Chapter 22 - Ultimatum
NIGHTWATCH E-4 Airborne Command Post
President McMahan and his staff listened to CIA Deputy Director Daniel Reed’s briefing via a secure teleconference link. It lasted for twenty minutes and by the time it ended, the President’s blood was boiling.
McMahan asked incredulously, “All of this leads back to one man?”
Daniel Reid said, “It looks that way. We have sources inside China and have had no indications that anything was about to happen. All of our advance intelligence came from the Iranian defector and his documents.”
McMahan sat silently for a moment. “Our cruise missile attacks against their air fields and the attacks against their ICBM sites look like a first strike to their military and leadership. General Zhao played us and he played his own government. Now- he’s looking like the only military man in the PRC that was wide awake when the war started.”
Admiral Simpson said, “What was his end game and how has that changed?”
Reid replied, “It is obvious that he wanted to cripple the United States. If half of the missiles on those subs had landed, everything west of the Mississippi River would now be a radioactive wasteland. If the suicide ships had made it to Houston and New Orleans, well that would have just about been it.”
General Wainwright said, “Mr. President, our planned attack on the leadership bunker would be a terrible mistake. Our best hope for ending this thing quickly with out a long drawn out war rests with their leadership figuring out how this happened and who was behind it.”
McMahan said, “We have to figure out a way to get the truth out.”
Admiral Simpson said, “That won’t be easy. The PRC media is so completely controlled by the government and even they don’t have the whole picture.”
General Wainwright said, “What if we could break their media monopoly?”
McMahan said, “What do you have in mind?”
Wainwright said, “When the war broke out, we had a satellite on the pad at Vandenberg for DirectTV. When the war in the Western Pacific began, we scrubbed the launch. If we launched that satellite at into a high geosynchronous orbit and changed its programming and, knocked down their own satellite, then we would have a monopoly on their media.”
McMahan said, “How long would it take?”
Wainwright said, “Four to six hours to launch, another four to get the bird in the right orbit. We could be live in 8 to 12 hours.”
McMahan said, “Make it happen. It’s our best shot at ending this thing without killing a billion people.”
10th Army Forward Headquarters
General Jackson’s command vehicle was hunkered down in a gully awaiting the assault on Hill 339.
The pause in the offensive couldn’t have come at a better time. It gave his support units time to catch up with the spearhead. His tanks were busy gassing up and taking on ammunition for the first time since the 2nd Infantry Division and sprinted through the gap in the North Korean lines.
It also gave his artillery time to move up. His M109A6 Paladin and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System units, the thunder and lightning of his divisional artillery, set up behind a hill and were replenished and ready to dish out some punishment.
Suddenly the air was filled with the roar of low flying jets. Captain Bill Holland yelled, “Here comes that air strike you ordered General.”
Jackson said, “Did we get the updates in the target package to ICORP in time?”
Holland said, “We cut it close but I think so.”
The first F-16 jets came in low and fast in pairs and the fire works began. They dropped Paveway smart bombs and cluster bombs on anti-aircraft emplacements and were gone almost as soon as they had appeared.
The next wave came in two elements of six F-16. The first group flew over the hill dropping long rows of cluster bombs on troop concentrations leaving Hill 339 covered in dirty gray clouds of dust and smoke. The next wave of six F-16s followed the first dropping Mark 77 unguided bombs: the successor of Napalm. As soon as the bombs landed, the white phosphorous and jelled petroleum bathed the hill in roiling flames and black smoke.
Flight of two F-15 Strike Eagles
“Dagger flight this is ICORP.”
“ICORP, this is Dagger flight. Go ahead.”
“Stand by for an update on your target package.”
“ICORP- we’re on final approach, we don’t have time.”
“Break off and come around again Dagger, it is that important.”
Major Hartline said, “Dagger 2, you heard the man. Drop flares and chaff, break right now!”
10th Army Forward Headquarters
Suddenly two F-15 Strike Eagles flying in higher than the previous waves broke off to the southeast and flew over the command post.
The two Eagles flew out of view to the southeast but returned a minute later. The two aircraft flew over the objective and both dropped a single BLU-118/B laser guided thermobaric bomb. The two weapons tracked and followed the Eagles AGM-130 laser designator down to the hilltop and lanced deep into the bowels of the hill.
The first weapon penetrated sixty feet of dirt, rock and even concrete reinforcement. It exploded in a maze of tunnels on the south side of Hill 339 wiping out the troops that taken shelter from the air raid in the bunkers.
The second bomb penetrated 40 feet and came to rest in the reinforced concrete ceiling of a series of chambers that served as the hill fortifications ammunition dump. When the bomb exploded, it igniting the one hundred fifty tons of ordnance stored there blowing the top third of the Hill 339 all over the surrounding landscape.
General Jackson watched as the images from Sky Drake were relayed to his command vehicle. As the expanding cloud of smoke and debris obscured the hill he said, “Now that was impressive. Captain Holland, my compliments to the Air Force. It looks like we’re going to have to rename the objective Hill 275 after that.”
He keyed his microphone and said over the command circuit, “This is 2ID actual. Bravo and Charlie Companies move out. Alpha and Delta Companies stand by. Let’s bag what is left of that hill before the North Koreans have a chance to react.”
USS Sea Dragon
Captain Summers opened his eyes. He could taste blood in his mouth and had a splitting headache.
He tried to sit up but the familiar voice of Corpsmen Yates said, “Easy Captain. You have a concussion.”
Summers said, “What
“When we killed the Akula, we were hit by a shockwave that was amplified by the deep water and pressure. It knocked us around pretty bad. We have had a number of concussions and broken bones.”
“What is our situation?”
“Commander Dawson has the Conn. He managed to nail another Chinese Kilo about a half hour ago and we’re continuing our patrol.”
“Nothing serious Captain.”
Summers said, “What’s the prognosis Doc?”
Yates asked, “What day is it?”
Summers answered, “Wednesday.”
“Do you feel nauseated, have blurred vision or feel dizzy?”
“No. I just have a splitting headache and I think my nose is broken.”
“Let’s give you some aspirin and see how you are feeling after some sleep.”
“Aye- aye Doc.”
NIGHTWATCH E-4 Airborne Command Post
General Wainwright returned to the conference room.
McMahan asked, “What is the word from Vandenberg?”
Wainwright said, “We got lucky. They had not finished de-fueling the Delta IV rocket. They can launch in two hours and have the bird in position in six.”
Admiral Simpson asked, “What about the satellites programming?”
Wainwright said, “The hard part is encrypting channels and keeping ground stations synchronized. We’re trying to give the signal away and that’s much easier. The biggest job is calculating the new orbit but they’ll have those numbers double checked by time to launch.”
McMahan said, “It’s time to switch gears gentlemen. I need to be on the ground. Oakland is the FEMA’s District headquarters that covers San Diego and Phoenix areas. I want to be there.”
When the Ross family stepped into the kitchen, his mother said, “Go to the hills I said, lay low for a while I said, and then I see you on TV, hear about bombs and a gun fight, running around in the dark looking for a downed nuke and the circus out there. Is this what you call laying low?”
Jimmy’s eyes got wide and he exchanged glances with Tom. Almost in unison they said, “But mom…”
She smiled and said, “Got you.” She hugged her two sons and said, “You two have made us both very proud.”
Tom’s father said, “The Governor is even talking about putting a historical marker up here. Even my father didn’t get a historical marker.”
Tom said, “We didn’t really go out looking for trouble. The worst of it came looking for us.”
“Excuse me, I hate to intrude but we have some business to take care of.” The Ross family turned to see Adam Kirk standing in the front of the kitchen with a clip board under his arm.
Tom said, “Special Agent Kirk, what can I do for you.”
Kirk said, “You really don’t know do you?”
Tom shook his head, clearly puzzled.
Kirk said, “I suppose that it’s not that generally known but NEST has a standing reward of ten million dollars to anyone who finds a nuclear weapon and turns it in to us. You and your friend Brian are the first ever to qualify for the reward.”
Stunned, Tom turned a little pale and sat down in one of the chairs at the kitchen table.
10th Army Forward Headquarters
General Jackson’s positioned his new command post on the south side of Hill 339. The hill was still smoking and on fire in places but the objective was secure. Allied forces controlled the rail line and road.
Jackson was already talking to his staff, South Korean unit commanders and ICORP about the next stage. The consensus was that the North Koreans were on their heels and more pressure would bring about a general collapse.
He was about to enjoy a cup of coffee and a chicken salad sandwich when one of his staff officers said, “General, Captain Raines wants to speak to you. He says it’s urgent.”
Jackson took a sip of coffee and said, “Patch him through.”
There was a crackle on his head set and he said, “This is Foxhound, how can I help you Able?”
“Foxhound this is Able, there are several issues that I need to report. The bio-containment team is on site. They say that there are dozens of different pathogens in the freezer here. They are prepping them for transport to a lab in Japan along with the documentation that we have found on site. Be advised: they say that they have six different stains of Smallpox and fourteen strains of Plague.”
“Yeah. Roger that. The second issue that we’ve turned up is that there are numerous hidden bunkers behind our lines. The North Koreans have troops and equipment holed up and in bunkers and intend to pop out at night and raise hell with our supply lines. I strongly advise that we neutralize these sites with air strikes.”
Jackson said, “I expected that. I didn’t expect that we would find them this easily. Get those locations to ICORP ASAP for priority air strikes with my endorsement. What else?”
Raines said, “There’s another camp. It’s on the northeastern coast line in an isolated area on a plateau. It looks like the main one. The people here got orders and sent reports to that site. I suggest that we pass it on to the Navy and see if their Marines can grab it.”
Jackson said, “That sounds like a high risk Op. You think it is worth it?”
Raines replied, “It’s isolated, has a small garrison and it’s on top of a mountain. If they can grab it, they can hold it with air support from the carrier. Considering what I’ve seen here, the intelligence value makes it worth the risk.”
Jackson said, “I’ll send it up the chain and see what happens. Anything else?”
“No sir. Able out.”
Jackson started his chicken salad sandwich and was almost half done when another one of his staff members said, “General, Bravo Company reports that a jeep has approached their location under a white flag.”
Jackson took his sandwich and coffee to go and said, “I need a Hummer and a security detail. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
Tom’s mother asked, “Things
are getting back to normal at home. When do you think that you could come home
and get back to school?”
“I don’t know. It’s probably going to be a while. We’ve only just started with the Phoenix disaster.”
She said, “Tommy, you turn seventeen in May. You aren’t responsible for all this. You’ve done your part, you can come home whenever you like.”
His dad said, “She’s right Tommy. School is important. They’ll be restarting classes in a week or two and you need to finish out the year.”
“It’s not that simple. I can’t walk away. Not now.”
His mother said, “Why? You’re just a kid. Nobody expects you to fall in and be a soldier.”
Tom stood and said, “Come with me. There’s something that I need to show you.”
He walked upstairs with his puzzled parents behind him. He went to the door to his grandfather’s sun porch and unlocked it. He opened the door and said, “I’ve been keeping the kids away from this. The Army did a good job of hiding it but you can see it from up here.”
Tom and his parents walked out on the sun porch and could see rows and rows of body bags hidden by the ridge line. There were hundreds of them. Tom’s mother covered her mouth in horror and his father looked troubled.
Tom said, “That’s why I can’t walk away. How could I live with myself? You don’t know how much I would like to take the money and run and forget that I ever laid eyes on this nightmare. If I left now I would never feel right about it.”
Tom’s father said, “I understand. We sent a boy up the mountain. A man will be coming down.”
General Jackson finished his hunch in the Hummer.
The driver stopped twenty meters from North Korean jeep. Jackson and his counterpart, South Korean General Park Kim accompanied him forward.
The North Korean officer got out of his jeep and walked forward to meet them and said, “I have been authorized by my government to request a cease-fire and start peace talks.”
General Jackson said, “No.”
The North Korean officer’s eyes widened and said, “What?”
General Park Kim said, “We are in complete agreement with our American Allies. We have no intention of stopping our offensive to listen to empty talk while your forces regroup, reorganize and fortify their positions.
The North Korean said, “What can I tell my government?”
General Jackson said, “We expect North Korea’s unconditional surrender and for its leaders to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The North Korean shook his head in disbelief and said, “I can’t tell my leaders that.”
General Jackson said, “You can tell them, or I will tell them myself tomorrow when we take Pyongyang.”