Chapter 18 - Pay Back





Eagle Rock


Tom was just finishing breakfast when Barlow approached from the direction of the base command post looking more stern than usual.


Barlow said, “Tom you’ve got a couple of visitors at the front gate. When you are done, the Colonel would like to see you at the Command Post.”


“Visitors? Who is it?”


Barlow said, “I don’t know. The men at the gates said it was couple of kids who asked for you by name. Remember that we’re still under quarantine conditions. Keep your distance when you talk to them. Unless they’ve been out here since before the outbreaks, they could be carriers.”


Tom dumped his tray and walked to the barn. He got on his 4-wheeler and started toward the main gate. On his way around the mountain, he noticed that the only signs of the battle remaining were scorched brush and blackened rocks.


When he got around the mountain, he could see that the Army engineers had been busy. The meadow in the front had been bulldozed and graded flat and four big truck trailers were neatly parked in a row. There were a number of tents just off the road.


When he arrived at the gate two guards were stationed at the front gate in full NBC gear with M4 carbines slung over their shoulders. He instantly recognized Conner Henderson with his little brother Colin hiding behind his big brother stealing sheepish glances at the guards. Behind them was Conner’s pride and joy: a Kawasaki KX 450F motorcross bike dressed in red and white of the Rough-Riders team colors, matching Conner’s jacket and both the boy’s helmets.


Despite having seen them regularly when his family was vacationing at Eagle Rock, Conner wasn’t one of Tom’s favorite people. He was cocky and had a bad case of rich-boy attitude that Tom found exceptionally tiresome. The Henderson’s lived some miles back up the road on a big spread of land. Their father had been one of the pioneers of the internet and unlike many of his peers, had the business smarts to cash in on it. They owned a large chunk of one of the biggest broadband providers in the country.


Tom parked his 4-wheeler and walked up to the gate. Despite their history, he found himself smiling and said, “Conner, Colin: it’s good to see you.” He didn’t have to add alive. Given the events of the last couple of weeks, it was understood.


“Tom, it’s so good to see you.” They both approached the gate but on of the guards grabbed Tom’s arm and said, “Remember the quarantine.”


Clearly annoyed, Tom said, “I guess we’re going to have to talk at a distance. Are you and your family OK?”


Conner said, “Mom and Dad were in Denver on business and got caught when the quarantine started. We’ve been stuck up here since the world went berserk. When we heard about Phoenix getting nuked, well we’re scared and running short of supplies…”


Tom said, “Have you had a chance to talk to your folks?”


Conner said, “Every day. They are in an apartment that they keep in Denver.”


Tom said, “Think hard Conner: when was the last time you were in Denver?”


Conner said, “It’s been a while. Middle of March at least.”


Tom asked, “Where do you go to school?”


Conner blushed and said, “Ummm… we’re home schooled.”


Tom could tell that the days had been hard on Conner. The cockiness was gone. He was unsure of himself. There were dark circles around his eyes and his hands were shaking.


Tom said, “Conner, give me a minute. It sounds like you are OK to come in but I’ve got to talk to the boss.”


Conner nodded.


Tom asked the guard, “Can I use your radio?”


The guard handed it too him and said, “Who do you need to speak too?”


Tom said, “The Colonel.”


The guard keyed the mike and said, “This is Golf-one to Echo Romeo Actual.”


There was a pause and then a reply, “Golf-one, this is Echo Romeo Actual, go ahead.”


“Sir, Prodigy needs to speak with you.”


“Put him on.”


Tom took the radio’s handset and said, “Sir, I’ve got a couple of our neighbors at the front gate. Their parents were in Denver on business when the quarantine came down and they are low on supplies. I’d like to let them in.”


There was a pause. “OK but I insist that they get vaccinated immediately.”


Tom replied, “That’s more than reasonable sir. Thanks, we’ll be coming around shortly.”


“Please see me in my office ASAP.”


Tom said, “Roger that. I’ll be there in ten.”


The guard overheard the conversation and keyed the access code for the gate. As it opened up, he motioned for the Henderson kids to come in.


Tom looked at the guard and said, “Prodigy?”


The guard shrugged and Tom could see him smiling behind his suit mask, “Your brother’s code name is Shrapnel.”


Tom said, “You can come in but we’re going to have to ask you to take a vaccination.”


Colin looked worried and said, “Is that like a shot?”


Tom jumped on his 4-wheeler and said, “It’s not bad. They don’t use a needle. You’ve probably had worse mosquito bites. Follow me and we’ll see about getting you two some breakfast.”


Tom drove around the mountain with the Henderson boys following right behind him.


Just outside the barn where they parked their vehicles, they were met by a nurse wearing a white surgical mask over her face and a vaccination gun. She wasted no time and gave both of the Henderson boys their smallpox vaccination. When she saw that Colin was fearful, she pulled a grape sucker out of her pocket, gave it too him and stroked his hair.


Colin smiled back at her.


Tom complained, “I didn’t get a sucker.”


The nurse said, “You don’t have eyes like this little charmer.”


Tom said, “I can see your point.”


The nurse said, “There is breakfast for you two over at the mess tent and the Colonel is waiting for you in the CP.”


Tom said, “Thank you Mam.”


The nurse dropped her mask off of her face and said, “My name is Lieutenant Cindy Garroway. If your injection site gets sore or you have a rash, let me know. It is normal for it to itch but don’t scratch it. It’ll fade in a few days. We’ve got incoming wounded so I would ask that you guys stay on this side of the camp.”


Colin asked, “Is this like MASH?”


Garroway smiled and said, “Yes it is, but we’re a whole lot better and we don’t have a still… yet.”


Tom escorted the Henderson’s to the mess tent and went to the Command Post.




Orbiting over the Mid-West


General Wainwright said, “There are a whole lot of things about this that just don’t make sense Mr. President.”


President McMahan said, “Go ahead, I’ve been thinking the same thing.”


Wainwright said, “Since the Chinese/North Korean side of the conflict opened up nothing makes sense. Anyone who has ever studied the Chinese military knows that their operations are very… deliberate. Their area commanders don’t have a lot of flexibility. They are also very precise about the way they do things and everything about this confused and disorganized on their side. Our intelligence suggests that there are large parts of their military that isn’t even on alert.”


McMahan said, “I’ve been thinking the same thing. Historically when the Chinese act, they do it in a very big way. The battle damage assessment of several of their air bases in the extreme south eastern coast suggests that they weren’t even on alert. Our cruise missiles destroyed hundreds of aircraft on the ground.”


Admiral Simpson said, “Something that has bothered me for days is the behavior of the two Jing class boomers. No submariner in their right mind would have come boiling out of the South China Sea like that. Sub commanders know that they trade stealth for speed. Boomers never operate like that.”


McMahan said, “What does this mean?”


Wainwright said, “The CIA people are thinking that some group on the Chinese side is orchestrating the whole thing. Every time something happens, it drags them deeper and deeper in. Once the nukes landed on our soil, they have to be fully committed out of self-preservation.”


Admiral Simpson said, “I was wondering about that too. Their timing and unit readiness has been horrible. Our Intelligence, well Janes Defense Weekly in this case, says that the boomers were supposed to have been ready last month and were due for a shake down cruise. A few weeks later, they ran a story about problems that they were having and were delayed. They were only able to get two to sea and they were behind schedule and had to make a speed run to get in position on time.”


McMahan said, “They meant to have four of those hellish things in place?”


Simpson said, “That was apparently their plan. The only reason that I can image that the skippers of those Boomers would be running at flank speed like that was they were specifically ordered to- probably by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.”


Wainwright said, “I smell politicians.”


McMahan said, “Or Spooks. According to the documents turned over by that Iranian General, the coordination and planning for the operation was carried out via senior intelligence operatives. They had been meeting and planning for a couple of year.”

Simpson said, “How do we give them a chance to step back?”


McMahan said, “We don’t. The strikes to neutralize their nuclear forces go ahead as planned. During the daylight hours we concentrate on Korea and at sundown we hit the Chinese leadership bunker. Once we decapitate their government, it gives us a chance to work through third parties to diffuse this thing.”


Wainwright said, “General Jackson of the 2nd Infantry Division has made a breakthrough and is really tearing the North Koreans a new one. We’re watching the Chinese mobilize their 101st and 102nd shock armies to move into North Korea. What do you want us to do if they start to move onto the Korean peninsula?”


McMahan said, “I want the Stennis Battle Group to drop every bridge into North Korea by dawn.”


Simpson said, “I’ll send out the order immediately.”



Eagle Rock


As Tom approached the Command Post he felt a little like he was being called to the principles office. He expected the new C.O. to look him over and the situation would be mutual.


Tom could appreciate why the Colonel had kept the boys out of the briefing but he wasn’t thrilled that he to had not been included. Maybe he would have been included had he been there instead of Jimmy. He shook his head. He was really feeling the fatigue and wasn’t thinking straight.


When he reached the Command Post he was greeted by a young man in BDUs that whisked him directly into the Colonel’s office.


When Tom entered Colonel Boudreaux’s Office, he got two instant impressions. The Colonel was a very large, commanding figure with a deep Cajun accent. He was talking on the phone and he wasn’t at all happy with whoever was at the other end.


“...I don’t care who you have to wake up. We’ve already started receiving casualties and we’re going through our stock of morphine like it is water. Call or send some people to area pharmacies and hospitals give them vouchers and get them to set aside as much as they can spare. Get it done. I’m organizing people to pick it up now.”


He hung up the phone and sighed. He reached across the wreckage on his desk and extended his hand, “Tom, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Dr.Arnie Boudreaux and I’ll be running this circus until we pull up stakes.”


Tom took his hand and said, “I know that you’re busy so I’ll tell you that we’re willing to help in any way that we can. The boys, well they’ve seen more than they should have with that shoot out the other day. I know that you’ve got a real nightmare coming up from Phoenix so I want to keep them away from that.”


Boudreaux said, “They told me that you were smart and we really can use you help. I want you to sit down with a map and one of our MPs and figure out where we need to put our roadblocks and check points. We’ve got a couple of convoys headed this way and we don’t need any traffic jams. Do you guys know the roads well enough to act as guides?”


Tom said, “Conner Henderson knows them best. Jimmy and I know them fairly well. The other boys don’t know the area.”


Boudreaux said, “That will help. I’m sending out men in hummers to local pharmacies, hospitals and even Wal-Marts for all sorts of supplies but our biggest need are specific drugs. We will be burning through our supply rapidly and we’ll be out of some key medications by nightfall if we can’t stock up quickly.”


Tom said, “I’ve got a Hummer in the barn with a Garmin GPS unit. All I need is a street address and I can find anything. You mentioned Wal-Mart. We could really use a chance to lay in some fresh supplies.”


Boudreaux nodded and said, “OK. What we’ll do is give you a list of places that are helping out and you can pick up the goods. You can make a supply run while you are out.”


“Sounds like a plan. Anything else?”


“We are going to have to expand. Would you mind if we set up some tents down by the lake?”


Tom replied, “No problem. Just stay on this side. Raccoons and bears come out of those woods at night and I doubt your staff would care to run into them.”


Boudreaux asked, “OK. Have you got a cell phone?”


Tom said, “Yeah, I keep it close all the time.”


“Give me your number. We’ll need to keep in touch.”



USS Sea Dragon

Philippine Sea


Kyle said, “Con this is sonar. I just heard a high order explosion on the surface.”


The Sea Dragon had been playing cat and mouse for hours with the two Akula class attack subs, the destroyer and its pesky helicopter. The crew had some tense moments but Kyle had found a particularly large and noisy ship wreak on the bottom that was sitting in a strong current and clattering like a bag full of pipes. Sunk by the submarine Cavalla during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944, if the men of His Imperial Majesties Ship Shokaku knew that they were helping an American submarine, they would be spinning in their watery graves.


Captain Summers approached the sonar station and looked at the display.


“What have you got Hayes?”


“It sounds like somebody just put a Harpoon in that destroyer topside. It’s gone dead in the water, secondary explosions and breaking up noises. It sounds like a hard kill sir… Hey, wait a minute. Sonabouys. There is a P-3 Orion up there. That evens up the odds.”


Summers said, “Don’t get too excited. They use magnetic anomaly detectors to locate submarines and are just as dangerous to us as they are to the Akulas.”


Hayes said, “Captain we’re sitting right on top of a 32,000 ton wreak and we know that the Orion drivers use magnetic contour maps to sort out contacts. If we play our cards right, that Orion might flush both of those Akulas right to us.”


Summer said, “What depth are the Akulas running?”


Hayes said, “Last good fix I had on them, one was at 200 meters and the other was at 400 meters.”


Summers order, “Chief of the boat, make your dept 800 meters and hover. Everybody make like a nice quiet hole in the ocean and let’s see if we can bag a couple of Akulas.”



Camp Castle 2nd Infantry Division HQ-

Dongducheon, South Korea


After two failed counterattacks against General Jackson’s positions on the ridge line, the North Koreans were forming up their biggest attack yet.


The new North Korean line was established from their fixed border defenses along the DMZ up a valley rimmed with high rolling hills and ridges and split by a shallow seasonal river. What had been a verdant rolling country side with numerous trees was a blasted and ruined wasteland. It extended north to a line about 5 miles south of Wonson. Hundreds of tanks destroyed in the first two attempts to dislodge Jackson’s salient were burning on the North Korean side of the line and many more had been damaged and abandoned by their crews.


The “Dear Leaders” long promised offensive that was supposed to push “the gangsters in Seoul and their American mercenaries into the sea” had run into a brick wall along the DMZ. Despite massive artillery barrages and armored attacks, the lines held give or take a few miles here and there.


With the collapse of their left flank, the North Koreans were in a very tenuous position. The prospect of having Jackson’s tanks lose in their rear was a disaster in the making and they knew it. It was do or die for the “Dear Leaders” Army and they knew it.


The North Koreans were throwing everything available into the fight.  They had committed their entire reserve and pulled a great deal of their armor out of the center of the DMZ.


They formed up three divisions of armor with at least a division and a reinforced brigade of armored infantry in the center with an armored and a mechanized division on either flank. They had also moved a great deal of mobile anti-aircraft artillery up to cover their formations.


The American and South Korean forces were not standing still. South Korean and American units were racing into Jackson’s salient. Mobile artillery, mechanized infantry and various sorts of mobile anti-aircraft had joined up or were moving in behind Jackson’s tanks. A mobile base that could rearm and refuel Apache attack helicopters was  established in the salient so that they could quickly return to the battlefield.


The North Koreans announced their intentions with a artillery barrage on the ridge line. It was immediately answered by US and South Korean MLRS batteries hitting anti-aircraft positions. A flight of low flying North Korean ground attack fighters were met by a Combat Air Patrol of F-15 fighters flying high cover and I-Hawk SAMS.


The enemy began moving up behind the burning tanks left on the battlefield only to be met by a hail of 120mm main battery fire from American M1A2 Abrams and South Korean K2 Black Panthers whose optics could see through the smoke.


The air attacks had been well planned and staged so that every thirty seconds formations of A-10 Wart-Hogs with their 30mm Gatling guns and anti-armor cluster bombs or F-16 dropping Paveway smart bombs or cluster bombs. A few miles behind the lines an AC-130H Spectre gunship was circling and delivering called fire from its 105mm gun and 25mm Gatling gun. Apache gunships penetrated the enemy lines destroying mobile anti-aircraft guns and tearing up their mobile artillery in the rear.


The Chinese built Type 59 and 63 and Russian made T-55 and T-62 tanks used by the North Koreans were no match for the modern American and South Korean tanks. They were torn to shreds under the weight of the main guns of Allied tanks and the air strikes.


Seventeen minutes into the battle, a North Korean tank crew bailed out of their tank and ran. In short order whole tank platoons and then companies abandoned their vehicles and ran.


Jackson had broken their back.



John C. Stennis Carrier Battle Group

Sea of Japan


Despite three dead submarines and the threat of a nuclear strike, the “Johnny Reb” and her Battle Group cleared Golden Horn Bay and Vladivostok and were finally in position to begin operations in earnest.


Admiral Jamison looked at the dispatch in his hands and then stuffed it into his hip pocket.


He said, “Lieutenant Anderson, please bring me the binder marked WestPac 2011 from the classified documents locker.”


The Lieutenant dutifully retrieved the thick loose leaf binder and handed it to the Admiral. He looked at a table in the front and there it was: target package Charlie-Hotel 31: Communication and transportation targets between The People Republic of China and North Korea.


“Communications, give me the fleet.”


“Aye sir, you have the fleet on TBS at your station sir.”


Admiral Jamison keyed the microphone and said, “Attention all ships: this is Johnny Reb Actual. Set condition one through out the battle group and make preparations to execute target package Charlie-Hotel 31 in one-five minutes. Johnny Reb will be going to flight quarters. We are about to show our Far Eastern friends the meaning of the old saying that payback is a bitch. That is all.”


Jamison ordered, “Bring the Johnny Reb to flight quarters and launch the Iron Hand birds.”



Delta Tango-44


The flight of cruise missiles launched by the Mississippi approached Hainan Island low on the water at sub-sonic speed. The four TLAM-D model Tomahawks were in the lead and flew in over air defenses and soft targets dropping cluster bomb-lets and then slamming into various targets. The first two TLAM-C Tomahawks hit the bases control tower. The second pair of TLAM-C Tomahawks slammed into the doors of the submarine pens blowing a forty foot hole in the giant doors that protected the submarines.


One TLAM-N flew inside the submarine pin through the hole blown in the door and the second flew over the navy yard for an air burst. The two W-80 warheads ignited simultaneously and annihilated the submarine base and destroyed the two new Jing class boomers at their mooring.



B-2 Bomber AV-7

The Spirit of Texas


Pilot: “Execute Final Checklist for nuclear release. Target is the ICBM complex at Tai-Hang in the PRC. At the time I direct the WSO to set the weapons yield.”

Weapons System Officer: “The B61 mod 11 has a single setting of 340 kilotons.”

Pilot: “Yield is set. At this time I direct the WSO to arm the weapons.”

Weapons Systems Officer:  “Please remove you code card and break it open.”

Pilot: “My code sequence is Seirra-Able-Juliett-one-one-three-eight.”

Weapons System Officer: “Mission Commanders Code is Seirra-Able-Juliett-one-one-three-eight.”

Co-Pilot: “My code sequence is Romeo-Echo-Bravo-seven-four-zero-two.”

Weapons System Officer: “Co-pilots code sequence is Romeo-Echo-Bravo-seven-four-zero-two.”

Weapons System Officer: “My code sequence is November-X-ray-Charlie-seven-one-zero-niner”.

Weapons System Officer: ”The three-man rule has been satisfied and the bombs are hot. With the mission commanders permission I will enable automatic release.”

Pilot: “You are go to enable automatic weapons release.”

Weapons Systems Officer: “We are approaching target window. The system is in automatic mode. Release, release, release, release. Four B61 mod 11 weapons with JDAM kits are released.”

Co-pilot: “Changing course to 230 degrees. We’ll egress through Afghanistan as planned.”

Pilot: “Now it gets interesting. They know for sure that we’re here now.  

At the same moment, nineteen other American B-2 bombers were releasing bombs over nineteen the PRC’s known ICBM sites. Within seconds the Peoples Republic of China would be officially out of the ICBM business.