Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction’

CHAPTER 19

 

His dream was fractured, jumping from one time and place to another.  In his dream, he was dressed in civilian dress, a charcoal gray, double breasted, three piece suit.  He and Christine, who was seated to his left, were in a Town Car. She was wearing a dark blue or black dress that was very short and very clingy. Donovan looked into her eyes; he could see through her eyes, the love she had for him, pouring out from deep within her. Donovan slowly reached over to take her small and delicate hand in his large callused hand. She held his hand on top of her lap placing her other hand on top of their clasped hands. Donovan noticed that there were no rings on her left hand.

The car came to a slow and gentle stop and his door suddenly opened. Donovan stepped out of the glossy black car.  He looked around, they were in a deserted parking lot of a Chinese restaurant, it looked familiar, but he could not place it. Donovan bent down and reached into the car to help Christine out. Her strong and shapely legs swung out of the car. Her legs were toned and tanned; she was wearing three inch black heels with very thin ankle straps that made her legs seem to go on forever.  When her head appeared from within the car he could see that her hair was swept back in a French braid.  Christine’s eyes flashed bright and dazzling in the fading sunlight. As soon as Christine stepped out of the car, the car disappeared. Donovan looked down at his watch; it was 7:25 pm. The couple made their way to the bright red painted entrance doors, which were decorated with golden lions, of the restaurant. Christine stopped just shy of the doors and turned to face Donovan as she reached up with both of her hands and encircled his neck. She gently pulled his head down to hers. Christine mouthed the words, “I love you.”

“I know.”

Donovan held the door for Christine and was watching as she made her way through the doorway.  But she did not walk, it seemed as though, she effortlessly glided across the floor. The restaurant was also deserted. At the rear of the building there were windows and glass doors that opened onto a small path that lead to a lighted pagoda. The lighted pagoda was situated on an island in the middle of a large lighted coyfish pond. The strains of soft music played in the background and the two started to waltz as they made their way from the restaurant’s rear doors to the pagoda. The sunset was spectacular; deep hues of crimson and peach with the sun as a fiery orange mass.  Behind them the stars were just starting to spring forth. When they finally arrived at the pagoda the dance was over and the stars were out in earnest. They parted and Donovan pulled a chair out for Christine so that she could sit at the only table in the pagoda.

The pagoda was alight with what seemed to be about a hundred candles. The candles gave the sweet scent of wisteria and hyacinths. In this part of Donovan’s dream they alternated eating and dancing, the food magically appearing.  And each time they danced they grew closer until there was hardly a breath of space between them.  It was at the end of the last song; that Donovan took Christine’s left hand in his, as he brought her hand to his lips to kiss, he noticed that there were now two rings on her hand, one a diamond ring and the other obviously a wedding band.

The scene with the pagoda dissolved and was replaced with a large front yard with a well kept lawn dotted with trees and flowering bushes. The houses he could not see, but it was he knew it was his.  He could hear various birds hidden in the branches of the trees and see butterflies landing on the azalea bushes. Christine was now dressed in a pair of hip hugging jeans and a denim button down shirt, knotted at her waist. Standing to her left were twin girls who appeared to be about five years old. The girls were dressed identically, in white eyelet dresses with white and red ribbons tied at the ends of their braided hair. The girls looked like younger versions of Christine. To Christine’s right were two boys, one looked to be about seven or eight years old, the other boy was a toddler of about two years of age. The boys were dressed in jeans and t-shirts. The older boy had motorcycles decorating his jersey while the younger one on had dinosaurs on his. The boys had the appearance of younger versions of Donovan.  Rolling on the grass at the feet of the family were a kitten and a puppy.  It was his family, one that he would never have with Christine.

The scene shifted once again to where Donovan stood looking at himself in a mirror that was to his right. He was dressed for combat. He was wearing his full combat kit. The sounds of battle seemed to be drawing near. He reached for Christine with both of hands, which were cover in camouflage fingerless gloves, mud, and somebody’s blood. Christine stood wordlessly shaking her head no.  Then she spoke, “Not till you are done with the war.” Then he heard the Gunny’s voice, it came from a clear blue sky. “Diesel, wake up, come on wake up.” Donovan was sure it was the Gunny’s voice he was hearing in his dream. Suddenly the clear blue sky of his dream, where replaced with dark near black storm clouds that had rolled in. Gigantic thunderheads the color of a vile and evil black and heavily laden with rain and the promise a huge storm dominated the sky of his dream.

Diesel awoke from his dream. His eyes were all pupil. Diesel’s heart was racing; it was as if there was a jackhammer lodged in his chest. It was pounding so hard it hurt. Diesel’s breath was rapid and shallow and coming through his clenched teeth. He bolted up from his lying position to a seated one in an eye blink. One hand going for the Gunny’s throat as the other produced his pistol. His mind still reeling from the dream he recognized his Gunny and stopped both hands.

Gunny took one look at his Captain and knew what had happened. It was that blasted dream again. He spoke so softly so that eyes could not overhear him. “Dreaming of  her again.” It was a statement not a question.

“Yes Gunny,” Was all that Diesel croaked out.

“The same one or a different one this time?” asked the Gunny.

“Different one this time,” was the reply from Diesel.

The Gunny knew that Diesel was a tough man, as hard as a diamond and in some cases even harder than a diamond, but three years of combat had to be taking an effect on him. He knew Diesel needed to take a break, he was on the razors edge. His instincts to kill were on a hair trigger. That was a bad thing, he would talk to the Big Rig when this one was over about the Diesel taking some time off for some r and r.

“We got the pictures and set up some more defenses,” stated Gunny.

“Good, Eyes go wake up Tex and bring him here,” said Diesel while trying to stifle a yawn.

“Will do,” said Eyes as he got up to wake up the radio man, he turned to leave and stopped short. “Is he going to try and kill me when I wake him up?” eyes asked.

“No he shouldn’t do that, but if he tries to pour bbq sauce on you, you will want to run away very far, and very fast,” replied Gunny, sounding as matter of factly as possible.

Eyes just raised one eye brow and had a confused look on his face.

“You’ll learn sooner or later about the platoons quarks,” said Gunny as Eyes left to get Tex. Within a few moments Tex came ambling over. His cammy bush hat was in the shape of a cowboy hat. He had the radio slung over his back. He placed it at Diesel’s feet so he could have access to the computer connections for the pda that the captain was fishing out of his gear.

Diesel took Eyes’ scope and connected it to his pda. He then downloaded the stored pictures. Next Diesel connected pda to the platoons computer and then connected the computer to the platoon radio as Tex got the ship on the radio.

“Here you go sir,” said Tex handing the radio’s hand set over.

“Sherwood forest this is Robin Hood, over,” spoke Diesel softly into the hand set. He realized that at this hour there would most likely be shift change in the communication center, and he was right.

“Robin Hood this is Sherwood Forest, go, over,” came the voice.

Diesel recognized the voice as that of Smitty. “I need to speak with the Big Rig if he is available, over.”

“Is there a problem, over?

“I just don’t have the warm fuzzies. I have a few questions concerning a few of the cards in my current hand and I need a call on them.”

Smitty had worked with this unit many times before and had worked out a code system with them. Cards referred to the men in the unit. A call on them meant he needed information on them. Warning bells were going off in his head. He turned to the young man next to him and said “I need for you to locate Col. Rogers. Check his stateroom first, then the ward room, if you find him and he is alone tell him that Diesel needs to talk to him, But if he is not alone tell him that my mother sent a care package and that I have his cigars.”

The young man repeated the order and was out the hatch in a blink of an eye.

“Robin Hood this is Sherwood Forest, over,” Smitty said into the boom mic.

“Go Sherwood Forest, over.”

“We are locating the Big Rig now, is there anything I can do, over?”

“Just make sure that only family can hear this, over.”

“Will do, over”

Not seven minutes had passed before the Col Rodgers, the Big Rig, walked though the hatch with the young man in tow.

Smitty told everyone to go have a smoke brake as he passed the Big Rig a headset and mic. When the hatch was closed he called out “Robin Hood this is Sherwood Forest, over”

Diesel replied “Go Sherwood Forest, over.”

“The Big Rig is on the line, over,” said Smitty.

Col. Rodgers cleared his throat and said “This is the Big Rig what is your sitrep, over?”

Diesel gave a quick report as to the actions and odd behavior exhibited by the two men and informed Big Rig that he was sending two photos with each man’s name attached on a separate side band.

Big Rig was listening and making notes on a piece of paper. Big Rig waited for Diesel to finish his report. “I’ll call a friend at the asylum to see what can be found out about these two. Warn your men but take no further action towards them, until you hear back from me, over.” The asylum was the code word for the pentagon.

“How long, over?” asked Diesel.

“5 hours tops, out.” was Big Rig’s reply.

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CHAPTER 17

 

Diesel looked at his radio operator, Tex, who kneeled next to him. Diesel held out his hand. Suddenly there was a receiver in his hand.

“Sherwood Forest this is Robin Hood. How do you read me? Over,” said Diesel after waiting the proscribed second.

“This is Sherwood Forest, we read you 5 by 5. How do you read us? Over,” came the reply from the communications technician.

“Robin Hood reads you 5 by 5. We are on the road to Nottingham, over,” said Diesel after the brief brust of static.

The voice of the communications technician at the other end of the receiver replied, “Robin Hood you have a go. Sherwood forest out.”

Diesel looked over to his left at Tex and said, “One day I would love to meet the guys who come up the code names for these missions and beat them about their ears and shoulders.”

Tex looked over, grinning at him as he replaced the receiver and commented that he had visions of the Mel brooks classic movie Robin Hood Men in Tights  running though his mind.

As Diesel was checking in, the squad leaders along with their fire team leaders with the two imposters in tow made their way to where the command section was.

The men of the platoon were busy turning on their night vision goggles. These were the newest version. They allowed the person using them to see 140 degrees, and had overcome the loss of depth perception.  While the men were adding some natural cover to their uniforms as the command section was meeting.

Diesel was fishing out his maps and the infrared light so they could see the map. As he found his light, Gunny was orienting the map. Diesel pointed to a spot on the map. “This is where we are. Squad leaders, I want us to deploy like we discussed back on the ship. I still want Nightstalker with Voodoo’s fire team on point. I want First squad on the left flank, Third squad on the right flank and second squad in the center. Command section will follow second squad. No names and ranks on the radios, use call signs. Maintain your distance at all times.  Nightstalker if you run into anything out there you are to hold. First squad will move up to support you and the flanks go for a pincher move. You two are to stay with the command section,” Diesel said as he pointed to the imposter army officers.

Diesel looked to Nightstalker. “Do you have are traveling directions yet?” Diesel asked.

“Yes sir, but I do have one question?” asked Nightstalker.

“And just what might be that one question be Nightstalker?” replied Diesel.

“Did we bring enough food, because I swear I just heard T-bone’s stomach growl,” was Nightstalker’s reply.

This got the men to crack grin.

“All jokes aside Diesel, I would like it if we assigned Ski and Bear to the command section,” voiced Voodoo. “
“I would like to say I agree with Voodoo on this one Diesel,” chimed in Gunny.

“No, I don’t think so, or at least not at this time. When we get closure to the objective I will think about again. Is that fair enough for you two mother hens,” quipped Diesel.

They both said yes.

“Nightstalker, we move out in 10 mikes,” said Diesel.

As the men were preparing to move out, both of the imposter Army intelligence officers came up to him and asked. “Have you checked in yet?”

“Yes I did”, replied Diesel.

“You should have informed us,” said Lieutenant Wynn man, his tone was condescending.

“I don’t have to tell you crap. This is my platoon and I am the senior officer here,” Diesel could tell that his answer was unsatisfactory to the two men.  They looked as though they still doubted Diesel’s authority.  Diesel continued, “Listen up numb nuts, you and your friend are not fooling us at all. This is your first trip in country, and you two are so spooked and you’re too nervous to admit it. So here is what you two are going to do. You’re gonna watch what the good Gunnery Sergeant does and do what he tells you to do. We don’t have the time to take a long leisurely stroll and show you all the things you need to know about how to survive out here. Do you two idiots read me?”

“Yes sir,” came the staccato response from both men.

Donovan turned to face Lieutenant Jefferys. “I want you to pay close attention to what the gunny says; you do what he does and how he does it. You step where he steps. If you can do that, we just might make a recon marine out of you yet,” Diesel said as he passed the lieutenant.

It was 0215 hours and the men were ready to move out. Diesel reached for his throat mic and pressed the transmit button. “Head’em up,” he said.

To which Gunny did the same but said. “Move’em out.”

The whole platoon whispered “Rawhide.”

Nightstalker was on point with Voodoo and his fire team supporting him. It was smooth going for the first 15 minutes then the ground stated to become broken. There were great mounds of dirt and downed trees. The platoon passed seven such mounds before coming to the first trench. Nightstalker called a halt and informed Diesel of what they had stumbled upon. Diesel ordered Bunker to go with Nightstalker to investigate this trench. 10 minutes later Bunker reported back that they seem to be just like the ones he had used when helping out on digs

The platoon moved on after taking note of the gps coordinates. They later came across a small field that seemed to have the top 4 feet of soil removed. Diesel sent the first fire teams from all three squads to check out the field. Within a few minutes they too reported back that it looks like another dig site after finding balls of string and little orange flag littering the ground. Diesel had them return after they covered their tracks.

“Nightstalker, find us a place to belly up for the day, the sun will be up in less than an hour,” Diesel said.

“Will do Diesel,” Nightstalker acknowledged.

The platoon methodically made their way through the forest for another 45 minutes. They kept to the mantra for moving, steady is smooth, smooth is fast. Each man had one eye out for booby traps and the other eye out for movement. The men knew that they could trust the man next him to keep vigilant while on the lookout for the odd and unexpected. They had gone almost 5 miles in the 3 hours they had been on the move.

Nightstalker’s voice came through the radio again. “Diesel, I do believe I found our home for the day, dense woods and bamboo with running water.”

Diesel replied “Does it come with room service?”

“No but it does come with a wake up service,” chimed in the Gunny over the radio.

“Then by all means lead us in. Gunny set the perimeter and make sure to include our guests in the watch,” Diesel said over the radio. 10 minutes later Static came up did his check on the Diesel and the rest of the command section. The other medics were doing the same to the men in their squads. Gunny voice was heard over the radio tell people to clean their weapons and get some chow. Diesel used this time to look around his surroundings.

They were bedding down in quiet a nice little nitch. The trees would provided some broken sun light. Diesel could see the sky turning a orange pink through the green canopy of the large wide tree tops. The small babbling brook running through the bamboo and winding around some of the trees gave a soft gentle background noise. There were flowers that were opening in the morning light. They reminded Diesel of the morning glories that his mother used grow in baskets that hanged from the back deck and grow along the handrails. Birds and other animals were starting to stir. Diesel breathed in deeply and smelled the air. The air smelled clean, there was no hint of ozone or any other chemicals that one would normally smell on board a ship. This place was serene. Diesel could hear Tex, his radioman checking in with the ship and watch Lieutenant Jefferys dutifully following the Gunny around. Diesel watched the Gunny put the two imposter Army officers with Sgt Gilberts fire team in the first squad.

Gunny Riddel along with Lieutenant  Jeffery finally made it back to the command section.

“Lieutenant why don’t you find a nice soft spot of forest over there and clean your weapon and then get some chow before you get some shuteye. I will doing the same as soon as I check in with Diesel,” said the Gunny.

“Will do Gunny,” said the lieutenant as he unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn. Lieutenant Jefferys unloaded his weapon and visually verified that the weapon was safe. Next he quickly disassembled his weapon and gave it a quick wipe down and applied some lubricant called CLP to the moving parts. He then quickly reassembled the weapon, loaded the weapon and chambered a round, then put the weapon’s fire selector on safe. He did all this under the watchful eye of Sgt Cherry. Sgt Cherry gave a barely perceptible nod to the Gunny that  Lieutenant Jefferys had done the work correctly.

Sgt Albert Cherry as a fair sized man at age 26. He was the fire team leader for the first fire team for the third squad. Like the rest of third squad he would spend his free time in the gym. Where the others of the squad were bulking up, he and his team were strength training and going for definition. The men called him Pit.

Gunny Riddel approached Diesel who was finishing up his own weapon maintance while his food was heating up. “I got the platoon pretty much in a triangle shape for the duration of our stay here in the bamboo bungalow. I put the army officers with Domino’s fire team instead of with Sgt Gilberts. Lieutenant Jefferys seem to be doing better. He is catching on fast enough. What happened on the hanger deck with him anyway, sir?”

Donovan swallowed the bite of chicken in teriyaki sauce that he had in his mouth and finished assembling his weapons with his eyes closed before he gave the Gunny an answer. “He was a little dehydrated and had a small problem with his nerves.  It seems that he came to realize that I am not such a bad guy as he first thought. He and Lieutenant Smith were friends, he thought I was unfair to Smith and he was going to fix it. But he went and read the after action reports for a few months back and found out what really happened. He even made an apology to me for his actions.”

“That was mighty nice of him. We need to come up with a callsign for him. I was going to suggest shadow until he told me, you told him to follow me around,” said Gunny.

“How bout we call him Eyes,” Diesel suggested.

“I like it. I will tell the men and the lieutenant. Now what about the two army officers?” asked Gunny.

“What do you think of Tweetel Dee and Tweetel Dumb?” asked Diesel.

“I love it. They might not, but who cares what they think. I will pass that one along also. Which one is which thou?” asked the Gunny.

“The big one, Lt Berkley is Tweetel Dumb. Big and dumb,” quipped Diesel.

Tex came over to report that there was nothing new from the ship and that the next call in time is in 4 hours. Then he too cleaned his weapons and ate some chow. Within a few moments of finishing his meal, Tex was sound asleep with his weapon cradled in his arms.

The Gunny, the squad leaders, and Diesel had an impromptu meeting to discuss the next leg of their journey, the rotation of who had the watch. After which Diesel took the Gunny’s advice and got some shuteye.

CHAPTER 15

 

 

Doctor Evan Porter sat between two large roots of an old gnarled pine tree leaning back against the rough tree bark. He was dressed in what could only be described as a prison jump suit. It was light tan in color and ill fitting.  He lazily swatted away a flying bug that had decided that it like the good doctor. In his lap sat a laptop computer. He looked up from under the wide brim of his hat that covered his thinning silver hair to see his wife of 42 years making her way to him with a bottle of water. For a man in his mid 60’s he was in surprisingly fair health despite his living condition and mistreatment at the hands of the Chinese.

“Here is some water for you love” she said as she kneeled down next to her husband. Doctor Linda Porter was a stout woman in her early 60’s. Like her husband and the surviving students she had a sinewy leanness brought on by the meager diet and the forced labor during their 4 years of incarceration. Held incognito and against their will, the world believing they died in a tragic accident. She adjusted her rolled up legs on her jump suit.

“Thank you for the water, love.” Evan said as he removed his hat to mop up the sweat from his brow.

“You are very welcome my dear,” she replied as she caressed his silver stubbled cheek. “The guards are getting ready to start their grid search on field 6.”

“Good, it is about time. Have they set the calibration correctly, this time?” he asked as he shifted to find a more comfortable position for his back.

“Yes, I saw to it myself,” she replied.

Four years ago Doctors Evan and Linda Porter along with a party of 10 undergrad students from the University of California, Los Angles were reported dead to the world.

The school had been contacted by a public relations firm that was employed by the North Koreans and China to begin work on some ruins. The ruins had been unearthed after a landslide exposed part of a foundation at the top of the hill. The doctors took the job with the blessings of the school and the U.S. State Department. They took with them some of their top notch students. Shortly after arriving at their destination the elderly doctors and the students were kidnapped and their deaths faked. The Kidnappers worked for one of the many crime organizations that belonged to the powerbase of the chairman. He had need for their skills and had orchestrated the events so that he and his cronies could look for the rumored lost treasure of Attila the Hun. Some of the undergrads were women; they had caught the eyes of several of the thugs that had kidnapped them. It was no different with the Chinese guards who now guarded them.

Evan smiled at his wife and remembered with fondness the day he meet this wonderful creature who would share his life and complete his soul by becoming his wife. His revere was cut short as he spotted the vicious little lieutenant in charge of the guard detail today.

He looked at his wife and spoke softly to her. “Don’t look now but Diablo is walking this way. I wonder what he wants now?”

The lieutenant was small and vicious man, his face was thin and he had just a few scraggily black hairs on his chin. His pinched face and bad over bite reminded everyone that looked at him of a rat. He was a man that knew how to inflict pain and misery. The lieutenant’s most favorite implement of inducing pain and suffering was a bamboo walking stick. Most of his victims tended to be local girls that shied away from his affection. But if he was having a particularly bad day it was usually one of the ‘Foreign’ women that became the focus of his venting. It seemed that over the years he had developed a liking for one of the undergrad woman.

Her name was Susan. Diablo would rape and beat her and rape her again. Just when she was starting to recover from the beatings he would beat her again and when she appeared to be getting over the latest rape he would rape her again. The first time the lieutenant tried to rape her one of the men from the group of students stopped him by hitting him. The young man punched the lieutenant so hard that it snapped off one of the lieutenant’s buck teeth at the gum line. The lieutenant was knock out, later when he came to, the Lieutenant bashed the young man’s brains out with the walking stick and to this day he still wears a necklace made up from the young man’s teeth.

The lieutenant walked up to the two doctors swinging his walking stick as he went. He knew that he could not harm the doctors or any of the other scientists. To do any harm to them was to face death at the hands of the general. Such a fate would not be enjoyable; the general would ensure that the pain would last for days before finally killing him.

“The men are ready to begin,” the lieutenant said in his broken English. The smell of cheap liquor and decay coming from his breath as he spat the word into the doctors faces.

“We will be ready in a few minutes, lieutenant,” replied Evan making sure that he breathed through his mouth.

“You would be wise to hurry, the General is most anxious as to what you may find at this place,” he said waving his arms wildly. The stench of the man’s sweat could almost be classified as a weapon. “As you know I can not treat you as you should be treated, but that does not hold true for your young students,” he sneered at both doctors as he started to stumble away.

With that Evan finished his entry into the computer and started to rise from his seat between the roots with the assistance of his wife. “How was Susan this morning?” he asked.

Linda blinked away a tear as she replied. “She tried to hang herself last night.”

 

CHAPTER 16

It was 2245 hours and the men had feasted and were ready to start the mission. The ship’s Captain had his personal chief prepare their pre mission meal. The meal was fit for a king. They had baked salmon with teriyaki sauce, lobster tail with drawn butter, steamed green beans in garlic and white wine sauce, a small portion of a flank steak, baked potatoes, and dinner rolls.

All 3 squads from the first platoon recon were assembled on the aft quarter of the hanger deck. This section housed many of the larger items that the ship needed to store for repair of the various aircraft that called the ship home. The squads were rehearsing and revising the ways they were to enter and exit the VTH-32. Gunny Riddel was putting the men through the paces, His voice could be heard bellowing the time over the dim of the sounds of maintance being done to the ship and to the numerous aircraft that were on the hanger deck as Gunny was looking at his watch.

With their gear grounded in neat columns and rows with their weapons placed squarely atop their packs the men ran and reran the exercise. The extra supplies that the platoon needed were stacked on two pallets next to the gear near the elevator’s blast doors. Diesel and Big Rig walked on to the hanger deck and its harsh white light that came from the lights suspended from the ceiling, or as the navy and the marines called it the overhead. Diesel grounded his gear in front of the neat and orderly rows. He could taste the dust and dirt that was kicked up from the men. The air was warm from the glow of the lights.

“Are you really sure that you have everything that you are going to need on the op, you sure you don’t need a pool table or a wet bar?” asked Big Rig pointing to the pallets of supplies.

“I’m sure that one or more of my very industrious marines will have managed to arrange for the delivery of a few non essential items to be among the gear,” Diesel said as he cracked a grin.

Although the intelligence they were given told them not to expect any problems with the insertion, the unit always trained as if they were hitting a hot landing zone. The colonel and captain made their way over to Gunny, whom was standing on top of one of the many conex boxes filled with spare parts, timing the men as they ran through the exercise.

Gunny looked down at the captain and colonel. “The men are ready sirs. Do you need anything sirs?” asked the Gunny in his gruff voice.

“If you could please have the squad leaders join me and the colonel over at the gear,” said Diesel.

The Gunny used a voice that harkened back to when he was on the drill field to cut through the noise of the hanger deck “Squad leaders report to the captain on the double.”

All three squad leaders replied with the standard “Aye aye sir.”

To which the Gunny responded just as fast. “Don’t sir me, my parents were married…to each other,” he said with a grin.

The Gunny’s response generated laughter from the men of the unit and from those men that were working nearby. The Gunny knew that he had to give the men something to do, the constant drilling and exercises would only take them so far. They needed to blow off a little steam before they put their lives in harm’s way, again. If they did not keep their mind and hands busy they, the men, would start to think about what it is they were going to do. That would likely lead to thoughts of will this be the one I don’t come back from.

“First platoon bring it in and have a seat. You men are ready,” Gunny started to speak.

The squad leaders nearly ran to where the captain and the colonel where standing near the aft elevator’s blast doors next to a conex box. “At ease,” stated Big Rig. He turned to Diesel and continued. “I will see you when you get back, and this time bring me a few girly pictures back if you can,” With that he turned and walked away.

“Good morning sir,” said all three squad leaders in unison.

“What’s so good about it? I was having this great dream about this really hot blonde with legs up to here,” Diesel said as he indicated by pointing to his chin.

“If she looked anything like Trojans wife then you and I were sharing the same dream,” quipped Loki.

Diesel’s men were relaxed, Diesel thought to himself that this is a good thing. He waited for the retort from Staff Sergeant Simmons whom the men called Trojan.

SSgt. Simmons slowly turned his head to look over his left shoulder to peer at Loki. “You can have all the dreams you want. I have the real thing, boys.” SSgt Troy Simmons was one of the few married men in the unit. His wife, who happened to be a swimsuit model, and the mother of a set of twin boys married him 6 years ago this past July. She was truly a very sexy woman. The boys would be turning three sometime in February. Trojan stood just at 5 foot 10 inches with broad shoulder and a glint in his eyes. He had the appearance of someone you would rather not piss off.

Diesel reached into his pants left cargo pocket and pulled out a fair sized topographical map that had a clear satellite overlay that showed terrain features like trees and buildings. He unfolded the map and was placing it on top of the conex box.

“Okay boys,” started Diesel. “Since we’re using the whole first platoon on this mission, I want to cover a few things. We will not, repeat not, be using our standard deploying method upon exiting the aircraft. Instead Loki you are to take your squad to the left and aft of the aircraft. Trojan your squad is to go to the right and aft of the aircraft. Nightstalker you are to fill the gap at the ramp of the aircraft. Your squads will form a circle and the command section with the intell weenies will move to the center. From there we will move out to this section of the woods,” Diesel pointed to spot on the map as he spoke. “Call 100 meters inside and setup a perimeter. At this point I will want to meet with you and your fire team leaders.” Diesel paused to look around. “Has anybody seen the Lieutenant Jefferys or the CIA pukes?” he asked.

“Sir, I saw Lieutenant Jefferys down at the armory about 45 minutes ago, he said that he would be up as soon as he signed some paper work. As for the CIA pukes, I have not seen hide nor hair of them since the briefing,” said Nightstalker. At that moment Lieutenant Jefferys entered the hanger deck.

Lieutenant Jefferys looked like a nervous wreck. He was paler that his usual pasty white cave dwelling self. Sweat was already beaded on his forehead and was running like a river off his face. He tried to march up to where Diesel and the Squad leaders where, but his legs felt as if they were made of rubber, he started to sway.

Diesel seeing the man’s predicament rushed over to the Lt and grabbed him and helped him down next to the conex box. Diesel turned to Loki and said. “Quietly get static over here to check the el-tee over.” Within moments Static was kneeling next to the lieutenant. With their forms hidden from the view by the conex box, Static looked over the lieutenant.

A few minutes passed while Diesel continued to talk with the squad leaders and static looked over the stricken man. Static stood up and look to Diesel. “He is a little dehydrated and more than a little nervous. He’s drinking some water now and I would have the Gunny talk to him. Other than that he’ll be okay,” reported Static, who felt no sympathy for the man seated at his feet.

Diesel knelt down to look at the lieutenant. “Are you going to make it lieutenant?” Diesel asked as Gunny made his way over to the conex box after telling the rest of the platoon to stow the rest of the supplies with their gear.

“I will be fine in a few minutes, sir. There is something that I wish to say to you in front of these men here,” Lieutenant Jefferys croaked. The squad leaders looked at each other and they too knelt down next to the lieutenant. “I,” began the lieutenant. He took a sip of his water and cleared his throat before continuing. “I was wrong in both my actions and in my comments to you and your people. I went back and read your after action reports for the past 3 months. What you don’t know is that Lieutenant Smith and I were friends. He told me of what happened to him and his platoon. But he did not tell me everything. Before reading the after action report I believed that he was getting a bum rap. Now I know what a colossal screwup he is. I’m sorry for my actions and behavior towards you and your marines.

Diesel looked the lieutenant straight in the eyes and said. “It takes a real man to admit to his mistakes to others, lieutenant. That being said, it was your comments that lead us to where we are now. You gave me food for thought and made me think on some of my actions and decisions.”

Diesel turned and looked up at static. “Thank you static, can you be so kind as to take the lieutenant’s gear and put it with the rest,” Diesel asked.

Diesel helped the lieutenant to his feet. His color was slowly returning to normal and he could stand steadily on his own. Diesel ran him through what he and the squad leaders had been discussing prior to his showing up.

It was 2336 hours, 25 minutes before the scheduled time for their takeoff when the two imposters showed up. Each of them had some poor navy seaman carrying their gear for them down to the hanger deck. When they arrived they spoke to no one and acted as if they were above getting dirty.  The newly assigned men didn’t even load their own gear on to the aircraft, they just handed it to crew as if they were flying American Airlines rather than being part of an insertion team. To the trained eye these two were new to the world of combat. Their uniforms and gear had that new crisp look about it. They acted as if they had done this sort of stuff before but their inexperience showed in the way that they were constantly checking their weapons during the flight. While the rest of the men with the sole exception of Lieutenant Jefferys looked calm and relaxed.

Just as before, on the pervious mission with this same aircrew, they were professional. The total flight time was two hours. With a slight, jarring bump the VTH-32 touched down and the light turned green and within ten seconds the recon platoon was off the hog and on their bellies. The members of the platoon was formed up in a circle  their weapons trained out, looking for any hostiles. The hog was quickly getting back into the air to repeat this insertion two more time to fool any enemy radar units that might have acquired them or units on the ground that spotted them as they headed in country. Low crawling, the men made their way into the tree line and formed a perimeter with the command section at the center.  As predicted, the insertion went off without a hitch.

CHAPTER 14

 

The cargo jet had just shut down and the imposters Wynn and Berkley were stepping down from the aircraft on to the flight deck of the USS Jackson. Since this was the first time that either man had been aboard a ship they were in no way prepared for what they saw. The flight deck was in constant motion. With yellow shirted flight deck crews moving aircrafts from place to place or prepping for the takeoff or landing of aircraft. There were red shirted men waiting around near the firefighting equipment hoping and praying that they have a very boring day. Then there were the men in blue shirts that were busy arming aircrafts with ammunition and other ordnance. The men that were wearing brown shirts and green shirts seemed to be doing maintance to the aircrafts. Lastly there where men in white shirts that appeared to be running the three ring circus that was the flightdeck.

As both imposters stepped off the aircraft they paid little attention to their hats. No sooner did their feet touch the flight deck than a VTH-32 took to the air in a vertical takeoff. The jetwash from the departing aircraft blow their hats off and down the flight deck. A pair of men that were working on the flightdeck stopped their hats from either going off the ship or becoming FOD (Foreign object damage) was to step on the mens hats. The two men that were kind enough to stop the hats little trip were returning them to the owners as a man in a pristine white vest also approached the visitors.

“Here are your covers sirs,” yelled one of the men that had stopped the hats.

“What did you say?” inquired Lieutenant Wynn. He was yelling to be heard over the din of the aircraft that were taking off and landing.

“Your cover, it is we in the Marine Corps call your hat,” replied the other samaritan.

Just then the man wearing digital camouflage utilities with a pristine white vest that was approaching the imposters called out to them. “Are you gentlemen Lieutenants Wynn and Berkley?”

“Yes we are, I’m Lieutenant Berkley and this is Lieutenant Wynn.”

“Sirs, I’m sergeant Fina, I am a member of the general’s staff. Please follow me, he is expecting you.” With that he did an aboutface and started to walk away.

“Excuse me, sergeant!” yelled Lieutenant Wynn.

“Yes sir,” replied the sergeant as he turned back around and stepped towards the two men.

“You’re forgetting our bags sergeant,” quipped Lieutenant Berkley.

Sergeant Fina reached out and took both bags from the Lieutenants as he replied. “Sir you are correct. Now please follow me. The general is waiting for you below deck.”

It was late into the day as the imposters landed aboard the USS Jackson. As evident by the fact that the sun was starting to approach the sea. The lieutenants fell in behind the sergeant as he made his way across the ever in motion flight deck towards the starboard side of the ship to enter the hatch that would lead to the passageways. The imposters followed the sergeant though the ship, both of them were starting to get worried as they realized the there were certain protocols to be followed when dealing with officers and they had no clue as to what those protocols were. Just as they were turning to enter the passageway that lead to the general’s office the general was exiting.

“General Woods,” said the sergeant. “These men are Lieutenants Berkley and Wynn.” He indicated which one was which. “Lieutenants this is General Woods. I will take your bags to your temporary quarters.”

“Thank you sergeant, you’re dismissed, Lieutenants on my six,” said the general gruffly as he started to quickly walk through the ship. “Mind the knee knockers. Your arrival here should have been here hours ago. Operation Whirling Dervish kicked off just before dawn this morning. What was the delay?”

Knee knockers are a raised metal edge that goes around the water tight doors on a ship. This edge is about 10 inches off the floor and ceiling and about 6 inches from the sides. People that are new to life on a ship will sometimes run into the edge and either bang their shins or their forehead into this edge.

Lieutenant Wynn spoke up for them. “We needed to confirm some information with our supervisor, and get some approval for what we wanted to do on this mission, sir.”

What they really did was to talk with Jack Boggs and get the dossiers of the men from the unit down loaded to them so that they could determine who was the biggest threat and how to remove them.

“What sort of things did you need to get approval for? I have not been informed that there were any changes to the mission plan,” said the general as he quickened his pace through the ship. A smile crept across his face as he heard one of the Lieutenants hit one of the knee knockers. “Keep moving,” he said without turning to face them. “We are almost there.”

“Where are we going sir?” asked Berkley as he rubbed his shin.

“The mission briefing of course.” replied the general as came to an abrupt halt in front of a grey non water tight door. His sudden stop almost caused the two Lieutenant s to collide into him. “Due to the fact that you two decided to stop off and have a meeting instead of getting your asses here, we have had to put a mission on hold. Well the mission is going to go off as planned by Captain Donovan Mclean and it kicks off at 0001 hours.” He continued standing outside the door waiting for them to enter first.

At the other end of the passage way Colonel Rodgers and the briefing team were making their way to the room also.

The hatch behind the podium opened and in walked the briefing crew, the General, the colonel, and two men that no one knew and the men in the room quickly jumped to their feet as someone called out attention on deck. Then in walked the colonel and the general. The general walked up to the podium that gleamed in the harsh light of the ready room and spoke “At easy and take a seat, this is to be a informal brief. We will be covering a few new items, all I want to do is to make sure all the I’s are dotted and the tees are crossed. This is a simple mission so let’s keep it that way. Colonel, I turn the briefing over to you.” The two imposters walk down the left side of the room to find two empty seats.

“Thank you sir,” said Big Rig. He nodded to a sergeant who then started to hand out information packets to all the men and Captain Mclean also received an encrypted flash card that held the same information. “The pentagon and the Washington powers that be have decided to add two army intelligence officers to the mission. They will be their only to observe and to get eyes on any documents should you recover any. Please standup and introduce yourselves.” Lieutenants Berkley and Wynn did just that and took their seats again. “The name of this mission is Operation Taxman. You are to observe the base and report back what you see. As of this date there has been not determination if you will do snatch and grab. Your insertion point will be a small clearing in the valley of fu in the province of Jilian. This valley is lightly to moderately dense forest and situated south of the base. The valley is 14 miles long and just shy of 2 miles wide at the widest part. The valley runs from the northwest to the south east. Two small rivers converge near the northwest end of the valley. There are a few settlements on your approach vector, you may observe them from a distance but do not make contact. Your objective, the base, is located 125 mile from the capitol city of the Jilian province, Changchun. Please put slide one up.”

“Yes sir,” said the sergeant that had handed out the information packets. There was a slight whirrel as the slide screen slowly dropped down from the over head. The slide was of a detailed map.

Big Rig continued. “As you can see the base is situated three miles off the main rail line and highway that connect the city of Changchun to the city of Harbin in the province of Heilongjiang. Next slide please.”

The sergeant changed the slide to one that showed the base from above. This picture had been taken by a satellite.

Big Rig took a drink of water before continuing with the brief. “In this slide we can see that the base is quite large but laid out in a very simple pattern. Please note that this photo was taken at 1123 hours and that there are very few people out in the open. You will also note that the base has a large river dock, an air field, a 4 lane road, and a rail line spur that connects to the main rail line.” These points of interest the Colonel highlighted with a green laser pointer. “This area here,” The colonel highlighted it with his green laser pointer “Is a fuel depot that feeds the air field, the river docks, the rail yard, and this building here which we believe is the motor pool. Next slide please.”

This slide was of the same base but form farther distance, it showed the base with two boundaries that went around and enclosed the base. “From this picture we can see that the base has a double fence. This was taken at 1123 also notice that there are no guards walking the perimeter either outside the fence or inside the fence. Next slide please.”

This time the picture was of the same view but taken at night. “This photo was taken at 2245 hours, please note, the presence of guards on patrol. There also seems to be some lights evenly spaced on the perimeter. Next slide please.”

This slide was of the exact same view except that it was taken with thermal imagining. It showed that the building seemed to have little or no glow to them and the only heat sources were that of the people outside and of the electrical equipment outside of the building. The colonel took another drink of water before continuing with his part of the brief. “Notice that there appears to be three groups of four guards each inside the double fence and three guards at each entry point on to the base. I would also like to point out that the all of the buildings seem to be heavily shielded. Next slide please.”

The sergeant dutifully changed to the next slide. This photo was again of the base taken in day light. “Now here we show that they have cut back the forest around the base on average 40 feet from the perimeter fence. Note the lack of any sort of watch towers or search lights on the fence line. This does not mean that they have not got some other form of deterrent outside the fence so do be extra careful and expect booby traps and landmines. Next slide please.”

The next slide popped on to the screen, it showed the valley of fu and the base. “Like I said before your landing zone is at the far end of the valley. The landing zone in the valley is 14 miles from the main rail line and highway junction to the base.” The colonel was circling the junction with his pointer. “It is another 3 mile to the base here. The total distance is around 17 miles” Again he was circling the base with the pointer. “This is the electrical substation that feeds into the base. It is on your approach vector and it is 400 yards north of the highway. Next slide please.”

This time the photo was of a closer view of the highway, the rail line, and the electrical substation.  “As you can see here in the photo there is a small water way that passes under the rail line and the highway just prior to the branch that leads to the base.” The colonel was circling the small bridges for the men to see. “From this point here you should be able to see the station. There seems to be just the single fence on the perimeter and no guards stationed there. As you know one of your secondary objectives will to be to knock this building and the power lines down. You are to do this as you are extracting the area. Senior Chief Wright will be going over the communications with you now. Senior Chief.”

“Thank you sir,” said the senior chief as he walked up to the podium. The senior chief had flown out of the navy’s research lab in WashingtonD.C. a week ago to instruct the men in the use and field repair of the newest radio set that the navy had. He was a task master when it came to learning the ins and outs of the radio. All the men had become quite proficient at repair and very skilled at the radios uses in a very short time. “As you are well aware of you will be using the new radio communication set the mark 88B1. The system uses two sets of chipsets and two stages of encryption before it compresses and brust transmits the data. Remember that there is a one second delay from when you release the switch to the time it transmits. This is an omni directional system that uses satellites to connect with us here on the ship. You don’t have to worry about them listening in or homing in on the signal. The only way for them to listen in is to have the encryption chips and the frequency of the crystals in the clocks which we will sync with our system here just prior to you taking off so that won’t be a problem. As for them homing in the burst, forget it. The burst is so quick that they would need you to be having a conversation for over an hour and not moving before they could even get a general fix on your location. In our testing of the radios detection it took the NSA 45 minutes to get a general fix on the unit testing it. I will now turn the brief over to the platoon commander, sir”

Diesel walked up to the podium calmly, as he pocketed the encrypted flash card. He picked up the green laser pointer that Big Rig had left there for him to use. “Once we get to within 2 miles of the objective I will send out a team to scout out a good place for a CP.”  CP stood for Command Post. “Once the CP is set up, the squads will move out to their respected areas of observation and locate a good location for their OPLP’s. Once that is done the squads will breakdown into their fire teams to dig their support positions around their OPLP.” OPLP stood for observation post and listening post. “I will designate a number of E and E points.” E and E stood for Evade and extraction. “Each squad will have a primary and a secondary. When the time comes for us to extract, each squad will assemble at its primary E and E point. If the primary point is compromised they will head to the secondary point.  All three squads plus the command section will rendezvous at a landing zone to be determined once we are in place, should the need arise for us to E and E.”

“Excuse me,” said Lieutenant Wynn.

“Yes lieutenant, you have something that you wish to add,” said Diesel.

“I think that our landing zone should be here near this village at the north end,” said Lieutenant Wynn

“No.” was Diesel flat reply.

“It is closure to the objective, and we could observer the locales,” insisted Lieutenant Wynn forcefully. What he and his partner knew was that the Chinese General was going to be at that village to visit his mistress who lived in the village.

“I don’t care if it is closure to the objective. It puts the mission in jeopardy for no reason. What if the village is crawling with enemy troops?”

“I will be taking over command of this mission. General Woods, my orders are to ensure that this mission is completed and the only way to ensure that is to take command of this mission.”

Diesel was as stunned as the rest of the men in the ready room. None of them could believe what they had just heard. For a heart beat the only the sound heard was from the fan of the projector.

Colonel Rodgers jumped out of his chair and slammed his fist on to the table in front of him. “I must protest this, this is a Marine mission. No Army units are involved or CIA personal used in planning this mission,” he said practically yelled.

General Woods cleared his throat. “I don’t care what your order say lieutenant. This is a marine planned and marine manned mission. The good captain will be in charge and my orders state that you are to go only as observers. Colonel Rodgers, I agree with your arguments, and at this late a date I am not going to change the mission commander.” General Woods looked over at both Lieutenants Wynn and Berkley before he continued speaking. “You men will be accompanying the men going but they will take their lead from Captain Mclean. You will be going only to watch. Do I make myself clear on this subject?” he asked.

“Yes sir,” both men stated.

“Please continue captain,” General Woods said as a wide smile spread across his face.

Diesel cleared his throat. “We will be inserting in the very early morning hours, we will make our way till dawn and bed down for the day and move out under cover of night.”

Colonel Rodgers caught the eye of the general and motioned that he need to speak with the general in private. The general quietly got up and exited out the back of the ready room that was being used for the mission brief followed by the colonel.

“You wanted to talk about something Colonel Rodgers?” asked general Woods.

“Yes sir, I think those CIA boys are going to be trouble. I was wondering if there is a way to make sure that they don’t get a chance to call home and make more headaches than they already have, sir?” asked the colonel.

“I’m sure that I can do something and if I can’t I’m sure the ship’s Captain can. I’ll take care of it colonel,” replied the general.

When the colonel returned to the briefing, the briefing was coming to a close. It looked as if some peoples feathers got ruffled. The colonel spotted Lieutenant Jefferys starting to stand and stretched his arms as he was trying to exit. ”Excuse me Lieutenant Jeffery, what happened after I left to speak with the general?” asked the colonel startling the young lieutenant.

“The CIA men said that they were going to contact Langley and get this mission under their command and control. Then they just got up and walk out the other door, sir.” replied the startled lieutenant.

“Now isn’t that very interesting lieutenant,” he said as he rubbed his chin.

“Why is that sir?” asked the lieutenant.

“I do believe that they are about to find out that the ship is in a communications blackout.”

It took the imposter Lieutenants Wynn and Berkley ten minutes to finale find the ships communications center. It took the general three minutes to get to the ship’s Captain and two more minutes for the ship’s captain to place the ship in a communications blackout. A communications blackout is when everything that can send a signal is shut down from radios to radar.

“What do you mean I can’t contact Langley?” said Lieutenant Berkley rather loudly.

“I’m sorry sir, but the Captain has put the ship in a communications blackout. We cannot transmit any signal without his say so. There is nothing I can do,” said the nervous communication technician.

“Yes there is, you can get Langley on the horn, now,” said Lieutenant Wynn, as he was attempting to force his way into the communications room.

“No sir, I cannot and will not disobey a direct order from the ship’s Captain,” replied the young and now very nervous communications technician.

Both imposters started to force their way into the communications center. They reconsidered it as the marine standing guard duty inside the communications center placed his hand on his sidearm and advanced towards them both, saying in a calm and clear voice. “You two are not authorized to be in this room, you, will leave, now!” he emphasized the word now.

CHAPTER 13

 

The Marines of the first platoon had assembled in the ready room aboard the Jackson for the mission brief.  The men had been hard at work for nearly an hour pouring over maps and pictures of the previously unknown Chinese base, trying to familiarize themselves with the area, when General Woods entered the ready room.

“At ease and grab a seat men. I have some bad news.  Due to a request from the C.I.A. the mission is going to be delayed until two men from the C.I.A. can get here to join up for this mission.” he announced as he walked up to the podium.

Colonel Rodgers stood and addressed the General, “Sir,”

“Yes Colonel Rodgers?”

“Are the C.I.A. guys taking over command and control of the mission?”

“I think that is what they intend to do, but what they want and what they get will be two different things,” assured the General to the men assembled in the ready room.

“Sir?” asked Diesel as he rose to a standing position.

“Yes Captain Mclean,” the general turned to face the captain.

“How soon until they get here?”

“I am under the impression that they will be leaving D.C. for L.A. within the hour and from there to Twenty-Nine Palms then it’s straight to here.  All told, call it sixteen to eighteen hours, but the mission will not be delayed for more than twenty-four hours.”

“Sir, Operation Whirling Dervish kicks off in less than three hours.” Diesel pointed out, and thought to himself that he and his men needed the confusion caused by the massive invasion strike force to tie up the Chinese and any response they may send to investigate his platoon’s insertion.

“I know what you’re thinking Captain,” replied General Woods. “You were going to use Operation Whirling Dervish to cover your insertion. The Chinese will be very busy for the next few days at the very least.  I think that with the deviation from the original plan your men should still be alright.”

Colonel Rodgers spoke up again, “Sir was there a reason as to why we need to have two people from the C.I.A. sent along on this mission?”

“I was told it was about politics, Colonel Rodgers,” explained General Woods with a grimace, as if his words had left a bad taste in his mouth.

The men knew that it was futile to try to change the situation now.  They sat together and revised their plans since now they would be inserted after Whirling Dervish had begun.  Not knowing the precise time that the two C.I.A. guys would arrive threw off a portion of the planning, the insertion sites may change and how the battle evolved would determine other factors. They made several plans together, based on different scenarios.

Operation Whirling Dervish called for the Navy to bombard the Chinese coastline at twelve different ports and bases while the Air Force bombed eight separate locations. The Marines were to do what they do best, amphibious assaults on ten of the ports and bases while the Army parachuted in five to seven miles beyond the coastline to set up a defensive line until the Marines linked up with them. The combined units would then wait for support to arrive before leapfrogging towards their objectives. During the time the Army and the Marines would wait for their support and reinforcements, the Navy and the Air Force were to pound anything that came towards the defensive line.

 

Admiral Austin sat fuming at his desk. Just minutes ago he had to delay a very sensitive mission. This planned mission from Captain Donovan Mclean was now in jeopardy of coming apart at the seams. Admiral Austin picked up the phone and dialed Jack’s number.

“Jack Boggs here.” he answered.

“Just what in hell were you think Jack? Because of your meddling, I have a mission delayed waiting for two people from your section to join up. Tell me just why this two and not someone that is already there?” asked the admiral.

Jack had been anticipating the phone call for about an hour now. His contact on the Committee had told him to have two men from the Army that were expendable, ready to go on the mission with the Marines. Jack inquired about why they shouldn’t use marines instead, and he was told that it was a possibility that the Marines may know one another and that the use of the Army would help fuel distrust amongst the men on the mission. He like the idea. He quickly chose two men that would suffice, Lieutenants Berkley and Wynn, oh how he hated those two. They had been assigned to his section less than 2 months ago. Always digging deeper than was necessary and doing things like talking to people thru unofficial channels to get things done. They had on more than one occasion stolen his thunder. They should be returning any minute from their trip home to get their go bags and kits.

Both lieutenants were model Army officers who had spent two years in the infantry and had gone ranger. Like good soldiers they had their go bags and kits pre-packed.  When they returned to the C.I.A. building they would receive the mission brief and travel orders. They were to catch a direct flight from ReaganNationalAirport to L.A.X. where they were to transfer to the military hub for a connecting flight to Twenty-Nine Palms, and from there would catch the last flight out to be ferried out to the ship.

Their flight departing from WashingtonD.C. was as uneventful as flights go.  The meal was fair and they both dozed instead of watching the in-flight movie.  When the plane touched down, they got their carry-on gear and waited in line to exit the aircraft with the rest of the passengers.  Their go bags and kits were put into a special container, sealed and checked through to L.A.X. military hub.  As the crowd moved off the aircraft and into the airport terminal, they noticed a sergeant holding a sign with their names printed on it.

The officers approached the enlisted man.  The Sergeant saluted the officers.  Lieutenant Wynn said, “Sergeant, that’s us,” pointing to himself and Lieutenant Berkley.

“Great, please follow me.” He led them to a side door that was located off the side of the gateway and down a set of stairs which descended to the ground outside. At the foot of the stairs was parked a Cushman electric cart. The sergeant got in.

“Hop in sirs, and brace yourselves, our max speed will be a whooping ten miles an hour. We have one stop to make before we head over to the military terminal.”

Lieutenant Wynn just grinned and shook his head. As the sergeant maneuvered the cart to where the ground personnel were unloading the passenger’s luggage Lieutenant  Berkley asked jokingly,

“Do we get a movie and a meal with this trip sergeant?”

“No sir, but you do get triple air miles and a cheap tour of the airport,” said the sergeant with a chuckle.

“Free seat upgrade here I come.” quipped Lieutenant  Wynn.

Just then the sealed and locked container holding the lieutenants go bags and kits came down the conveyer belt. The ground personnel loaded it up on the back of the cart for the men. As the container was being loaded the sergeant handed the lieutenants each a set of hearing protectors. The sergeant then picked up a radio from the carts dash and keyed the mic.

“Tower control, this is Sergeant Carson of military transport requesting permission to cross the field.”

“Hey Gary, sorry ‘ol buddy, the pattern is full, you’ll need to use the tunnel,” came the reply from the tower control technician.

“Hello Chris, man do I have to?  I hate the tunnel it is dark, smelly, and dusty as hell,” complained the sergeant.

“Don’t blame me, I didn’t make the flight schedule, I just work here,” was the reply.

“Spoken like a true civilian, later Chris.”

“I am what I am; hey don’t forget about this Saturday”, said Chris.

Sergeant Carson tossed the radio back onto the Cushman’s dash board, mashed the accelerator and turned the steering wheel sharply as they headed off for the tunnel.

“What’s the tunnel?” asked Lieutenant Berkley.

“It is really not a tunnel but a large underground parking and storage area under the tarmac of the runways.  The airport has tons of stuff down there.  There are trucks, buses, containers that hold chairs to cots and emergency food and water.  We even found a few containers that held ice melt.”

“Ice melt?”  asked Lieutenant Wynn.

“That’s right Ice melt, right here in sunny southern California.  We think it is being stored for someplace like Denver,” surmised Sergeant Carson.

As the trio made their way through the underground storage spaces, they were completely unaware that they were being watched. The tunnels were lit by the orangish-yellow overhead lights. The lights were harsh enough that dust molecules could be seen suspended in the air.  Jack Boggs had alerted the Chairman about which intelligence officers were selected and he forwarded the travel itinerary for the two men.  The Chairman made contact with an associate in Los   Angeles and arranged for the officers to be dealt with.

 

From inside the terminal where the two Army Lieutenants had just left, two men dressed as police officers stood looking out one of  the large tinted glass windows watching the progress of the Cushman cart.

“Targets are taking the underground route, notify group three, and please remind them that they are to do this quietly.” spoke the Chairman’s Los Angeles contact.

“Yeah, whatever,” was the nonchalant reply from the man whose men had been hired to do the job. “Heads up Tommy, the targets are heading your way and the boss man says to remind you that it needs to be done quietly.”

 

“Okay and does he have any suggestions as to how we should do this?” asked Tommy, the leader of the men sitting in ambush of the two lieutenants and the sergeant. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small bottle. “You and I have a date when this job is done,” he said as he turned to the rest of his men.

 

The Chairman’s associate was losing his patience with these street gang thugs. He thought that they were really weren’t much smarter than a box of rocks. Most if not all had to have drug problems. That combined with the paranoid actions that these lowlifes exhibited. Their actions made him think that he may have to have the whole group removed just to insure their silence. He thought about it some more and decided to have some cocaine mixed with a poison delivered with the money and have his team standby to kill any who decided not to partake in the free opiates.

The chairman’s associate grabbed the radio.“Just do your job and do it quietly,” he reminded the man leading the third group.

“Hey man, cool your jets. I get it, you what nobody to hear,” shot back the man leading the ambush team.

The cart came into view. The leader of the ambush group grabbed a small black box he had set on the container in front of him. He lifted the switch cover and waited until the cart was almost to the kill zone before toggling the switch.  This device was a remote control designed so that when activated, the power was disengaged to the Cushman electric cart.

The cart’s electric motor immediately stopped functioning and the cart slowly coasted to a halt about two hundred yards from the corner where the stairs and elevator. The stairs and elevators led to the military side of the airport. The ambushers had setup their kill zone just outside one of the security cameras field of vision and for an added precaution setup a few of the containers to block the view of any surveillance camera that may scan and record the area and what they were up to.  Another contact for the committee had fabricated a work order so the men could be working in the tunnel.

“Sir, I don’t know what happened; I just charged this cart up less than an hour ago.” said the sergeant.

“How much further to our stop, sergeant?” asked Lieutenant Wynn.

“It is just around the corner to the left, just past those containers there and you should see the doors for the stairs and the elevators.” replied the sergeant pointing to the right.

“Want us to help you push this thing over there.” offered Lieutenant Berkley.

“Thanks that would be great. Just let me call Triple A and get them to send a repair car to see if they can fix this damn thing,” said the sergeant as he lifted the radio.

It was at this time that three members of the kill team made their approach to the cart and offered their assistance which was gladly accepted by the Lieutenants and the sergeant. The sergeant put his radio away without using it in order to help push the cart out of the way. When the cart was in the middle of the kill zone the men from the kill team each pulled out a taser and stunned the others. More men came out of the open container and dragged the now unconscious bodies of the lieutenants and the sergeant to the container they came out of. When the unconscious men were deposited on to the floor of the container they were bound and gagged. Out of one of the other containers walked two men that were dressed in army dress uniforms. One of the
men that were securing the lieutenants and the sergeant started to rummage thru the lieutenants pockets, he removed the men’s military identification cards and cash. He kept the cash and handed over the identification cards to one of his teammates. His teammate had a small handheld magnetic strip reader and programmer. As the imposters got closure to him they each pulled out a military identification card with their picture on it and a blank magnetic strip and handed them over. The man with the scanner first swiped Lieutenant Wynn’s identification and then the corresponding imposter’s identification; handing it back to the imposter he said “You are now Lieutenant Wynn”. He repeated the process for the next man adding that he was now Lieutenant Berkley.

As both imposters were getting their new Identification cards, another member of the kill team cut off the lock from the container on the cart to retrieve the bags from the cart. The imposters them started to remove items from the lieutenant’s bags and replacing it with their own. Once the items had been swapped out the bags and kits were placed back in the container. The container was then shut. The imposter Lieutenant Wynn then pulled out a lock from his pocket to lock the container When this task was finished they looked over to the leader as he snorted his drug of choice up his nose.

“Remember to get rid of the bodies someplace where they won’t be found anytime soon,” said the imposter Lieutenant Wynn as he started to walk away.

“And don’t kill them here,” added Lieutenant Berkley over his shoulder.

“Don’t worry man we know our job now get going,” said the semi stoned leader.

The imposters each grabbed one of the carry handles on either end of the container and started to walk towards the doors to the stairs as others from the kill team removed the device that shutdown the cart and wiped the cart and the containers down to remove any finger prints that may have been left by any of the killers.

The imposters walked up to the doors that lead to the stairs. Lieutenant Wynn pulled out his Identification card and ran it through the card reader attached to the door as a security measure. After a few seconds delay the door clicked and Lieutenant Wynn pulled the door open and he and his partner walked through letting the door slam shut behind them. The booming of the door slamming echoed through the tunnels.

The stairway was completely different from the underground storage. The stairway was brightly lit with white lights and spotless. Instead of bare concrete for the floors and walls the floor was titled with insets of each branch of the military emblem. The walls were finished and painted white. The foot falls of the two imposters could be heard loudly echoing through the stairway. They climbed the five sets of stairs passing framed prints from each branch depicting some event from their own history.

At the top of the stairs were a set of doors just like the ones at the bottom,  Lieutenant Berkley ran his Identification card through the card reader that secured the entryway, the doors swung open automatically allowing the imposters to pass through. Lieutenants Wynn and Berkley walked up to the counter that had a sign that read Departures.

Both men handed over their Identification cards and the man behind the counter did a cursory inspection before running the IDs through the computer system. “Sirs, your flight will be boarding in 10 minutes and set to takeoff in 30 minutes. Do either of you have any luggage that you wish to check?” asked the man.

“Yes,” was the reply from both imposters.  Lieutenant Wynn pointed to the container both men were giving their fake identification cards back as the man called for some men to collected the container and put it on the conveyor belt. The imposters then made their way to the waiting area and grabbed a seat.  Lieutenant Wynn removed his phone from his belt and called the chairman’s associate overseeing the ambush teams.

“Yes,” said the Chairman’s overseer as he answered the phone

“We are here safe and sound. We should be ready to leave anytime now,” said Lieutenant Wynn.

“You understand your orders?” asked the leader.

“Yes we do,” was Lieutenant Wynn’s reply.

“Good, there is one more thing to add to your list that needs to be done,” said the overseer.

“What would that be?” asked Lieutenant Wynn.

“You are to eliminate the Marines after you have confirmation of the removal of the Chinese General.

“No problem,” said Lieutenant Wynn as a small smile spread across his face.

“You will need to coordinate your move against the marines with that of the security forces already at the site so you do not end up as a large pasty mess. You can reach your contact at the site using the satellite phone. He is the number one in your speed dial.” What he did not say was that was the only number they could call. “He knows about your mission and is taking steps to ensure your safety. Have a good flight,” said the associate as he closed the connection.

Lieutenant Berkley turned to face his partner as he put down the magazine he had started to browse. “Anything new happening at home?” he asked.

“Just a few minor details that need to be taken care of once we get going. I will fill you in when we have a little more privacy. Did you see anything to eat around here, I’m hungry?” said Wynn as he looked at his watch that read 12:40 in the afternoon.

“I think I saw a vending machine by the phone bank over there,” said Berkley pointing off to his left.

Lieutenant Wynn got up and walked over to the phone bank was and found the vending machine. He made his purchases and was walking back to his seat as the announcement that boarding was going to start for his flight. He tossed Lieutenant Berkley a small package from the vending machine. “Eat up, we have no idea what we will be eating once we get to where we are going. But for now let’s just get aboard that damn plane.”

CAHPTER 12

 

The committee had assembled this time in the New York City office. The members having flown in from various points from around the world. They waited in a large room that was remarkably comfortable, complete with a large wet bar, seven large screen plasma televisions, a pool table and several all leather sectional couches.  Some members of the committee were talking with each other or watching the news and stock reports.  Others of the committee were on their phones conducting business either for the committee or for the companies they owned or governments they worked for. The double doors to one side of the room opened and Robert walked into the waiting room and announced.

“The chairman is now ready for you.”

Those people who were talking on their phones quickly wrapped up their conversations, knowing that the chairman did not like to be kept waiting. As the members were escorted into the conference room each person left any electronic devices that they may have in their possession on top of their other belongings. All of these technical possessions had to remain outside of the meeting room. Each individual person was scanned for eavesdropping devices as they entered the conference room. No one dared to attempt to spy on the chairman. They had heard the rumors about how he had dealt with a member who attempted to betray him, and the result was gruesome.

Robert remained in the waiting room to monitor their belongings. As the last member entered the room and took her seat, Robert closed the double doors behind her. When the doors closed the lights automatically dimmed and the white noise generators started. The Chairman did not take any chances; he went above and beyond to ensure that his discussions would be confidential.

The conference room was in stark contrast to the waiting room.  It was utilitarian in nature, the same room in which they had met to discuss how to take down the XSR-28 so the site in China would remain secret.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice.  We have much to discuss,” the chairman announced. His voice sounded deep and hollow. “There have been a number of developments with one of our projects in China.”

“Which project and what sort of developments?” asked the man to the Chairman’s left.

“Project China seventeen.  The very one that Mr. Six and Mr. Nine were to help our Chinese partners to keep quiet, Mr. Twelve,” said the Chairman addressing the man.

“Mr. Chairman?” interjected a woman in her mid-fifties with graying hair and a harden face, located further down the table.

“Yes Mrs. Seven.”

“We reviewed General Wong’s plan with regards to the XSR-28.  What went wrong?”

“From the report I read, he failed to launch his fighters before the XSR-28 entered into the area.  He launched his fighters as the XSR-28 entered the area, thus giving away the position of our facility. Nor did the fighters engage in combat except to fire off their missiles. The General was overconfident and failed to utilize the data that Mr. Six and Mr. Nine provided for him.”

“How sure are you that the facility has been compromised?” asked another woman, this one younger and she spoke with a French accent.

“Because the marines are most likely going in to investigate, Mrs. Five,” replied the chairman.

“Do we know what exactly the Marines are going to do, and when?” asked Mrs. Five.

“They are planning to do a reconnaissance mission with the possibility of infiltration of the facility. One of our contacts has information regarding the proposed plan.” informed the Chairman.

“Great, this is just great. We have spent millions of dollars funding this project. How are we to recoup our investment?  Is there anything there that can be connected to us personally to the facility or us as a whole?” asked a man at the end of the table who was very agitated.

“Mr. Four please control yourself,” said the chairman with a note of distain. The other members of the Committee looked towards the man that had been chastised. “To answer your questions Mr. Four, yes, there are items that could be connected to the Committee and our other projects in China and around the world. Those items are mainly electronic in nature, e-mails, video mails, and other files. Those can be easily remedied. Now for the hardware other pieces of equipment, they were all bought through a myriad of dummy corporations. As for our investment, all we will need to do is to raise our prices a few cents and in a matter of weeks we will recoup any loses that we may have incurred.”

A man seated at the end of the table raise his hand. “Yes Mr. Eight,” the chairman fielded another question.

“Sir, what is being done about these marines being sent in to investigate? What steps are we taking to protect ourselves from discovery?  Does our Chinese general and other partners know about the marines mission?”

“I am glad you asked, Mr. Eight. I have taken steps to neutralize the marines. I have sent word to the security force about the marines and have ordered a few more men in as a precaution to help out if needed. This will put the security force at four hundred men. All the experts that are being held project seventeen and their findings are being sent to the site of project eighteen with the sole exception of one team. All computers are having their data disks removed and all paper documents are being shredded and then burned. As for the General, I have suspected for some time that he was skimming from the profits; one of my moles in the General’s staff confirmed this two weeks ago.  I am making plans to neutralize him as well.”

The Chairman had three people at the project site on his payroll. One was one of the workers that took the artifacts and input the finds data into the computer system directly from the Porters inventory notes.

Another worked in the accounts receivable department. The last one was one of the drivers for the base personnel.

“Do you think it wise to kill the general; he may have some use to us at a future   date?” asked Mr. Five.

“I do, I have received reports that the man in coming unhinged and has started to attract the attention of his superiors in the Chinese army and their government. This cannot happen, do not forget that we want the U.S. and her allies to win this war. We also want China to be split apart that way we will be in a position to take full advantage of the new markets that will be opened up to us. All those resources will be there for our taking. Does anyone else have any other questions?  None?  Good.  Now does anyone have anything that they wish to report and make public?” asked the Chairman.

Mr. Eight raised his hand again.

“Yes Mr. Eight.”

“Sir,” he said as he typed a few commands on the key board embedded in the table in front of him. “Field testing in region one, area five is done.” A holographic map of China appeared floating above the table. “The field testing shows that area five lies next to a large oil deposit. Testing of area six will start in two days and should be complete in four weeks. I can have the results and figures of area five sent to everybody later today.”

“Thank you Mr. Eight.” said the Chairman. “As for discoveries, our archaeological experts believe that the main burial site lies closer to the sea. Through review of historical documents and archaeological evidence we believe we will need to conduct our search elsewhere.  Additionally, our experts think that they have found something amazing about three miles to the north west of the facility. What it is they do not know, all they do know is it is large and metallic. They are preparing to excavate as we speak.”

“Mr. Chairman?”

“Yes Mr. Four.”

“I have something new to add?  I believe that we have a very unique opportunity. It appears that Scorpion Arms will be losing its most valuable contract with the U.S. Army for production of the Arrow 6 missile system. This should drive down the cost of its stock; we should buy up as much of it as we can when the news is released next week.” He held up his hands to forestall any comments. “My sources tell me that they will be getting a new contract in less than two weeks supplying the U.S. Navy and the British Navy and Air force with an upgraded missile system for their aircrafts.”

The Chairman nodded.  Other questions regarding the Scorpion Arms deal arose and the members discussed other points of business.  It was not often that they all met, but when they did they took advantage of the circumstances.  The meeting lasted another two hours. At the conclusion, all the members gathered their personal belongings and left the building, escorted in private vehicles to J.F.K. and LaGuardia airports. After the committee meeting Mr. Four, like the rest, made his way down to the lobby of the office building where his driver awaited his return. In forty-five minutes he was seated in his private jet heading back to Detroit, Michigan.

Mr. Four was seated on the jet, thinking to himself, that fool, the Chairman, will get us all caught and sent to prison. Mr. Four thought that the Chairman was careless at times; thinking that he was so above the laws that he couldn’t get caught.  Mr. Four knew that the Chairman wasn’t the only one with contacts at our China site alpha. He opened his brief case and removed his laptop computer. He had many years ago setup a private and secure profile for sending and receiving of sensitive emails to and from his various contacts. He was in the process of typing up an email to one such contact that worked for the Chinese General, warning him of the impending clandestine Marine lead mission, and the plot to kill the General.  He told his contact that he should inform the General, when his cell phone chirped.

“Yes.” he answered distractedly.

“How was your meeting honey?” asked his wife.

“The meeting was just fine sweetie, just fine.” He answered as he hit the send button.

“Will you be back today?”  his wife inquired.

“Honey, I’m on my way back now. I’ll even be home for dinner.” Mr. Four said, knowing his wife would be thrilled at this prospect.  It was rare that he had such time, but with the meeting called at the last minute and as the meeting broke late, it just didn’t make sense going back to the office.  Plus, as the president of a leading auto manufacturer, he could decide when he was returning to work.

Within minutes of hitting the send button, Mr. Four’s contact Mr. Qui Cho, heard the computer beep, indicating that he had mail. Qui calmly looked up at the screen to see that he indeed have a new email. He calmly opened the email and ran the encryption program. The email contained only 4 lines.

 

U.S. Marines have discovered the project’s location.

They are coming to investigate.

The Chairman has also sent 2 men to kill the General.

Quietly warn him of these facts.

 

Qui’s blood froze and he quickly deleted the email. Qui shakily made his way around to the other side of the building to the General’s office. The General’s aid was not at his desk so Qui knocked directly on the General’s door. The door quickly opened with several squeaks and creaks, it opened from the inside by the General’s aid that was just leaving as Qui knocked.

Qui cleared his throat. “I was wondering if the most honorable General would have a few minutes to discuss some matters of great importance that have just come in to light.”

The General heard the key phrase and asked Mr. Cho to come in and dismissed his aid.  When they were certain that the aid to the General was sufficiently out of earshot, Mr. Cho explained the nature of the email and who had sent it.  Mr. Cho had finished his explanation and was dismissed by the General who thanked him profusely. The General quickly picked up his phone and dialed a number and spoke a dialect of Mongolian rapidly and loudly into the handset. The General was issuing orders to mobilize the local garrison of troops that were under his command. A total of one thousand troops, four platoons of tanks and three platoons of artillery. When he had finished with his call he smiled to himself as he thought that he and his men will slaughter these damned marine invaders.

CHAPTER 11

The senator was sitting in his solarium, reading through the Metro section of an early edition of The Washington Post.  He was still in his cotton plaid pajamas with his robe tucked neatly around him. He would officially start his day soon when he went upstairs to the bedroom of his Georgetown townhome and get dressed to go to his office.

He slipped off his reading glasses and perched them near his coffee mug. He yawned and then ran his fingers through his rumpled salt and pepper hair.  Hard to believe that he was in his sixties now he thought to himself.  He glanced down at his waist line, he also thought to himself he was not as trim as he use to be. Back when he, Senator John Marino started out as a runner on the streets of New York City when he was a young teenager for Mr. Manetti.

Mr. Manetti was a local mafia boss who had a penchant for using unsuspecting young teens to run money or drugs for him knowing that if the boys got caught they usually did not have a record and would be turned loose with a slap on the hand by the local judge.  Manetti’s family had been in the business for years, shaking down mom and pop joints throughout the borough, dealing drugs and running a successful chop shop through the City and upper Jersey.  And then there were always the strip joints which served as good fronts for prostitution and the pony business.

Young Marino would occasionally have a car pull up beside him with just a simple order to give a package to somebody or to deliver a note.  He did as he asked and when he got the next job they handed him cash.  At first it was just a twenty for just delivering notes.  Then as the packages got more valuable the money got better.  Marino figured it might be something illegal, but he never asked and no one ever told him.  His policy was if they don’t tell, then he won’t ask.  He liked having the money.  He nearly got caught only once, but had been smart enough to drop the package in another shopper’s bag before the cops got him.

The senator drained his first cup of coffee and then padded into the kitchen to pour himself a second cup.  On his return from the kitchen to his usual chair in which he read the paper, he paused at an old photograph of his mother.  It was taken shortly before his father died.  He couldn’t help but to remember her complete innocence or perhaps it was just that she was too damn overworked to give a crap.

Either way, John Marino’s rise to the top had been the face of it the local boy’s rise to fame.  In reality, there had been string pulling for some shady dealings.  When John was just a boy his father was accidentally killed in a factory accident, leaving his mother a widow with five small children.  His father did not have the foresight to have life insurance or some other sort of worker’s compensation.   He watched her slave away at multiple jobs.  He hated his father for leaving his mother nearly destitute.  John would bring home the money to his mother, telling her that he was working as a busboy at a restaurant and that was his tip money from the waitresses.  Manetti always took care of the people who worked for him.  Every so often he would hand John an envelope with cash, telling him that he had done good and to buy something for his family.  Manetti knew that family came first.

His work as a courier led him to ask his mafia manager if he could have some serious work.  He had always wanted to work on the docks with the shipping vessels.  Marino would occasionally get a call from Mr. Manetti, asking if he and a trusted crew could unload a few containers from a ship in the dead of the night as a favor for the Chairman A few days later a job materialized loading and unloading container ships with the local union.  He had been at the job a short time when the union representative approached him and asked if he was interested in becoming a representative for the union.  Marino was ready for something more and with more authority.  He won the election easily and found that he was a natural leader and public speaker.

Later on with the help of both Mr. Manetti and the Chairman hidden behind the scenes, he ascended to the top of the dock workers union before getting into politics. The union elections and politics prepared him for life in the public arena.  While he was in the union, Mr. Manetti brought to his attention a city council seat that was open and let him know in no uncertain terms that they would help him in a bid for the seat.  Marino had a taste of power in the union and will.

John agreed to run for office with Manetti’s help.  He won and so began his career as a public servant.  The night of his election victory, Manetti pulled him aside and told him that not only did he have to thank him but another man, more powerful.  He told him of the Chairman and the money he poured into his campaign and the obligation he had to him as well.  The Chairman was like family and you don’t say no.

He now helped out his former boss, Mr. Manetti, by ensuring that he got a fair share of government building contracts either for the city or the state through either pork barrel legislation or simply by hiding appropriations in key legislative pieces.  He was currently on the steering committee, one of the most powerful in Congress, and was a senior senator on the committee.  The committee had the power to bury a piece of legislation or to bring it to vote before members had the opportunity to be primed and persuaded to cast their votes either for or against the bill.  Marino loved the power and did not want to relinquish it.

His second cup of coffee was cooling while he was finishing a bowl of cold cereal.  After his last bite, his private cell phone rang.  He looked at the display id and saw that it was Mr. Manetti’s number, he answered it.

“Mr. Manetti how are you doing this fine morning?” he said.

“I’m fine, and how are you doing John?” asked Manetti. He always called the senator John.

“I am doing fine Mr. Manetti, I was just finishing breakfast,” he replied

“Good, in about five minutes a man named Samuel is going to call you. He is a aid for the chairman.”

“I understand Mr. Manetti. I look forward to taking the call.”

“Good good. Next time you are up this way you should stop by the restaurant and say hello.”

“I will do that.”

“I will hold you to that. I had better get off the phone then. Good-bye John.

“Good-bye Mr. Manetti.”

Senator John Marino heard the click of the phone telling him the call was done. He put the phone down and downed his cold coffee. His phone rang again.

“Hello,” said the senator.

“Good morning Senator Marino. My name is Samuel. I work for a friend of yours. He would appreciate it if you could meet with him tomorrow.”

“Yes I can. What time would be good?” asked John.

“One o’clock.”

“I will fly into LaGuardia Airport.”

“There will be a car waiting for you. Good day sir.”

After that call he placed one more call to make his travel arrangements for tomorrow. Once that was done Senator John Marino slipped the phone into his robe pocket and head upstairs to take his shower and start his day.

He wondered to himself what was so urgent that the chairman wanted to meet with him on such short notice.  He hoped that it would not be as damn difficult as the last predicament the Chairman put him through.

Within twenty-four hours Senator Marino found himself in an office high above the New York city.  He stood gazing at wonderful works of art, the storm on the sea of galilee by Rembrandt, Saint Praxedid by Johannes Vermeer, and Antique Worrior by Leonardo Da Vinci. He waited to be called in to see the chairman.

The artwork was breathtakingly beautiful. Each piece was displayed in its own glass case. These were not for public display as each had been stolen. This were only for the chairman and his visitors.

Still thought John Marino thought to himself that it was good to be back in the city of his youth. In his hand he held a Glenfidich on the rocks which was poured by a man who was obviously the gatekeeper for the Chairman at this location.  The man introduced himself as Robert and instructed him to have a seat while he waited for the chairman to finish with some other business. The office was richly decorated with handmade furnishings; it gave the sense that this was perhaps more than just an office or maybe a holding room.

The chairman sat in his private office on the other side of the door which separated the two rooms.  He was reading over a report and would be with the Senator soon. The senator could wait.  The chairman knew that he hated to be kept waiting.

The senator walked back to Robert’s desk to top off his drink.  He finally decided that he would sit down and wait.  The chairman seemed to like to play with the people who had appointments with him at times.  Senator Marino crossed the room and sat down into a plush, grey leather armchair, and swirled his drink around in the glass, listening to the ice cubes clink against one another.  Ten minutes later the intercom on Robert’s deck beeped. Robert stood and said, “The chairman will see you now.”

The senator tossed back the rest of his drink. The warm burning sensation worked its way down to his stomach and he slowly rose from the chair.  He placed the empty glass on the end table and walked over to where Robert was holding the door open for him.  The senator entered the room where the chairman was waiting for him, sitting casually behind his desk.

The chairman remained seated as the senator walked toward him.  The only pieces of furniture were a cut glass desk with only a laptop computer adorning it and three chairs, one of which was a black leather armchair in which the Chairman sat and two others opposite the desk and looked less comfortable than the one the chairman sat in. The walls were lined with built-in bookcases and filled with assorted books.  The room was totally devoid of any other decorations.  The chairman gestured for the senator to have a seat across from him in one of the armchairs. As senator John Marino took a seat he was conscious of the fact that Robert took up a position standing directly behind him as he sat in the chair.

“Senator Marino, thank you for coming in on such short notice,” said the chairman.

“It is my pleasure to be here, what can I do for you, sir?” Marino replied with curiosity.

“Senator Marino, I have found out through some of my sources that there is a mission being planned for an investigation of an area of China. One of our facillites is in that area. I want you to have a little chat with a certain Admiral Austin at the Pentagon about adding two more people from the CIA to that mission. The Marines are planning to start it in the next twenty-four hours in China. The mission is being launched from the USS Jackson. I want that mission delayed until my men get there,” stated the chairman.

“How exactly am I supposed to do that, sir?” asked the senator furrowing his brow.

“That is your problem I suppose, now isn’t it.  I would suppose you would want to tell the Admiral that you want intelligence personnel there for any interrogations which might arise, now wouldn’t that sound plausible?” suggested the Chairman.

“Yes sir, but you do realize that America is at war with China?  This isn’t just some sort of regular mission,” reminded the senator.

“Of course I know that,” The chairman said in a cold and sarcastic tone.

“This facility sir,” began the senator, but before he could continue his question, the chairman interrupted in a terse voice, he did not like to have his authority questioned or to have someone ask unnecessary questions.

“The facility is of no concern to the U.S. government or its military. I mean to keep it that way,” said the chairman curtly cutting off any further discussion about the topic from the senator.

“What will happen to the marines?” asked the senator.

“Leave that to me. I don’t think that is your concern, now is it?” replied the chairman.  His tone left little doubt that the marines would be probably eliminated.

“No sir.” said the senator as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair.  While John Marino didn’t mind some of the dirty work he did for the Manetti family, he was not easy with the thought of killing American soldiers.

“I understand that you are thinking of running for the white house in the next election, it would be such a shame if you did not attain that goal,” said the chairman

The senator felt as though he had just been slapped. He got the message loud and clear.  Either work for him or his political career was over.  He needed the money he would get from the chairman. The chairman knew how to funnel money to him through his multiple companies and donors.

”Thank you sir, you can count on me to get it done,” said the senator.

“Of that I never had a doubt.”

“I will contact your assistant when I get the men added.  I will need their names.” said the senator, thinking he was going to need another drink after this meeting.  The Chairman wasn’t asking for much, just the world.

“It is not necessary for you to know their names yet.  I will in the near future arrange for you and my contact in the CIA to meet,” said the Chairman.

“Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to be of service, Mr. Chairman,” concluded the senator.

“I shall and will be calling on you again Senator Marino. Robert, please have the car brought around for Senator Marino. Once the good senator has gone please call these people and give them this message.”

“Yes sir,” said Robert, efficiently nodding his head while he held the door open for the senator to exit the office.

 

Both Colonels Kline and Riley where going over the morning reports from the various groups of men that worked for them yet at sites around the world. They heard the phone ring and knew that Mr. Thomas would answer it. Seconds later Mr. Thomas was walking into their very cluttered office.

Col. Kline saw Mr. Thomas first. “What do you want, Johnny?” he asked.

“The Chairman’s aid, Robert is on the phone for both of you, line three.” he said, his British accent thick.

Col. Kline put the call on speaker. The conversation was short and to the point. As soon as Robert got off the phone with them they were calling their troops and mobilizing them. They were going hunting for marines and then they were to kill a thieving general after they had relieved him of his computer.

CHAPTER 9

 

 

The building was totally secure, not an inch of space either airspace or physical was unaccounted for.  It was one of the inner sanctuaries of the Chairman, one of the few places within the world where he could conduct his business without worry of electronic surveillance or attack from an enemy.

This part of the building was constructed in concentric circles, each with continuingly enhanced security.  It was within the center of the building that the Chairman’s office was located. The doors on this level were made from with a steel core overlaid with layer of reactive armor hidden by a thin veneer of wood paneling. These doors separated him from the corridors which lead to his office. The walls were over engineered, over three feet thick, and two inch rebar spaced every six inches. The floor and the ceiling were the same.

The only way to access this floor was with an elevator key and a pass card. All the offices on this floor were empty save two. These offices were connected by concealed door hidden by faux bookcase filled with leather bound books.  A man simply named Samuel sat at his desk positioned in front of the bookcase in the first office.

He sat positioned so he was facing away from the rear wall.  His desk faced another set of secure doors that opened into the long hallway leading to the offices. On his computer screen he had access, through a well placed security cameras positioned above the hallway doors and along the hallway’s doors, to observe any visitors or appointments for the Chairman.  The screen displayed an image of a lone man was walking towards his office.

Samuel calmly reached with left hand towards the camera control to zoom in on the man’s face, while his right hand reached under the desktop for the riot shotgun mounted there. When he could recognize the face of the man walking down the hall he took his right hand off the shotgun and continued working on the paper work in front of him.

When the man completed his long walk from one set of doors to another, he had to pause to swipe his id card through the card reader mounted on the doorframe near the doorknob.  The card reader buzzed briefly, indicating that he had access to enter. He walked up to Samuel’s desk and placed a file folder in Samuel’s in box and turned to leave the office without saying a word. All the Chairman’s files were color coded so he could easily determine the level of urgency.  The folder which now sat on the top of the in pile was marked red.  This one was urgent; he wanted to preview the contents. Even the paper contained inside the folder was color coded along the edges.  Samuel skimmed the first few paragraphs and then pressed a button for the intercom.

He closed the folder as he spoke into the intercom. “Sir a level one report has just been delivered,” he said clearly and calmly.

“Please bring it in,” said the chairman.

Samuel again reached under the desktop. This time he reached for the two switches in a recessed opening. He flipped both switches simultaneously; these activated the electromagnets in both doors at either end of the hallway, thereby locking the corridor doors. This was to ensure that no one came into the office while he was not present. He stood and walked to a door that now appeared from behind a bookcase that was sliding out of the way. As he reached the door he heard the door click as its locking device was deactivated. Samuel walked into the chairman’s office and handed over the file with Jack Boggs’s report. The Chairman slowly read over the report. When the Chairman had finished reading the report he walked over to the fireplace and tossed the report into it. The special paper flashed into flames.

The Chairman cursed.  After a moment he directed his attention back to Samuel and spoke softly “Samuel. I would like you to contact the members of the committee and have them gather at our office in New York City for a meeting at 2 p.m. tomorrow. I’d also like you to call on Senator Miles and see if he is free to meet with me around 1 p.m. tomorrow.  And last, I need you to have Mr. Boggs contacted in the morning.  Have him investigate what the Marines are planning to do.”

 

CHAPTER 10

 Onboard the USS Jackson, General Woods got up and walked around the conference table. He picked up some of the aerial photos which were taken from the ill-fated XSR-28’s mission and looked at them. There were notes printed on the color photos.  He sat the still photos down and then he took a long look at the maps. Some of them were topographical. Others were made from satellite photos taken prior to the outbreak of hostilities with China. Some were more recent. All had notes indicating certain items of interest. Eventually he reached for the Five Paragraph Order written by Captain Mclean.  General Woods continued to walk around the table glancing back at the aerial photos and the maps of the area Captain McLean’s team would be possibly reconning.

Captain McLean had done an excellent presentation thought the general. His choice of entry and extraction points were in good locations; logistically the man’s plan made sense.

“Your men call you Diesel, right?” asked the general as he took a seat.

“Yes sir,” was his reply

“I hear it on good authority that you have turned down or had the paper work misplaced or rerouted on several citations and awards for yourself. Then I have also heard that you are a son of a bitch when it comes to getting something for your men.

“Yes sir.”

“I also know your men admire you because you lead from the front. I have watched you push them and yourself beyond the breaking point, yet you and they keep going.  I understand that’s why the men call you diesel. Do you mind if I called you Diesel?” asked the general.

“No sir.”

The general picked up and quickly reread the Five Paragraph Order.

“That was a good brief Diesel. I see you want to use Operation Whirling Dervish as a cover to get your men in to the Chinese’s backyard. Why?”

“Sir, I want to use the confusion that Whirling Dervish will cause to cover the flight that drops the platoon off,” replied Diesel.

“I see,” stated the General. He continued “According to this you want to use just three squads, your entire first platoon plus one intelligence man. That’s what, 55 men, three of which are medics. Is that correct?”

Diesel looked to a point directly over the General’s head before answering. “Sir that is correct sir. I plan on covering the major traffic areas of the base and adjust accordingly sir.”

“How soon can you be ready to go?” asked the General.

“Sir, Third Squad is inbound now.  We can be ready to go after they go through medical check.  Sir, call it 24 hours from now.” Diesel did not like the delay they would encounter, but he knew that the new policy was to ensure the health and welfare of the men he commanded. He also wanted the men rested up in case they ran into complications.

“Understood,” replied the General.

The general took a sip of water from his glass before continuing. “I see you plan on humping in a lot of beans, bullets and band aids; do you think this is wise?”

“Sir, I do.  There is less chance that the enemy will know we are there if we carry in what we need, than risk a re-supply flight giving away our presence do to some error,” stated Diesel matter of factly.  He knew that it meant more for each man to carry, but the load would diminish over time and if they ran into trouble before extraction, the men could always forage from the land.

Big Rig was also present for the meeting and was standing to one side of the room.  He spoke for the first time. “I noticed that you have selected six extraction points at this time, why?” he asked.

“I’d like to know your reason for that also,” added the general.

“I selected those sites due to the fact that we don’t know what the enemy has in place or where the men will be located should the need for us to extract should arise. Depending on where the men are they can head for the closest one. They reform and move out from there.”Diesel said to defend he reason.

“Okay.  Thank you, I can tell you put a lot of thought into the brief and it shows.  I’ll send this off to the boys and girls at the Pentagon,” The general said as he got to his feet with the folder containing Diesel’s plan.

“Thank you sir.”

“I’ll let you know if the mission gets approved. Now get the hell out of here.”

“Yes sir,” said Diesel as he took a step back and crisply did an about face. He left the conference room, quietly shutting the door behind him.

Diesel hoped that the folks at the asylum would approve the plan as it stood. He couldn’t help but wonder what the Chinese were up to with what may be ground penetrating radar.  He hoped that he and his men would be finding out soon enough.

CHAPTER 8

 

 

Jack was stunned.  He needed to find a way to slow or stall this mission. “Admiral Austin, sir. Can I have a moment of your time?” he said, clapping his hand on the Admiral’s shoulder to steer him from the throng of people who were trying to trickle out of the situation room, undoubtedly hoping to make it to bed after a very long day fraught with a high level of anxiety .

“What is on your mind Jack?” said the Admiral before stifling a yawn.

“I would like to have a few CIA personnel assigned to this mission to join up with the marines.”

“I’m sure that they have some Intel guys on the ship that can go, so no.” replied the Admiral.  The Admiral turned away from Jack Boggs and he too made his way out the door into the corridor.   Jack was the only one left in the room now.  His mind was racing, as a million thoughts entered his mind at once. First priority was to call his contact and let the Chairman know what has happened including this new mission lead by some gung-ho marine who wants to “cause mayhem”. Second, find a way to stall or sabotage the mission on the boards.

Though Jack too had been working on little sleep, he walked with a purpose now. His body full of  adrenaline he headed to the parking lot.  In the parking lot, an American Airlines jet soared overhead on its way to ReaganNationalAirport.  He pulled open the car door, sank into the Infiniti’s leather seats and started the engine.  Jack leaned back and thought of all the places where a pay phone existed so he could make his call.  Jack took a few deep breaths to clear his head.  He reached to his cup holder, uncapped the plastic bottle and took a long drink of spring water.  A short time afterward, he pulled out of the parking space, out of the parking lot and into traffic.

Eventually he found his way to a pay phone in the Baileys Crossroads Shopping Center.  Jack dialed the number he had memorized; it rang twice before the call was connected to his contact.  Jack out lined the situation; it took him fifteen minutes to finish his report detailing the seriousness of the situation.  As a precaution Jack wiped down the phone to remove any trace fingerprints.  He exasperatedly ran his fingers through his hair   as he made his way back to his car.  He unlocked the driver side door started the car once again that night and drove slowly home to where his wife lay asleep in their bed.  He thought to himself on his way home, the worst part was that the marines were planning to return and surely they would discover whatever the chairman was hiding in that part of China. He needed to think a way to keep the marines from doing just that, but how, that was the question.

CHAPTER 7

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.