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PHOENIX RISING!

 

PHEONIX RISING!

Copyright 2017 by Arthur W. Ritchie

Shakespir Edition

ISBN:

 

 

 

 

PROLOG

 

Between wars, armies create contingency plans for the next conflict, wherever that might be. But as this country headed toward economic and moral collapse, a secret group at the Army’s War collage created a plan to restore order here while, at the same time, eliminating the problems that had caused the collapse in the first place. Or, as the chosen were informed:

 

All nations eventually collapse in bankruptcy, but if necessary, you will be part of a plan that will restore this nation which, like the mythological phoenix of old, will rise from the ashes of the very problems you set alight, renewed and refreshed!”

[_ _____________ Intrepid _]

 

CHAPTER – 1

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11TH — 0800 – EDT

Office of Pentagon Planning, Major General T. Thomas Lyman Commanding

 

The gentle tap on his door was amplified by the tension running throughout the military.

“Come,” he called softly.

“Sorry to interrupt general,” his secretary said sticking her head around the door, “but another pouch just arrived.”

Neither the lanky general casually smoking a cigar, nor the aide he had been speaking with gave any hint of alarm as he beckoned her into his office where she silently placed the pouch on his desk. Her eyes met his asking if there be anything else. His reply was an almost imperceptible movement of his head indicating there was none and she left.

“Almost the end,” he said softly.

“Did you get any last night?” the aide he had been speaking with asked.

“One about 0200,” he said re-lighting his cigar before fishing a key from his pocket, “Guess I didn’t wake you huh?”

“No,” she said softly.

Opening the case, he fished out its single airtight envelope. “Remember when these started?” he asked pondering the envelope’s marking: Eyes Only — 30 — he would have 30 seconds to read its contents after breaking the seal. “Oh what the hell,” he said pulling the tab.

 

TROOP STATUSFRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 0752 – EDT

Troops defending cities: 2,371,445

Troops on prisoner guard duty: 321,817

Troops in reserve: 49,252

President expected to address joint session of congress tomorrow at 1200

 

“Less than 50,000 reserves,” he mumbled dropping the message on his desk where it fumed a moment before vanishing. The air was noticeably acrid as he slid the pouch across the desk to his aide. “Well, at least they’re airborne.”

“Will there be anything else general?” she asked taking the pouch.

“No Robby. Thanks.”

She left him puffing his cigar, his mind wandering back the few years to a meeting in the Oval Office just after a hurricane had devastated southern Florida.

“What a bag of worms you opened that day!” he chortled to himself as he thought of the president’s comments. “God! Did we take heat!”

His steely gray eyes scanned the smoke rising from his stogie. “But only you could have done it!” he mumbled, “The military’s always been too lethargic to move on its own!” And in his mind’s eye, he conjured up the image of that afternoon.

______________________

 

“What do you people do between wars?” the President had bellowed, “sit around with your thumbs up your ass? I’ve got a governor on the phone telling me his whole goddamned state is shut down! And what do you tell me?! You haven’t got the foggiest idea what we can do about it?!!! You haven’t even thought about peacetime disasters?!”

The president had paced his office in a towering rage glaring at them one by one — eyeball to eyeball — before leaning over his desk to snarl through clinched teeth, “I want a plan! I want a plan that’ll get those goddamned roads opened! I want to know what you’re going to do about getting communications up and running! I want to know what you’re going to do about temporary housing — what they’ll need in the way of water, portable kitchens, M.Ps to protect property — AND I WANT THAT PLAN ON MY DESK BY FIVE O’CLOCK TODAY! NOW ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS!?”

______________________

 

“Yes!” the smiling general whispered softly, “we were shaking in our boots when we left that one! Wonder how many expected ready-to-sign resignations on their desks when they got back to their offices?” He played with his cigar a moment, “Wish there had been a few more of them but — well — if we only hadn’t become so ritualized.”

 

It had caught them by surprise because they had become ritualized. After a war they’d sit around patting themselves on the back for a time before moving on to plan the next war while politicking for promotion. No one cared about peacetime disasters. There wasn’t any political clout in it. And even if someone had suggested it, it would have been shot down as a waste of time. Thus, the president’s order had found them embarrassingly confused and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had sworn on the spot that the military would never again be caught so embarrassingly off-guard. Even before the Florida relief effort was completed, General Lyman had been summoned to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ office.

“Tommy,” the CJC had said holding a written order in his hand, “you’ve been doing a fine job in Florida and as soon as you can break away from it, I’ve got a new assignment for you. And ah — Tommy ah — this one is officially unofficial. Understood?”

When General Lyman nodded his acceptance, the CJC had handed him the order:

 

TO: MAJOR GENERAL T.T. LYMAN, COMMANDER MILITARY PLANNING

FROM: CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS.

SUBJECT: STANDING ORDER FOR PEACETIME CONTINGENCY PLANNING:

 

UPON RECEIPT YOU ARE HEREBY ORDERED TO CREATE WITHIN THE MILITARY WAR COLLEGE A CONTINUING PROGRAM WHOSE MISSION WILL BE TO CREATE, MAINTAIN, AND TEST TO THE GREATEST POSSIBLE EXTENT, PLANS TO COUNTER ANY PEACETIME DISASTER.

THIS IS TO INCLUDE BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO: EARTHQUAKES, FLOODS, FIRES, CIVIL DISTURBANCES, ETC. IN THIS, YOU WILL TAKE INTO ACCOUNT ANY SITUATION THAT MAY OCCUR ANYWHERE OR ANYTIME WITHIN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES, ALASKA, HAWAII OR ANY OF OUR FOREIGN BASES OR TERRITORIES.

IN THIS YOU WILL PLAN TO USE SUCH LAND, SEA, OR AIR FORCES AS MAY BE REQUIRED

IN THIS YOU WILL REPORT TO INTREPID AND CODE NAME FOR THIS PROJECT SHALL BE PHOENIX.

ALL CHARGES FOR TIME AND MATERIALS ON THIS PROJECT WILL BE MADE AGAINST THE FLORIDA DISASTER ACCOUNT

OFFICIALLY, NEITHER INTREPID NOR PHOENIX EXIST.

 

“Understand what I’m looking for?” the CJC had asked as General Lyman looked up.

“Understood,” Lyman had replied as he pocketed the order.

 

“Yes,” he thought remembering that day and the ones that followed, “presidents and CJCs may come and go, but standing orders take on a life of their own! Whole forests have been turned into paperwork since then — never thought they’d be used though.” But the time to test Phoenix was fast approaching. Especially the civil disturbances part.

“The first riot got out of hand because that stupid-assed governor refused to ask for help,” he said softly tapping an ash from his cigar, “but by the third one, we didn’t wait! Just jumped in and kicked butt!” He smiled reflecting on how well it had gone.

“Yes,” he purred, “the first left 47 dead. The second was bigger but contained so fast we limited civilian casualties to three.” He looked at the ceiling, “We didn’t take fatalities until the third one. Still — when I pointed out the way they things were going nobody listened.” His revere was broken by a ringing telephone.

“Yes?”

“The president’s on the tube general.”

“Thanks Robby,” he said hanging up. His mind shifted to her as he touched the button activating the television set embedded in his office’s side wall.

He’d selected Colonel Rabbara Ingas as his top aide strictly on the basis of her ability, although few believed it. Second in her class at West Point, she had collected years of superior evaluations before attending the War College where she blew the lid off their historic test scores as one clever idea after another tumbled from her fertile mind. But to the unsophisticated, she remained the well-rounded blond goddess ever present at the general’s side — the Lightening part of the team Thunder and Lightning. Even those knowing her well usually described her to outsiders as, ‘Efficiency with tits!’ An expression that visualized itself in General Lyman’s mind as he waited for an image to appear on his wall’s screen.

“ … there’s simply no reason for alarm,” an obviously nervous president was saying, “and the widespread newspaper exaggerations are simply — ludicrous! One report has us abandoning whole sections of cities and — there simply isn’t any truth to it! As for reserves, I’m told by the Secretary of Defense we’ve got more reserves than we could ever possibly use! And the …”

“Bull shit,” Lyman said casually touching the set’s muting button. “And his harried expression tells everybody he knows its bullshit.” He crossed his office to a bar cabinet and poured himself a drink

______________________

 

The phlegmatic president of Florida disaster fame had come and gone as had several Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs. Yet each succeeding CJC had continued the age-old tradition of keeping standing orders in effect so that, by the time the riots had gotten out of control, Intrepid’s demands for plans of ever increasing depth and breadth had extended Phoenix to include the sub plans Peninsula, Cancun, Beach — the list was long — and each sub plan had sub plans. And they were all in place and ready to implement on a moment’s notice. But they had not been invoked because the president du jure was an effete crowd pleaser — a blustering wimp who turned to jelly when challenged by situations beyond his limited intellectual capabilities.

 

“God help us when they say he’s smart!’ the general snarled raising his glass in salute to the print of George Washington on his wall. “Now there’s a man who wouldn’t have put up with this crap!” he said admiring the stern unsmiling face. His phone rang and a quick glance showed it was the red button blinking.

“Yes sir!” he answered, involuntarily snapping to attention.

“Have you been listening to the president?” said the electronically altered voice of Intrepid.

“Yes sir. Ah — part of it.”

“Have you read the latest report?”

“Yes sir.”

“Do you believe it is time to act?”

“Yes sir! Possibly even a bit late.”

“Excellent! Then by order of the President, you will execute Phoenix – Peninsula at Firestorm plus 12 hours,” said the voice, and the line went dead.

“At last!” the general whispered as he pressed one of his phone’s buttons, “But what will history say?”

“Yes?’ said a voice without fanfare.

“Execute Phoenix – Peninsula at Firestorm plus 12.”

“Acknowledged,” said the voice hanging up.

“What will history say?” the general asked rhetorically.

______________________

 

Before that moment, federal troops had been limited to supporting local police and — even as one congressional folly after another had driven unemployment through the roof and the rioting had become ever more extensive and bloody — the president had steadfastly refused to expand the military’s involvement. Oh, he suspended Habeas Corpus and arrested rioters wholesale for a while, but that had calmed the situation only to create a false sense of security — a false hope that had reverted the nation to its usual apathy.

On the previous December 1st, the president had ended the state of emergency and, but days later, issued a general amnesty that, as he put it, “will release those held so that they can be home with their families for Christmas” — and the calm had continued. Even the following spring had been almost peaceful. Only on a particularly hot June 17th, when Los Angeles, Baltimore, Trenton, Washington, Detroit, Newark and 21 other cities exploded simultaneously did anyone realize that the pause had been used by dissidents to organize a nation-wide uprising. Then, within minutes of that news’ story breaking, Atlanta, Miami, Mobile and 17 other places went up in smoke in sympathy.

Within hours the nation’s shaky peace had collapsed into chaos, and for weeks a high casualty standoff kept the president hiding in his office refusing to discuss stronger measures and the question on the morning of August 11th was: Was it too late? Had the 26 days of relentless taunting undermined the military’s reliability? Would units consisting of 40% minorities fire into crowds composed of 90+% minorities?

General Lyman set his cigar down and touched the button reactivating the sound of his wall set.

“As you can see,” a reporter waving a pointer about a map was saying, “rioters control everything from Sixth Avenue in the East to the river in the West, and between 18th Street in the North and …”

A button was pushed advancing the set to the next channel where a voice-over to a flier on the screen was saying, “… more and more businesses are shutting down as fewer and fewer go to work for, as the flier says, why work when your house is burning down?”

The flier’s image was replaced by a frowning reporter. “This city is at a standstill and…” Another click — another channel.

“While military casualties are officially listed as under 100, we have it on good authority that the army’s casualties in this one city alone are running into the thousands with over 600 dead in just -…” a click and the seat went dead.

“Well,” General Lyman said looking at his watch, “12 hours and 22 minutes ‘til Firestorm — then 12 hours to …” and he realized even he had no idea how deeply into the plan he might be ordered to move. “Well,” he said as a smile crept over his face, “if you’re going to keep something a secret, then damn it, you don’t tell anybody! Wonder who’s running this show?” And well he might ask, for even he knew only as much of the plan as was necessary.

Picking up his phone, his secretary’s voice immediately answered, “General?”

“Tell Robby lunch in 10 minutes.”

“Yes Sir.”

The spare general with the sinisterly silent demeanor enjoyed being accompanied by his formidably endowed aide. She might appear young unto nubile and stacked unto o’rflowing, but the years had treated him well too. His deeply set, emotionless, gray eyes staring flintily from under his full head of steel-gray hair gave him the appearance of an annoyed eagle. And when the widower left for lunch, he took on a protective stance with regard to his young aide and — while no one thought these lunches were strictly business and a few went so far as to speculate privately that they might be having an affair — no one was about to go public on the subject.

They met in his outer office without a word and even as they stepped into the hall to head for the dining room, an M.P. closed and locked the general’s office door while logging the time. Time, was becoming important.

 

CHAPTER – 2

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1154 – EDT

Aboard the Missile Cruiser, U.S.S. Cooper

 

Newly minted Captain Kyle Wheelwright was striding the deck of his first command when his signal offices strode up. “Message sir,” he said.

Returning the salute perfunctorily, the Captain accepted it to read:

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11TH — 1141

TO: CAPTAIN KYLE WHEELWRIGHT — U.S.S. COOPER

FROM: ATLANTIC FLEET COMMAND

 

EXECUTE SEALED ORDER #34 AT FIRESTORM.

 

“My God!” he muttered with a start.

“Sir?”

“Nothing sparks! No reply.”

As the signal officer returned to his duties, the captain scanned the horizon of the crystal clear Atlantic. “Firestorm,” he whispered, “who would know about that unless they’d worked on Phoenix at the War College? Who else would know it’s the code word tripping an operation at midnight?!”

Going to his cabin, he leaned lightly on his desk. “The problem wasn’t theoretical!” he said staring blankly at his desk top, “We were really setting up a last-ditch tactical solution to save the government!”

Lieutenant Kyle Wheelwright had been out of Annapolis less than 13 years when he’d been sent to the War College. A lieutenant with all the minimal promotional probability that that implies in a peacetime navy. But immediately after graduating from WC he entered the fast track and a mere two years later was given command of the nation’s newest missile cruiser. He was not alone in wondering how he had gotten so far so fast. Now, he knew.

Opening the safe welded into the bulkhead in a corner of his cabin behind his desk, he removed the thin folio of sealed orders. It was a first for him, and he broke the seal carefully before wandering through its contents to find the envelope labeled #34.

 

TO: CAPTAIN KYLE WHEELWRIGHT — U.S.S. COOPER

FROM: INTREPID

AUTHORIZATION: PHOENIX IMPLEMENTATION

 

COMMENCE PHOENIXPENINSULA AS FOLLOWS:

CONTINUE PRESENT ORDERS REGARDING COURSE AND SPEED CONSISTENT WITH CHANGING COURSE TO ARRIVE AT PATROL STATION #61 AT CODE TIME PLUS 12 HOURS.

 

He looked at his watch, “1142, and Firestorm is 00:00:00, so Firestorm plus 12 is noon tomorrow. I’ve got 24 hours and 18 minutes to go ah …” And consulting the wall chart over the credenza behind his desk, he measured the distance to patrol station 61: “322 nautical miles,” he said thinking it no coincidence his former orders had positioned him to have plenty of time to reach his new destination on schedule. He thought a moment. “If I keep steaming at 23 knots for what? Maybe eight hours? Then give the order to return? Plenty of time to work out the math,” he thought before his mind flitted back to his stint at the War College.

“So Phoenix is operational,” he mumbled trying to recall the plans details, but only the labyrinthine security that had kept him from meeting more than a handful of others on the project team came to mind. “We’ve given up pussyfooting around — we’re going after them with everything we’ve got!” He squirmed in his chair in self-satisfied agitation. “That’s why we all did so well! They knew it was going to it hit the fan someday! And when it did, we’d all be out there — all in the right spots ready to go— no meetings or any of that crap — no chance of a leak! And we’d all be on the front line with sealed orders!”

As he sat back awaiting the operational orders he knew would follow, he chortled, “Wonder if our boys in the sky are keeping up their end?”

 

CHAPTER – 3

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1212 – EDT

Pentagon Basement Officer’s Club

 

Portly, Major General Ralph Stoddard was standing at the officer’s club’s bar when his aide rushed up.

“Eyes Only message sir!”

“Another one of these fucking speed reading tests,” he said taking it and waving it around to be seen by his lower ranking companions. “Okay,” he said aloud for one and all to hear, “this one’s a 10! Start counting — NOW!” and with that he pulled the tab and extracted the message.

 

FRIDAY AUGUST 11^th —^ 1140

TO: MAJ. GEN. RALPH STODDARDSATELLITE COMMAND

FROM: INTREPID

AUTHORIZATION: PHOENIX

 

IMPLEMENT PHOENIXPENINSULA UPON RECEIPT

 

“Anything wrong general?” his aide asked as the page disappeared.

“Let’s move!” the general shouted throwing a $20 bill on the bar and rushing toward the door.

“Why the hell did it take a half hour for that message to get to me?” he snarled over his shoulder as they raced through the door into the corridor leading to the garage.

“Because we’ve tried to keep in quiet that we drink our lunch General,” shouted the panting aide.

“Humph!” grunted the general jumping into his car, “SKYTOP War Room! NOW Goddamned it! MOVE!”

 

CHAPTER – 4

AUGUST 11th —1225 – EDT

Pentagon Communications Center – Message Distribution Control Unit

 

“Holy shit!” chortled the young clerk leaning over the code machine.

“What have you got Sarg?” her supervisor asked walking up behind her.

“Check this out!” she said tearing the sheet of clear text from the machine and handing it to him:

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1217

TO: GENERAL WHALEN SMITH COMMANDER CONTINENTAL TROOPS

FROM: MAJOR GENERAL T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNINGDELIVER INSTANTLY UPON RECEIPT

 

GENERAL: FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE THAT BROUGHT YOU

 

“Good Grief!” the supervisor mumbled wondering if he dare deliver such a message, but remembering the chapter and verse of his duties, he simply returned the message to the clerk. “Confirm authorization and — well — if it checks out, deliver it!”

“R-i-g-h-t!” she replied turning away with a smile.

“Oh ah — by the way,” he called after her, “if it does check out, send it Eyes Only. No sense putting our butts on the line if the big boys change their minds and decide to make-up!” She resumed her trip knowing full well that a clear text message like this would be all over the Pentagon in minutes.

“And remember!” he shouted down the hall after her, “It’s a deliver instantly!” She nodded without turning around.

A gentle rap on his door interrupted General Smith’s meeting. “Yes?”

“Deliver Instantly Eyes Only message for you general,” his aide said walking in and handing it to him.

“Would you like me to leave?” the colonel who had been speaking with the general asked beginning to rise.

“No, no, stay put,” the general said waving him back to his seat and opening the message. “Time stamp: 1217 on regular paper, copies all over the place!” he thought. He read it, flipped it casually on his desk, dismissed his aide and — turning back to the colonel — went on as if nothing had happened. “What were we talking about?” he asked blandly.

“General Walker sir. We were talking about General Walker’s comment that unless his troops could return fire, we shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a mutiny among the troops outside Detroit.”

“No, no, no! We can’t return fire or anything like that! The president’s direct order is unambiguous. We will not start a massacre by firing on our own citizens! What we can do though, is to see that our troops are comfortable. For instance,” he said looking toward the ceiling, “I want you to get an immediate directive out to all our field units asking about — well?” he snapped imperiously as he turned back to the colonel, “where’s your notebook!”

“Yes sir,” the dejected staffer replied pulling the ever-present pad from his pocket.

“Three things,” the general began dictating casually, “First, I want every ground commander believing a mutiny might be in the offing in my office at 1200 hours tomorrow! Second: I want a status report from every field commander on the number and condition of their field shower units and ah — have them give me a count and condition report on their spare canteens!”

“Jesus H. Christ!” thought the colonel staring blankly at the floor, “The country’s zipping down the crapper and this nitwit is worried about some goddamned field showers and canteens!” But he wrote the items down and meekly went on, “that’s only two things general.”

“Well damned it,” bellowed the general, “then make it two things!”

“Yes general,” the colonel said rising to leave, “will there be anything else?”

The general thought a moment before walking to his trusted aide’s side. “Bill,” he said putting his arm about his aide’s shoulder in a fatherly way, “you probably think I’m crazy to be worried about little nit-picky stuff at a time like this but — we only follow orders. I can’t authorize troops to fire on citizens any more than you can! But I can show the men I’m thinking about them. Now,” he said removing his arm and bracing as if to buck up his own courage, “you get along and get those orders out! I want to see confirmations on my desk within the hour! And don’t forget, I’m expecting you to personally check with every one of those guys who think there might be a mutiny! If there’s even a hint of it, I want that man’s name on my desk in an hour and his ass in my office tomorrow! Understood!?”

“Yes sir,” said the colonel leaving.

“If this country gets flushed,” he mumbled as he walked the few steps to the Pentagon’s communications center, “it’s because of sweet, kind, gentle, jackasses like him.”

___________________

 

Alone in his office, General Smith reread the message. “At last!” he mumbled checking his watch. “Less than 24 hours to go! God, I hope we can hold it together that long!”

Sitting back in his chair, a smile crossed his face. “How simple it is really!” he said softly. “Just ask for something so dumb it seems natural and it triggers the whole thing!” And he thought about how, all over the country, officers would be broken into two groups: the vast majority believing the army was acting as stupidly as ever — and those few who knew exactly what field showers and canteens meant — and what had to be done — and when.

 

CHAPTER – 5

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1242 – EDT

Commander’s Office — Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

 

Fort Leavenworth’s normally a quiet place. A military prison whose commander spends their tour of duty trying to expunge their record of whatever folly got them stationed there in the first place. Thus, there was considerable excitement when a priority action order arrived during the fort commander’s daily staff briefing.

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11TH — 1225 – EDT

TO: BRIGADIER GENERAL WENDELL JONES, COMMANDING OFFICER, FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS.

FROM: CONTINENTAL COMMAND

 

YOU AND YOUR IMMEDIATE STAFF WILL PROCEED VIA FASTEST AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION TO PENTAGON TURNING TEMPORARY COMMAND OF FORT LEAVENWORTH OVER TO MAJOR BENJAMIN LARKIN.

 

“Well, something’s going on!” General Jones said handing an aide the order.

“Yes sir,” the man replied reading it, “but, well, why would they put a major in command? I mean, he’s only been here a couple of years, he’s been working on some computer system that — you know, I’m not even sure he knows what we do.”

“I know!” the general answered disgustedly, “But in case you haven’t heard, this is the army. Make the travel arrangements and get back to me. Oh! And ah — you’d better send the Major in to see me.”

 

“Major Larkin, please sit down,” the smiling general said waving him to a chair. “Several of my aides and I have been called to Washington and I’m ah — I’m placing you in command of the fort. Think you can handle it?”

“I believe so sir,” the short stocky major replied knowing full well what was happening.

The general eyed him suspiciously. “You’ve only been here a short time Major and ah — you always seem to be hidden away in that computer room of yours. Can I ask what you’ve been doing down there?”

“You can ask sir, but I have no authorization to reveal that information.”

“Yes, of course,” the general replied feeling a bit put upon, “but I feel a little strange turning the fort over to ah — a major with almost no experience commanding anything, let alone a prison.”

“Well,” replied the major with a hint of sarcasm, “that’s a decision you’ll have to make.”

Both knew there was no decision involved. Both knew the order had come from Continental Command and was as unambiguous as it was inarguable. Still, the general was curious. The nationwide unrest had every officer obeying orders meticulously with an unusual lack of political consideration, yet somehow, this seemed strange beyond measure.

The general stared at the major a moment. “We’ll be leaving as soon as transportation can be arranged and — well, is there anything I can do for you before I leave? Anything you’ll need?”

“Well, there are a few things I’d like to be brought up to date on. May I feel free to talk with your staff?”

“Of course,” the general replied waving him toward the door while picking up his telephone, “I’ll make arrangements immediately! But make it snappy, we’re leaving ASAP!”

As the major reached the door, an entering lieutenant colonel waved him to a halt. “No need to request transportation General! Continental Command has sent a helicopter and it’s landing in the compound now!”

“Well, that’s that!” the general announced rising and hanging up his telephone. “Major, I officially turn the fort over to you as of …” and he looked at his watch, “as of 1451. Make a note of that will you Colonel?” he said walking toward the door past his aide.

“Yes sir,” said the colonel grabbing his ever-present notebook as he and the general left with Major Larkin watching them go.

As soon as they were gone, the major and picked up the telephone on the commander’s desk.

“Yes?” came the instant reply.

“This is Major Larkin, will you please come into my office for a moment please?”

“Of course sir.”

 

Turning to meet his new secretary, he noted her name tag: ‘M.Sgt. Mary Baxter.’ He knew her name of course, but he had never actually met her and wanted to match the name with the face.

“Sargent, I’ve been placed in command and ah — you did you know that, didn’t you?”

“Yes sir. Word’s getting around pretty fast these days.”

“I’m sure it is. Anyway, I’d like to meet with what’s left of the staff and my computer people in 10 minutes.”

“Yes sir, will there be anything else?”

“No Sargent. Only that incoming messages are going to be important and anything you can do to speed them to my desk will be appreciated.”

“Understood,” she said saluting smartly and leaving.

“God! I hope I’ve got this right!” he said trying to remember the orders he’d been given for just such a situation.

At exactly the end of 10 minutes, there was a tap on his door.

“Come!” he said rising to greet the fort’s senior officers for the first time as their commander.

“Please be seated gentlemen,” he said waving them to chairs but immediately corrected himself, “Ah, ladies and gentlemen,” he said smiling and nodding to the several female members of the staff. “As you probably know, General Jones and several of his people have been called to Washington on short notice and I’ve been placed in temporary command of the fort.” He looked around for any questions. There were none.

“Now, for those of you who’ve been running the fort’s day to day operations, is there any difficulty I should know about? Or can I assume you can keep everything running until the general’s return?”

Several looked around among themselves before one looked up to make eye contact. “Nothing unusual major, I see no reason why we can’t keep things running.”

Noting eagles on the man’s collar, Major Larkin checked his name tag which read: ‘Colonel Michael Coleman.’

“Thank you, Colonel,” he said without a hint that there might be anything unusual about his commanding someone two grades higher than himself, “I’m placing you in charge of the fort’s day to day operations until further notice. Now, if there is nothing else …” No one moved. “Okay then, that’ll be all for the regular fort personnel, you’re excused.”

Waiting until they had gone, he turned to his computer specialists. “People,” he began informally, “this cuts our schedule from months to days and I want those machines humming ‘round the clock on an absolutely top priority basis. I know you’re all tired, but this is critical. Now — is there anything I can do to help you speed things up?”

“Well,” said a voice from the rear.

“Morrison?!” the major asked.

“Major, there are several computer hackers among the prisoners and — well, if we could use them to give us a …”

“Consider it done!” the major said smiling, “Prepare the order and I’ll sign it. Anything else?” he asked glancing around quickly, “Then let’s get to work!” And they fled rather than left his office.

 

CHAPTER – 6

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1247 – EDT

Commandant of U.S. Marines Office — the Pentagon

 

“Have you seen this!” an aide asked handing a message to the Marine Commandant.

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11TH — 1217

TO: GENERAL WHALEN SMITH COMMANDER CONTINENTAL TROOPS

FROM: MAJOR GENERAL T. THOMAS LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNINGDELIVER INSTANTLY UPON RECEIPT

 

GENERAL: FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE THAT BROUGHT YOU

 

The general returned the note with a broad grin. “Now, now,” he chuckled, “we can’t let these little army spats cause us any worry!” As the aide moved off, the general called after him, “Ah, Bob! I wouldn’t want to cause any hard feelings by having that spread around.”

“No, no, of course not general!” the aide said instantly tearing the fax sheet to shreds and ostentatiously dumping the pieces in a wastebasket.

As General Walter Wheeler Collins sat behind the Commandant of U.S. Marines’ desk, a sigh of relief issued from his weary lips. “So it’s on in less than 24 hours,” he said leaning back in his chair, “and, people being people and fax machines being fax machines, everybody that’s supposed to know about it does! Well! I’m ready!”

He stared out the window behind his desk toward the capitol invisible in the distance. “You had your chance Bubala,” he whispered as he reached for his telephone, “and you blew it.”

“Sir!” his aide replied.

“Staff meeting in half an hour,” the general said hanging up. He continued to stare out the window wondering how it would turn out. He too had orders for use in times of crisis; he too report only to Intrepid during an uprising; and he too wondered who Intrepid might be. But he also knew that — if and when Phoenix was invoked — it would only be because a part of the military had revolted — that communications had been corrupted — that it was every man on his own to implement his part of the plan without further coordination except by code words buried in innocuous messages.

“Yes,” he thought, “it was wise to plan for the day it might come to this. Then there would be this handful who would — well, what do we do?” he wondered. He could speculate, but even he had no idea what the total plan might be. It had been presidentially sanctioned and could only be invoked by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs himself — and that was good enough for General Walter Wheeler Collins.

“If all hell broke loose,” he thought, “and they had code books, computer code crackers and all the rest — well how the hell else could you retake control?”

___________________

 

As his star bedecked staff entered the room, he eyed them carefully. “No,” he thought, “no traitors here.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “within 24 hours, I’ll be issuing combat orders to all our base commanders. In the meantime, I want you to — and this is unofficial now — cancel all leaves and get all our unengaged units on full alert as quietly as possible.”

As he looked around, he could see the relief on their faces. “Yes,” he went on, “we’re striking back, but this must be kept absolutely quiet!” Then leaning toward them confidentially he went on, “Effective midnight tonight, I want every marine ready to move on a moment’s notice — all our helicopters on the tarmac ready to roll — every gun loaded and ready for use — and I want to reach combat readiness without any leaks! Now are there any questions?”

“How do we arm the helicopters?” General Meter asked from the rear.

“I see your point,” he said remembering their multipurpose capability. He thought for a moment, “battle armament — all the ammunition they can carry — off-load all the rescue crap! They won’t be doing any of that until they’ve expended their ammunition.”

“Understood!” she replied.

“Any other questions?” he said looking round, “Okay, let’s get going! But remember, when I said all leaves are canceled, I especially meant you! Stay within easy reach until further notice. “And,” he said looking pensive, “you’d all better order emergency transportation in case we have to put out a brush fire somewhere.”

He could feel their exhilaration as they left.

“Yes!” he whispered watching them go, “now we’ll show the bastards a few things!”

 

CHAPTER – 7

FRIDAYAUGUST 11^th —^ 1300 – EDT

Pentagon Office of Planning, Major General T. Thomas Lyman Commanding.

 

General Lyman returned from lunch to find another locked pouch awaiting him. “Again?” he muttered opening it.

 

“STATUS AS OF FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1245 – EDT

Troops defending cities: 2,379,811

Troops on prisoner guard duty: 321,915

Troops in reserve: 40,788

President may advance time of address to joint session now scheduled for 12:00 tomorrow

Confirmed — no further troops available from overseas assignments.

Confirmed — no further troops available from guard duty.

Confirmed — Detroit essentially lost and in flames. Florida: Contact lost with troops on route US #1 between Miami and Fort Lauderdale

 

“Let’s hope he advances that meeting,” the general mumbled.

“Sir?” his aide asked.

“Nothing Robby. I was just thinking how much better it would be if the president pushed up his meeting with congress.”

“Yes sir,” she replied knowingly. Even though General Lyman commanded the War College, the sheer quantity of paperwork had kept him from mastering even the details of Operation Phoenix that his group had created. And, to maintain as much secrecy as possible, the plans from the various war games groups had been funneled through the general’s various aides so that no one of them had been exposed to the whole plan, but he knew Colonel Ingas was fast and you didn’t have to spell things out to her.

“How much have you figured out?” he asked while lighting a cigar.

“Most of it.”

“Really? Well if you know, I guess everybody knows!” he said blowing a perfect smoke ring across his desk.

“Not necessarily sir,” she replied with a smile, “not everyone listens to you talk in your sleep.”

They were both laughing when there was a knock on the door.

“Come!” he called.

“Whole batch of dispatches,” said an aide sticking his head around the door. The general waved him in, took the dispatch envelope and waved him from the room.

“Let’s see how we’re doing,” he said opening the envelope.

 

TO: MAJ. GEN. T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNING

FROM: U.S.S. COOPER, CAPTAIN KYLE WHEELWRIGHT COMMANDING

PHOENIX BEGUN. AT PENINSULA BY FIRESTORM PLUS 12.

 

TO: MAJ. GEN. T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNING

FROM: SATELLITE COMMAND: MAJ. GEN. R. STODDARD COMMANDING

PHOENIX BEGUNTIME OF SKYTOP AT PENINSULA STAGE ONE ESTIMATE: 1415

 

TO: MAJ. GEN. T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNING

FROM: CONTINENTAL COMMAND: GEN. WHALEN SMITH COMMANDING

PHOENIX BEGUN. AT PENINSULA BY FIRESTORM PLUS SEVEN.

 

TO: MAJ. GEN. T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNING

FROM: FORT LEAVENWORTH: MAJOR BENJAMIN LARKIN COMMANDING

PHOENIX BEGUN. AT PENINSULA BY FIRESTORM PLUS 10 HOURS.

 

TO: MAJ. GEN. T. T. LYMAN COORDINATOR OF PENTAGON PLANNING

FROM: U.S.M.C., GENERAL WALTER WHEELER COLLINGS COMMANDING

PHOENIX AT PENINSULA.

 

He handed the messages to Robby. “Well, it’s kicking off well enough!” he chortled walking around his office. “You can always count on them when the pressure’s on.”

“Considering they’re all hand-picked and it has to work,” she replied

He looked at her suspiciously. Sure he had chosen her for her brains, but what if there were some perverse streak in her he hadn’t counted on?

“You needn’t worry general,” she said as though reading his mind, “if we hang, we’ll all hang together.”

“Y-e-s,” he said slowly staring at her — wondering how much she knew — and wishing he had spent more time reading the paperwork that had crossed his desk through the years.

“Sir,” she said with an unusual formality, “we’ve got some time to kill — how about we watch the tube and see how bad it’s gotten in the past few hours.”

“No, let’s sit down,” he said returning to his desk, “and I’ll bring you up to date on what’s happening. You’re too far into this to be kept in the dark any longer and — well it may get hectic around here in a few hours and I’d like you at my side and up to date when it does.”

“May get hectic?” she laughed.

“Where shall I begin?” he asked.

“Well, for one thing, if the president’s considering moving his meeting forward, you might want to prepare orders to move the Cooper into position immediately after SKYTOP’s been neutralized.”

He froze in his chair. “I was going to bring you up to date, remember?! How can you know …”

“Come on Tom!” she said reaching across the desk to put her hand on his, “I worked on the ass-end of this project, remember? And if you work on the end of a project and see a lot of the reports coming through the office — let’s just say you don’t have to be a genius to figure out what comes before the end.”

“Could she know more about this than I do?” he wondered.

“I’m sorry Intrepid didn’t tell you about that when he recommended me for your staff, but — let’s say, if Phoenix has to be implemented, I’m glad I’m here working for you!”

“I see,” he said becoming very professional, “and ah — under the circumstances, what would the lady who worked on the ass-end of the project suggest?”

“As I said, I’d be preparing to bring the Cooper to the next stage of readiness.”

“Uh huh! And that step would be?”

“Cancun,” she replied as though there for no other purpose than to enlighten him.

He stared at her a moment. “Prepare the order,” he said.

She winked as she left his office.

 

 

CHAPTER – 8

FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1410 – EDT

War Room of SKYTOP — U.S. Satellite Surveillance

 

Less than two hours after fleeing the Pentagon’s basement Officer’s Club, General Stoddard was standing with his hands clasped behind his back on a platform overlooking the SKYTOP Operations War Room.

“Message sir.”

The general reached for it while checking the war room’s clock, “I told Lyman I’d need the stage one message at 1415 and I get it at 1415. Things are starting well,” he thought.

“Ask General Bills to join us,” he said, and as his aide left to find the satellite center’s commanding officer, Stoddard paced about nervously. “This is the tricky part,” he thought, “it all hinges on the next few minutes.”

 

“General Stoddard! Good to see you,” the facility’s commander said striding up, “but ah — how did you and your staff get past my security people without my knowing about it?”

Not a particularly original officer, General Bills was perfect for his assignment. Still, a two-star getting past his security stations on a snap inspection could cost him dearly on an efficiency report.

“Bills,” said Stoddard returning the salute and extending his hand with an overly generous familiarity, “can we speak alone?”

Both excused their aides and headed for the base commander’s office where Stoddard went on, “We’re having a snap alert tonight and — well, I could hardly allow my name to appear on your security logs now could I?”

“Of course,” Bills said as his superior looked around the operation commander’s office with a satisfied expression, although he was really practicing his speech.

“I’m going to be awakened sometime tonight and given orders to proceed here — probably a little before 01:00 with orders and ah — well, I thought we’d all look better if we had a little time to ah ….”

“Of course general,” said Bills without a hint that prior notice of a surprise operation might be in any way unusual.

“Nothing’s going on so I guess War College is going to make us earn our keep,” Stoddard said looking at him directly, “They want to check our response to anything that might come up we haven’t thought about. An attack not covered by contingency plans — that sort of thing. For instance, suppose somebody caught us off guard and wrecked our usual first response channels?”

Bills looked at him blankly as if not quite understanding.

“You’d be our last-ditch eyes and ears! Right?”

“Oh! Yes!” said Bills at last waking up to the power such a situation would give him, “You’re right of course!”

“Well,” Stoddard went on, “that’s why I’m here. Sometime around 01:00, I’m going to be popping in with a formal order that reads something like this,” and with that he handed the message he’d just received to General Bills. Its envelope was marked Eyes Only — 60.

 

Upon receipt, you will place the facilities of SKYTOP on a full wartime footing with the objective of overcoming any real or perceived failures of contingency war plans. To facilitate this, the bearer of this order will present you with various scenarios which you will proceed to solve to test your facility’s ability to rapidly respond to emergency procedures. However, regardless of scenario given or response taken, you will maintain all logs that a complete critique of your actions can be made.

___________________

 

“Thanks Ralph,” he said as the paper began fuming in his hand.

“He bought it!” the two-star thought.

“Remember,” General Stoddard said shaking a finger at the base commander, “we’re all bucking for another star and the results of this are going to wind up in our 201 files!” Even a general as typical as Bills knew what that meant.

“Ah — about 0100 you say?” he asked.

“Yes,” Stoddard replied moving to the huge Mercator projection of the world on the wall behind the base commander’s desk, “and you might do well to spend the afternoon thinking about attacks from obscure places such as ah — oh …” and he scanned the map while moving a pointer about randomly, “let’s say the Iraqi’s managed to place a few suborbital missiles on a barren island in the ah — let’s say the Amazon River basin,” he said tapping the site with the pointer. “Or ah — say — in the Falklands. Something like that?”

With his pointer still on the map in the general area of the Falkland Islands, he turned to General Bills and winked. Then putting down the pointer, he turned to leave.

“Oh, by the way,” he said almost as an afterthought, “if you have no objection, we’ll be making a pass through your communications room before we leave?”

“Feel free!” Bills said with a knowing nod showing him the door, “And thanks again Ralph.”

“You can go far in this army with friends like that,” he muttered as he waved goodbye.

 

Striding toward his aide standing at the center’s exit, General Stoddard said, “Colonel, get the following message to Pentagon Planning. ‘To General Lyman, etc., etc., etc., at Peninsula by,’” and he looked at his watch, “better give him an hour or so — okay, make that ‘Peninsula at 15:15’ — now get that out as a top priority message!”

As General Stoddard walked to his car and his aide rushed off to SKYTOP’s communications center, General Bills was speaking to his secretary, “Staff meeting in my office in five minutes.”

 

“We’re having a surprise drill tonight,” General Bills began to his assembled staff, “and I want you to start preparing for it immediately. The assumption will be that our nation’s been attacked in a way we haven’t prepared for, and the brunt of formulating our military response will be developed from information supplied by SKYTOP.” General Bills then went silent, for he had no idea what should come next and was counting on his staff’s input to develop a plan.

“What exactly should we be planning for?” a young major asked, “an attack with a new type weapon? From a site we haven’t been monitoring? A …?”

“Ah,” the general jumped in as he remembered the clues his boss had given him. Opening a collapsible pointer, he moved to the map behind his desk as if in deep thought.

“We constantly monitor launch sites in such places as …” he said waiving his pointer around randomly, “in the old Soviet Union,” and he tapped various known silo sites in Russia and the Ukrainian with his pointer, “but from this moment, I want you to start looking at unlikely launch sites. Places we’ve never considered before. Places too unlikely to be bothered with.”

“Such as?” Major Stinson, a man in his early 30’s who had just returned from a stint at the War College, asked.

The general turned back to his immense map and appeared to study it for some time. “Let’s start by looking at places like ah,” and he slowly moved his pointer southward to end up meandering around Brazil. “Let’s look at islands here in the Amazon River Delta and ah — here!” he said moving his pointer randomly southward over Argentina and then eastward to end up in the general area of the Falkland Islands.

To those watching carefully, Major Stinson flinched. “So that’s why this idiot is here!” he thought, “He’s a messenger boy! Amazon Delta! Falkland Islands! Phoenix is on!” In that moment, a young major realized there were two armies: The obvious one of the General Bills’ of this world, and the hidden handful deeply buried in critical places. “How simple,” he thought, “to have earth shaking events tripped by the innocent words of a fool! And with almost no one knowing any more than their own little piece of the plan. Not even knowing who’s commanding it! Talk about security! How could an enemy get at our leadership when even we don’t know who’s running the show?! What a plan!” he was thinking as he noticed General Bills staring at him.

“What should we drop?” Major Stinson asked ending the embarrassing lull, but the general only continued to stare at him blankly. “If we’re going to do a deep study we’ll need eyes,” the Major said condescendingly, “so which areas should we drop to pick up the extra satellite eyes?”

The general still stared at him.

“General,” the major went on in tones usually reserved for un-housebroken pups, “all our satellite cameras are assigned. That means if we’re going to study something new, we’re going to need equipment! And the only way to get equipment, is to take it away from something else! Now what do you want us to drop?!”

Smarting from his subordinate’s tone, General Bills turned back to his map. He had neither thought through this part of the plan, nor had General Stoddard discussed it with him meaning he’d have to wing it on his own — something he was totally incompetent at doing.

“Move anything we’ve got aimed ah — here,” he said drawing a large circle around the North American continent with his pointer,” and ah — here,” he said drawing another circle around all of Europe.

“Too much!” Stinson snapped, “anyone critiquing us will know we’ve been tipped off!”

“Damned!” Bills thought instantly realizing his subordinate was right.

“I doubt that you’re right,” he replied testily, “but, just to be on the safe side, let’s move the continental U.S. satellites now and ah …” and he paused dramatically, “you do agree that we’re not about to attack ourselves, Major?”

The major ignored the titter running through the staff to paste on a guilty smile as he did not wish it known that that was exactly what was about to happen.

“Okay,” the general said accepting the major’s body language as a temporary apology, “that’s what we’ll do. Move the continental satellites onto the sites I’ve noted now — then move the European satellites over during the day. That way we can hit all the unlikely places; site them; print them; study the prints; and still have plenty of time to get the satellite cameras back to their assigned posts before 0100 when the referees show up for the test. Any questions?” he asked looking around.

“Okay! Unofficially, all leaves are canceled and everybody’s on duty until further notice. Now let’s get back to work!”

As all rose to leave, he called out, “Ah — Major! Will you join me in my office please? NOW!”

 

“Major!” General Bills snapped even before the door closed, “your manner has become intolerable!”.

“I apologize general! I’m sorry! I don’t know what got into me and if you want to have me shot, that’s fine with me! But right now we’ve got work to do and — well — unless you want to spend the rest of your career shoveling shit in Idaho, I think we ought to get to work!”

“This isn’t over Major,” the general snarled waving him from the room.

“No sir! Thank you, sir!” the major said rushing from the commander’s office to appear within moments on the operations floor gesturing to his console supervisors to join him.

 

“We’ve got a new mission,” he began, “and from this moment all leaves are canceled — no one enters or leaves the War Room Control Center without written orders from me — and we’re shutting down all operations on the old sites and moving our eyes into the Southern Hemisphere!” He looked around for the right level of excitement to insure the success of his mission and found it in abundance.

“First,” he went on, “we’re moving all our continental eyes to blitz South America! So all you continental people! Go! Now! Wide scan!”

The Continental Eyes staff was already half way down the aisle when he shouted after them, “Use your fish-eye lens settings! — Bring in full wide prints and process them immediately! I want to see them ASAP!”

The air was electrified as he turned to his remaining staff. “While they’re doing that, I’ll get the programming shifted over to give us a tight focus on any targets we might want to look at in greater detail on the second pass. We’ve only got a few hours of daylight so we’re going to have to move it!

“Now you people handling the European satellites — move two cameras onto Africa for a wide scan NOW!” he said waiving several operators from the group. “Then,” he went on to the remainder of the European contingent, “move another camera over each hour to include the minor islands in the Indian Ocean. It’s a big world we’re going to be looking at team! I know we’ve only got a few hours of daylight left on South America, but what we’re looking for might show up on UV or IR sensors even now, so set half your cameras to UV – IR and take them all to those settings as the light runs out. Any questions?” But there were only exchanged glances.

“I’m sorry I can’t tell you more,” he said answering their unspoken questions, “but suffice it to say that — a nation in turmoil is a nation ripe for the plucking! Now GO! GO! GO!”

 

CHAPTER – 9

FRIDAYAUGUST 11th —1500 – EDT

Aboard the U.S.S. Cooper

 

“Top priority message sir,” said the signalman tapping on the captains door. Opening it, Captain Wheelwright read:

 

FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1444 EDT

TO: CAPTAIN KYLE WHEELWRIGHT — U.S.S. COOPER

FROM: CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

 

EXECUTE SEALED ORDER #35 AT 1515 EDT.

 

Going through the routine to retrieve a sealed order from his safe, he read:

 

TO: CAPTAIN KYLE WHEELWRIGHT — U.S.S. COOPER

FROM: INTREPID

 

PROCEED TO PATROL STATION #61 AT FLANK SPEED AT CODE TIME

 

Grabbing his telephone, he pushed a button.

“Bridge!”

“This is the captain, order engineering to fire all boilers.”

“Yes sir! Anything else?” the Officer of the Deck asked.

“Standby for further orders,” the captain said hanging up.

Captain Wheelwright timed his arrival on the bridge for exactly the right moment.

“Captain on the bridge!” a voice called out, and it was duly noted in the ship’s log: FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1514 EDT

He wondered whether he should have called the order up from his cabin. “Too late for that now!” he thought scanning the bridge to calm himself before making eye contact with the Officer of the Deck who then followed him to the plot table.

His shipboard experiences had been minimal and he still thought plots should be a drafting table a la a World War II John Wayne movie and it never ceased to amazed him how a few cathode ray tubes and buttons could replace the endless piles of maps, compasses and straight edges that had been so essential to navigation just years before.

“We’ve been ordered to proceed to patrol station #61 at flank speed,” he said calmly.

“Aye, aye Sir!” said the duty officer turning to the navigation officer at his side already pressing the buttons that would bring the necessary charts up on his screens.

“Execute whenever you’re ready,” the captain said as the bridge’s wall clock turned over to 1515 EDT.

“Captain’s off the bridge!” someone shouted as he left.

Almost immediately, he felt the ship listed hard to starboard in coordination with the increased whir of the propellers bringing his ship to battle speed.

“We’re on our way!” he whispered as he walked down the gangway to his cabin. “Wonder if our boys in the sky have accelerated their plans? Wonder how bad it is with the ground troops? Wonder … “

CHAPTER – 10

FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1515 – EDT

Office of the Commander of Satellite Observation Control, Skytop

 

As the last of his supervisory personnel rushed to their posts, Major Stinson slowly walked the operations room floor. The wall digital readout read FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1515 as he snuck a peek at one screen, it displayed the wake of a ship obvious in a tight turn at high speed.

“Plan’s been advanced!” he thought moving his body to block the screen’s view as the operator played with his controls moving that camera to a more innocuous location.

“Good work Sargent!”

“Thank you, sir,” the operator replied over his shoulder happy with this appraisal of his work. By the time the sergeant returned his attention to the screen, the major was gone — and so was the screen’s former image.

 

CHAPTER – 11

FRIDAYAUGUST 11th — 1517 EDT

Pentagon office of Army Continental Command

 

General Smith tapped the blinking red button on his phone and picked it up immediately, “Yes sir!”

“The president is moving up his message to congress but hasn’t fixed a new time,” said the electronically altered voice, “you will therefore be ready to implement Cancun on short notice.”

“Understood …” but the phone was already dead.

“This is escalating awfully fast,” he thought extracting a cigar from his jacket pocket. “Can’t trust the news media … Intelligence has put a lid on everything they can reach … even the rumor mill’s gone haywire …” He lit the cigar he had been playing with. “Wonder how bad it is out there?” he wondered as he looked thought his window at the troops dug in around the building. “All quiet here. Well, let’s see what there is to see!’ he mumbled turning on this television set.

“… we’re going live to Detroit!” the news-desk anchor was saying, and with that the image cut away to a reporter leaning out of the port of a helicopter.

“The smoke and fire you see below me,” a reporter was shouting above the din of his surroundings, “is what’s left of Detroit. Even though the president’s been telling us for days that the situation is under control — from this vantage point — I see only the charred remains of a once proud city. As you can see,” he continued as his cameraman panned the distance, “it looks more like Dresden or Hamburg after the last war. — Both Dresden and Hamburg experienced fire storms and so it seems, has Detroit. This is the city — that our president has assured us is becoming more peaceful by the minute! Does this look peaceful to you?” he asked rhetorically, “It’s rubble! Nothing but rubble! And it reminds me of the French Revolution — when Louis the XVI refused to let his Swiss Guards fire on the crowds of his time and — like those Swiss Guards of so long ago — I fear if we don’t do something soon — our troops too may wind up dying to the man just as the Louis’ Switzers did when a weak leader lacked the courage to act.”

***

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PHOENIX RISING!

Between wars, armies create contingency plans for the next conflict, wherever that might be. But as this country headed toward economic and moral collapse, a secret group at the Army’s War collage created a plan to restore order here while, at the same time, eliminating the problems that had caused the collapse in the first place. Or, as the chosen were informed: “All nations eventually collapse in bankruptcy, but if necessary, you will be part of a plan that will restore this nation which, like the mythological phoenix of old, will rise from the ashes of the very problems you set alight, renewed and refreshed!” _____________ Intrepid

  • ISBN: 9781370578931
  • Author: Arthur W. Ritchie
  • Published: 2017-06-29 20:05:17
  • Words: 51187
PHOENIX RISING! PHOENIX RISING!