Chapter 19 - Intuitive
After spending some time with the Colonel’s staff and a pile of maps, Tom returned to the house to wait for the supply runs to be organized. He entered through the kitchen door to find all six of the boys in the kitchen table laughing and smiling. Of the original five, Tom and Jimmy were the only ones who actually knew the Henderson brothers but it looked like he was walking into a meeting of old friends. Colin was sitting between the twins wearing a Christmas morning smile. The transformation from the fearful, insecure boys on the outside looking in was astonishing.
Tom walked in and said, “Hey Conner, I need to talk to you upstairs for a minute.”
Conner nodded and followed Tom up the stairs. When they arrived in the office, they sat in a pair of chairs.
Conner said, “I’ve got an apology to make to you.”
Tom said, “That’s not really necessary.”
Conner said, “No. I understand now. Last spring break when I took Jimmy on a couple of jumps on my bike and you blew a fuse, I thought you were just being a jerk and my response was to be a bigger jerk. You were right.”
Tom said, “I didn’t know back then that you were such good a rider- you ride for one of the best motorcross teams in Colorado. I’ve seen you riding on ESPN.”
Conner shook his head and said, “No, it’s different. After being stuck up here taking care of my little brother, being alone, being afraid all the time; I don’t really know how to explain it but I know I was wrong now and why you were so pissed.”
Tom nodded and said, “Yeah, you learn to value your pesky little brother a lot more when you think that you might lose him.”
Conner nodded sadly and said, “There’s something that I’ve kept to myself Tom. I haven’t told Colin, he didn’t need to… I didn’t know how to tell him. I’ve kept it to myself this whole time…”
Tom said, “I don’t
Conner said, “That day when everything went to hell, my Mom and my Aunt from Denver went shopping. She got exposed to that smallpox crap and got real sick. They took her to the hospital. My Dad is fine but Mom…” Tears welled up in Conner’s eyes.
Tom put his hand on Conner’s shoulder and asked quietly, “Is she sick Conner?”
Conner broke down sobbing and choked out, “She died Friday.”
Emergency State Capital
Governor Rankin stood and said, “Jerry, please come in. How are you doing?”
Attorney General Jerry Muller shook the Governor’s hand, put his briefcase down and sat. “Thanks for seeing me on such short notice Tony. I asked to see you because of some trouble I see brewing for that Ross kid and his friends up at Eagle Rock. I want to act fast to nip it in the bud.”
Rankin sat down and said, “I’ve been afraid of that ever since they tangled with that biker gang the other day. What’s happening?”
Muller said, “It seems the families of some of those biker mutts are talking to some lawyers about suing them and are trying to get the Sheriffs office and District Attorneys to file charges based on those laws that they passed back after the Columbine massacre. To be honest they could be facing some serious felony charges: possession of firearms by unsupervised minors, bomb building, maybe even manslaughter if there is a grandstanding district attorney out there trying to make a name for himself.”
Rankin asked, “Is there anything too it?”
Muller said, ”I can’t see any criminal charges sticking. I’ve talked to the US Attorney about it and he won’t be filing any Federal charges.”
The Governor shook his head and said, “There will be no action against those kids if I can help it. I’ll pardon them if I have too. All they’ve done since this whole thing started is say how can we help and can do sir.”
“A pardon won’t help on the civil side which is really what is driving this. The families and their attorneys smell money and think that they stir up some trouble and get some quick settlement cash. You never know what will happen if they get drug into a civil court. So much depends on the judge.”
The Governor said, “I know that you’ve got a plan. Let’s hear it.”
Muller got the sort of predatory grin that the Governor had seen dozens of times when he was about to dispense some well earned bad karma. “I’ve been talking to the National Guard people and had my staff do some research. Here’s what I propose…”
Tom hugged Conner and let him get it out. He knew that the boy had been through a little slice of hell having to be alone with a 10 year old in the middle of no where carrying the knowledge that he would never see his mother again. Worse yet, he would have to tell Colin.
When Conner regained his composure, Tom said quietly, “Conner, I’m so sorry about your mom. She was a really sweet lady. I always enjoyed seeing her.”
Conner said, “Thanks. She always liked to have company and she liked you and your brother. I heard her say that you were a good influence on us.”
Tom laughed, “I don’t know about that. I asked you up here to see what you wanted to do. We’re going out a little later to make supply runs for the hospital. We can pick up some stuff for you so you can stay at home or you can stay with us.”
Conner looked down and said, “If it is OK with you, I’d like to stay here. It is hard being alone and watching the world fall apart on TV.”
Tom put his hand on Conner’s shoulder. When Conner looked up, Tom said, “You don’t have to be alone anymore.”
2nd Infantry Division
Bradley FIST Mobile Headquarters
Driving toward Hill 339, 30 miles behind the DMZ
After consulting with his company commanders and the commanders of the attached ROK units, General Jackson decided that the best plan was to keep driving. He had the initiative now and he wasn’t about to give the North Koreans a chance to recover and reorganize. With the North Koreans falling back in a full rout, General Jackson and ICORP needed to keep the pressure on.
His tanks were moving northwest under cover from Apache gunships isolating the DMZ fortifications and pinning the units inside those bunkers where they could neither move or do any harm. The artillery there was still a menace but it was being expertly managed by allied counter-battery fire and helicopter attacks.
Every time a North Korean artillery piece fired a round, it was picked up by several fire-finder radars that would triangulate its position and precise counter-battery fire would land so fast that the crews had no time to escape. The volume of fire from the dreaded North Korean artillery was way down.
The North Koreans were as deceptive as ever. Numerous prisoners were surrendering but there had been instances of suicide bombers and snipers. There had been a number of casualties and it was becoming a headache.
Jackson’s next objective was a hill marked 339 on the maps that overlooked a critical crossroads and a rail line that was a primary supply route for the fixed fortifications on the North Korean side of the border. Aerial reconnaissance showed North Korean infantry dug in and moving in heavy equipment to make a stand.
Jackson looked over the maps and saw that the trenches and their layouts were almost identical to the fortified hill positions from the first Korean War that made the fighting so bloody. The only thing that would remove them from that hill would be a very large infantry assault and his tanks would be of little use.
Jackson had to get them off that hill and he thought that he might just have an idea how to do it. He turned to his Air Force liaison officer who was handling his air support and said, “Bill I need an air strike.”
Captain Bill Holland said, “Where and when General?”
Jackson showed him the recon photos of Hill 339 and said, “I need the infantry manning these trench lines gone. Furthermore, I would like for it to scare the hell out of them. Right now we’ve got them running and we need to keep it that way.”
Holland looked at the photo and said, “It will have to be a big one.”
Jackson said, “It will be worth it.”
Holland, “When do you want it?”
Jackson said, “My tanks will be ready to hit the objective in strength in 3 hours. Is 90 minutes too soon?”
Holland said, ”No problem General. If you’ve got another 30 minutes, we will bomb it flat and pave it for you.”
Jackson said, “If you guys can crack that bunker under that hill and scatter the infantry, we’ll do the rest.”
Bobby and Ronny had prepared a list of supplies for the kitchen. Tom took a quick look and stuffed it in his pocket. The plan was for the boys to help unload trucks as they came in and Tom and Conner would go on supply runs to pick up the drugs that the hospital needed.
Sergeant Barlow and Corporal Alford arrived in the kitchen with lists of pharmacies and hospitals and routes for the days supply runs. Brad and Tom had the route East down highway 24 to Woodland Park. Barlow and Conner had the route west down 24 to Buena Vista. The two teams were given a clipboard and an ice chest and were asked to return as soon as possible.
Tom said to Conner in a quiet voice that only he could hear, “Barlow is a good guy to talk to. He helped the twins after the shoot out with the bikers.”
Conner smiled sadly and nodded as he followed Barlow out the door.
Brad said, “Let’s roll.”
Tom followed Brad out to a waiting hummer and said, “Are you driving.”
Brad said, “I suppose.”
Tom said, “Good because I’m dead on my feet. Wake me up when you need me.”
He was asleep in the passenger side seat before they were exited the front gate.
John C. Stennis Battle Group
Northern Sea of Japan
Admiral Jamison watched the displays on the Flag Bridge as the air battle began to unfold between Kilchu, North Korea and the Russian border. Jamison had launched all of his aircraft in a calculated gamble to overwhelm enemy air power in the area.
The FA-18 Super Hornets of the Argonauts (Strike Fighter Squadron 147) was assigned to fly combat air patrol to protect the Task Force while the strike was in progress.
FA-18s of the Black Knights (Strike Fighter Squadron 154) made a fighter sweep of the area between Kilchu, North Korea and the Russian border. They made short work of a dozen enemy aircraft patrolling the area. Once the area was “deloused”, the Black Knights broke into elements of four and took intercept positions at 40,000 feet to protect the inbound strikes.
EA-6B Prowlers of the Yellow Jackets (Electronic Attack Squadron 138) turned on their powerful jammers and blinded enemy radars. They closed on their targets and fired HARM missiles (AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation) at enemy SAM radars and then stood off to provide jamming support and attack any radar site that was foolish enough to turn on their radar.
The main strikes were carried out by Blue Diamonds (Strike Fighter Squadron 146) and the Death Rattlers (Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323). The aircraft split into elements of two to six to prosecute their individual targets. Armed with everything from Harpoon missiles for the North Koreans doomed fleet to Paveway smart bombs to destroy hardened missile sites, the attacks were fast, accurate and lethal blowing a hole sixty miles long in the North Koreans coastal defenses.
Even as the air strikes were in progress Jamison ordered, “Send the order to the fleet to execute strike package Charlie-Hotel 31.”
Seconds after the order was issued, Tomahawk missiles began to rise from ships of the battle group and fly toward their targets: bridges, rail heads and tunnels along the border between China and North Korea.
Colorado Highway 24
Tom knew every twist and turn in the road. He didn’t even have to be awake to know where they were. As Brad drove, Tom was vaguely aware of the radio.
FEMA has established a command center at Flagstaff to manage emergency operations in the Phoenix region.
Stay tuned to this station for news and information.
Primary fallout is the most dangerous and lasts from24 to 36 hours after the explosion. It is highly radioactive and you must avoid exposure. If you are caught out in it, you must cover you skin, eyes and breath through a cloth to avoid inhaling particles.
We urge all residents in the area to stay indoors or in shelters until they can be evacuated. The following towns are currently affected by fallout: Mesa, Gilbert, Apache Junction, Scottsdale, Queen Creek, Rio Verde, Cave Creek, Florence and Coolidge.
Winds are running at 7 knots toward the east-north-east and the following communities are expected to be affected by fallout in the coming hours: Superior, Globe, Miami and Kearny.
Primary fallout is expected to reach as far east as Show Low and as far south as Tucson.
All roads into Arizona are closed except to official vehicles. Evacuating vehicles should follow the main routes east and north out of the area. If a vehicle breaks down, abandon it and pull it off the road immediately.
FEMA is in urgent need of volunteers. Doctors and nurses with trauma training are in desperate need. If you would like to volunteer, please call 888-555-DOCS.
Trained paramedics, medics, police, firefighters and all sorts of emergency personnel are also urgently needed. If you would like to volunteer, please call 888-555-COPS.
A web site has been set up to track and find missing family members. When you reach a destination please access AZ-missing.org to post your name, location and contact information so that family members can find you.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Ambassador David Russell rose at his desk to greet Benardo Da Silva- an important man in the República Federativa. It was well known that he had the ear of the current President, many friends in the Senate and was often used for backchannel diplomacy.
The tall, distinguished businessman entered Russell’s office, extended his hand and said, “David, I am so sorry to hear about the disaster that has occurred in your country.”
Russell took his hand and said, “A disaster is a hurricane or an earthquake. What happened this morning was an act of war.”
Da Silva said, “Sadly this appears to be the case. There is much fear in my country that this could spin out of control.”
Russell carefully gauged the language that De Silva was using. Rather than the double talk of diplomacy, De Silva was speaking candidly- a rare gift in such encounters. Russell said, “You can be assured that our reply to the aggression will be measured and appropriate. We have no desire to engage in mass murder.”
Da Silva sighed and said, “I knew that would be the case. David, I know that there has been a great deal of politics and rhetoric between our countries over the years but we want you to know that we know who our friends are and I hope that your country knows this as well. If the United States needs our assistance in coping with this tragedy, we stand ready to help.”
Russell said, “That is very kind of you and we will accept your offer. At the moment it is too soon. Hostilities are ongoing and we are working to stabilize the situation.”
De Silva stood, indicating that the meeting was ending and said, “Good, we will begin preparations immediately.”
Russell shook his hand and said, “I appreciate you coming by.”
De Silva said, “David, there is something else. A few months ago I attended a trade conference where we talked to several Chinese firms. Something one of them said, at the time it meant nothing. It was a company that had been in a lot of trouble over patents and wanted to enter our market- laser printers, now I remember.”
Russell said, “What did he say?”
De Silva said, “At the time what he said was that we might want for alternatives to the American companies that are our usual suppliers. Looking back on it now- David, I’m sure that he knew.”
Russell said, “That is pretty thin.”
De Silva said, “I built my business on my ability to read people. It is why my President occasionally uses my services for diplomacy. There was a cold certainty about that man that I didn’t understand at the time but it makes perfect sense to me now. He knew. I would bet last real on it.”
Woodland Park, Colorado
Brad parked the hummer in front of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and said, “We’re here.”
Tom opened his eyes and saw the big, familiar store sprawling out in front of him. There were a few cars in the parking lot and the people that he could see were wearing surgical masks and latex gloves.
He looked beside him to see Brad putting on a mask and donning latex gloves.
Tom said, “We’ve been vaccinated. Do we still need to wear this stuff?”
Brad replied, “It’s more to put the civilians at ease. People are losing sleep trying to figure out whether they are more scared of radiation or smallpox. Besides- it’s the regulations. The quarantine has only been partially lifted and people are supposed to wear this stuff when they are in public.”
Tom put on his mask and gloves and said, “This just keeps gets better and better.”
Brad grabbed his clip board and the ice chest off the back seat. He said, “Have you got your list?”
Tom rummaged through his pockets and nodded.
Brad said, “Well- let’s go get infected.”
Tom followed Brad’s lead and said, “Well, when you put it that way, I can hardly wait.”
When they entered the front of the store, Tom noticed that the obligatory friendly geezer was missing. In his place was a large sign that read, “Quarantine protocols are in place. Anyone not wearing a mask and gloves will be asked to leave.”
Tom remarked, “It just doesn’t seem as friendly here anymore.”
Brad said, “I’m going to the pharmacy. Why don’t you get a buggy and take care of your list.”
For the next half hour Tom grazed through the grocery aisle. As he expected, quite a lot of the fresh stuff was gone because the trucks hadn’t been running for days. Canned and frozen foods were plentiful so the shortages did not pose any hardship.
When he got to the check out counter, a middle aged lady in gloves and a mask rang up his purchase and said, “Do I know you? You look very familiar- even behind a mask.”
Tom said, “Uhh… I shop here frequently when my family goes to our place in the mountains.”
She said, “Now I know. You’re that kid that has been on television. Sorry- I was stuck at home with nothing to do for a solid week but watch TV. You and your friends have done good, real good. A lot of people around here are real proud of you.”
Tom could feel himself blushing as he loaded the bags onto the buggy. He said, “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
“You know what they called that before the world went crazy don’t you?”
Tom shook his head.
The lady said, “That’s a hero sugar. You come back when we’re done with the mask and gloves and I’ll hug your neck.”
Andersen Air Force Base
Special Munitions Locker
Dr. Gunnison and his team from Los Alamos National Labs replaced the trigger assemblies of the two B-63 warheads with the new inertial triggers.
While the scientists were working on the triggers, Lieutenant Morrow and his team built a metal chassis to enclose and protect the sensitive electronics of the two B-83 warheads and make them fit perfectly as a replacement for the warheads of the big EGBU-28C/B “bunker busters”.
Once both teams were done, it was time to “dress” the warheads. Under the watchful eyes of Gunnison’s team, Morrow placed the two warheads inside the protective cover that they had built and screwed it down to the frame. When the last piece was ready to go on, Morrow connected the control cable and ran it out of the back of the assembly.
Gunnison connected a lap top to the control cables of both warheads, ran a diagnostic and pronounced them healthy.
Gunnison said, “Morrow, I believe this was your idea. You install it.”
He handed Morrow two 4 inch thick blocks of aerogel cut precisely to fit inside the warhead compartment of the EGBU-28. Morrow took the aerogel, sprayed some adhesive to the side marked front and practically climbed inside the big warhead chamber as he put the material in place.
The next step was nerve racking for all concerned, even more nerve racking than usual for working with weapons with plutonium cores.
They had to manhandle the bombs and place them inside the warhead compartment. Considering the weight, upwards of 800 pounds, it took everyone’s best effort and a call for burly reinforcements to get the modified B-83 warheads into the warhead compartments of the EGBU-28 penetrator units.
After several false starts and a few scary moments, both warheads were gently put in place and secured.
At that point, Morrow and his team took over replacing the GPS guidance fins.
Gunnison said, “Gentlemen I present to you the EGBU-28/N: the two meanest bunker busters in the world.”
“Con Sonar, torpedo in the water! The P-3 Orion has dropped a mark 48 almost directly on top of one of the Akulas. Only a miracle will save him now.”
Captain Summers asked, “Where is the other one?”
Hayes said, “He’s doing just about what you expected him to do. The second Akula is moving toward us on a bearing of 225 degrees. He is headed this way trying to hide from the P-3’s Magnetic Anomaly Detector by sitting on top of the 30,000 ton wreck on the bottom.”
Summers ordered, “Weapons: make tubes one and two ready in all respects. Engineering: prepare for high speed maneuvering.”
Just as his men acknowledged his command, everyone head a crunching sound through the hull. The Orion’s mark 48 had found its mark.
It was one against one again.