Memorial Day, p.15Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
This particular legal eagle from the Department of Justice was one tough broad. Smart, aggressive, and pretty damn good-looking if you liked the Amazon type. Ten years ago he would have either clobbered her or slept with her, or maybe both. But now after three decades of working for the Bureau, a divorce, a spin dry through a rehab clinic, and retirement on the horizon, he'd mellowed enough to tolerate her, just barely.
He'd seen her type come and go with each passing attorney general. Almost all of them type-A personalities, they often exerted great control and pressure on the FBI with little concern for the overall effectiveness of the Bureau and its charter. Some wanted to make a name for themselves, while others simply wanted to make sure the FBI didn't embarrass their boss, and in the process stall their own meteoric rise. McMahon never lost sight of their ulterior motives, and he always kept a close eye on them. This particular hotshot was no exception.
Stealey never slowed, laying her shoulder into the heavy door of the bridge. She came up the steps and dropped her bag next to McMahon's desk. "What in the hell is going on?"
McMahon had his flat-panel monitor tilted up so he could remain standing and still read the reports that his team was sending him. He was momentarily relieved to see a flash message alerting all of his people to a link between al-Qaeda and the missing Pakistani nuclear scientists.
He didn't even bother to look up from the monitor. "Nice of you to join us, Peggy."
"You didn't answer my question," she said tersely.
They were not the only two people in the command room. McMahon had already warned Stealey about her obnoxious habit of speaking to coworkers as if she had them on the witness stand. He casually looked at his watch and said, "Peggy, you should have been here an hour ago." He then shifted his gaze from his watch to her deceptively gentle blue eyes. "We're in the middle of a crisis, so check your ego at the door and I'll bring you up to speed as time allows."
McMahon reached down and grabbed his secure phone, leaving Stealey fuming.
"Where is the attorney general?" she asked.
"He's in the secure conference room with Director Roach."
Stealey turned to leave and McMahon said, "You can't go in there right now."
"Excuse me?" snapped Stealey.
"They're about to start a National Security Council meeting, so unless you were given some promotion I'm unaware of, sit your ass down and wait for him to come out of the meeting."
* * *
The Ford Taurus made its way north on Interstate 95 with the cruise control set exactly two miles per hour under the speed limit. It exited on U.S. Highway 17 and continued northeast toward Charleston. At a small truck stop just west of the city it stopped for gas. Mustafa al-Yamani awoke when the car pulled under the bright lights of the pumps. He dragged himself up from the backseat and looked at the clock on the dashboard. He'd been asleep for nearly three hours. The nausea hit him almost immediately.
He climbed out of the backseat and headed into the store. Near the back, he found the men's room and entered and locked the door. He popped one of the pills that the doctor had given him in Pakistan, and began dousing his face with cold water. Al-Yamani leaned on the basin and surveyed his bloodshot eyes and irritated skin.
Mustafa al-Yamani did not have long to live. He figured he would be dead in ten days at the most. All he needed were six more days to see everything through. He was at complete peace with the prospect of dying. His faith was strong, so strong that he willed himself to ignore the nausea and intense irritation of his blotchy, burning skin and continue on his mission.
The radiation sickness was in its final stages. The doctor in Pakistan had told him how the disease would progress. At first it would be marked by fatigue and red rashes on the skin that looked like nothing more than a bad case of sunburn. After that would come severe headaches followed by vomiting and diarrhea. Next his hair and teeth would fall out, and if he stayed conscious long enough, he could watch himself bleed to death from the inside out.
He had no intention of letting it get to that point. He would hit the Americans with the ultimate surprise, and then when they least expected it he would hit them again. Al-Yamani left the bathroom and stopped to buy more water and a few soft foods that he hoped he could keep down. He'd already lost ten pounds and he had no appetite whatsoever.
This time he got in the front seat with his driver and they left for the port. The Kuwaiti driving the car was a student at the University of Central Florida. His family was well enough connected to get him a student visa during a time when most of the Arab men his age were being denied the opportunity to go to university in America. He had been instructed not to ask any questions, and so far he had followed his orders. For months the Kuwaiti, Ibrahim Yacoub, had been receiving surreptitious e-mails instructing him on intelligence that should be collected, and items to be purchased. Most importantly, he was told to stay away from his mosque.
Al-Yamani had given him a brief pep talk when they were leaving the nature preserve. He'd told the man they were on a glorious mission for Allah. Like al-Yamani, Yacoub was a Wahhabi, a proud member of Islam's most radical sect. The man had family in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that would be thrilled with him when they discovered the path he'd chosen. Al-Yamani could see that his words had the right effect. The Kuwaiti's face beamed with pride as he thought of the reverence he would receive.
Al-Yamani told the student that when the time was right he would reveal to him the entire plan, but for security reasons he could not yet do so. The man was understandably nervous. A lot was at stake and he would just as soon be on his own than trust the mission to a dolt who didn't understand the seriousness of his mission. The boy had asked al-Yamani what he should call him. Al-Yamani told him to call him Mohammed, not because he felt he was the prophet, but because it was the most common of Muslim names.
They continued their drive through Charleston in silence. Every few minutes or so al-Yamani turned around and made a mental note of the types of cars that were behind them. It was only four in the morning and traffic was still light. They drove down near the water by the port. Al-Yamani was slightly surprised by how large the cranes that were used to off-load the cargo were and of the constant stream of ships that entered the port every day of the year. He had seen surveillance photos, but they didn't quite capture the immensity of the bustling port.
As they neared the main gate, al-Yamani asked, "Does anything look unusual?" Trucks were already lined up to enter the yard and pick up their containers.
Yacoub shook his head. "No."
"Have you ever been here at this time of day?" Al-Yamani knew what the answer was supposed to be, but he asked it anyway. He would continue to test the young man right up until the very end.
"And it always looked like this?"
They reached the main gate and Yacoub took his foot off the gas and put it on the brake.
"Don't slow down," al-Yamani said firmly. "We don't want to draw any attention to ourselves."
Yacoub sped up and they continued on. Al-Yamani had seen nothing unusual at the main gate. No extra security. "Take us to the spot you told me about, and we will watch."
There was to be no contact between the two cells, but al-Yamani was in charge of the entire operation. Much of what he would do depended on how successful the first cell was. He would make sure they received the bomb, and then he could focus on the rest of the plan.
* * *
For the last two hours there had been a constant stream of helicopters and vehicles arriving and departing from the base of Raven Rock Mountain. The mountain straddled the Maryland-Pennsylvania border about an hours drive north of Washington, D.C. Buried deeply beneath it was a highly secure, hardened facility known simply as Site R.
Site R had opened in 1953 and been designated an Alternate Joint Communications Center by the U
The president's chief of staff was the last person to arrive at the Camp David entrance, and once she was inside, the immense doors began their unnerving slow grind to their shut position. Once the doors were closed, the inhabitants were safe against all but a direct strike by a large nuclear weapon. Site R was built to house several hundred people for a period of four to six weeks depending on how food and water was dispersed. Most impressive, though, was its exact replica of the National Military Command Center (NMCC) that sits in the bowels of the Pentagon.
The NMCC, which is pronounced "Nimic," is essentially a cavernous war room where the Joint Chiefs and their staffs can monitor and, if need be, run a war that is taking place anywhere in the world. Due to the size of the Pentagon, and the fact that the room sits beneath layer upon layer of reinforced concrete, it is deemed a semihardened facility able to handle anything up to a near strike by a ten kiloton nuke.
Back when the U.S. and the former Soviet Union were in their nuclear arms race, both countries began building these bunkers at a feverish pace. The idea was to create redundancy so that it would be extremely difficult for the opponent to take out your entire command-and-control network. Within several hundred miles of Washington there were six such facilities. In addition, there was the Strategic Air Command, or SAC, in Omaha; the North American Air Defense Command, or NORAD, in Colorado Springs; and a dozen others sprinkled across the vast American landscape.
The Soviets did the same thing, but both nations fell victim to one simple problem. It was easier to build bombs than bunkers. With both sides at their peak having more than 10,000 nuclear warheads, military planners were able to put on the board targeting packages that would hit all of the other side's command-and-control bunkers with however many nukes it took to destroy each facility. The briefly indestructible bunkers, places built to ensure survivability, began to be viewed by many as tombs.
Psychologically speaking, one thing saved each country: mutually assured destruction, or MAD. The Soviets wanted to live just as much as the Americans did. On those rare occasions when the world was taken to the brink, the leaders on both sides ultimately knew that if they ordered a nuclear strike, they would be not just killing the enemy, they would be signing their own death certificates as well as those of their family and almost everyone they knew.
MAD, despite its ignoble characteristics, had served humanity quite well. The same pragmatism did not apply to the new hostilities, however. There was no rationalizing with religious zealots who were willing to wantonly sacrifice their own lives and those of others. There was no mutually assured destruction, there was only destruction.
Destruction of unimaginable proportions. That was what was on President Hayes's mind as he stood at the glass wall of the conference room looking down into Site R's command center. Military personnel sat at computer consoles or scurried about. Across from the president was a large projection screen that showed the current deployment and readiness of America's armed forces. He watched as designations began to change. Hayes expected it. He'd just given General Flood, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the approval to take the armed forces from their normal peacetime readiness of Defcon 5 to Defcon 4. In addition, plans were already under way to take the Seventh Fleet and Central Command to Defcon 3 if needed. He was told it was standard procedure given the situation. Hayes could already see where this insanity could take them. The hawks at the Pentagon hadn't said it yet, but they would shortly.
If a nuke went off in D.C., they would not just push for retribution, they would demand it, and the president would have a hard time stopping them. The only problem was who, where, and what to strike back at.
Irene Kennedy approached the president. "Sir, we're ready to get started."
Hayes took his spot at the head of the conference table. At the opposite end of the room the large video screen was split in three. The left third showed Secretary of Defense Culbertson and General Flood who were in the NMCC at the Pentagon. The middle portion showed Vice President Baxter, Treasury Secretary Keane, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security McClellan. All three men were tucked away at Mount Weather, another secure bunker west of D.C. The last third showed Attorney General Stokes and FBI Director Roach, who were at the new Joint Counterterrorism Center. In the room with the president was Secretary of State Berg, National Security Advisor Haik, Chief of Staff Jones, and CIA Director Kennedy. The combined assembly made up the president's National Security Council, and more often than not lately they had been conducting their meetings via secure video teleconference.
President Hayes, knowing that much of the group was in the dark as to what was going on, turned to CIA Director Kennedy and said, "Irene, would you please bring everyone up to speed?"
Kennedy began in her typically calm, analytical voice. "As most of you know, starting last week we noticed some trends in the financial markets that gave us concern. In addition to that there was an increase in chatter. On Monday morning we were alerted to a suspected gathering of top al-Qaeda members in a small village near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. About nine hours ago American Special Forces hit the village."
Before Kennedy could continue Secretary of State Berg asked, "On which side of the border did the village sit?" It was apparent by her tone that she already knew the answer.
"The Pakistani side."
Berg, a much revered and respected former senator, slowly shifted her chilly gaze from Kennedy to the president. "And why wasn't I informed of this?"
Hayes was in no mood to waste valuable time refereeing turf battles. "You weren't told because I didn't want the Pakistanis to know." He looked back to Kennedy. "Continue."
Kennedy cleared her throat. "Three top al-Qaeda members were nabbed in the raid along with several smaller figures. In addition several computers were discovered along with a lot of files. One piece of intel in particular gave us great concern. It was a map of Washington, D.C." Kennedy entered several key strokes and an image of the map appeared on the monitors that were embedded in the surface of the conference table and on the monitors at the other installations.
"For those of you who have seen one of these before, you will recognize the circles that emanate from the National Mall as the blast radius of a nuclear weapon. In addition to the map a bomb damage assessment was found."
"What size bomb are we talking?" asked the president's chief of staff.
"Twenty kilotons," answered Kennedy.
"Is that big?"
Kennedy looked up at the teleconferencing screen and said, "General Flood."
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said, "For a nuke it's pretty small, but then again when you're talking about a nuke nothing is really small."
"How much damage?" asked the president.
"That's contingent on whether we're looking at an air burst or ground detonation, and if it's detonated during the middle of the day or in the evening. Immediate casualties could be as low as twenty thousand if it's a ground detonation and could climb to half a million people or more if it's an air burst during the middle of a work day."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the group as individuals grappled with the enormity of the possible carnage. Someone muttered a soft curse, and then General Flood added, "In addition to the casualties the city itself would be uninhabitable for anywhere from thirty to seventy years depending on the radiation fallout."
"Dr. Kennedy," asked Attorney General Stokes, "I'm assuming since you ordered Operation Ark, that there is more to go on than just
"Yes. For some time we have been trying to ascertain the whereabouts of several missing Pakistani nuclear scientists. In the raid, we discovered files that detail the recruitment and defection of these scientists. I've got people pouring through this intelligence as we speak trying to get a more complete picture of what we're up against, but as of right now my team says there is little doubt that these scientists were successfully recruited by al-Qaeda. In addition we also have verbal confirmation from one of the terrorists that the attack on D.C. will employ a nuclear weapon."
"How in the hell," asked Secretary of Defense Culbertson, "did these guys get their hands on a nuclear weapon?"
"We're looking into that right now," answered Kennedy.
"Maybe we should start with the Pakistanis," snapped an angry secretary of defense.
Kennedy looked to the president. They had already discussed this exact point.
"I plan on talking to General Musharraf shortly," responded the president, "but before I do that I would like to get a better handle on the intelligence that's coming out of Kandahar."
"How did they get this thing into the country?" asked the president's chief of staff.
"We're not sure at this point. One report has it coming in by plane, but it's possible it may have come in by ship."
"Do we know when it arrived?" asked Jones.
"As of right now we think it came in yesterday."
"How in the hell did it get past all the sensors?" asked the president's chief of staff.
Kennedy, slightly perplexed, just looked at her. She knew of at least two occasions when they'd sat in the same room while the vulnerability of the detectors was discussed. "There will be time later to figure out exactly how they got the weapon into the country. For now we need to focus our energies on finding this thing, and preparing for the worst."
"What about Washington?" asked Jones. "I thought every bridge and road coming into the city was wired with devices that could detect something like this."
Memorial Day by Vince Flynn / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes