hiking around, and acting like I was enjoying myself just in case the border guards were watching me.  I did see three ultra-light aircraft flying down the border, so I figured they knew I was there.  I spent every night sitting a hundred feet from the border and watching what the guards did through my night vision binoculars.  

Once every night, I’d slip up to within twenty feet of the border and throw balls of raw hamburger as close to the path the guards walked as I could manage.  That was a trick we’d used on the cartel strongholds.  Those compounds also had the latest in electronic monitoring equipment.  The balls of hamburger attracted the local coyotes and other scavengers.  After running out to check on the resulting alarms a dozen or so times every night and finding nothing, the guards would shut off the alarms.  The Sacrevista guards began doing that after the third night as soon as the first coyote howled.

The twentieth of March was supposed to be a new moon.  I’d be able to see pretty well with the night vision equipment I’d bought, but the lack of a moon would make it difficult for the guards to see three people dressed in black.  At Nine P.M. on the twentieth, I slipped around the border guard in that sector and hiked to Grandpa’s house.  All the lights were off when I got there, but that was according to plan.  Grandpa and Grandma had been turning off all the lights at ten for the past six months.

They weren’t in the house anyway.  They were dressed in all black with black backpacks and waiting for me in the wine storage building.  Their backpacks had been there for a week and held enough water and food for two days travel on foot as well as the few personal items they couldn’t bear to leave behind.  I thought Grandma had done a good job on them both with the black shoe polish she’d used instead of camo makeup.

We didn’t talk much.  Grandma hugged me and kissed me on the cheek.  Grandpa shook my hand, took a last look around, and then said, “let’s go”.

There was only one little hitch along the way back to the border.  I’d planned to cross the border at the point where two guard posts met.  The guards walking the posts would usually meet each other there to confirm both were on duty.  Once they started back to the other end of their post, we’d have about half an hour to get across without worrying about being seen.  

We were within a hundred yards of that point when the two guards met.  For some reason they stood there and talked for half an hour before starting back in the other direction.

Once they separated, I waited another fifteen minutes to give the guards time to get out of sight.   They were five hundred yards away when we slipped across and then down into a gully where we wouldn’t be seen.

That morning, I drove Grandpa and Grandma to my mom and dad’s house in Arizona.  That afternoon, Grandpa sold all his stock and put the money into CD’s in a US bank.  He’d lost a little from commissions and the exchange rate, but it was only about ten percent of what he’d been paid for his farm.  He and Grandma bought a house in the country and started life as a retired couple.

 

It was two weeks later a man in a black suit and sunglasses knocked on the door of Mom and Dad’s house.  When Mom answered his knock, the man said he’d like to speak with me if I was home.  

Mom said I was out looking for a job and would be back in a couple hours.  The man gave Mom his business card and said he’d wait in his car.  I got back home after an interview with the Arizona Department of Natural Resources.  They liked me but I wasn’t sure about them.  They still had a ton of regulations about uniforms and the proper way to act.  Those were the things I hadn’t liked about the US Army and I didn’t figure the DNR regulations would be any better.

The guy called my name when I was half way to the house.  I was trying to figure out how he knew me when he walked up and stuck out his hand.

“Thomas…Thomas Gaines?”

I nodded.

“What can I do for you?”

“My name is Juan Ramirez, and I’m with the North Mexico Office of Labor Development and Employment.  Can we speak for a few minutes?”

Well, that few of minutes turned into an hour of sitting in the lawn chairs in the back yard, an hour that decided my future employment and how I’d live my life.

After Mom brought us each a soda, Juan explained how he knew my name and why he was there.

“Mr. Gaines, my job is to help North Mexico coordinate its agricultural and industrial expansion, but I’m not here in an official capacity.  I’m here because I have a problem similar to the one you just solved for your grandparents.”

That statement made me suspicious that the guy was out to haul my ass off to jail.  Getting Grandpa and Grandma out of Sacrevista was illegal there, and since the US was still trying to play nice with the new country, they’d probably think it was something they should tell Sacrevista about.  I had no desire to spend any time in a Sacrevista prison.  I looked at Mr. Ramirez with what I hoped was a confused face.

“Mr. Ramirez, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.   My Grandpa and Grandma moved to Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.  They just wanted to be closer to Mom and Dad.”

He smiled at me again.

“Mr. Gaines, being part of the United States means certain government employees of certain government agencies in North Mexico have access to certain information from certain other government agencies.  As you may or may not know, the border is continuously monitored via remote cameras.  My office receives the video of any border crossings along with the identity of the individuals if they are in the Federal face recognition database.  Since you were photographed when you joined the US Army, it was a simple matter to match the face on the video with your military photographs. ,  Now, may we dispense with the denials and false explanations and discuss my problem like men?

“My agency is very interested in people who cross the border.  They bring experience in industry and commercial farms to North Mexico, so we need to know when they come and where they go.  I know the date and time of your border crossing and know your grandparents now live on a small farm about ten miles from here.”

He was still smiling, but his face looked sort of hopeful too.  I decided if he wanted to send my ass back to Sacrevista and already had the video like he said, I’d probably already be on my way.  Maybe I could trust him.  

“I’m not admitting to doing what you think you saw, but if I did you’d probably turn me over to the Sacrevista government, wouldn’t you?”

Mr. Ramirez frowned for the first time since we’d met.

“No, Mr. Gaines.  I want you to do it again…with my niece and her family.  My niece is a software engineer as is her husband.  She wants to come home but does not want to lose half the value of their savings and home.  I understand your grandparents were in the same situation.”

I still wasn’t convinced.  His story sounded like a trap.

“My grandpa told me he sold his house, kept enough to pay his taxes, and put all the rest and his savings in stocks on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.  Once he moved to Arizona, he sold the stocks and put the money into US investments.  Your niece could do the same, pay the emigration permit fees, and come home legally.”

“Yes, yes, under ordinary circumstances she could do just that, but you do not have access to the same information as I.  There have been rumors in various news agencies, but I have the factual information.

“The President of Sacrevista and the congress have become concerned about the plans of the corporations headquartered in Sacrevista to expand in other countries, namely the US states of North and South Mexico.  Their plan is to nationalize those corporations and to declare all employees as crucial to the national interests and therefore prohibited from leaving.

“That plan will be made public in the next month or so, and the required laws will surely pass quickly through the Sacrevista House and Senate and be signed by the President.  In the interim, all emigration permits for all employees of those industries are being held by the Sacrevista authorities.  My niece has already sold her home and invested the money just as your grandfather did, but she will never be granted an emigration permit, nor will the rest of her family.

“All I am asking is for you to help my niece and her family escape what will surely become a virtual life-long imprisonment in Sacrevista.  Of course, I cannot offer you official status, but I can furnish you with anything you require.”

I was starting to believe him a little, but I was still not really convinced.

“Mr. Ramirez, anyone trying to do what you’re asking would need some pretty sophisticated equipment.  Getting more than a couple of people over the border would be difficult, and nearly impossible without some way to know where the guards are, how many there are, and what electronic devices they have.  That means military grade night vision, GPS, and equipment to detect various types of sensors.  I doubt you can get that type of stuff since most of it’s highly classified and available only to the military.”

Mr. Ramirez just smiled.

“As I said earlier, working for a US state agency means there are certain avenues available to certain people with certain needs.  I have already assembled most of the equipment you would require based upon an assessment of the risks by a friend of mine.  It includes water and food rations for ten people for a week should you think it will take that much time.”

“Ten people?  I thought you said it was just your niece and family.”

He smiled.

“It is my niece, her husband, their three children, her two brothers, her husband’s two sisters, and one grandparent of her husband’s.”

I was getting ready to tell him to go fuck himself when he smiled again.

“Of course you will be rewarded accordingly.”

“What is accordingly?”

“I believe five thousand dollars per person would compensate you adequately for your time and effort.”

“You have that kind of money?”

“I have made certain arrangements.”

He handed me a business card.

“Should you accept my proposal, I will authorize your access to the bank account on the back of that card.  Currently, the account balance is half the amount I propose.  The balance of your compensation will be added once I see my niece and her family safe in my home.”

Fifty thousand was a lot of money. Getting ten people across the border would be a tough job, especially since three of them were kids and one was older, but it would take me over six months to earn that as a DNR officer.  It could also end up with me and those ten people in a Sacrevista prison for who knows how long.  It was that old excitement thing that got me.  It would be pretty damned exciting to sneak ten people across the border.
.
At the time, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.  I wasn’t until a week after I delivered all Ramirez’ family to his doorstep I found out.  He called me again.  

“Mr. Gaines, I can not begin to tell you how happy I am right now.  My niece and her husband have already found jobs and are starting their new life.  The rest of the family are in the process of relocating to the cities where their relatives reside.”

“Well, you’re welcome, but I’m sure that’s not why you called me.”

“No, it is not.  I have another proposal for you, one which will be similar to that which you have already accomplished.  Would you consider another such activity?

That second trip hadn’t been as difficult as I’d thought, especially after we put the kids to sleep with a mild sedative Juan had been thoughtful enough to provide.  Everything had gone according to plan so it was easy money.   I had nothing better to do either.

“Let’s say I’m interested.  We need to meet again because I have some more questions.”

Juan seemed overjoyed.

“Excellent.  Could you drive down to my office in Nogales?  We’ll have a late lunch and then another discussion.”

We had lunch at Toscanos Restaurante, and then Juan drove us to the Plaza de Benito Juárez. Juan pointed at the statue of Benito Juárez and smiled.  

“Benito Juárez is both a symbol and a hero of the old Mexico.  Did you know he forged a close working relationship with the US?”

I said I didn’t, to which Juan sighed.

“I would suppose most US schools do not teach much about the history of Mexico.  Perhaps that will change now that we are two US states. Juárez was very important to Mexico because of what he did and because of his background.  He came from a poor, rural family and yet became a lawyer and the President of Mexico.  It is something to which we hope our youth will aspire now that we have a stable government and a growing economy.  The other statue here represents that hope.”

Juan pointed to a statue of a naked man fighting some sort of flying animal.

“The naked man is the Mexican people”, Juan said.  “The winged creature is ignorance.  It is ignorance we must conquer for all our people.  It is the people who relocate from Sacrevista to North and South Mexico who will assist in that effort.  Now, you said you had some questions.  What might those questions be?”

Juan was smiling, and the smile didn’t change when I asked him who he really worked for.  He just motioned for me to follow him to a section of the Plaza where there were no people.  Once there, he gave me the answer, sort of.

“My employer is the organization of which I spoke, the North Mexico Office of Labor Development and Employment.  It is a small, but important branch of the North Mexico state government and is charged with doing that which the name implies.”

I’d already done some research and knew that much, but it didn’t seem reasonable that such a government office would engage in smuggling people across the border.  I said as much to Juan and he smiled again.

“I believed you would not settle for a simple answer.  Unfortunately, I can not give you a better one.  There are matters of US and North Mexico security to consider.  Let us just say my office is unique in that it receives Federal funding for certain of our efforts.”

I knew of only one Federal agency that would be dabbling in foreign affairs.

“You must be speaking of the CIA.”

“Now, Mr. Gaines, were I to say you are incorrect, you would not believe me, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t.”

“Perhaps we should just leave it at that.  What other questions do you have?”

“If I decide to help you out, I’m going to need some more equipment that I can’t buy on the open market.  How would you suppose I could get that equipment?”

Juan grinned.

“If you give me a list, I assure you I can have everything you need in less than a week and it will be located in the cave on your grandfather’s farm.”

“How many people are we talking about?”

Juan stopped smiling.

“My sources tell me there are several million who wish to return to their homeland.  Obviously you can not accomplish that by yourself.  We would ask you to bring perhaps two hundred workers and their families over the course of the first year.”

“Two hundred…and their families?  You have to be crazy.  There’s no way I could get that many people across the border without the Sacrevista Border Patrol noticing.”

Juan shrugged.

“Were you to bring a few at a time, say perhaps ten or twelve, it could be done.  There are approximately fourteen days each month when the moon is not so bright you would be easily seen.  By making a trip on those days, you could make nearly fifty trips in a year.

“Who would I be bringing across?  I’m sure it’s not more relatives.”

“A few will be relatives of government associates, but for the most part, they will be people selected for their knowledge of how to work in factories and on commercial farms.  They can do the work required to grow our economy and teach our people at the same time.  You will be doing a service to the people you bring to North Mexico as well.  You will be providing them security for the future, just as you did for your grandparents and my family.”

“So you’re going to pick who gets to come along?”

Juan chuckled.

“Mr. Gaines, we have no way of supporting the lives of people who do not contribute without turning North and South Mexico into copies of our neighbor to the north.  There are also known criminals living in Sacrevista who would bring their activities along with them.  Surely you can understand that.”

“Well, if I decide to do this, bringing even a dozen people across at a time might not be a big problem, but Sacrevista is a big country and some are probably a long way from the border.  How would they get to someplace close enough to the border I don’t have to walk them hundreds of miles?  I can’t do that and make those fifty trips a year.”

“My organization has taken care of that problem.  I can not tell you how it was done, but your grandfather’s vineyard is now in sympathetic hands.  While it still produces wine for Sacrevista, it will also serve as a collection point for those we wish to return.  Because of the number of workers required by the operation, the small increase and decrease from time to time will not be noticed by the authorities.  The trip will be much the same as you took with your grandparents.”

“OK, that makes it easier, but if a bunch of people start to disappear, won’t Sacrevista suspect something’s going on?”

He chuckled again.

“Most certainly they will, but if my information is correct, Sacrevista has a much larger problem to worry about.  Already one of the remaining still-private corporations has ceased manufacturing in Sacrevista because they have located all new products in North Mexico.  There are few remaining employees, so they have quietly paid the relocation tax and are in the process of transferring their headquarters to North Mexico.  

“Sacrevista has already nationalized the largest corporations, and the Sacrevista value-added taxes make those products more costly than those made here.  As a result, demand for those products has been significantly reduced.  In the very new future, Sacrevista will begin losing the revenue that enables their social programs to continue.  They are more concerned about that state of affairs than they are about emigration of a few people.

Juan shrugged.

“In any event, there will be no way to follow them to your grandfather's farm.  There are certain people in Sacrevista who will convey them there by certain means that will appear innocent should Sacrevista Emmigration Control investigate.  They will simply be taking a weekend vacation to see the sights or are going to visit friends.  By the time they are missed, that transportation will have been replaced by a different means untraceable to the first.”

The first six trips were pretty easy. The laser sensors had stopped being a problem after the first trip.  I was tossing my hamburger balls at the border between ten and midnight twice a week.  That kept the coyotes coming every night and setting off the alarms.  After another week, the guards just disabled them as soon as the first one went off.

The adults were mostly in good physical shape, and the same mild sedative put any young kids to sleep so they’d stay quiet.  We had to carry them, but only from my cave to the border and then to the waiting bus, about a fifteen minute walk each way from the border.

The seventh was harder.  A month before, two of the top engineers at one of the nationalized software companies had gone on vacation with their families and had never come back.  The Sacrevista Bureau of Investigation traced them to a tour bus headed for Chula Vista, but when they investigated further, they discovered the company that owned the tour bus didn’t actually exist and the bus was nowhere to be found.

It was a day after those engineers didn’t show up for work the software company reported all the files relative to the artificial intelligence software which those engineers had written had also disappeared, including all the backup copies.  By that time, I had those two engineers and their families safely in North Mexico.  The engineers were explaining their work to their new company and their families were in the process of finding housing.

The SBI had worked on other cases like this, but those people were small fish compared to these two engineers.  They’d long known there were people leaving Sacrevista, but the others had just been factory supervisors or junior engineers.  The loss of these two engineers and all their work would set back the company at least five years if not more.  

The result was Sacrevista had increased the number of Sacrevista troops guarding the southern border, and now instead of walking a five hundred yard strip of the border, each guard only walked half that distance.  

That afternoon, I stretched out on top of a rock behind some yuccas and watched the guards patrol through my binoculars.  By my watch, it took a guard about eight minutes to walk his guard station from one end to the other.  I’d have only about ten minutes max while the guard was far enough away he probably wouldn’t hear footsteps or anyone brushing against something.

That was going to be a problem.  I’d have to take one across then wait for the guard to walk past, turn, and then get far enough away he wouldn’t hear me coming back.  I figured it would take about an hour per person to get them all from my cave and across the border.  There were only six on this trip, but it was still going to be a long, long night.

I picked up the group at Grandpa’s old house and spent the first night walking to my cave.  The next morning, I got them all something to eat and then sat them down.

I explained how we’d have to make the crossing and since it would take a little over six hours, there was some risk involved.  We’d have to start as soon as it was dark enough we wouldn’t be easily seen and cross one at a time.  The risk would be that we’d have to finish before dawn or we’d be caught.  I said if any of them were reluctant to take that risk, I’d take them back to the farm and they could go back home.

That’s when Maria, a young factory supervisor from a semiconductor factory, asked why I had to go back and forth.

“Why can’t we just walk across in a group?  All of us can run that far.”

“We’ll only have a few minutes to get across and out of sight, and it’s easy to trip and fall if you try to run in the dark.  If you did that, the guard would be sure to catch you and that would mean everybody who’s left would probably be caught too.  We can’t risk that.  I can see with my night vision goggles, but I don’t have enough for everybody.  They take some getting used to anyway.”

Maria asked if I had another pair.

I nodded.

“I do, but I don’t see how that’s going to help.”

She grinned.

“I can help because I know how to use them.  My company made the sensor chip assemblies and we had to test them in the goggles.”

“OK, that would get you across by yourself, but what about the others?”

Maria smiled.

“You give me your extra goggles and take me and one other person to the border first so I’ll know the way.  Then I’ll come back and get the next person while you take the first one across.  I’ll meet you at the border with the next person and you take them across while I go back for another.  We’ll keep doing that until all of us are across.  Wouldn’t that work?”

It would cut the time in half if I could trust Maria to not just run off after she brought the first person to the border.  I wasn’t quite ready to do that.

“Yes, Maria, it would work, but how do I know you won’t just leave once you find the border?”

The older woman beside Maria raised her hand.

“I’m Maria’s mother and I’ll stay here and be the last to cross.  Maria would never leave me behind.”

That night I gave Maria my extra goggles and had her walk around outside the cave for a few minutes.  She didn’t bump into anything or fall down, so I figured she could probably make it to the border and back.  At eleven, I heard a coyote howl and knew they’d be looking for a little snack.  I tossed a few balls of hamburger a hundred yards each side of my planned crossing point to make sure the laser sensors were turned off.  Ten minutes later, Maria and I started for the border with one of my clients in tow.

We stopped fifty yards from the border and waited until the guard turned and was half way to the other end of his post.  Maria waved as she turned and walked back toward the cave.  I slipped the first, an older factory manager whose wife and daughter would be next, across and down to the ravine where we'd wait for the rest.  

Fifteen minutes later, I was sitting behind a bush ten yards from the border and watching the guard.  He wasn’t being particularly attentive.  I’m sure his supervisor wouldn’t have approved of the ear buds in his ears or the cell phone in his hand.

He reached the end of his post, turned and started back.  He was half way when I saw Maria walking slowly toward me and glancing in the direction of the guard every three or so steps.  The woman behind her had her hand on Maria’s shoulder.  I stood up and quickly walked to meet her.

She grinned when she saw me, and walked a little faster until we met.  She leaned over, put her cheek against mine and whispered, “See, I told you I could do it.”

I sent her on her way back to the cave and took the woman across and down to my hiding place.  We had just three more plus Maria, to go.

The rest were about the same except for Maria and her mother.  Evidently the guards had changed. I knew they probably changed about every four hours.  I just didn’t know when since they’d changed their protocol since my last trip.  

The new guard looked like he was still half asleep.   He walked past me, yawned,  and then sat down.

I was afraid he was going to go to sleep, and since he was only a few yards from where we crossed, I couldn’t risk Maria and her mother coming across.  If he woke up and saw them, all hell would break loose and I’d lose my crossing point and probably my cave.  

He stayed sitting for about ten minutes, then looked at his watch and stood up.  He wasn’t quite half way to the other end when Maria and her mother walked up beside me.

Maria smiled.

“My mother is the last, and I shut off everything before we started like you showed me.”

We walked back to the ravine, got our group together and started walking south.  About half an hour later, I saw the North Mexico Immigration bus and flashed my flashlight once.  After the bus flashed its lights twice I walked the group to the bus and helped them board.  Maria and her mother were the last two to board besides me.  

Always before, I’d taken the seat behind the driver, but this time when I got on the bus, I saw Maria waving at me.  I walked back two rows and sat down beside her.  Maria put her hand on my arm and smiled.

“I couldn’t say anything back there, but now I can.  Thank you for helping me and my mother.   She’ll get to see her grandchildren for the first time since they were born.”

I shrugged.

“I’m happy for you both, but I did get paid, so you don’t really have to thank me.  I was just doing my job.”

“I know, but you didn’t have to be as nice as you were.  Mother told me the man who brought her across the border years ago wasn’t nice at all.  She was terrified that time.  Tonight she felt safe.  I felt safe too even though it was really exciting.”

I had to chuckle.

“I wouldn’t call it exciting.  It was dangerous though.  If we’d been caught, you and your mother would probably be going to a Sacrevista jail right now.”

Maria stroked my arm.

“We aren’t though and that’s because of you.  Is there some way I can show my thanks?”

“No, not really.”

Maria frowned.  

“I can’t even buy you a cup of coffee?”

“No.  You and your mother need to get settled before you do anything else.”

I said good-bye to Maria at the relocation center in Los Encinos and then drove home.  I’d rented an apartment just ten miles from the relocation center by then, so fifteen minutes later, I was sitting on my couch and sucking down a beer.  It was only about six in the morning, but doing what I’d just done had pumped me up.  The beer would help me fall asleep.

It was about two when I woke up and looked for something to eat.  My fridge was pretty bare, so I got dressed and went grocery shopping.  I was back home and waiting for my frozen pizza to cook when my cell phone buzzed.  The caller ID said “North Mexico Unemployment Office”.  In reality, that was the relocation center, and I wondered why they would be calling me.  They had strict orders from Juan to never call me unless it was some sort of emergency.

I recognized the voice as soon as she spoke.

“Mr. Gaines?”

“Maria, how did you get this number?”
 
“The secretary went to the restroom so I looked up your name on her phone list while she was gone.  I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to talk to you.”

“Well, Maria, I’ve done about all I can for you.  The relocation center will help you find a job and a place to live.  Just give them a little time.”

“What I need to talk to you about is me. Can we meet somewhere, somewhere private?”

“How private?”

“Somewhere nobody can hear us.”

Call me a suspicious bastard if you want, but I didn’t want to be seen picking anyone up at the relocation center.  The name on the front of the building was “North Mexico Unemployment Office”, but it was possible the SBI had figured out what it really was and might be watching it.  It would be better for both Maria and I if I picked her up someplace else.  She was waiting in a little taco shop three blocks from the relocation center, and she smiled around a mouthful of taco when I walked inside.

I bought a couple of tacos for my dinner, and Maria followed me out the door to my truck.  Five minutes later we left the city limits behind and drove out into the open country.

Maria was quiet until I pulled off the road and into a long lane that led back to a farmhouse.  I shut off the engine and then turned to Maria.

“So what was so important you didn’t want anyone else to hear?”

Maria was looking at her feet.

“When you brought mother and me across the border I was really scared, but it was also really exciting.”

“OK.  So what does that have to do with wanting to talk to me?”

“Well, I liked the exciting part and I want to do it again.”

“You want to go back?”

“No, not ever, but I do want to help you bring other people across.”

I shook my head.

“Maria, you don’t want to do that.   You should be finding a job in North Mexico and getting on with your life.  That’s why I brought you across, so you could do that.  Your mother needs you too.”

Maria looked up at me and smiled.

“Mother has relatives in Mexico City and she’s on a bus to there now.  She’ll be fine without me.  The job I might find is supervising in another factory.  I like doing that, but it’s not very exciting.”

I shook my head again.

“Maria, I don’t need a helper.”

“Yes you do.  If I hadn’t helped you, you’d never have gotten us all across before daylight.  A couple of the men were afraid you wouldn’t, and if you left them behind, they were going to try to make it across on their own.  If I hadn’t been there helping, they’d have tried to do it and they’d have gotten caught.  Then Sacrevista would find out how you get people across the border.  They’d have waited until the next time and arrested you and everybody you had with you.”

I’d figured out that much from hearing the two men she’d talked about.  My Spanish isn’t great, but it was good enough I understood the conversation between the two men.  As much as I hated to admit it, Maria had a point.  By the time most people were within a mile of the border, they’d do anything to get across, and if those two had made a run for it, they’d have endangered me and everybody else.  I wasn’t ready to give in though.

“Maria, you don’t have any idea what you’d be getting into, and I don’t want to have to be thinking about keeping you safe and getting people across the border at the same time.  That’s a recipe for failure at both.”

Maria frowned.

“You wouldn’t have to worry about keeping me safe.  I can do that all by myself.”

“How would you do that?  You were born and raised in the city.  You don’t know about the desert and you sure as hell don’t know anything about the Sacrevista Border Patrol.”

Her face looked like she wasn’t going to give up very easily.

“I know a lot more than you think I do.  My neighbor was an SBP agent.  He liked me and since I wanted to leave, I thought it might be good to know what they do and how they do it so I sort of convinced him to tell me.”

“Oh, and just how did you convince him to do that?  From what I hear, all that stuff is top secret in Sacrevista.  He could have gotten into a lot of trouble by telling you.”

Maria giggled.

“I convinced him the same way any woman would convince any man to do what she wants him to do.  I slept with him until he told me what I wanted to know.”

“You pimped yourself out?”

“No, it wasn’t like that.  He was kind of a nice guy so I just let him do what he wanted to do.  I didn’t ask him to tell me anything, but after a while, he started telling me about what he did every day at work.”

“So you think you know all about them now?”

“No, but I know enough to know how not to get caught.”

“But you don’t know about the desert, do you?”

Maria smiled.

“In high school, one of our required classes for each grade was environmental science.  My senior year, we studied the desert for six weeks and we took three field trips there.  I know about rattlesnakes, gila monsters and scorpions and what to do if I see one.  There’s nothing much else in the desert that can hurt you except the heat, so you just don’t do much out in the sun.  What else is there to know in order to stay alive in the desert?”

I thought I had her with that.

“How about finding directions in the dark or fixing up somebody who does get hurt?”

Maria grinned.

“Well, you have to have something to do, don’t you?”

I didn’t like the idea at first.  I’m sort of a do-it-all-myself kind of guy.  It had worked very well for me for most of my life and I had to think about what having a partner would mean.  I was still thinking I didn’t want any part of that when something caused me to reconsider.

If I’d been watching for anything going on around us like I normally would have, I probably wouldn’t have changed my mind.  When I heard the tap on my side window and turned around, I cursed myself for being so careless.  The barrel of the pistol pointed at my face looked like the barrel of an M1A4 tank at that range, and the guy holding the pistol wasn’t smiling.

“Driver, get out of the truck.  Passenger, put your hands on the dash and stay where you are.”

It was obvious the guy wasn’t a cop.  A cop wouldn’t have stood right in front of my driver’s side door.  He’d have been standing a few feet away and covering me with his pistol.  That was so what I was going to do couldn’t happen.

When I swung the truck door open, I did it with as much force as I could muster.  It caught the guy by surprise and knocked him flat on his ass.  I was watching his pistol as I jumped out of the truck and ran around the door to keep him down.  He didn’t drop it like I’d hoped.  Instead he lay there on his back with the pistol pointed at my belly.  

He wasn’t a cop, but he’d had some military training at sometime or other.  What he’d done was the same thing I’d been taught in the Army – no matter what, never lose your weapon and never take your eyes off your opponent.  I raised my hands and stood there while he slowly got to his feet.

“Nice try, asshole”, he said.  “Now, lean against the truck and spread your legs.”

I was in the process of doing that when the blast of a small caliber pistol barked from inside the truck cab and the guy grabbed his belly.  He was still standing when there were two more shots from the truck.  I saw two small red spots appear in his chest just before he fell to the ground.

Maria ran around my truck a few seconds later with her purse in one hand and a small semi-automatic pistol in the other.  When she saw the guy wasn’t moving, she moved the safety on the pistol to “safe” and put it in her purse, then looked up at me.

“Is he dead?”

I felt for a pulse on the guys neck, but couldn’t find one.

“Yes, he is, but where did you get a pistol and why did you shoot him?  I could have talked our way out of whatever he had in mind.”

Maria was shaking like a leaf.  She took a couple deep breaths to calm down before she answered me.

“No, you couldn’t have.  I know who he is, or at least what he is.  He’s an undercover SBI agent.  He’d have taken us both back to Sacrevista.”

“Maria, how did you figure all that out just by seeing him?”

“Look at his pistol.  Notice anything different about it?”

I really hadn’t paid much attention to the guy’s firearm except to watch where it was pointing.  When I picked it up, I saw what Maria was talking about.  

Within a month of Sacrevista becoming a country, all firearms, even BB and pellet guns, had been outlawed, and importation of any into Sacrevista was banned.  Sacrevista then offered a reward for any information about any existing firearms, and within a year, almost all had been confiscated and destroyed.  

The only remaining legal firearms were with the military and the SBI, and those were imported from China under a special exemption.  They were also easily identifiable by the words “Property of Sacrevista” in a light green ceramic coating on the slide or receiver.  The words served one specific purpose.  It was nearly impossible to remove the ceramic printing without leaving evidence of doing so, so any firearm so coated or that had been stripped would stick out like sore thumb as a stolen firearm.  

If any person except a member of the military or SBI had one, it had to be stolen.  By back-tracing the serial number hidden inside the frame, the person originally issued the firearm could be charged with neglectful storage and prosecuted.  The penalty for losing your firearm was twenty years in prison.  As a result, the holders of those firearms kept track of them better than they did their wives and kids.  There had been only one case of a stolen, government issued firearm since they’d first been issued, and that rifle had been stolen after the SBI agent had been killed in a car chase with an illegal emigrant.

“OK, so he has to be an SBI agent because of his pistol.  Where did you get the one you used to kill him and how the hell did you learn to use it?”

Maria shrugged.

“There are still guns in Sacrevista if you know who to ask and if you have enough money.  Remember I told you about my neighbor?  He told me about a suspected gun-smuggler they were watching.  I knew by then that I was going to try to leave, and I didn’t know what I might find when I did.  There are other men  bringing people across, but they’re like the gang members who used to bring people from Mexico to the US.  I thought I should be prepared to defend myself.

I went to that man’s house and bought my pistol and a hundred bullets.  That night after it got dark, I put the pistol and the bullets in a plastic bag and hid them in one of the downspouts of my neighbor’s house so even if someone searched my house, they wouldn’t find anything.  I knew they’d never search my neighbor’s house since he worked for the SBI.  The night I left, I got them back and took them with me.

I learned to shoot back before guns were illegal.  My dad liked to shoot and took me to a range and taught me how when I was ten.  I’m a pretty good shot as long as the target isn’t too far away.  I haven’t shot a pistol in years, but I didn’t forget how to do it.”

“Why didn’t the SBI track you down and arrest you?  I’m sure if they were going to raid the place, they were monitoring who went in and out.”

Maria grinned.

“Oh, I knew they were, but the person they saw at the house was an older, white woman, not a young Hispanic woman.  I padded my clothes a little and wore a wig and makeup to make me look that way.  I also knew they’d follow me, so after I bought my pistol, I went to a crowded park and went to the restroom.  I went into a stall, took off the wig and makeup and changed into the clothes in my purse.  By the time they would have checked to see what I was doing in there so long, I was on a bus and going home.”

Maria seemed to be pretty smart because she’d thought things out a lot better than I expected, but I still had one more question.

“Why did you think it was necessary to kill him?”

Maria frowned.

“One of my employees at the factory tried to get over the border by himself.  I saw on television that the Border Patrol had caught him and that he was sent to prison without even getting a trial.  That’s what happens if they catch you trying to escape, you go to prison and they take everything you left behind.  The only way to stop that from happening to both of us was to kill him.”

I’d heard as much from Juan about people apprehended trying to cross the border without the required papers.  Sacrevista knew if they let the person go, they’d just try again, so they made sure the person couldn’t.  It was sort of like when the US had put suspected terrorists in the prison at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba.  They went in, but few ever came out alive.  

Those captures and imprisonment were intentionally made public to deter anyone else from trying to do the same thing.  It didn’t stop anybody except the unlucky people who got caught, but I suppose the government of Sacrevista thought it would.

Well, now I had a problem I couldn’t very well handle by myself.  Sacrevista would know where the guy was supposed to be and when he didn’t check in, the SBI would start looking for him.  If he was even halfway competent, he’d have left information about what he was looking for and where.  When he was found dead, I’d have more than one SBI agent on my tail, and my people smuggling days would be over.  

Once I’d made a couple of trips, Juan had given me a new cell phone, a cell phone encrypted using the latest military software and hardware.  That way, we didn’t have to meet so he could tell me about my next trip.  I used that cell phone to call Juan.

I never heard what happened to the guy.  Juan just told me to drive back home and he’d take care of it.  I never saw or read anything about a guy being found dead out on a country road or an abandoned car or anything else related to what happened.  I also didn’t ask Juan what happened.  I figured it was better if I didn’t know.

I did take Maria back to my place then.  I wasn’t sure if the guy knew who she was or not, but the risk was too great to take her back to the relocation center.  On the way, I did some thinking.

Maria was one gutsy woman and she’d saved both our asses.  There had been a few times I’d wished I had someone I could trust along with me on one of my trips.  I was doing all right by myself, but like I said, my Spanish isn’t all that great.  Sometimes it was difficult to explain what I wanted my clients to do.  

Little kids were often a problem.  They were scared to death anyway, and a strange man telling them what to do only made that worse.  Maybe a woman like Maria might have better luck.

There was also the problem I had with some women.  Women tended to get emotional at times and stop thinking straight.  It had been a tough job to convince a couple that they’d be all right if they just did what I said.  Maria could probably be more convincing than I could.

When we got back to my place, I called Juan again and explained what Maria wanted to do and asked what he thought about it.  He said he’d do some checking and get back to me.  

Getting back to me took a week and a half, during which Maria lived with me.  I had a two bedroom apartment at the time, so she took my spare bedroom.  It was a little odd having someone there all the time.  It was more odd after that first night.  

All I had in the fridge was some frozen pizza and dinners and a case of beer.  That first night, Maria ate the pizza and drank a beer, but asked if I’d take her shopping the next day.  I needed some stuff anyway so I said that would be fine.  

It took most of eight hours before Maria was satisfied.  She’d been cashing her paychecks and keeping the cash at home for months, so our first stop was a money broker.  Maria didn’t do too bad, considering the state Sacrevista was in at the time.  She got about fifty percent when she exchanged her Sacrevista currency for US dollars.

I stood around with my thumb up my ass while she picked out clothes so she’d have something to wear besides her black jeans and black shirt.  Three hours and four stores later, the back seat of my truck was filled with sacks and boxes.  We hit a grocery store then, and that set me back a couple hundred.  Maria did let me buy a few frozen dinners, but the rest went to staples, meat, and milk.

That night, I ate like I would have in a restaurant.  Maria’s fajitas were as good as any I’d ever had, and she promised a pot roast for the next night.  By the end of the week and a half I was starting to feel my pants getting a little tighter.

It was the Monday before the next new moon that Juan called me.

“Mr. Gaines, I have ten people who will be at the meeting center in two days.  That will give you a day to get them to your cave and you can cross the next night.  Six are adults and four are children under the age of six.  I assume you can be ready.”

Ten was a lot of people given the current border conditions, so I told Juan I’d rather take them in two groups.  He was apologetic, but wouldn’t change his mind.

“Mr. Gaines, I understand your concern, but unfortunately I can not split them up.  They are mostly one family – two brothers and their wives and children, and two other people.  You should not have a problem if you take Maria along.”

“Maria checked out?”

“Yes, Mr. Gaines.  She underwent a level one background check before being escorted to your meeting place.  She has no record of anything improper.  This time we investigated her parents, grandparents, and one sister.  Her grandparents and father are deceased, but you brought her mother across with her and her sister has asked to return to North Mexico and will be part of the this group.  I have no doubts Maria will be an asset to you and I welcome her to our little team.”

The next night, Maria and I loaded up packs with enough supplies for ten people.  After the car from the relocation center dropped us off in a gorge hidden from the border, Maria and I hiked to my cave.  With just the two of us, slipping across while the guards were at the end of their rounds was pretty easy.  Half an hour later, Maria and I were in my cave and getting things ready for the next trip.

I’ve never used lights in my cave because it’s pitch black in the desert and any light shows for miles.  It usually doesn’t bother my clients because they’re tired from walking from the vineyard to the cave and go to sleep quickly.  As a result, Maria and I had to go about getting everything set up by using our night vision goggles.  They were the latest panoramic view design and used infrared LED’s to project a cone of infrared light that was then reflected back to the sensors in the goggles.

I’d just unrolled the last sleeping mat and checked it for spiders and scorpions when Maria touched my arm.

“Remember when I told you this was exciting?”

“Yeah.  Why?  Are you excited?”

Maria stroked up my arm and then down my chest.

“It’s like it’s just you and me against all of Sacrevista.  That makes me really excited.”

I grinned.

“Don’t worry.  That’ll wear off by the time we get all ten across the border.  After that, you’ll be too tired to be excited.”

Maria moved a little closer, close enough her breast was pressing into my left arm.

“I’m not too tired right now…are you?”

Maria’s hand moved down to my belt.

“I’m too excited to sleep.  I need to be…”

I felt Maria pulling down the zipper of my pants.

“…relaxed first.”

I flinched when her fingers found my cock inside my underwear.

“Maria, I don’t know if this is a good idea.”

“I think it is, unless you don’t like me enough.  I really, really hope you do.”

“It’s not that I don’t like you enough.  It’s just the situation.”

Maria gently fondled my stiffening cock.

“The radar will tell us if anyone gets too close, won’t it?”

I didn’t see anything moving except for what was probably a coyote or fox and the two little dots of the border guards walking their designated path.  I set the radar to alarm if anything got closer and then turned around.

The picture you see in night vision goggles is varying shades of green rather than color or black and white.  Maria looked a little weird standing there naked with her arms held out and beckoning me because she was green, but she was still one very seductive woman.  Her breasts were full and round with dark nipples and nipple beds, and the bush between her slender thighs was neatly trimmed.

“Come here”, she said in a low, breathy voice.  “I need you and I need you now.”

The bedrolls I use aren’t the softest beds in the world, but when I eased down beside Maria, I wasn’t thinking about a soft bed.  I was thinking about her soft breasts and how her nipples were stiff before I even touched them.  I was thinking about the soft, smooth skin on her tummy and the crinkled hair on her mound.  I couldn’t really see her because I’d taken off my night vision goggles, but I didn’t have to.  I could feel a ripe, exotic woman in my hands and she was responding to everything I did.

It was her little moan when I kissed her right nipple, and then the little hip lift Maria made when I stroked her slit as I separated the crinkled curls.  It was the way she pulled my face to hers and then locked her lips to mine.  It was the way she opened her thighs so I could slip a fingertip between her soft, pouting lips.

It was also the way she gently stroked my rigid cock.  Maria wasn’t trying to jack me.  She was just making soft strokes that were driving me crazy with need.  I was ready to feel her passage massaging me as I stroked in and out of her warmth, and it was a struggle to not do just that, but I did.  Instead, I enjoyed the building feeling of wanting this woman, here in the dark of a cave in Sacrevista, and thinking having her was going to be something I would never forget.

I knew she was ready for me when the soft strokes to my cock became motions that pulled me between her spread thighs.  Maria was breathing heavily by then, and the wet warmth around my two fingers told me I didn’t need to go slow.  I did try to go slow though.  I was being selfish, I guess, but as soon as my cock entered Maria, the feeling was so intense I wanted that first thrust to last.

As I pushed my cock inside her a little at a time, Maria wrapped her arms around my back and whispered, “Oh, Dios, si”, and tried to push herself up over my length.  When she gasped, I couldn’t stop myself from stroking in until the base of my cock flattened out her swollen lips.  I felt Maria’s fingernails dig into my back as she gasped again.

What followed was something I’d never experienced before.  Oh, there had been other women of course.  Some were young, tight, and slender and a couple had been older than I with softer bodies but stronger desires.  None had affected me as much as did Maria.  It was like I couldn’t feel enough of her body against mine, like we were really one trying to reach that pinnacle of ecstasy that would push us both into the oblivion of release.

Every caress I made to Maria resulted in an answering moan or gasp, or thighs that clenched around my waist or hands that sometimes stroked my back and other times reached lower to grip my ass and pull me deeper into her.  Maria’s mouth greedily sought mine and her kisses were soft lips smoldering with the flames of intense sexual desire.

When Maria began to groan and thrust her hips up to meet each stroke, I knew the end was close and tried to slow down to keep the sensations going, but she wouldn’t let me.  She dug her heels into the bedroll and raised us both up a little, then fell back down when I pulled my cock back.  On the next stroke, she gasped, “hazlo ahora”, and arched her back as she pushed her body up.

Maria stayed there, arched into my stroke, and when the base of my cock flattened out her lips, she shrieked and I felt her passage begin contracting and then releasing.  That did it for me.  I pulled back out and then rammed my cock back inside her as the spurt flew up my shaft.  Maria cried out a second later and her body began to shake.  

I kept stroking my cock in and out of Maria’s grasping passage while her body quaked with the waves of pleasure that raced through her.  I’d shot all I was going to and was just enjoying that tightening and loosening sensation when she wrapped her arms around my back and locked her lips to mine.  As she eased back down on the bedroll, she pulled me along with her and didn’t stop until I was cradled between her quivering thighs and my chest was pressed tight against her breasts.

For a while, neither of us said anything.  We were both breathing too hard, and I felt Maria’s heartbeat pounding against my chest even though my heart was racing almost as fast.  It was like neither of us needed to say anything as well.  We’d just become one together and neither of us wanted to make that feeling evaporate by talking.

I mumbled, “damn”, when my cock did slip from Maria’s body.  She stroked my back and whispered, “Don’t worry.  There will be other times”.

The first of those other times came a little after I woke up.  I was checking the radar when I felt Maria’s breasts against my arm.  She stroked my shoulder and then asked if I saw anything.

The only thing out there were the two guards walking their posts.  I’d been timing them to see if Sacrevista had changed their protocol again, but they hadn’t.  We’d still have only about ten minutes to cross and fifteen minutes to go from the cave to the border.

“No, everything’s the same.  We’ll have to relay the people across one at a time like we did when I brought you across.”

Maria stroked her hand down my chest and belly until she found my cock.  Her gentle, soft touch had it stiffening in seconds.  She purred, “right now I want to do what we did last night”, and started kissing my ear.

That second time was better than the first, and enough daylight made its way into the cave I could see Maria’s face as we made love.  She’d been a pretty woman when I first met her.  That day, when she softly cried out as her body was wracked by the orgasm, she was beautiful.  When I could think about something besides the waves of pleasure that swept through us both, I decided I could never give her up.

That night we hiked to Grandpa’s old house and brought our ten clients back to the cave.  We couldn’t do anything that night or the next day, of course, but Maria wasn’t bashful about touching me and giving me little hints about what she wanted to do.  That night, just before we started the ten across, she kissed me and whispered, “when we get done, I want to make love for hours”.

Everything went according to plan, but then, I had no reason to fear otherwise.  Like when I served guard duty in the Army, each guard had to call in every hour to report even if he hadn’t seen anything, so they didn’t deviate from their schedule much.  Maria brought the last of the ten across and we got all them on the bus to the relocation center.  

Maria and I walked the six blocks to where I’d parked my truck and I drove us both to my apartment.  As soon as we started the drive, Maria put her hand on my thigh and stroked gently.

“I’m still excited.  Can you fix that tonight?”

I put my hand on hers and squeezed.  

“I’ll fix it as many times as you need it fixed.”

I’ve been fixing Maria’s excitement for a little over two years now.  We make as good a team crossing the border as we do in bed.  I’ve taught Maria everything I know, and she’s perfectly capable of doing the job by herself now.  Juan has offered to set her up on her own, but Maria refused the offer.  She told him she wants to stay with me.  I feel pretty good about that.

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll have a job though.  Last week, Juan bought dinner for Maria and me, and after dinner we went to the Plaza de Benito Juárez so we could talk.  What he told us was something that had been predicted by several in the press.

Sacrevista was in sort of a failure spiral and it didn’t look to Juan’s source of information as if they’d be able to pull out.  Basically, Sacrevista was broke but wouldn’t admit it.

Since Sacrevista had declared itself open to any and all immigration, the country had been flooded with people from all over the world.  Most had no skills so they’d worked the farms.  When the cost of water, increasingly harsh regulations relative to the environment and energy conservation, and reduction in markets caused agriculture to wane, those people landed in the social services system.   

The cost of supporting those people, coupled with free college tuition, free medical care, and guaranteed retirement forced Sacrevista to divert funds from infrastructure projects into social services.  As a result, most roads in Sacrevista were in desperate need of repair and several bridges had been deemed too deteriorated to be safe.

The same situation existed with the seaports.  With few port taxes to support them, most were no longer serviceable.  The few private industries still operating in Sacrevista had automated to the point they had few employees and at least one had only a handful of maintenance technicians along with about a hundred engineers and management people.  Almost all industries were rapidly failing because the same products were being manufactured in North and South Mexico and sold for about twenty percent less.

There had been rumors in the media for about a year that there was an uprising brewing in Sacrevista.  The people still with jobs hadn’t had a raise in five years but their income taxes had increased in Sacrevista’s attempt to continue the social programs guaranteed by law.  Even the higher income residents, those who had raved about how Sacrevista should be a model for the world, were now ranting about how little they put in the bank every month and demanding change.

Housing was a huge issue as well.  Over the years, Sacrevista had continued the former California strategy of renewable energy and environmental protection.  The average time to be granted a building permit was two years, and required an outlay of the equivalent of ten thousand US dollars for environmental studies of the site.  All new construction had to be energy self-sufficient, and the solar panels and battery banks added about forty-thousand US dollars to the cost of even a small home.

Existing homes had all been converted to solar energy with battery backups for nights and cloudy days.  The cost of the conversion was about the same as for new construction, and was supposedly offset by a tax break each year of ten percent of the cost.  The tax break should have helped the homeowner, but to pay for the tax break, Sacrevista increased personal income taxes by five percent, so the homeowner actually experienced an income loss of between two and ten percent, depending upon his income.

All that resulted in huge increases in the cost of renting as well as huge increases in property values.  Many people were forced to give up their homes because they could no longer afford to both eat and pay rent or a house payment.  Sacrevista built no-cost housing for these people, but to pay for it, again raised taxes on businesses and individuals.  The current tax rate for a business was eighty percent of net income.  Individuals paid from fifty to seventy percent, and up to ninety percent of income over a million Sacrevista dollars per year.

Sacrevista attempted to balance the budget by printing more money and the result was what every economist has always predicted.  Inflation was estimated to be about a thousand percent based on the exchange rate existing when Sacrevista became a country, and was increasing at a rate of about five percent a month.  

In her last news conference, President Bindi Martinez-Shalizar proudly stated that Sacrevista had finally eliminated poverty and all greenhouse gas emissions.  Sacrevista residents were living in a society that accepted all people as citizens of Earth, and that even greater accomplishments were being planned.  She then said she was late for another appointment and couldn’t take any questions.

Juan’s source said those plans were to petition the US for aid.  Juan said that would be difficult unless Sacrevista revised their constitution and laws to mimic those of the US, and that it was unlikely that would happen.  The politicians who would have to initiate those changes would never upset their political base by doing so.  There were also rumors of a growing movement in the population to once again become a state of the US.  Juan just laughed when he said that would only happen when the President of Sacrevista crawled on her hands and knees into the Oval Office of the White House to make the request.

I’m no economist or political scientist, so I don’t know what’s ahead for Sacrevista.  All I know is Juan tells me there are more and more people wanting to leave.  Maria and I will continue to help people escape what has become basically a repeat of the old USSR, Cuba, and Venezuela.  The people we help are good people who just want a better life and who are willing to work hard to get it.  They’ll give up everything they have to do so, and Maria and I will take the risk to help them.

I’ve mostly gotten used to the risk, but Maria hasn’t.  After every trip, she puts her arms around my neck and breathes, “I’m all excited again.  Relax me”.  I smile and do my best to do just that.

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