Chapter 3 - The Rubicon


The phone call from his Dad brought up Tom’s spirits. He decided to take on his father’s next assignment. He found the case with the radio and a few other items. He took the case upstairs and began to unpack it.


The radio wasn’t the only thing in this case. He unpacked two Bushmaster rifles, two Mini-14 rifles and additional clips for both. Both rifles were chambered for 5.56mm ammunition which was interchangeable. There were 24 boxes of shells in the crate.


When the twins entered the study and saw the guns, they both turned pale as sheets. It was noticeable and Jimmy asked, “What’s the matter?”


Ronny answered, “We don’t like guns that much.”


Bobby said, “My Mom hated them. When we were little, we would get in trouble if we played with sticks and said bang. We used to live in Chicago and my Dad was an ER surgeon. We grew up hearing horror stories about him trying to put kids back together that were shot to pieces.”


Tom said, “We have got to come to grips with the fact that things could turn ugly out here fast. If things go south, any day now we could have sick or starving refugees, renegades or opportunistic criminals walking right up that road. We’ve got to be able to protect ourselves. 911 is a long way away and they are pretty busy right now.”


Ronny said, “That’s the crappy thing about reality: it is what it is whether you like it or not.”


Jimmy put his hand on Ronny’s shoulder. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.


Bobby said, “I think I can handle anything but brain-eating zombies. As long as no zombies show up, I’m good.”


Tom laughed and said, “If any zombies show up I think I will need some Depends myself.”


That got everybody smiling again.


Brian and Jimmy took charge of the rifles. They loaded the clips and stashed them in a closet just off the study.


Tom and the twins set their efforts on the radio. They assembled it and plugged it in into wall power. The tricky part was the antenna until Tom remembered that the previous fall he had helped his Dad put an antenna on the roof and run a coax cable to the study.

As soon as they plugged the antenna cable into the jack, the radio came to life and they could hear the National Guard units talking to each other.


Jimmy asked, “Are you going to check in with them?”


Tom said, “Not yet. It sounds like they are busy and I want to wait until we hear what the President has to say.”


Bobby said, “Sounds like a plan. Is anybody hungry?”


Everyone agreed that food sounded like a good idea. They had chili-dogs in the kitchen and got settled in front of the television in time for the Presidential Address. Right on time the networks cut over to the Presidential Press Conference.


Tom admired President McMahan. A highly decorated Air Force pilot in the first Gulf war, he was a no-nonsense sort of guy who was a lot more candid than his handlers would like. More than once his candor had caused him a great deal of criticism in the press and just as much admiration from the public. The country could trust McMahan to tell the truth even if it hurts.


Network announcers said, “We are carrying this Presidential Address live via satellite from a secure undisclosed location. Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.”


A very worried looking President McMahan took the podium and began his address.


Good evening. Ladies and Gentlemen I come before you in a time of grave crisis; a crisis that is going to force me to take drastic actions. It would not be fair for me to take those actions without telling you the reasons why.


Last week our border patrol agents arrested a man traveling on a forged passport trying to enter the country illegally from Canada. This man was found to be in possession of biological weapons and the devices necessary to deliver them.


I put our Border Patrol, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Intelligence Agencies on the highest state of alert. I also began very quietly to mobilize federal agencies and the National Guard to prepare for a very serious act of biological terrorism. Since then we have arrested and detained another three men with similar biological agents and delivery devices.


Over the weekend, with the assistance of our allies, we identified the first terrorist as Shiab Agli, an Iranian national known to be an agent of Hezbollah. The other three terrorists have also been identified as associates of Hezbollah.


As difficult as this is for me to say, we know that we did not get them all. Monday we began seeing cases of smallpox and bubonic plague appearing at hospitals on the East and West Coast. Events of Monday and Tuesday only confirm that some of our largest cities have come under biological attack.


Our ally Israel has also come under biological attack which has been positively linked to Hezbollah.


This morning, responding to a faked distress call in the Indian Ocean our cruiser USS Shiloh was ambushed and destroyed by a nuclear cruise missile launched by an Iranian air strike. This action was act one for a massive air, sea and land battle between American units in the region and Iran. We have suffered grievous losses but have been able to weather the storm and stabilize the situation.


Furthermore- once the battle turned in our favor, Iran launched a dozen ICBMs at various targets in the Middle East. Our navy was successful at shooting down all but four of them. Israel was able to shoot down two and was hit and the other fell short and landed on Jordan.


Given the events of the last few days I had no choice but to ask the Congress and the Senate of the United States for a formal declaration of war against Iran. Those bodies have concurred that this is our only possible alternative and have ratified my request. I have that document here now and I am signing it.”


President McMahan paused from his speech and signed the document.


I want to express that our grievance is with the government of Iran, not her people. We have no desire to destroy that country or her people. Please cue up the live feed.


A small window opened on the screen with what was obviously a low-light image. The image showed a large complex of buildings.


At my order at this moment, Air Force B-2 stealth bombers are making retaliatory strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability and cripple their Air Forces. This window that I have open is special. It is the bunker where Iran’s top level leaders are holed up …


Bright explosions bloomed on the screen and those bunkers disappeared in white-hot fireballs.


We are aware that there are factions within Iran that want to go another direction. We have removed those leaders and hope that those factions will choose to act and take a different course. We would welcome relations with a new Iran and look forward to welcoming that state into the family of nations. As much as I would like to see that happen, I must state that any further provocation will not be tolerated and will result in the direst of consequences.


Now I must turn our attention to our problems at home. We have several possible epidemics on our hands that we must get under control. Again I have to do something that I deeply regret: I have no choice but to declare martial law.


I request and require that all of our citizens go home and stay there. These diseases pass person to person.  By limiting person to person contact we can stop this epidemic in its tracks.


This order will be carried out at 8:00pm Eastern Standard Time to allow people to get home and make preparations. This quarantine will be administered by the various states National Guards which have already been called up and are in the process of deploying now.


I call upon all Americans to comply with this order in this time of crisis. Resist the urge to panic or despair and work together with each other and the authorities. I assure you that we will come through this crisis as strong as ever.


Before I close I want to issue this warning: there are others out there that may be considering taking advantage of our time of crisis. This nation is quite capable of defending itself. We stand at DEFCON 2 and will remain in that posture for the duration of this crisis.


With that I close this address and ask this of the American people: We need your strength, courage and prayers now more than ever. Thank you and good night.”


The network announcer cut in and said, “That was the President of the United States. We are currently at a state of war with Iran and under biological attack at home. Please stay tuned for our analysis and experts on infectious diseases…”


Tom said, “That explains a lot. That’s why Dad had to leave at the drop of a hat last week and has been real evasive about what is going on ever since.”


Jimmy stood up and disappeared. He entered the kitchen and fixed five glasses and handed them to the boys. “Ordinarily Grand Paw wouldn’t approve of us drinking but with World War III breaking out live on TV, I don’t think he would mind so much.”


The boys choked down the bourbon and coke.


Ronny said, “That was horrible. So what’s our next move?”


Everyone looked to Tom. “I think I will check in with the National Guard and then we’ll hole up here for a while, play video games and watch WWIII play out on TV. Hopefully it will all be over before we’re old enough to draft.”


Brian said, “That sounds like a plan to me. Jimmy, oh keeper of the X-box, shall we go upstairs and beat the living crap out of some aliens.” The boys trooped upstairs to take out their anxieties in an electronic format.


Tom went upstairs to the study and sat down at the radio set. He just listened to the radio traffic for a while to see how things work.


After listening for a while he gathered that Sierra Hotel was the area head quarters. Units designated with Delta and a number were roadblocks, Echo and a number were ground units and Foxtrot and a number were helicopters. Other static places like barracks and field hospitals had names.


When he figured out how to communicate without sounding like an idiot, he carefully decided what to say.


Finally he picked up the mike, keyed it and said, “Sierra Hotel, this is Eagle Rock over.”


“Eagle Rock, please hold.”


Tom could hear someone typing on a keyboard.


“Eagle Rock- I have you listed as a Federal environmental monitoring station with Homeland Security.”


“Roger that. I was just checking in to let you know that we’re operational.”


“Acknowledged Eagle Rock. Monitor this channel at the top of every hour for updates. Otherwise give us a call if you need us.”


“Thank you Sierra Hotel. We’re out.”


Tom sat back and hoped that he hadn’t sounded like an idiot.


*     *     *


Sierra Hotel- Regimental Command Center, Colorado National Guard


Colonel Henry Gaddis looked over the radio traffic for the last hour and saw an entry that he was unfamiliar with. He did a computer search on the name Eagle Rock and it came back as an environmental monitoring station with chem., bio and nuclear capabilities attached to Homeland Security.


He sat up and did another query and saw that the station was connected to Dr. Thomas Ross, epidemiologist attached to Department of Homeland Security- the same guy that he had heard give a lecture on the Mark 5 Air Quality Monitor units. He had two dozen, no one rated to install them and desperately needed them working.


He picked up his phone and dialed his area commander’s number, “Braddock speaking.”


“General Braddock, this is Colonel Gaddis at Sierra Hotel. You know those Mark 5 AQMs that we’ve got with no one to install them?”


“Yes Gaddis, that’s one of two dozen major pains in my butt today. Tell me you’ve found someone who can get them working.”


Gaddis said, “I think so sir. Homeland Security has a lab up at a place in the mountains called Eagle Rock and they got one working. It’s run by Dr. Thomas Ross who gave a lecture on them back at the NBC workshop we had in February.”


Braddock said, “Outstanding Gaddis. Use whatever resources you need but get those monitors working pronto. We need them to establish safe zones for our men and civilians.”


“Roger that General, I’ll get right on it.”


*     *     *


Tom watched the boys play on the X-box for a while and decided to brush his teeth. As he passed the study he heard, “Eagle Rock, this is Sierra Hotel, over.”


Tom dashed to the radio and answered the call, “This is Eagle Rock, I read you.”


“Is this Dr. Thomas Ross?”


“No sir, this is his son. When things started happening, he sent me up here to get the equipment running.”


“Mr. Ross, this is Colonel Gaddis of the Colorado National Guard. We’ve got twenty-four of the AQM Mark 5 units and we need to get them deployed ASAP. Could a member of your staff brief our tech people on how to deploy these units?”


Tom replied, “I would be delighted to Colonel. Are you aware of our location?”


“Roger that. If it’s all right we you I’ll have our tech teams pay you a visit at 0800 in the morning.”


“Colonel, be advised that I have two more of the units in delivery crates if you need them. My Dad planned to have them deployed this month but things blew up and we weren’t able too.”


“That’s outstanding Eagle Rock. Once we get the planned units in the field, we’ll have your two to deploy on an as needed basis.”


Tom said, “I’ll see you in the morning Colonel.”


“Roger that.”


*     *     *


Gaddis was feeling very pleased with himself. Getting the AQMs working would give them a major edge in determining which areas are contaminated and those that are safe.


He made a call to aviation and scheduled a Blackhawk for a morning flight and ordered four of his technical teams to be ready to go first thing.


*     *     *


Tom joined the boys and said, “We’re going to have company in the morning.”


Brian said, “Oh yeah? Who?”


Tom said, “The Colorado Guard has a bunch of the Air Quality units but their techs haven’t been trained in deploying them. They’re sending some guys up and I’m going to step them through the process.”


Bobby said, “Well, I guess we’ll have to make some extra biscuits in the morning. What time do we expect them?”


Tom said, “0800. I’m going to set things up in the kitchen and show their guys how to do the installations. You would think they could read the manual. I’m going to hit the rack. I’ll see you guys in the morning.”


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