Chapter 23 - Indian Country
Tom stopped at the mirror at the top of the stairs. He took a long look and didn’t recognize the person that he saw.
He had three angry red scars on his face from the shrapnel that he caught in the barn. His eyes were tired and ringed with fatigue and worry.
For an instant he saw Jeb Hutton’s furious face as he leveled a rocket launcher in his direction. He saw the impact of his slugs and the pink spray of blood and tissue bloom as the man went down and the streak of the rocket as it flew toward the barn.
He snapped back to reality like he was having a nightmare but he was wide awake. He stumbled and caught himself as he almost fell down the stairs. His face had beads of cold sweat and his hands were shaking. It was the first time in quite a while that he had time to slow down enough to process what had happened.
Were they right? Was it time to go home? He looked at the stranger in the mirror and shook his head. Something told him that where ever he went, he would always be here.
From somewhere downstairs he heard Brad, “Yo Tom. They want us to make another run.”
10th Army Field Headquarters
General Jackson and his South Korean counterpart Park Kim returned to their headquarters after their confrontation with the North Korean officer.
General Kim asked, “Do you think it was wise to tell them that our objective is Pyongyang?”
General Jackson said, “I was trying to rattle them. There is nothing they can do about it and they know it. Get your men fed and your vehicles gassed up. We kick off in two hours and we’re going to end this thing once and for all.”
National Reconnaissance Office
Director Harold Gold called his department heads into conference. He was in a hurry so he stood as they all got seated.
“Gentlemen. I just got off the phone with the President and he has a job for us. We need to provide before and after overheads on a list of thirty military installations inside the Peoples Republic of China. We need the information packaged and sent to the White House in ninety minutes.”
One of his analysts asked, “Before and after what sir?”
Gold replied, “The White House has intelligence that a faction within the PRC military is responsible for the current hostilities. A large part of the PRC military wasn’t even on alert when we hit back with a full third of the cruise missiles in the Air Force and Navy’s inventory. What we are looking for are bases that were actually on alert, had aircraft and equipment dispersed at the time of the attacks. You’ll be able to tell the difference. The guys that weren’t expecting it got their clocks cleaned. The guys that were expecting it are probably operational again or soon will be.”
“The President is going to make that case to the nation in a speech in a few hours. It’s our best chance to end this war quickly with as little bloodshed as possible and finger the bastards who are directly responsible for it. Are there any other questions?”
He looked around the table and said, “Good. Let’s get to work.”
Tom and Brad were getting ready for a supply run to Buena Vista Airport when Conner approached. Tom knew in a second that something was wrong.
As Brad put the big cooler in the back of the Hummer, Tom said, “What’s up?”
Conner said, “It’s the Colonel. Some Army officers just told him that his son is missing in action.”
Tom kicked an innocent dirt clod well off the road and said, “How many corpses is this damn war going to cost us?”
Brad asked, “How is he taking it?”
“I don’t know. OK I guess. He’s back in surgery.”
Tom said, “Doctors are like that. They can turn it off and work and deal with it later. My mom is the same way.”
Conner said, “Is there anything that we should do?”
Tom was pleased. Conner was learning to ask the right questions. He said, “Stay close and be ready. They’ll let you know.”
Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 6
Vandenberg’s launch control room was a blur of activity when General Rankin entered the room. Colonel Crenshaw, the launch director, shouted, “Ten hut!”
All of the officers and men stood at attention. It was rare for the General to insert himself into pre-launch activities but it was turning out to be a rare day. He approached the command console and said, “As you were. Colonel Crenshaw: where are we with the launch?”
Crenshaw said, “Looks like we’ve got about four hours of pre-flight to work through and we’ll be ready to light her up.”
Rankin said, “How far along were you when we scrubbed the launch?”
“We were done with the pre-flight and were on final countdown.”
The General said, “I’m going to make it easy for you. We are going to cut the pre-flight down to the boost, guidance and payload sections. That’s all that has been changed. We’ve already done the rest just a few hours ago and we need this bird to fly ASAP. Now- how soon can we fly?”
Crenshaw did a mental calculation and said, “An hour pre-flight, thirty minutes on final countdown.”
Rankin said, “That’s more like it.”
Andrew Chang’s team was tasked with unraveling the Asia-Pacific’s paper trail. The company sat astride the Pacific like a giant squid with its tentacles reaching out and touching countries all around the Pacific basin, Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East. It was a twisted nightmare of front companies, multi-jurisdictional international incorporation filings and blatant deception designed to confound tax collectors and hide the true ownership of Long Zhao’s vast commercial empire.
Sarah Kellum, the team’s forensic accountant, knocked on Chang’s door and said, “Boss. I think we’ve got something here.”
“Tell me about it Sarah.”
Sarah said, “For a devout Communist, Long Zhao has done a heck of a job as a capitalist. Open the email from me with the subject line Pyramid Biotech.”
Chang turned to his computer and opened the email. There was a huge PowerPoint attachment that he opened. It contained a complex diagram of Asia-Pacific’s ownership relationships, companies, fronts and notes.
Kellum began, “Back in the late nineties everyone wanted to get out of Hong Kong before the Peoples Republic took over. Companies that could relocate did. Others sold out either partially or completely at fire sale prices.”
“In 1998 the German agribusiness firm BRC had a bio research and production facility for veterinary vaccines and drugs in Hong Kong. BRC relocated the research division back to Bonn and sold off the facilities to a Malaysian investment group that flipped it to one of Asia Pacific’s front companies a few years later. While the paperwork was clearing, the new company hired the indigenous staff and purchased 450 million Euros worth of equipment and supplies under BRC’s name. It was enough stuff to equip a state of the art bio research lab. The sale went through without raising any red flags. After the Chinese takeover of Hong Kong, Pyramid expanded and built an even larger facility inside China itself.”
Chang said, “So this is how we think that Zhao’s people built up their independent bio-weapons research and development capability. I take it that we don’t have a smoking gun yet.”
Kellum said, “No smoking gun but I think we’re getting warm.”
“In 1998 the new company reformed and filed their incorporation papers in Hong Kong as Pyramid Bio-tech. Over the next four years Pyramid came out with a string of successful products: seeds for fast growing disease resistant rice, bacteria that eats oil sludge and fungus that is being used to decontaminate the irradiated areas around Chernobyl. Pyramid patented a method of DNA reverse transcription- the breakthrough behind their products. In late 2002 Pyramid was acquired by A3 Pharmaceuticals- Zhao’s Company.”
Chang looked at the complex web on his computer screen and said, “I read a report from USAMARID that says that the Smallpox that they hit us with is almost identical to the India-66 reference strain maintained by American Type Cultures. It’s been genetically altered to make the virus protein shell more durable.”
Kellum said, “I’ll bet you lunch that if we give the virologists at USAMARID the specs for Pyramid’s reverse transcription process...”
Chang finished her sentence, “…that they can connect the dots.”
Colorado Highway 24
Brad had been driving for almost an hour when the Hummer passed the Highway 9 junction. He gestured with his thumb and said, “Am I paranoid or is that the third biker I’ve seen?”
Tom looked at the motley looking biker. He was a pretty sorry sight; fat with long greasy hair and arms covered with tattoos. He said, “Yeah- I’ve seen them too. You think that it’s trouble?”
“How would they know who to hit?”
“I know that I’ve seen at least one of them talking on a cell phone.”
Brad asked, “Are you packing?”
“I’ve got my Beretta and an extra clip. You think that we are heading into an ambush?”
Brad said, “If we are, then the San Isabel National Forest would be a good place for it. It’s some of the most rugged country in the state.”
Tom said, “How are we set? I know this is a military hummer.”
“Yeah. It’s got Kevlar and bulletproof glass. That’s supposed to make it resistant to small arms fire but it is not armored likes the ones they are driving in Afghanistan. I’ve got my M4 carbine on the back seat. Of course we have the radio.”
Tom said, “Do you think we need to turn back?”
Brad said, “No. We may just be paranoid and we’ve got a job to do. Besides- I’ll take our gang over theirs any time and these colors don’t run. Just in case, I’ll let Sierra Hotel know to keep in contact while we cross the San Isabel National Forest.”
3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division
Sergeant Karl Ivers scanned the northern horizon ahead for threats. The big push would be kicking off in minutes and his platoon of Stryker M1127 Reconnaissance vehicles would be the first units into “Indian country”.
His platoon was spread over a front almost a kilometer wide on the west side of the railroad line with gaps of 100 meters between vehicles. Their mission was to scout ahead of the main force and locate enemy positions. They would then direct artillery, helicopter and air strikes against any serious enemy concentrations.
Suddenly his radio crackled to life, “Saber Lead to all Razors, roll out!”
Ivers said, “Roll out. Our objective is that clump of trees due north and two miles ahead.”
The Strykers of Razor platoon lurched ahead and started their run.
Almost immediately a variety of mortar and artillery fire began to drop. Chunks of shrapnel began pinging and clanking against the vehicles armor as they passed over open ground.
The driver yelled over the din of battle, “What about mines sir?”
Ivers yelled back, “We’re scouts. We’re here to find them.”
Suddenly a violent explosion rocked the vehicle. Ivers spotted the old T-55 tank, put a laser target designator on it and keyed his mike, “Saber, this is Razor 6. We’re taking fire from a tank and are painting him now.”
“Roger that Razor 6. Air strike is in bound.”
The crew heard an A-10 Warthog roaring over the din of battle to drop a Maverick smart bomb to silence the tank.
Ivers watched as Apaches flew in low and A-10s came in high and friendly artillery reached out to silence enemy positions as they exposed themselves. The combined weight of armor, air and accurate artillery fire were cutting through the North Korean lines like a hot knife through butter.
The Stryker pulled up to their first objective to find hidden trenches full of terrified North Korean teen-aged infantry men desperate to surrender.
“Saber Lead, this is Razor 6. Have contacted enemy infantry position in company strength.”
“Razor 6, do you need fire support?”
“Saber Lead, I request instruction for taking the surrender of an infantry company. They look hungry.”
“Roger that Saber 6. We’ll have to think of something.”
FEMA District IX Headquarters
As soon as Nightwatch was on the ground at Oakland International Airport, an Air Force Ground crew began servicing the plane. The San Francisco Office of the Secret Service had a detachment waiting at the airport. They hustled the President and his staff into a caravan of Black Chevy Blazers. Local police escorted the Secret Service Blazers up the Nimitz Freeway to High Street and to the FEMA IXth District Office.
When the President and his Chief of Staff arrived, they were directed to a conference room where the frazzled District Supervisor and his staff had assembled numerous maps covering a white board.
“I’m District Supervisor Rick Janson Mr. President. We’re glad to have you here.”
The President immediately took charge and said, “Where are we?”
Janson said, “We’re in very serious trouble sir. Most of our assets are in motion to the two major disaster areas. We have set up area command posts at Camp Pendleton for the San Diego area and another at Flagstaff to manage the Phoenix area. We’re getting help from District VIII out of Denver. They have sent their mobile headquarters to Flagstaff. We’ve got good support out of the National Guards and local law enforcement but this is just so big it’s hard to wrap your mind around it all.”
McMahan asked, “Do we have any idea on casualties yet?”
“It’s too soon to know. Phoenix has a population of 1.3 million inside the city limits and more in the metro area. There are 3 million people in San Diego County. All the survivors will have to be evacuated because of radiation. The task of taking evacuation alone is enormous.”
“Are there any specific problems that we have?”
Janson replied, “At this point, it’s a matter of time and distance. Our assets are in motion and we will deploy
McMahan asked, “What can I do to help?”
Janson said, “I know it seems obvious, but we need to declare a National Emergency as soon as possible.”
McMahan said, “Done.”
Janson said, “I’d like to federalize the Nation Guard in the South Western states, declare martial law in the disaster areas and declare exclusion zones.”
The President said, “I hate to step on the Governors of those states but I think it’s necessary. Can we get the paperwork done here? I’ll sign it and get the ball rolling.”
Janson said, “There’s another problem. The fall out is moving with the wind and we’ve got to keep people out of it. So far we’re handling it like bad weather alerts.”
McMahan said, “All we can do is warn the people but I’ll give local authorities Marshall Law authority in fall out effected areas.”
Tenth Army Headquarters
General Jackson and General Kim watched as the armored spearhead blasted its way north along the railway and road. Every time a unit unmasked itself, it was overwhelmed by concentrated and devastating combined arms firepower.
More and more North Korean units were simply surrendering and resistance was collapsing all along the front. What had started out as a gamble the day before was turning into a full scale rout. Resistance was collapsing.
As the two Generals were watching the progress of the offensive in their command post, a communications tech said, “General Jackson, Ingram from the SkyDrake team needs to speak with you.”
The General said, “Patch her through.”
Specialist Ingram’s voice said, “General. Something is going on in Pyongyang that you need to know about.”
Jackson said, “What is it.”
Ingram said, “There are two Chinese Airbuses lined up on the tarmac at the airport. They are loading up with VIPs and it looks like the rats are deserting the sinking ship.”
“How far along are they?”
“They are lined up for take off on two different runways. No wait. They are starting their take off runs.”
Jackson put her on speaker and said, “General Kim, it appears that the leadership of North Korea is flying out to China.”
Kim said, “No. If they take refuge in China it will never end. Can you shoot them down?”
Ingram said, “Something is happening General. The North Koreans have turned on one of their SAM radars. They are firing missiles at the AirBuses as they are trying to climb out. General, the North Koreans on the ground have just shot down both airliners!”
Colorado Highway 24
Brad topped a hill in the San Isabel National Forest and saw a man aiming a rocket launcher at their vehicle. As the rocket left the launcher Brad yelled, “RPG!”
He maneuvered the Hummer violently and the rocket slammed into the pavement on the right side of the vehicle. A second rocket was fired but this time it exploded under the Hummer flipping it up and over into a ditch on the side of the road.
When the Hummer flipped, everything that wasn’t tied down rolled free falling to the roof and when the hummer struck the embankment, the inertia flung the debris forward. The ice chest smacked Brad hard knocking him out cold.
Tom was left hanging upside down in his seat belt surrounded by a cloud of dust.
 Painting a target refers to putting a coded laser beam on a target so that a laser guided weapons can hit it.