Chapter 21 - Momentum
Brian, the Farmer twins and Colin spent the morning unloading trucks. The trucks would arrive in groups of four and the boys and soldiers would set up relay lines between the trucks to the large tents acting as supply dumps. The soldiers would use a bar code reader on the boxes and know exactly where they were supposed to go. It started out slow but after the first group of trucks, everyone knew what to expect and things started moving quickly. As the trucks arrived about every thirty minutes, it gave the boys fifteen minutes to catch their breath between loads. Between loads, Bobby raided the kitchen for some canned soft drinks and Brian brought out some folding chairs.
After a couple of hours work, Bobby noticed that Colin was being uncharacteristically quiet. He sat down in the chair beside him and said, “You are being awfully quiet. Are you tired?”
Colin said, “No, just a little sad.”
Ronny asked, “What’s wrong?”
Colin said, “I know that my Mom is dead.”
Bobby asked, “How do you
Colin sighed and said, “It is the way Conner and my Dad have been acting. I saw on the news that people that went to Cherry Creek Mall in Denver were getting sick and that is where Mom and my Aunt always go. She would never have gone this long without talking to me.”
Ronny gave his brother a look and said, “Are you sure?”
Colin rolled his eyes and said, “I may be a kid but I’m not stupid. I just wish that they would be honest with me.”
Bobby said, “Are you OK?”
Colin said, “I’ve had some time to get used to the idea but it gets to me sometimes.”
Bobby said, “We lost our Mom a few years ago.”
Colin asked, “What happened?”
Ronny said, “Mom was in a car accident and hurt her back pretty bad. They prescribed some pretty powerful painkillers and she took too many. She went to sleep one night and stopped breathing.”
Colin asked, “When does it stop hurting?”
Bobby said, “It never does. It just hurts less with time.”
The boys heard the familiar sound of trucks approaching.
Ronny stood up and said, “Talk to Conner about it. If what you suspect is true, he’s been carrying that around all to himself. It will help him to get that burden off his back.”
China Task Force Meeting
Deputy Director Daniel Reed stood at the end of a long oval conference table and called the meeting to order. Most members of the group were present but a number of them appeared via teleconference.
He said, “Ladies and gentlemen: I have to brief the President and the Joint Chiefs within the hour. I need to know what we know, what we think and what we suspect. I don’t need to tell you how much is riding on this so let’s get down to business. Mr. Austin, you’re on.”
A man on one of the monitors began, “I’m Richard Austin, Senior Analyst aboard the USS Okinawa in the Indian Ocean. This is what we have learned from the documents turned over to us by the Iranian defector. First: the conspiracy is at least six years old and involved meetings in Cairo, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong. In each case there was an office of Asia-Pacific Enterprises. Remember that name. We’ll be getting back to it.”
“According to the documents, it started out as a sort of a wooing process using low level operatives. At first it was modest- trading weapons and proscribed materials for cash, training and even sanctuary when things got too hot. As for the two sides, the Iranians and the Chinese were the dominate players in the Alliance. In recent years it got bigger and much more serious. The Chinese supplied a breeder reactor design and experts to the Iranians. Once it started, it escalated from there to missile and even nuclear warhead designs and critical parts to the Iranians in exchange for large payments of cash and gold bullion. In most cases it appears that Asia-Pacific provided cover for these covert activities.”
Andrew Chang of the Economic side of the China desk began, “Asia-Pacific Enterprises is a huge industrial conglomerate. We’re still sorting through all the fronts and aren’t even sure what all they control. What we are sure of is it is owned and operated by the Peoples Liberation Army. It has numerous branches and divisions that are obscured by international ownership and incorporation filings in numerous countries.
Asia-Pacific has many divisions which manufacture a diverse range of things ranging from ships, aircraft, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, computer components- all sorts of heavy industrial. They also provide equipment and weapons for the Peoples Liberation Army and we suspect special exports. They have been in constant trouble with us as they barely even try to hide their industrial espionage activities and run roughshod over patent law. Several of their divisions have been barred from US markets for counterfeit goods, blatant trademark and patent infringements. We have heard from a number of our embassy people that it seemed that Asia-Pacific Executives may have had prior knowledge of the conflict based on things that they said to trade contacts.”
“I’m Leo Sayer from the Military Intelligence side of the house. Asia-Pacific is run as a personal fiefdom of General Long Zhao- the leader of a powerful and influential faction in the Peoples Liberation military. His roots go back to Mao’s time. His father was a member of Mao’s inner circle during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria as far back as the thirties. As a young man Zhao served in irregular operations in Indo-China and is said to have been injured while in Laos serving as an advisor to the NVA…”
Reed said testily, “Cut to the chase, we don’t have time for a history lesson. Suffice it to say that Zhao is extremely well connected in the Peoples Republic.”
Sayers continued, “Zhao is the most powerful member of a group of senior Chinese military officers and industrialists. We know for a fact that military units operating in the attack on Taiwan were under the direct control of members of this group. Units under the control of officers that were not in Zhao’s circle weren’t even on alert before and even several hours after the conflict broke out. The submarines that launched on us were built in his yards. Of all of the players in the PRC, Zhao is the only one that we know of with the clout and connections to pull this off.”
Reed asked, “What about the Chinese public? What do they know?”
“Deloris Chow, I monitor their television and radio broadcast. The official state media claims that we attacked them without warning. They’ve tried to close down access to outside media but we know that many citizens there use the Internet to get information from outside sources. How much access that they have to any real information and how widespread it is anybody’s guess at the moment. From what I’ve seen, the Chinese public is scared and confused. There is a general distrust of the official state media in the country. They know something is going on and they don’t know the whole story. They know nothing of the nuclear strikes in the United States but the mushroom clouds from our strikes against their ICBM sites are all over their television.”
Reed said, “When I talk to the President, I am going to tell him that we’ve got a pretty good idea that Zhao is behind this.”
Sayers said, “Mr. Reed, there’s one more thing that you need to know about Zhao.”
Reed said, “What’s that?”
Sayers said, “In 1971 he was badly burned by napalm in Laos. It left him permanently disfigured and he has been rabidly anti-American ever since.”
Colorado Highway 24
Tom and Brad made stops at eight pharmacies all the way to the outskirts of Colorado Springs. It was the first time that Tom had been that close to home since it had all began. He fought the urge to jump out, go home and pretend that he had never heard of all this madness.
Brad was developing the annoying habit of reading his mind and said, “Should I slow down or are you ready to hit and roll?”
Tom said, “No. I’m in this thing to the end.”
“You know you don’t have to. You are a civilian. You can go home anytime you want to.”
“It is a lot more complicated than that Brad. Calling it quits and going home just isn’t an option anymore. We’re all in deep trouble over this mess and I’d just assume be someplace where I can do some good.”
Brad said, “That’s why they love you Tom. I hear that you and the boys are going to be on the cover of Tigerbeat this month.”
Tom groaned and sunk into the seat. “Good grief.”
“No good deed goes unpunished amigo. See if you can find something on the radio besides that Emergency Broadcast stuff.”
He played around with the radio and found some stations that were not taking the Emergency Broadcast feed and were playing the network news feed.
Authorities are condemning a rash of hate crimes that have been reported against Asian-Americans on the West coast.
News from the Western Pacific is looking up. Pentagon spokesmen report that the invasion armada approaching Taiwan was completely destroyed by airstrikes and a major breakthrough has been made in North Korea. The situation there is progressing rapidly and we should have more information through out the day. The network has told us that the President will be addressing the nation but the time has not been set. Stay tuned, we will bring it to you live.
The weather in central Colorado is warm and sunny with a possibility of evening showers. No fallout and Denver is still here; than God and the Air Force.
That’s the news and weather at the top of the hour. Now I’ve got a dedication going out to our military men from Carla in Westminster. It’s a double shot of AC/DC- Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and Highway to Hell: Carla says give them some and send them there.
Tom said, “Whoa, Clara sounds pissed.”
Brad said, “It’s not every day you wake up and find out somebody you’ve never heard of tried to nuke you. Turn it up.”
USS Sea Dragon
Hayes said, “Conn this is sonar: the Akula is sitting right on top of us and hovering. A sonabouy just landed on top of him.”
Commander Dawson said,
“It’s getting a little crowded down here Captain.”
Captain Summers said, “We’re way too close. Engineering: ahead dead slow. Weapons: we’re going to work our way around to his baffles and open up some range. Be ready to shoot. Be ready on countermeasures if that Orion jockey gets a sniff and drops on us.”
Dawson said, “Engineering is ringing up ahead dead slow. Steering course 270 degrees magnetic.”
Summers said, “OK, here we go. XO, call out our speed.”
Dawson said, “Making turns for five knots and coming up slowly.”
Summers said, “Sonar, I want to know if he twitches.”
“Conn, sonar: aye sir. The target is hovering at 500 meters aspect is unchanged. We are bracketed on four sides by sonabouys.”
“Conn, XO: we are coming up to five knots and opening the range.”
Summers ordered, “Begin making a big, wide turn to port to get in behind him.”
“Conn, XO: beginning turn to port in increments of 2 degrees.”
“Conn this is weapons: the torpedo in tube number two has failed diagnostics. Recommend deactivating tube 2 and putting tube 3 on stand by.”
“Weapons this is Conn: make it so. Leave the outer doors as they are. We’ll open the doors on tube 3 if we need it.”
“Conn, this is the XO: our speed is up to 10 knots and we’re opening the distance on the target fast now. We’re passing 1000 meters.”
Summers ordered, “OK, start coming back to starboard smartly.”
“Conn, this is the XO: Coming back to starboard in increments of seven degrees.”
“Weapons, this is the Conn: make tube 1 ready in all respects.”
Dawson asked, “Just one?”
Summers said, “If we miss, I don’t want to be running from our own fish and the Akula.”
“Conn, this is weapons: we have a solution on the Akula.”
Summer said, “Steady as she goes- let me know when we are at 1200 meters from the target.”
“Conn this is weapons: torpedo has solution and is programmed to activate at 1000 meters.”
Conn this is the XO: we are passing 1200 meters.”
Summers ordered, “Fire tube one, stand by on three.”
“Weapons to Conn: torpedo one is away.”
“Conn this is sonar: he heard us and he is trying to run. He’s trying to take off too fast and his props are cavitating. Our torpedo is running hot, straight and normal. Target is deploying countermeasures. Target is pinging.”
Dawson said, “Rookie mistakes.”
Summers said, “He has panicked. He is making all the wrong moves.”
Dawson said, “It’s not like he had any good options.”
“Conn this is sonar: our torpedo is in acquisition mode, 20 seconds to impact.”
Summers said, “Sound collision alarm. Everybody brace yourself- this is going to be very close.”
“Con this is sonar: Five seconds to impact.” Hayes took off his head set and braced himself.
The torpedo against the Akulas aft engine room bulkhead triggering several powerful secondary explosions was instantly transformed into pressure waves in the deep salt water that reached out at supersonic speed and hit the Sea Dragon like a sledgehammer. Everything that was dogged or tied down flew into the air, officers and men were thrown down and main power was knocked off line.
Re-Education Camp #36
Task Force Able
Captain Raines was ordered by General Jackson to fly into the captured concentration camp and take charge. He landed by helicopter in the big open area in the center of the camp behind the big administration building after a thirty minute flight.
Once on the ground he may have been in command but the enormity of the situation simply overwhelmed him. Several teams had landed before him and were well on their way accessing the intelligence that could be gathered. A fully equipped bio-containment team was on their way but it might be hours before they arrived.
All that he could really do was to stay out of the way and let his men do their work. He took a moment to drink some water and eat a snickers bar when he was summoned to the main building.
When he arrived, the Korean team very excited about some thing that they had found.
South Korean Intelligence Specialist Kang Gi approached him as soon as he entered the room and said, “The people at this camp were used as slave laborers to construct military fortifications all over the region. This was the office of their engineering supervisor. We have detailed plans for numerous dug outs, pill boxes and caves. And this…”
He unrolled a blueprint of the bunker complex under hill 339.
Tom could tell that something was up as soon as they returned. There was a pair of unfamiliar helicopters parked off the road and a string of vehicles were parked inside the main gate. There were two press vans with satellite uplinks wearing the logos of ABC and CNN.
Tom said, “Brad, what’s going on?”
Brad replied, “Beats me, I just work here.”
When they pulled near the barn, Jimmy was waiting for him and motioned for him to come into the house.
Brad took the cooler with drugs and headed off to check it in. Tom grabbed as many of the groceries as he could and went inside the house via the kitchen door. All the boys were inside and everyone was wearing gray BDUs.
The twins grabbed the groceries and Jimmy said, “Tom, get upstairs and put on the uniform on the bed.”
Tom said, “What’s going on?”
Brian said, “The Governor is here and is going to recognize your work since the crisis began.”
Tom said, “Awe jeez, just what I need.”
Jimmy said, “Come on Tom. I know that you are tired and hate this kind of stuff but this is important. God and everybody are going to be watching this.”
Tom rolled his eyes and said, “Who am I to let down God and everybody?”
Jimmy said, “Come on, let’s get ready.”
Tom mumbled under his breath all the way to his rack in the upstairs bedroom. Jimmy hobbled along behind him. He found the BDUs in a hanging bag lying across the foot of his bed. He quickly changed into them and was startled by two things: they were in perfect condition and they were a perfect fit. They were much better than the old hand-me-down set that he had. Everything was perfect down to the creases in the collar.
He finished changing, combed his hair and went by Jimmy’s room. His brother was having difficulty balancing on his one good leg but was almost done.
As he finished and turned around, Tom said, “You just don’t look right in that.”
Jimmy asked, “What’s wrong?”
Tom said, “You don’t look like the little brother that used to eat my crayons in that.”
Jimmy said, “I thought I had lived that down.”
Tom said, “You have, I’m just messing with you. Ready for the dog and pony show?”
Jimmy said, “Sure- they told us just to look charming and handsome. We can do that easy.”
Tom laughed and said, “Easier for some of us than others.”
* * *
The whole crew was assembled in the kitchen in brand new, freshly pressed gray BDUs. Conner and Colin looked a little down and Tom guessed that they had a long delayed talk.
The kitchen door opened and Barlow said, “You’re on guys.”
Tom led the procession followed by Brian walking beside Jimmy, the Farmer twins and the Henderson brothers. They were guided to the mess tent which had been expanded and had neat rows of soldiers and civilians in chairs facing a podium with the American flag and the Colorado state flags at its side. The boys were ushered to a row of seats.
General Braddock took the podium and said, “At ease. Please be seated. By an act of congress in 1866, as a General Officer in the Army of the United States, I am empowered to employ such persons with special skills within the United States or its territories during times of war and national emergency. Sadly we find ourselves during one of those occasions but have found a group of young people who have risen to the meet every new challenge. By a directive of my office and with the approval of our states governor I hereby activate a new unit in the Colorado National Guard: Ross’s Scouts. Tom Ross, could you approach the podium?”
Tom walked to the podium and the Governor approached.
General Braddock said, “Please repeat after me: I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Tom repeated the oath of enlistment. General Braddock handed him his unit insignia, the single gold bar of a 2nd Lieutenant and saluted him. Tom returned the salute.
Governor Rankin handed Tom a small jewel box with two medals and ribbons and said, “As Governor of the State of Colorado, It is my pleasure to award your unit with the Colorado Meritorious Service Medal and the Mobilization Support Ribbon. You and your friends have stepped up to face the challenges that these frightening times have thrust upon us all and have provided exemplary courage, willingness and devotion to our country and state.”
Tom tucked the box under his arm and saluted the Governor and returned to his seat. Over the next twenty minutes, each of the boys was called to the podium and awarded the medals. The short ceremony ended when General Braddock said, “Dismissed.”
The crowd melted away fairly quickly but Tom ran into a number of people that he had met since the crisis began. Al Powell and Dutch Kerstan were there as was Colonel Gaddis.
The moment that he had been dreading happened as he turned and there was a reporter with a microphone saying, “Do you have anything to say Tom?”
Tom said, “Yes I do. As we were out procuring supplies for the hospital today, I heard a disturbing report about hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans. I know that we’ve all been through a lot lately. It is completely understandable that people are angry and frustrated. Look- join the Guard, volunteer with the Red Cross- do something positive. Don’t take the law in your own hands. Don’t be part of the problem- be part of the solution.”
The reporter looked a little stunned and said, “Thanks Tom.”
As he turned around he saw his mother, father and Jimmy smiling at him from beside the kitchen door.