Chapter 15 - The Eagle and the Dragon
Tom went outside to see what had been going on while he was asleep. Thankfully the bodies of the bikers had been removed and the access road had been cleared of the debris of destroyed vehicles. Army engineers were clearing the rockslide/roadblock with an absolutely ferocious looking bulldozer.
Barlow’s men were placing some landing lights out on the edge of the ridge. Tom walked over to Barlow and asked, “What’s going on Sarge?”
The big man disengaged from the tangle of wires and said, “You know they were talking about putting a Mobile Hospital Unit up here?”
Tom said, “Yeah, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon.”
Barlow chuckled and said, “They should be rolling in just about dark. They’ll be up and running by dawn.”
Tom looked around the mountain and saw a herd of combat engineers working on the road. A dump truck was unloading gravel into one of the craters left by the bombs.
“It looks like they are serious about getting the place up and running.”
One of Barlow’s men, a young fellow that was probably college aged, finished his task and approached. He said, “I just wanted to shake your hand. I saw you on CNN the other night and this business with the bikers…”
Tom shook his hand and said, “Hey, I’m glad you guys showed up when you did. Things were getting pretty dicey.”
The young soldier smiled and got back to work.
Barlow said, “I don’t know if it has occurred to you but you guys are celebrities now. Every news outfit in the country is trying to get up here to interview you. They are calling you the Eagle Rock Five.”
Tom just shook his head. “We’ve been there and done that with the press. Frankly I’d be a lot happier if we weren’t famous. I doubt the bikers would have even come this way if we hadn’t been on television.”
“That horse has left the barn Tom. There’s no going back now. You guys have become a symbol. People are looking for something good to latch onto in the midst of all this misery. You just happened to be a smart, decent guy in the right place at the right time trying to do the right thing.”
“We weren’t trying to get famous”, Tom said. “…we were just trying to help.”
Barlow smiled and put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “I know that and that is exactly what has made you five kids so special. Before all this started, if you turned on the news what would you have heard about teenagers? Most of it was negative- drugs, crime and violence. Now in the midst of this national emergency, you’ve had a chance to show what young people can do in a crisis. I don’t know if you’ve thought about it but you are a role model to millions of kids all over the country now. That may well be the biggest contribution you’ve made so far.”
Tom shook his head and said, “I’m no Joan of Arc.”
Barlow chuckled and said, “Who would want to be? She got burned at the stake. But in the here and now if you play your cards right and ride the wave, this could mean a lot to you in the future.”
“What do you mean?”
“You remember that you said that you were thinking about going to West Point?”
“The whole Colorado Congressional delegation and both senators are fighting over who gets to make the appointment.
* * *
The trucks started rolling in about an hour before dark. The 471st Medical Battalion of the Colorado National Guard began building a city of portable buildings, tents and mobile trailers on the lawn at Eagle Rock. The night time sounds of crickets and frogs were replaced by the drone of a portable generator.
One of the first things that 471st set up was the mess “tent”. It was actually a semi trailer set up to serve as a mobile kitchen. The boys happily joined the soldiers for supper.
Since they had slept most of the day, Tom and the boys weren’t tired so they pitched in to help out setting up the mobile hospital. The troops were well drilled in setting it up and tearing it down to move. The work went quickly and soon, it was after midnight and the majority of the hospital was up and ready. Shortly after midnight the medical staff arrived and started getting the hospital spun up for business.
The boys decided that it was time to call it a night around one in the morning. They each grabbed a can of Mountain Dew out of the refrigerator and went upstairs to the sun porch to relax.
The beauty of Eagle Rock made
it easy to forget the chaos in the outside world. The boys were sitting on the
sun porch watching the stars in the West. The warm west wind was blowing across
a hillside of Lupines bearing their sweet honey like scent.
Suddenly a meteor appeared high on the horizon flashing red and yellow.
The five boys watched it for a few seconds without saying a word.
Ronny said, “You know, that’s the slowest meteor that I’ve ever seen.”
Suddenly a huge sonic boom crashed and echoed across the valley startling the boys. Two other meteors appeared but they were heading west fast and their trail was blue-white. The two blue-white meteors approached the red meteor. The first blue-white streak smacked into the slow moving red meteor in a flash of sparks. The second meteor struck it again and the red meteor seemed to break up and fall straight down. A few seconds after the flashes, two loud resounding pops echoed across the valley.
They watched as the pieces of the red meteor fell to earth and tracked it as it fell to earth behind a hill across the lake.
The boys looked at each other incredulously. Ronny asked, “Did we just see what I think…”
Bobby pointed to the South-West and asked, "What is that?"
Just over the horizon a flash was blooming getting brighter and brighter until it looked like a setting sun. Much further over the horizon to the south-west there was another flash and glow.
Tom said, "Don't look at it! Get inside."
As he looked over his shoulder and saw an angry bright orange mushroom cloud rising over the horizon toward the south-west. As its light grew in intensity, he saw a parachute floating down from the sky off to the South down the valley.
He ran inside and the boys already had the upstairs television on and the emergency broadcast system was on.
He said, “I’m going outside to talk to Barlow. Brian, come with me. I need you.”
Brian followed Tom downstairs but instead of going outside he went down the kitchen stairs to the basement. Tom stopped at a storage locker with a radiation symbol on the door and pulled out a Geiger counter. He rummaged through the shelves and pulled out a 9 volt Dura-cell battery and put it in the device.
He handed it to Brian and said, “Do you know what this is?”
Brian nodded in stunned silence.
“OK. Figure it out on the way.”
They stopped in the kitchen and Tom said, “Take a base line reading in here.”
Brian turned on the Geiger counter and it clicked a few times but there wasn’t anything radioactive in the house.
Tom said, “When we get outside I need for you to keep an eye on the readings and tell me if we’re getting close to anything hot.”
Brian said, “OK. Can do Tom. What are we about to do?”
Tom said, “I saw a pilot go down in a parachute to the south down the valley. We’re going to go get him. We’re also going to try to get an idea where that debris landed. Are you up for it?”
They went outside to the Guard units command vehicle. Soldiers were milling all around it. Tom asked, “What do we know?”
The young soldier that shook Tom’s hand said, “Phoenix and San Diego just got nuked by the Chinese and the Air Force and Navy are fighting them around Taiwan.”
Brian said, “Oh Jesus.”
The soldier said, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t have anything to do with it.”
Tom said, “That business directly overhead- we saw a chute come down the valley. Have you guys got any all terrain vehicles?”
The soldier said, “Give me a minute.” He huddled with Barlow and the four of them got a pair of 4-wheelers out of one of the trucks. Barlow paired up with Brian and the younger soldier paired up with Tom.
The soldier said, “Can you drive this thing?“
Tom smiled and said, “Oh yeah. We’ve got one in the barn that we use for chores and horsing around.”
The young soldier said, “You saw him go down so you drive. By the way, my name is Brad Alford.”
Tom said, “Brad, have you got a radio?”
“Yeah, so has the Sarge.”
Tom nodded, “OK. Let’s go get that pilot.” He turned on the headlight, motioned for Barlow to follow and took off down the ridge with Barlow following close behind.
Tom followed the trail down to a gentle slope that allowed the ATVs to get down to the floor off the valley. He followed the edge of the lake but traveled a lot slower than he ordinarily would have because of the darkness. As he drove, Alford swept the area with his big mag-lite.
A mile and a half down the valley they saw the parachute hanging from a pine tree. Tom headed directly for it.
Orbiting over the Mid-West
President McMahan placed “the football” on the conference table and popped it open.
He opened the briefcase and found a device that looked like a laptop computer.
He ripped open the envelope that held his code key and entered the codes from his card. As soon as he was done, he slid the football over to his Secretary of Defense.
The SecDef was obviously nervous. His hands shook and he entered his code incorrectly at first but he got it right on the second try.
Finally it was the Secretary of States turn. He opened his card key and looked at the screen. He put his hands on the keyboard and paused. After a full twenty seconds had passed he said, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I just can’t do it. I offer my immediate resignation”
McMahan said, “That’s all right Dan. Your resignation is not accepted. You wouldn’t be the man that I know if you could push this button. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs can do it.”
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Wainwright of the Air Force, entered his code. With the three-man rule satisfied, the machinery of nightmares was ignited. The computer processed the data and sent it wirelessly to the main computer aboard E-4 NIGHTWATCH. From there it went by satellite to every US command and ally on the planet. For the first time in history the United States had just gone to DEFCON-1.
McMahan said, “Get me the hot-line. I need to speak to the President of the Russian Federation.”
Tom and Brad rolled up to the tree where the parachute was hanging and found the pilot sitting on a rock staring off into space.
Brad said, “I’m Lance Corporal Alford of the Colorado National Guard. Are you hurt?”
The pilot said, “I am Lieutenant George Hardy, USAF Reserve. I’m OK but I am suffering from flash blindness. Where am I?”
Barlow and Brian pulled up and stopped.
Tom said, “Eagle Rock, Colorado. I’m Tom Ross and I’m glad to meet you sir. If you shot down what I think you shot down you just saved my state from having a big hole in it.”
Lieutenant Hardy said, “Did you see where the bomb landed? We’ve got to secure it. If it’s got an open core or is at critical mass it could be a real mess.”
Tom said, “I saw it go down and have a good landmark reference. We’ll find it.”
Hardy said, “You’ll want to stay well clear of it. It could be highly radioactive.”
Tom said, “Will do.”
They put Lieutenant Hardy on one of the four wheelers and Barlow and Alford took him back to be the hospitals first patient.
Tom and Brian went off in search of the nuke. They crossed the stream that fed the lake and headed north along its Western shore seriously disturbing the nocturnal habits of a family of raccoons and a rather confused looking black bear that was splashing around in the water.
When they got to the lake Tom started looking to line up the landmark reference to narrow their search. When he got to the hill that the debris landed behind, he stopped and had Brian take a measurement on the Geiger counter. Brian looked at the reading and said, “It’s going up Tom.”
They parked the 4-wheeler and headed off on foot from that point and spotted an area of burned pine straw about 50 feet in front of them.
Brian looked at the Geiger counter and said, “That must be it. The counter is measuring sixty rads. That’s about 10 times the base-line we took back at the house. Let’s get out of here before we start glowing in the dark.”
When they arrived back at the house they told Barlow that they had indeed found the wreckage of the Chinese nuke and that it was hot from fifty feet away.
Orbiting over the Mid-West
General Wainwright took the dispatch from STRATCOM, read it, balled it up and cursed.
McMahan asked, “What’s wrong Henry?”
“Peterson at STRATCOM killed himself when he found out that Phoenix and San Diego were hit. Colonel Jacobs is in temporary command.”
McMahan shook his head and said, “This is going to be a problem.”
Wainwright said, “We do all sorts of psychological testing and conditioning but we’ve never fought a nuclear war before and we just can’t predict what one of my junior officers colorfully call the wigging-out factor.”
McMahan said, “Is Jacobs up to the job?”
Wainwright sighed and said, “He’s young and smart. He’s been a part of building many of STRATCOM’s capabilities but what do I know? If you had told me an hour ago that Peterson would have broken under the pressure, I would have thought it was a bad joke.”
There was a knock on the door of the conference room door and an Air Force communication specialist opened the door.
“Mr. President, we will have Russian President Dima Volkov on line momentarily.”
McMahan waited a moment for the line to indicate that it was live and picked up the phone. “President Volkov, I appreciate your taking the time to speak with me today.”
It took a moment for the translation and reply, “John, I am shocked and appalled at the incidents that we have witnessed today. We are preparing a diplomatic resolution of condemnation for the insane actions of the Peoples Republic of China. On behalf of the Russian Federation I offer our most sincere condolences.”
McMahan was taken aback by the Russian President’s use of his first name. That meant something significant but he wasn’t sure what. He would have to think about it later. “Thank you President Volkov. Because of the events of this morning, I will have to recall our aircraft that you have graciously allowed to practice mid-air refueling over Siberia.”
There was another pause for translation. “I understand completely. Please remember our agreement: your aircraft must not violate Chinese airspace via Russian territory.”
McMahan replied, “I wouldn’t think of it.”
There was a pause again, “The cities hit; it was bad?”
McMahan replied, “It’s bad enough. The nukes landed in the early morning hours. We don’t know how bad it is yet and the loss of life will be heavy.”
The Russian President said, “Since hostilities have begun we are going to send you some intelligence via your embassy in Moscow. I think you will find it most enlightening.”
There was a pause and the Russian President continued, “We have mobile disaster response units: I offer to deploy them to assist.”
McMahan replied, “Thank you Mr. President. I appreciate that but this isn’t over yet. Let us stabilize the situation first.”
“I understand. Good luck.”
The President hung up the phone and said, “General Wainwright: Siberian Sunrise is a go. Transmit the target packages and begin staging our counterattack via Mongolian airspace.”
General Wainwright looked shocked. “You just told President Volkov that you wouldn’t violate Chinese airspace via Russian territory.”
McMahan smiled and said, “Neither the Russian Federation nor the United States recognizes the legitimacy of the Peoples Republic of China’s occupation of Mongolia.”
* * *
General Wainwright gave the order via satellite. Halfway around the world, twenty B-2 Spirit stealth bombers with a variety of weapons mixes tailored to for their specific target packages broke off from their formation began crossing the border from Russia into Mongolia.
USS Mississippi SSN-782
South China Sea
13˚ 41’ N 115˚ 55’ W
“Conn, this is the radio room. We are receiving an Emergency Action message!”
Captain Montgomery and his Executive Officer Lt. Commander Anthony Dixon had been dreading this. The Ensign handed his Captain the message as if it were a hot potato.
The Captain read the message and handed it to his Executive Officer.
Dixon read the message and said, “It is properly formatted and authentic Captain.”
Montgomery picked up the 1MC
and announced to his crew, “Attention all hands. A few minutes ago the cities of
Phoenix and San Diego were hit by nukes launched from a Chinese Jing class
boomer. I have just received a nuclear strike order to hit the Yulin Naval Base
on Hainan Island: the home port of those boomers. There are two more Jing class
boomers in hardened submarine pens stationed there and it’s our job to stamp out
Dixon said, “I thought the W-80 warheads for our Tomahawks had been retired.”
Montgomery replied, “Many were dismantled but the Navy still has a few hundred stockpiled. When the current tensions with Peoples Republic began to heat up, the Navy thought that it would be a good idea if we had a few. That’s what our rendezvous with the Sacagawea was really about a few days ago.”
“So the machine parts…”
Montgomery said, “Sure. We got machine parts- the parts and tools that we needed to replace the conventional warheads on a pair of out TLAM-C with W-80 warheads.”
“Weapons: start the launch clock and load the target package transmitted by the NCA. Chief of the boat, make your depth 150 feet, speed 20 knots.”
Flight of four F-22 Raptors
28˚ 06’ N 122˚ 5’ W
“Raven 1 this is WIZZARD. Take flight level 40 and snap to course 270 degrees. Take down the Mainstay.”
The stealthy jets broke to attack turning west and going to supercruise. Raven flight split into two element of two heading directly for the strong electronic emissions of the Chinese airborne command post directing the attack on Taiwan.
In the darkness they passed within mere miles of two different flights of Chinese SU-27 Flankers.
It took the jets less than 3 minutes to get in range of the Mainstay. Raven flight used the home-on-jam feature of the AIM-120 AMRAAM and fired two missiles at 30 miles. Banking right, Raven flight and fired again using the reflected radar energy from a Taiwanese E-2 Hawkeye to paint a flight of Flankers that had the bad luck to be on their egress route.
The Mainstay had just enough warning of the incoming missiles to turn off her radar and bank away but both of the AMRAAM missiles slammed into their target splashing it about twenty miles north of Matsu Island.
The Flankers had no warning. Four aircraft out of the flight of six were destroyed and the surviving pair dove away leaving the lane clear for Raven flight to leave the area and rendezvous with a tanker.
Airborne Command Post
The Air Boss watched the board as the enemy Mainstay disappeared temporary blinding the enemy aircraft and robbing them of effective coordination.
Admiral Simpson was watching the board too. The timing couldn’t have been better. The three Chinese fleets were out there blind and with limited air cover.
General Philips said, “It’s time.”
Admiral Simpson said, “Yes it is. Ops: send the order.”
The Air Boss keyed his mike and gave the order, “Attention all wings. Execute Spiral.”
With the Chinese airborne radar down, Admiral Simpson sent strike orders to the guided missile submarines USS Florida and Georgia that were quietly waiting in deep water. They began volley firing their conventional sub-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets all along the coast of the South China Sea and the Sea of Japan.
Captain Red Park’s B-1b
21˚ 34’ N 119˚ 17’ W
Parks looked at the data communications panel. Up date target package and proceed to release point. Prosecute the attack and RTB to refuel and rearm.
He keyed the intercom mike and ordered, “OK people our orders just came in. Weapons Officer: upload the latest targeting data to our missiles and prepare for weapons release.”
Parks signaled the five planes in his flight to proceed to their planned weapons release point. Five minutes later the six B-1b bombers, flying in a “V” formation, began to release their modified JASSM missiles. Each plane released its ten missiles and turned north-east to return to Guam.
At the same moment ten other identical formations were launching their missiles and six hundred cruise missiles were on their way to the Chinese task forces in the middle of the straits of Taiwan.