Hawx (2009), p.20Tom Clancy
"That's a good deal . . ."
"I know a young lady at the airline." The guy smiled.
Dulles Airport, Loudoun County, Virginia
IT WAS PERSONAL. THE LOATHING THAT TROY HAD for Raymond Harris, the loathing that seemed to grow each time Harris crossed Troy's mind, was personal--very personal.
He hung from a strap in one of the lumbering mobile lounges that carry people from the midfield concourse to the main terminal at Washington, D. C.'s principal international airport. With no checked baggage and no overhead baggage, Troy was ahead of most of his fellow passengers on the American Airlines flight from Miami. Only an energetic young guy with a suit and a laptop had made this mobile lounge. He was already on his phone, already doing business as Troy fumed.
Herndon was just a few miles away. Harris was probably in his office on Firehawk's seventh floor, his office with the models and the flags and the framed pictures of politicians whom he now desired to put out of business.
Troy could be at Firehawk Headquarters inside a half hour--maybe as little as fifteen minutes. Getting to the seventh floor would be another matter. Nobody got to the seventh floor without an invitation. He could imagine Harris's reaction when the receptionist announced that Troy was in the lobby.
The last time Troy had walked into that lobby, he had done so as a conquering hero. Indeed, the plaque with his picture was probably still in that lobby. This time, he imagined quite a different reception. However, Troy had no intention of walking into the Firehawk lobby today, nor of allowing himself to be announced to Raymond Harris. The next time he met Harris face-to-face, he intended it to be on his own terms. How and when that would be, he had yet to figure out.
The last time Troy had walked through the Dulles main terminal, he had been headed toward the rental car section of Ground Transportation, but today, with no expense account and only about three hundred dollars in his pocket, he passed the rental car desks and took a place in line for the number 5A Metrobus.
The last time Troy had put Dulles Airport into a rearview mirror on the eastbound Hirst-Brault Expressway, he was headed for a comfortable room at the Marriott Courtyard in Arlington. Today, he hoped they'd have a bed for him at the YMCA on Rhode Island Avenue in downtown Washington.
The last time Troy had glimpsed Firehawk Headquarters from the highway, his thoughts had turned to Jenna Munrough, and they turned that way today.
He had not seen her in the pictures of his funeral, and he wondered what she must have thought. Had she thought it an appropriate fate for the man who had shot down Hal Coughlin to die himself in an airplane crash? Had she thought about it much at all?
THE SUN WAS SETTING AS TROY CROSSED THE M Street bridge over Rock Creek Park. He had managed to get a cot at the YMCA and stashed his little duffel bag in a locker. He had time to kill, so he decided to take a walk.
Washington was not the Washington he remembered. A pall hung over the city, a pall of uncertainty. The Washington he remembered exuded a confidence, a confidence that came with knowing that all of the important institutions had lives of their own, lives that endured regardless of which party was in power, regardless of whether the president in power was up in the polls, or down in the gutter of a scandal. Today, a nervous apprehension prevailed.
The headlines in the news racks, like the chatter of the talking heads on the television screen back at the YMCA, debated among themselves, even as Congress debated a bill that would place the executive branch under the receivership of a nonpartisan, nongovernmental commission.
Raymond Harris was on nearly every front page--he and Layton Kynelty of Cernavoda Partners. The two PMCs were now negotiating to bring in their management expertise to run the executive branch and get a handle on the myriad crises that the United States was facing around the world. It would be, in the words of the blue folder at Cactus Flat, The Transition.
Troy learned that had he indeed decided to stop off at Firehawk this morning and call on Raymond Harris, he would not have found him. Harris was on Capitol Hill, talking to Congress and offering his able services to head up the management of the executive branch. The man currently charged with that task, President Fachearon, was also testifying--across the street at the U. S. Supreme Court. He argued that, even though his approval rating had sunk to single digits, he remained the president under the Constitution. Congress had never before impeached a president so that he could be replaced by outsourced management, but as Harris insisted, there was a first time for everything.
Troy had returned from the jungle to discover that ex-generals running clandestine experimental aircraft operations had approval ratings! It mystified and infuriated Troy, but there it was. Harris had an approval rating of nearly fifty percent. In a polarized era when approval ratings rarely exceeded forty percent, that was considered very good.
Mystified and infuriated, Troy walked across the bridge toward Georgetown and turned up Thirty-first Street. He walked anonymously, with the confident anonymity of a man who could move unnoticed in a world where he was already dead. The presence of Troy Loensch in this world and on this street would raise questions, but so far, nobody knew that Troy Loensch still existed. In a moment, he would cut a razor-thin slit in this veil of anonymity.
He recognized the cobalt-blue Porsche as it made the final turn, and he recognized the woman as she stepped out to get the mail before sliding into the underground parking garage beneath her building.
"Hey, Falcon Two," he shouted as he crossed the street, wondering whether using the nickname was too cute.
Jenna spun at the sound of the voice, startled by the sound of that voice and of its choice of nickname.
Her expression was one of disbelief.
"What are you . . . ?" Jenna gasped.
"You mean why am I not dead?" Troy asked as he approached close enough to see the confused expression in her eyes in the growing darkness. She looked good, Troy thought, even with her hair a little unkempt and her makeup a little bit faded, as a woman's makeup usually is at the end of a long workday. She also looked very bewildered--"seen a ghost" bewildered.
"Who are you? Are you . . . are you Troy Loensch?" "What?" Troy smiled. "You obviously recognize me." "Who are you? Really," she stammered.
"I took a chance that you'd be coming back to your apartment on time," Troy explained, ignoring her question. "I figured that you wouldn't be working late, since Harris is otherwise occupied up on the Hill."
"You look different, Loensch," she said, studying his face and the deep tan that he had picked up in Nicaragua. "You look like you've been on a beach for a month."
"Actually I've been in the mountains for several months . . . seems like a helluva lot longer . . . so much has happened since . . ."
"You can't be . . ."
"Is this the part where you tell me I'm supposed to be dead?"
"I was at the memorial . . ."
"Didn't see you in the pictures."
"Then you didn't see very many pictures," Jenna replied, regaining her composure. "This is the part where I ask you what the hell happened."
"And this is the part where I ask you whether you're gonna stand here with your Porsche burning through unleaded, or are you going to invite me in?"
Thirty-first Street NW, Georgetown, Washington, D. C.
"WANT A DRINK?" JENNA ASKED AS SHE TOSSED HER laptop and keys on the small table in her dining nook. "As I recall, an Ozark girl like yourself usually has a little Wild Turkey in the cupboard."
She poured two and nodded for him to take a seat as she flopped onto her couch and put her feet on a footstool.
"Obviously y'all weren't lost at sea like we thought," she began. "They searched a million square miles for a week. Never found a thing . . . where were you?"
"Storm blew in, blew the Shakuru back over land . . . I went down on a mountaintop. Just like Noah's ark. It was a couple of weeks before I figured out that I wasn't on an island
"Where were you?"
"Nicaragua . . . but I didn't know that until about two weeks ago."
"How could . . . ?"
"I broke my leg pretty bad . . . couldn't get around . . . it still hurts."
"Couldn't you make contact with us?" Jenna asked, almost angry that he hadn't tried to phone.
"There are still places in the world without Wi-Fi access." Troy smiled. "Still places with no cell service . . besides, I didn't have a cell phone."
"How long have you been back?"
"Got to town this morning."
"Have you been to Firehawk yet?"
"I need to call them and let them know that you're--" Jenna said, reaching for her purse to get her phone.
"Please don't," Troy said, his voice so stern that it surprised Jenna.
"Because your boss, your CEO, Raymond Harris . . . tried to kill me."
"Kill you? When? Where?"
Jenna's astonishment was almost equal to what it had been when she first confronted Troy as a "ghost."
"In Shakuru, somewhere over California."
"How . . . I thought . . . I thought he managed to escape only after Shakuru was going down and you couldn't get out."
"He sabotaged everything," Troy said. "My parachute . . . the autopilot override . . . radio. He disconnected the lithium sulfur batteries."
"Are you sure?"
"What the hell do you mean, 'am I sure?' Of course I'm sure. I was there," Troy said angrily. "I screamed myself crazy trying to get out a distress signal . . . I watched the damned engines shut down when the solar panels were starved of sunlight . . . I felt myself start to freeze in the damned space suit as it shut down."
"And I heard him calmly tell me how I was going to die, just before he popped the canopy--and just after he told me why."
"Why?" Jenna asked. "Why did Harris want you dead?"
"The Transition," Troy said. "Because I found the documents . . . y'know, about The Transition."
"It's what's been playing out in the news back here since I've been out of touch with reality," Troy said. "He's trying to overthrow the government--him and Kynelty and their crowd."
"But this has been in the news for weeks," Jenna said. "Firehawk and Cernavoda are only two of several PMCs that have submitted proposals to Congress--"
"But Harris is trying to overthrow the government!" Troy insisted. "Can't you see that?"
"Are y'all sure you're the real Troy Loensch?" Jenna laughed. "The Troy Loensch that I knew wasn't this interested in politics."
"Geez, Munrough, can't you see what's going on? Why am I the only one who sees this shit? Maybe I was in the jungle too long."
"Thought you said you were in the mountains."
"It was in Central America . .. the mountains have jungles . . . but that's not the point. The point is that I go away for a few months and come back and it's like mass hypnosis back here. Everybody is going along with this. Nobody seems to see what lie's doing."
"You're just being paranoid," Jenna said with a dismissive toss of her hand. "It's all politics. What the hell do y'all care about politics?"
"Maybe it's just a matter of that oath we took when we joined the U. S. Air Force .. . something about upholding the Constitution. . . . Was that all just a big pile of crap? I came here to see you, rather than going to see anybody else, because I thought you of all people would be able to see through this, see what Harris and Kynelty are doing for what it is."
"Look, Loensch, the politicians are fighting this out in rooms up there on Capitol Hill . . . it ain't guns in the streets."
"Is that what it's gonna take for you to see? Guns in the streets? Look at me . . . you're lookin' at the dude who was damned near the first casualty of this fuckin' revolution that Harris has up his slimy little sleeve."
"What exactly was in these 'documents' you found that you say he tried to kill you over?"
"That I say?" Troy asked angrily. "This was very, very damned unambiguous. He tried to kill me."
"Okay . . . I believe you," Jenna said, backing her tone off a few notches from the accusatory. She could feel the Wild Turkey starting to flutter its wings in her head and imagined that the same was true with Troy. "Just start from the beginning . . . tell me what you found . . . actually start with telling me how y'all found these documents."
"I found them in his office--his office at Cactus Flat." "What were you doing in his office?"
"I broke in to look for--"
"You broke into Harris's office?"
"Yeah," Troy said in a tone that implied, Of course.
"Shit, Loensch, if you'd broke into my office, I'd be pretty pissed, too. Why the hell did you do a thing like that?"
"Because the CIA asked me to," Troy admitted sheepishly.
"The C-I-friggin'-A?" Jenna said, rolling her eyes in disbelief "I guess you're paranoid, if you're seeing the CIA."
"You think I've gone around the bend?" Troy asked angrily.
"You're serious?" Jenna asked. "The CIA . . . Really? The CIA really asked you to spy on Raymond Harris?"
"They really asked me to spy on Raymond Harris."
"They came to me at the Marriott last time I was in town. They wanted to know whether Harris had ever said anything about PMCs being used to overthrow and control countries."
"We've all heard him talk about that." Jenna nodded. "That's just Harris being Harris."
"I agree. That's what I told them. I said I could name a half dozen countries that are already run by a PMC. But then they said that they suspected Harris wanted to overthrow the United States."
"What kind of proof did they have?" Jenna asked suspiciously.
"Great." She laughed. "So y'all agreed to spy on him, even though your CIA pals didn't have any proof"
"No. Not then. I told 'em that a lot of people say things about politicians, and that what they were saying was paranoid bullshit."
"Sure sounds like it to me." Jenna nodded.
"So they left, and I didn't think about it much until a few weeks or so after I got out to Cactus Flat. Harris showed up and started talking about exactly what they said he was going to do."
"That's when you decided to break into his office?" "No, I had another meeting with the spooks in Vegas."
"Then you decided to break into his office?"
"Okay . . . so now we're back to the place where you were gonna tell me what you found."
"There was a blue folder that talked about something called The Transition, presumably because it's about a transition from an elected government to an outsourced management like they're doing right now."
"It's not something they're doing in secret," Jenna said. "It's not something that's being done in the dead of night. This is just about as fall-into-broad-daylight as you can get."
"I'm no student of history, but I think I remember that this is how Hitler got in," Troy said. "The German government got into such a fix that they just brought him in, and the people were okay with it."
"And they sure got 'it," " Jenna said. "But I can't see Harris--"
"This blue folder went on to say that if the politicians didn't give the PMCs what they wanted, they'd be ready to take it by force."
"How could they?"
"Think about it, Munrough," Troy insisted. "The PMCs have all the guns now. The armed forces out-sourced so much that they hardly have any assets. They're just management agencies. The generals are nothing but paper-pushers running PMC contracts. When the PMCs take over the government, the PMCs will be running the PMC contracts. This country won't have armed services anymore."
"The PMCs pay a lot better," Jenna reminded him. "It's better for the folks doing the work ."
"This is not a joke," Troy insisted. "The PMCs could take over . . . they could walk over the United States armed service
"Yeah," Jenna agreed. "I know that most of the F-22s and F-16s have been transferred to Firehawk squadrons, and there's that new plane that Las being tested by the HAWX Program out in Nevada. You must know about that one."
"Raven. I heard that it's called Raven, but I didn't have anything to do with it. It was kept under wraps. I'm surprised that you've heard about it. Most people at Cactus Flat didn't even know about it. What have you heard?"
"Not much." Jenna shrugged. "Just the usual prattle around the watercoolers at Firehawk. I heard it was very fast . . . And I heard that they brought a demonstrator in to Andrews Air Force Base last week."
"That can't be good," Troy said.
"There's a fine line between paranoia and--" "This ain't paranoia," Troy insisted.
"What do your CIA spook friends think of Harris trying to kill you?"
"I haven't told them."
"What? Why not?"
"I've been back in the United States for less than eight hours . . . I wanted to see you first."
"I'm touched." Jenna smiled.
K Street, Washington, D. C.
"HI," THE VOICE SAID CHEERFULLY. "I CAN'T COME TO the phone, but please leave your name and number and the time you called, and I'll get back to you."
Eight times in four days, Troy had found a pay phone and had made a call. Eight times in four days, Troy had listened to the message and hung up without leaving one of his own.
Where was Nagte, or whatever his name was?
Ifthe CIA was so damned anxious to be contacted, why didn't they do a better job of manning their phones?
If he could have, he would have done as he had with Jenna Munrough. If he had known where Nagte was, or any of the other, nameless CIA spooks, he would have staked them out and contacted them face-to-face.
Troy had left Jenna's apartment with a distinct sense that she still considered him a paranoid nutcase, interpreting the noble intentions of Raymond Harris as a sinister scheme.
She had agreed to tell no one of their meeting, and he trusted that she would not--at least most of him trusted that she would not.
Hawx (2009) by Tom Clancy / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes