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       Hawx (2009), p.23

           Tom Clancy
 
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  "Falcon Three, target is on the main runway," Jenna said urgently as they got their first visual on the dart-shaped Raven.

  "Go for it, Falcon Two," Troy said as Jenna dove toward the runway.

  The dark-gray aircraft was already on its takeoff roll as Jenna took her F-16 to two hundred feet.

  It was racing down the runway at seventy-five knots, then a hundred knots, as Jenna overtook it at much higher speed.

  She lined the aircraft up in the ring on her head-up sight and thumbed the trigger of the M61 Gatling gun. Nothing.

  The Raven continued to roll.

  A hundred and fifty knots.

  She thumbed again as the Raven reached takeoff speed. Still nothing.

  "Falcon Three, my guns are jammed!" Jenna shouted, banking hard to the left. "Go for it!"

  Troy was on the deck, just behind Jenna as she rolled left.

  He had a clear, unobstructed view of the Raven as Harris achieved takeoff speed and lifted off the runway.

  He thumbed his trigger and watched a stream of twenty-millimeter cannon shells pour toward the Raven.

  Harris banked hard right just as Troy flew past him.

  "I still have a visual on him," Jenna said calmly. "I'm turning to give pursuit."

  "Don't lose him," Troy said as he slowed his F-16 to come around. "He's invisible on radar."

  "Roger that. I've got him northbound over Greenbelt, flying very low."

  RAYMOND HARRIS HAD NOT TURNED TO FIGHT. HE WAS single-minded about his mission. It was a strike mission, and he had a high-value target that he must strike.

  Albert Bacon Fachearon sat at Camp David defying the authority that had been given to Harris by Congress.

  Articles of impeachment had been passed.

  Duly constituted authorities had been authorized to use deadly force to remove him.

  Raymond Harris was the duly constituted authority. Albert Bacon Fachearon must go. Deadly force must be used.

  Somewhere at the Camp David complex, Fachearon was hiding.

  Raymond Harris did not know exactly where, but he did not care.

  He might be at the large, hotel-sized Laurel Lodge, or in the comfortable presidential quarters at Aspen Lodge--or lie might be skulking in the theoretically bombproof bunkers beneath.

  Raymond Harris didn't care.

  With a twenty-kiloton nuclear weapon coming down upon his head, Albert Bacon Fachearon would not survive.

  Chapter 51

  Camp David, Frederick County, Maryland

  "ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT YOUR JOB?" ARON ARNOLD asked the young U. S. Navy petty officer who was escorting him. Officially, Camp David is a landlocked Navy base, Naval Support Facility Thurmont, so the uniformed staffers are mainly from that branch of the service.

  "No, sir," Tiffanie Talleigh replied nervously, her hand unconsciously brushing the holster that contained her M9 sidearm. When this slender, average-looking man with short-cropped hair had driven up to the main gate in a Firehawk Lexus an hour ago and had explained his purpose, she had been assigned to follow him wherever he went at the facility. Had conditions not been in such turmoil, had Camp David not been so thoroughly understaffed because of the crisis, there would have been a whole platoon of Marines escorting Arnold, but today, it was just Petty Officer Tiffanie Talleigh.

  "Are you nervous that you're on the wrong side of history?" Tiffanie asked.

  It had been too early for lunch when Albert Bacon Fachearon had invited Arnold to remain, but he had seen nothing wrong with stopping in at the post commissary for a cup of coffee. He was in no hurry to get back to the mess in Washington.

  "I don't see this change of direction in history as having 'sides.' I think that it's just what it is," Arnold said as they walked beneath the dogwood trees. It was a cold day, and the gloomy, gray clouds added to an atmosphere of despair that seemed to hang over the people whom they passed.

  "Like the president said, it's a coup," she replied. "These guys . . . Kynelty and Harris . . . like they overthrew the government!"

  "I don't really want to get into a debate with you." Arnold smiled. "But I could remind you that this is the will of Congress, which I believe is elected?"

  "They passed that bill this morning with tanks on the streets outside."

  "Even if that mattered, what about the House of Representatives yesterday?" Arnold said in a gotcha tone.

  The young petty officer had no reply, just a stern, angry glance at Arnold.

  "Where are you from?" Arnold asked.

  "Why is that important?"

  "Just making conversation."

  "Logan, Utah . . . and yes, sir, I'm LDS . . . Mormon."

  "Then you answer to a higher authority than that flag over there?" Arnold observed, nodding at one of the camp's many flagpoles.

  "What are you saying?"

  "I'm saying that authority--and allegiance--are relative."

  "What authority do you answer to--the authority of Firehawk?"

  "I'm just a pilot."

  "What are you doing here?"

  "My job."

  "Harris must be running short of staff if he's sending pilots to do a diplomat's job," Tiffanie said, apparently pleased with herself for getting a verbal dagger through a chink in Arnold's suave armor.

  "Touche." Arnold laughed. He liked her spunk.

  "Do you really believe that the American people are going to tolerate Harris and Kynelty running the government?"

  "Like I said . . . Congress already does."

  "What happens to you if this thing unravels?"

  "I'll get another job." Arnold shrugged. "What happens to you if it doesn't?"

  "It will, sir," she said, her tone uncertain. "It has to. This has never happened before."

  "That means that it can't happen now?" Arnold asked.

  As they reached the commissary, they heard the sound of a low-flying jet aircraft. Both Aron Arnold and the young petty officer craned their necks, searching the sky for a sight of the plane, but the sound died away.

  Chapter 52

  The Skies over Northern Maryland

  "FALCON THREE, THE BOGIE IS CHANGING DIRECTION,"

  Jenna said, the trace of relief in her voice reacting to the fact that Harris was heading away from Camp David.

  "Roger that, Falcon Two," Troy confirmed. "But he's coming at you."

  As a HAWX Program bird, the Raven was very capable of extreme-high-altitude ops, but Raymond Harris had been flying extremely low to evade his two pursuers. The Raven may have been capable of speeds in excess of Mach 3, but to use that capability would have hampered Harris's ability to put his B61 nuclear weapon on target, so he was also flying well under Mach 1.

  "He's trying to gain altitude," Troy shouted as Harris suddenly began climbing. "Let's keep him low!"

  "Roger that," Jenna replied.

  Had Harris been carrying a conventional weapon, a low-level pass would have been just what the doctor ordered for a perfect strike on the target, but with a nuke, a low-level pass meant that the Raven would have been incinerated along with the victim. The fact that Harris seemed to want to climb indicated that the weapon had not been fused with a delay mechanism.

  For Troy and Jenna, their job was to keep Harris low and away from the Catoctin Mountain retreat until they could line up a kill shot.

  Getting that kill shot was easier said than done. Only Troy had the use of his gun, and the heat-seeking infrared targeting capability of their AIM-9 Sidewinders worked only so long as there was heat to detect. The Raven, like most recent jet fighters, such as the F-22 Raptor, had suppression systems that physically masked the heat signature of the engines.

  Initially, Harris had flown out of Andrews Air Force Base on a north-by-northwest heading that would have taken him more or less straight to Camp David. Had it not been for the two F-16s, he would have come in at about nine thousand feet, released the guided B61, and used the Raven's extreme vertical-acceleration capability to exit the target area without getting cooked.


  His plans upset, Harris banked right, heading eastward over the Baltimore metro area, trying to gain altitude while shaking off the two F-16s.

  "He's climbing," Jenna said angrily.

  "Take a shot," Troy said. "Get on his ass and take a shot."

  "Okay . . . but if I miss, the Sidewinder comes crashing into Baltimore. If I don't, the Raven burns a hole in the city. He knows that . . . that's why he's flying this way . . . buying time . . . buying altitude . . . figuring I won't shoot."

  She accelerated, trying to overtake the Raven, get close and minimize the possibility of a bad shot.

  As Harris raced over downtown Baltimore and the broad mouth of the Patapsco River, Jenna closed to within half a mile.

  "Closer . . . dammit . . . closer."

  In the split second that she pondered just thumbing off a Sidewinder anyhow, Harris jinked hard to the right.

  If his plan had been to turn south and continue over populated areas, he missed that by a split second. Suddenly, he and Jenna were over Chesapeake Bay, and Troy was there as well. Coming in at a different angle, he had nearly managed to cut Harris off in his turn.

  In that turn, the Raven slowed slightly, and Troy could see the boiling yellow back end of the Raven's two engines.

  This is as good a shot as I'm going to get, Troy thought to himself, and a Sidewinder ripped off his wingtip.

  It seemed like slow motion as the contrail corkscrewed toward the Raven.

  Far below, boaters and fishermen on Chesapeake Bay watched the scene above with great amazement. The three jet fighters had been climbing, but were still relatively low, so the noise was earsplitting--just like at an air show.

  They watched as the fast jets raced across the sky and as the faster missile snaked its way from one jet toward another.

  In that twinkling of an eye that their eyes had to witness the scene, they were aware that this was not an air show--this was life-or-death.

  The dart-shaped jet turned just as the contrail reached it, and the trajectories of the two objects diverged.

  As quickly as the whole scene in the sky had materialized, the jets were all gone, into the distance and over the horizon.

  The contrail remained. With its forward momentum slowed considerably, it arced downward toward the waves of Chesapeake Bay.

  For observers who had expected a bang when the thing hit the water, there was only a disappointing splash, a column of white water, and then nothing.

  Chapter 53

  The Skies over Chesapeake Bay

  "WHO ARE YOU?" RAYMOND HARRIS GROWLED.

  Nobody answered. Nobody was listening.

  He was flying radio silent, answering to no one, because he was Raymond Harris, who answered to no one.

  He had climbed into the Raven for a twenty-minute strike mission, planning to be back at the White House by midafternoon, reporting the results. He would tell a world waiting with baited breath that Albert Bacon Fachearon was no more. The weapon chosen to dispense with Fachearon, deliberately chosen by Raymond Harris, would get the attention of everyone and underscore the fact that he and Kynelty meant business.

  Soon the Fachearon era would be in ashes--literally. The Transition would have occurred.

  In the grand plan of The Transition, the United States would move forward as it was meant to move forward--smoothly, expeditiously, and under the steady, guiding hand of Raymond Harris.

  But the plans changed.

  The last thing that Harris could have imagined as he began his takeoff roll was tracers racing past his cockpit. "Who are you?" Raymond Harris howled.

  Out of nowhere, someone was shooting at him.

  Harris, who had flown combat missions going back to the second Gulf War, considered himself a fighter pilot of the first order--even if he was a bit rusty.

  Was he really all that rusty?

  He had certainly proven himself when he neatly sidestepped that bastard in the F-16 who was shooting at him when he took off.

  "Who are you?" Raymond Harris barked.

  Where had this F-16 come from?

  Wait, there were two.

  "Who are you?" Raymond Harris snarled.

  Where had they come from?

  Somebody was trying to interfere. Had Fachearon somehow called in the U. S. Air Force to aid him? Even so, how had they managed to catch up to the Raven so fast? Just a few seconds sooner and this fabulous product of the HAWX Program would have been smoldering crud on the Andrews Air Force Base runway. It was a miss, Harris breathed thankfully, but it was a near miss.

  Harris had intended to continue the mission as planned, but with F-16s diving all around him like crows attacking a hawk, he couldn't fly his mission profile, the "low-high-higher" profile that would keep him from winding up as a radioactive ember.

  "Shake them . . . gotta shake them," Harris muttered as he turned hard to the right and dashed across Baltimore.

  "Shit," was all Harris could mutter as he found himself over Chesapeake Bay presenting a clear shot to his pursuers.

  "Shit," Harris repeated as he heard the ping of a radar lock-on and saw that one of his pursuers took that shot.

  But the Raven performed. Thanks to its heat-shielding characteristics, the AIM-9 lost its lock-on like a blind man in a crowded room. Nevertheless, being shot at raised Harris's ire considerably.

  "You wanna fight, bastards?" Harris shouted, again out of the hearing range of anyone.

  Harris was also armed but had chosen evasion as a defensive tactic--until now.

  Like the older F-22 Raptor, the Raven carried all of its armament within an internal weapons bay to preserve the clean lines and stealth characteristics of the aircraft. Like the Raptor, the Raven was capable of carrying six AIM-120F Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles. They were the latest variant of the weapons acronymed as AMRAAMs but known to aircrews informally as Slammers. However, with the B61 weapon installed in the Raven's central weapons bay, all but two of the Slammers had been removed that morning. At the time, Harris gave no thought to having to use them. Now he was glad to have them.

  Heading south over Chesapeake Bay, he was putting five miles between himself and Camp David every second, so he yanked back on the stick and threw the Raven into a climbing right turn that took him over Maryland's Western Shore.

  He had given up wondering who was in those two F-16s. He just wanted them dead, and he knew that the Raven plus its Slammers was more than a match for F-16s and Sidewinders.

  Harris lit up the datalink guidance system for the AMRAAMs as he came out of the turn, acquiring a target almost immediately. He didn't especially care which one--there were two targets and he had two AMRAAMs. He could see on his radar that one of the two F-16s had greatly overshot him and only one now stood in his way.

  One of the Raven's weapons bay doors popped open.

  The F-16 pilot was smart, beginning to jam the Slammer's radar lock-on instantly. However, Harris had an ally in the form of the missile's home-on-jamming capability.

  As soon as the AMRAAM detected an attempt to jam its radar homing system, it switched from active homing to passive.

  Harris fired.

  The AMRAAM left the rail homing not on the F-16 itself, but on the F-16's own radar-jamming signal.

  Having fired, and having left the destruction of the other aircraft in the capable, albeit inhuman, hands of the missile, Harris banked left and headed north by northwest.

  "Have to get back on target," he muttered to himself.

  With one F-16 going down in flames, and another too far away to catch him now, it was time to resume his primary mission. He could deal with the second F-16 while its pilot gawked at the mushroom cloud over the Catoctins.

  Suddenly, there was a pinging in the Raven's cockpit. What?

  Harris had been made. He had been acquired in a missile lock-on.

  Who?

  On his scope, there was the unmistakable image of two aircraft pursuing him.

  How?

  Th
e Slammer must have been slammed!

  Harris knew that just about the only way to achieve a lock-on against the stealthy Raven was from directly behind. Essentially, the F-16 was looking up his ass, up the high-Fahrenheit tailpipes of his afterburning engines.

  Once again, Harris threw the Raven off course to save his ass.

  Harris knew that under the circumstances, just about the only way to break the F-16's lock-on against the Raven was to get out from in front of the F-16.

  Once again, Harris found himself flying away from Camp David.

  Chapter 54

  Camp David, Frederick County, Maryland

  "CARE TO SIT DOWN?" ARON ARNOLD ASKED THE YOUNG petty officer. "I'm not going to bite you."

  "No, sir," Tiffanie Talleigh replied. "Rather not, sir."

  Arnold sat at a table near the window of the commissary sipping his coffee. His escort remained standingnervously--at a discreet distance. Perhaps he wouldn't bite, she thought, but a man associated with the overthrow of the government that she was sworn to protect was certainly dangerous.

  "How do you expect this whole thing to play out today?" Arnold asked in a making-conversation tone. "Can't say, sir. Wouldn't speculate."

  "Above your pay grade?" Arnold smiled.

  "Couldn't say, sir, I just don't know."

  "It's above my pay grade too," he admitted. "You're a lot like me in a lotta ways."

  "How so?"

  "Like we were talking on the walk over here . . . we're just a couple of people doing our jobs and following orders . . . right?"

  "Can't speak for you," she said suspiciously. "Why are you here?"

  "You know why I'm here, Petty Officer Talleigh. You've been with me every step of the way since I walked through that gate. You drove me to Laurel Lodge in your vehicle . . . you listened to what I told Fachearon . . ."

  "I mean, like what are you doing here?"

  "You mean, me personally?"

  "You said you were a pilot. Why did they send a pilot to drive up into the mountains in a Lexus?"

  "Why did they send a twentysomething petty officer to guard a guy whom they see as 'a traitor?"

  He watched her blush slightly. She was obviously on the long side of thirtysomething, but nobody ever lost ground underestimating the age of a woman over thirty.

 
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