Aboard the ship cruising in the Pacific Ocean, the General was busy making some well placed calls to the Pentagon. He hoped to raise the same questions that Captain McLean had. He also made inquiries about getting permission for a select few people on the ship to view the data that was on the disks. His first call had been to an old roommate from the Naval Academy, who specialized in counterintelligence. His old roomate stationed at the Pentagon. He wasn’t working on the fly-over but knew someone who was and routed the call appropriately. The second call was routed to a major who knew Admiral Austin was one of the High ranking members in charge of the fly-over of China.
After another call, General Woods spoke with Admiral Austin for about ten minutes. General Woods gave the admiral, Bunker’s explanation of the unusual grids the squad had discovered. Both officers surmised multiple reasons why the Chinese might be conducting such strange operations. It was pretty obvious that the Chinese were looking for something, but what? By the end of the conversation the General was finally granted permission to have a handful of his men also view the data on the disks. Additionally the Admiral gave permission to send in a covert team to investigate the site where Diesel and his men had located the grids pending the outcome of the interpretation of the data.
General Woods placed the handset into the cradle. He mashed the button for the intercom. “Staff sergeant Rojas, Would you please call down to the communication center and see how long till they are ready. Then inform Big Rig and Diesel to meet me there.”
A few seconds passed before Ssgt Rojas replied, “Sir the techs say it will be at least an hour. Some of the data was compromised.”
“Thank-you staff sergeant.”
The men in the communication center were as good as their word, working diligently to get the data ready for the briefing. Everything was set and ready to go in fifty-five minutes. The members of the Pentagon team had assembled in Washington to view the data, being transmitted and Diesel along with a select few of his men aboard the Jackson sat in the conference room located off of the communications Center linked together by videoconference.
“Did anyone bring popcorn?” asked Diesel to the men gathered in the conference room just prior to the start of the meeting.
“No but I did bring water for everyone,” replied General Woods standing behind Diesel.
The rest of the men had a good laugh at Diesel’s expense. An aide entered the conference room with a tray of glasses and pitchers of water. A second aide carried a platter of fresh fruit.
“Put the platter in front of the good captain, he looks hungry,” said the general as he took his seat.
The meeting started with no preamble. Greetings were exchanged and then one of the communications technicians came into the ships conference room and started the meeting.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. “On screen one we have the nose camera view. On screen two the radar readout. Screen three is the lidar readout. Screen four is the thermal scan and screen five is the instrument readouts.”
He paused to read some notes he held. “The screens are syched to the same time stamp. Are there any questions?” the technician asked.
“What about the audio from the cockpit?” asked someone from off screen at the pentagon.
“We stripped that portion of the files and saved them. It has no relevant data on what happened in the engagement,” replied the technician.
The technician gave a slight nod of his head and the five screens came on with a blue field.
“At this point, the XSR-28 just went feet dry. Her planned flight path was to enter china at the city of Zhanjiang in the South China Sea. From there she was to fly up the coast to Shanghai in the East China Sea. At that point she was to turn north and into the Yellow Sea. From the Yellow Sea she was to continue into the interior of China and straight through to Russia. Refuel in the air and continue over the pole to land at the Air Force Academy,” the technician gave the background information for those that did not know it.
The technician nodded to someone off the conference room and the screens came to life.
The opening segment of the video showed the flight of the XSR in progress.
“My God, that is a lot of SAMs in the air. Can we play that back and zoom in on the area they were launched from?” asked someone on the pentagon’s side of the conference.
The videos froze and rewound to the point where the sams were launched. An unseen technician paused the video and zoomed in on the general area.
“Will you look at that. The SAMs are set up in a straight line,” said another person off screen at the pentagon.
The unseen technician zoomed out and then zoomed in on a different area. More sam launcher were seen in the same setup.
Diesel spoke up “Keep the video paused and highlight the SAM launchers, then zoom out and can you then project the 28’s flight path?”
“Yes sir,” said someone from beyond the ships conference room.
A few seconds later Diesel request was on screen five.
Several people swore. The SAM launchers were set up on either side of the 28’s flight path. That’s when it dawned on the rest, the SAM launcher were not just set up in the middle of nowhere and the 28 just happened to fly between them. This was a concerted effort to bring down the 28. The SAMs were just the first part of the trap.
As the video progressed one of the military analysts in the Pentagon noticed something peculiar and remarked, “Did anyone notice where these fighters took off from?”
“Now that you mention it no,” replied an Air Force major.
Jack’s heart skipped a beat and he tried to keep his face from showing the anxiety he was feeling. Great, this is just great. There are going to be some obvious questions raised now he thought to himself.
The analyst who questioned the take off location of the Chinese fighters had asked for a satellite overlay of the Chinese known bases. One of the data technicians was feeding in the aircraft’s position into the computer and matching them up with the satellite overlay.
“Okay these two groups of fighters took off from known bases. This third group just flow out of the woods about here,” said the questioning analyst.
Jack’s breath grew tighter in his chest. This could not be happening he thought.
“Could they have been flying on the deck?” asked someone else.
“Please zoom in on one of the fighters from each group.” asked one of the advisors onboard the ship.
Screen five split in to three windows. Each window had a still frame of a MIG 71.
“Just what I thought, those MIG’s did not have any external fuel tanks which meant they were short range and that should help narrow the search for where they came from,” said the advisor.
Jack could not believe what he was hearing.
“Look, this is where the MIG’s, show up on the radar and if my hunch is right the 28’s flight path will cross directly over it,” said one of the satellite intelligence analysts as he watched the video feed.
The video continued for a few more moments and sure enough, the analyst’s hunch proved right. Jack watched as a technician froze the video with the satellite overlay and captured a series of images and sent the photograph to another computer and started to zoom in on different parts of the aerial reconnaissance photograph.
The computer technicians were hired to provide a service with the computer technology only, not become involved with the data. But one of the junior assistants could not help to wonder out loud, “What do you make of that?” as he viewed the odd vehicle.
“It looks like a truck of some sort.” replied someone.
“Can someone sync up the lidar images with this shot?” Both the conference room on the ship and the situation room were silent while the people waited for the lidar images to be overlaid on to the still video picture. One of the men at the Pentagon said it all when he blurted out, “I don’t believe it.” Jacks day was getting worse and worse every minute.
Admiral Austin cleared his throat. “General Woods are you seeing this?”
“Yes sir, we are.” He replied
“How soon can your boys be ready to go back in?” the Admiral asked.
“The men that went in today were only one squad in strength. I think that the men numbered around 22 for the rescue. They would need a few more men to cover an area this big. I can have the other men from first platoon back here and ready to deploy in three days, sir”
“That mission you talked about general, you have your green light. Start planning it,” said the Admiral.
Jack had been engrossed with his own thoughts as he tried to think of all the details he would need to report to his contact to the Chairman, but talk of a mission got Jack’s attention. “What mission would that be General?” asked Jack forgetting the videoconference was still being broadcast.
“To whom am I speaking with, sir?” asked the General.
“I am Jack Boggs, with the CIA, and any mission you plan needs the backing of the Secretary of Defense and the President. And just what do you intend to do on this mission?” Jack asked hoping that maybe if he sounded intimidating then maybe the marines might rethink their plans.
“I am sure that the Admiral will get the proper authorization after I forward my plan, and as to what do we intend to do, to quote a good Captain, cause mayhem.” The General shot back.
Admiral Austin broke in, “General, we’re going to discuss the specifics of your plan soon, but it is getting to be early morning here and late evening there. Send me your plan at your earliest convenience.” On that note the Admiral gave the nod to the technician to his right and the video conference call was disconnected.