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Memorial day, p.39
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       Memorial Day, p.39

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  Rapp hung up and looked at Sam, "Radio the chopper and tell them to follow us."

  Rapp kept one hand on the wheel, and with the other he began unzipping the canvas top. When he had it halfway across the windscreen Sam took over and finished the job. The top flapped free and floated away to land in the river. Rapp checked his speed and fuel level and hunkered down for the six-minute dash.

  THE MARINA WASalmost exactly three miles from the bridge on the Virginia side. Rapp watched the DOE Bell 412 helicopter circle and come in for a landing. Rapp came in hot, running the engines at full throttle until the last possible moment. He nearly swamped two smaller boats that were on their way out through the channel. The drivers gestured wildly and cursed the crazy son of a bitch who was driving the thirty-seven-foot cabin cruiser so recklessly. Rapp was headed straight for the marina office. Those who hadn't gone to watch the helicopter land in the parking lot looked at the oncoming vessel with fear in their eyes.

  Rapp yanked back on the throttles, left them in neutral for only half a second, and then slammed them into reverse. The engines groaned as they strained to slow the forward movement of the boat, and people scrambled in every direction. The boat stopped just twenty feet from the main pier, but its building wake kept coming, rising up over the wood planks and slamming tethered boats against pilings and gangways.

  Rapp immediately eased up on the port engine while slipping the starboard engine back into the forward gear. The boat began spinning until its aft was pointed toward shore and then Rapp reversed the starboard engine, sliding the boat backward toward the boat ramp.

  A middle-aged man in plaid Bermuda shorts, docksiders, and a polo shirt came out of the office and started yelling. "Who in the hell do you think you are?"

  Rapp put the engines in neutral and ignored the man. "Sam, grab those lines and tie us up."

  Three men came running across the parking lot, each of them loaded down with a case or bag under each arm. They stopped at the top of the ramp and set their equipment down. The man in the ridiculous Bermuda shorts wasn't done though, and he stormed down the dock shaking his fist at Rapp.

  "Listen here, you jackass. In all my years as a sailor I have never seen a bigger bonehead move." The man came right up to the edge of the boat. "Just who in the hell do you think you are?"

  "I'm a federal agent," replied Rapp, as he pointed at the dead bodies laying on the aft sundeck. "I killed those two right there, there's a third one down in the cabin, and unless you want to be number four I'd advise you to get your ass off this dock and out of my face right now!"

  Dumbfounded, the man just stood staring at the two bodies.

  "Now!" Rapp yelled. The man turned and walked as quickly away from the dock as his skinny legs could carry him. A crowd of people were beginning to gather near the top of the boat ramp. Rapp looked up at them and said to Sam, "Radio the helicopter and tell them to land in the parking lot. Have them help you get these people out of here and secure a perimeter."

  One of Reimer's guys was wearing a backpack. He walked down the boat ramp and right into the water. By the time he reached the swim platform the water was almost up to his crotch.

  "They had to put the doors back on. They'll be here in less than two minutes."

  Rapp nodded. "Go up there and tell those people to get the hell out of here."

  The tech stood sideways in front of the cooler for several seconds and then yelled back to the other two men, "Gamma eleven, neutron six."

  Rapp watched with great interest. "What in the hell does that mean?"

  "It means it's hot." The SRT tech walked quickly back up the ramp, his pants soaked.

  Rapp looked up at the still-gathering crowd. Sam was trying to push them back. Several people were pointing and asking questions, while others were looking at the CIA helicopter that was now circling overhead looking for a place to land.

  Rapp pulled out his pistol and fired two shots into the water. The loud reports got everyone's attention. They all stopped what they were doing and turned to look at him. "I want this parking lot cleared right now Goddammit! This is an emergency!"

  Everyone finally got the hint and began scrambling for their vehicles. Rapp grabbed his phone and dialed Reimer's number. "Paul, it's Mitch. I have an idea. Why don't we load the device on a helicopter and get it the hell out of here?"

  "That's not how we do it, Mitch."

  "Why?"

  "We have to conduct diagnostics first. Ideally we don't want to move it at all, especially by air."

  "Why?"

  "An aerial burst increases the range and destruction of the blast. Just sit tight and let my people work. The Blue Team should be there in five minutes, and we'll have the device defused in no time."

  Rapp glanced down at the bomb. "Excuse me for not sharing your confidence, but when al-Yamani said that only Zubair could defuse this baby, I think he meant it."

  "Mitch, these bomb techs from SEAL Team Six are the best. They'll be able to figure out the fire set."

  "And what if they can't?" asked a clearly skeptical Rapp.

  "It's never happened before, Mitch."

  "Is that in practice or reality?"

  "Both."

  "Bullshit. You're telling me these guys have defused live nukes before?"

  "No not live nukes, but they deal with working exercise devices all the time. The principle is the same."

  "I hope to hell you're right."

  * * *

  Ninety-Two

  The Blue Team arrived aboard two gray U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopters. The large birds set down in the parking lot and a half dozen men piled out of each helicopter. At least six of them were dressed from head to toe in black combat gear and heavily armed. These men immediately fanned out to secure a perimeter. Two of the men were wearing light blue anticontamination suits, with sealed boots, helmets, and gloves. The other four men were dressed in desert fatigues.

  Rapp was still at the helm of theScandinavian Princess. He watched the SEALs unload their equipment and consult with the members of the DOE Search Response Team. He checked his watch. It was 12:08. Rapp had gotten over the jitters that this thing was going to blow any second. He was sure that al-Yamani wanted to get it as close as possible to the heart of the capital, and also to kill the president and the rest of the leaders who were to be present at the dedication of the new WWII memorial. That event was to begin at 1:00, so if Rapp was forced to bet, he'd say they probably had another fifty-two minutes until the bomb was set to go off.

  In his mind, though, those were crucial minutes that could be used to get the bomb further away from the city. Rapp looked at the four helicopters in the parking lot, and decided to call Reimer back. "Paul, listen to me. I'm guessing the weapon is set to go off at one o'clock. I still think we should put it on a helicopter and get it as far away from the city as possible."

  "Mitch, I already told you, we need to do the diagnostics first."

  "Can't they do that in the air?"

  "What if the terrorists placed an altimeter in the fire set and the second this thing gets a hundred feet off the ground it blows?"

  Rapp hadn't thought of that. "All right, but what's the plan if the SEALs can't defuse it?"

  "We're working on that right now."

  Rapp watched the two men in the sealed suits walk down the boat ramp carrying a piece of equipment. "What do you mean, you're working on it?"

  "Our first choice would be to take it out to sea."

  "That's assuming you'll have enough time. It's at least a hundred miles to the Eastern Shore."

  "And the beaches are packed right now, and the wind is blowing to the west, and that's just for starters, Mitch. We game this stuff all the time. The environmental impact, the economic impact, we've looked at it from every angle."

  "If taking it out to sea isn't going to work, then what's the other option?"

  "The only other option is to take it someplace remote, where the blast and fallout will do the least damage."

 
"That's it?" said a shocked Rapp. "That's our last and best option?"

  Reimer didn't answer right away. "There is one other option, but it has never been fully studied. I don't think the president would ever authorize it. I know the Pentagon would flat out say no."

  "Why?"

  "Because it involves destroying a multibillion-dollar government facility."

  One of the SEALs in desert fatigues came jogging down the dock toward Rapp. "What facility?" asked Rapp.

  "Mitch, that's the president on the other line. I'm going to have to call you back."

  "Don't " The line went dead and Rapp cursed.

  "Mr. Rapp?"

  It was the SEAL who was now standing next to the boat. Rapp let out a long sigh and said, "Yes?"

  "Lieutenant Troy Mathews." The officer stuck out his hand. "General Flood told me to keep you in the loop."

  He shook the officer's hand. "What's the status with this thing?" Rapp pointed at the cooler. The two men in space suits were moving a device around the outside of the cooler, pausing every few feet and then moving on.

  "That's a portable X-ray machine. They're snapping some photos for us so we know what's inside."

  "Lieutenant," one of the men in the space suits yelled. "I'm counting six separate firing systems."

  "Six?" the officer asked in a shocked voice.

  "Yes, and I think they used plastique for a molded charge. It's covered with at least two dozen blasting caps."

  "Six firing systems? You've got to be shitting me." Mathews looked toward the parking lot and shouted, "Mike, I need the drill and the fiber-optic camera right away."

  Rapp found none of this comforting. "What's going on?"

  "I'm not sure." The lieutenant started rolling up his sleeves as he climbed in the boat.

  As the lieutenant stepped over the dead bodies Rapp asked, "How long is it going to take you to defuse this bad boy?"

  "It all depends on how they're wired, but I can tell you it isn't going to be a cakewalk."

  Rapp watched as one of the lieutenant's men ran down the ramp and into the water, where he handed over a cordless drill and a black bag. A hole was carefully drilled through the top of the cooler, and then the pencil-thin camera head was delicately inserted. The lieutenant knelt down over the cooler and watched the small TV screen as his men took several minutes to try and glimpse as much as possible.

  Finally, they pulled the camera out and one of them said, "No trip wires, sir. I think it's safe to open."

  The lieutenant placed both hands on the top of the cooler and slowly lifted the lid. Rapp stood behind him looking down into the jumbled mass of wires and counted the six separate sets of red numbers. They had fifty-three minutes until the bomb blew.

  Rapp swore and then said, "Lieutenant, I need a no bullshit assessment. Can you and your team disarm this thing in less than fifty-three minutes?"

  The lieutenant studied the wiring, looking at it from the left and then the right. "I'm not sure."

  "Well,I'm not sure isn't going to cut it. You see any altimeter in there, or anything else that would preclude us from putting the device on a helicopter, and getting it farther away from the city?"

  "No." Mathews looked at his two men in the space suits. "Guys?"

  They both shook their heads.

  Another minute ticked off on all six screens and it was Mathews who swore this time.

  They'd never make it to the ocean in time. Rapp's hands were suddenly covered in sweat. "Lieutenant Mathews, this is what we're going to do. I want your men to place this cooler in the back of that blue-and-white helicopter sitting in the parking lot."

  "I'm going to have to call the Pentagon for an okay on that."

  In a very calm, but firm voice, Rapp said, "Lieutenant, we don't have time to argue. While your men are putting the device on the helicopter, you are going to assess your chances of defusing it, and I'm," Rapp held up his phone, "going to call the president and General Flood. If you can't tell me with absolute certainty that you can stop this bomb from going off, the most important next step is to get it as far away from the city as possible."

  The lieutenant stared down at the jumble of multicolored wires and then nodded. "Okay it sounds like a reasonable precaution."

  "Then let's move it quickly and carefully."

  "Mike Joe," Mathews yelled. "Bring down the lead blankets. We're going to move it."

  Rapp got off the boat and started walking down the dock. He dialed a number and put his phone up against his ear. He was going to call the president, but not just yet. There was one other person he needed to talk to first.

  * * *

  Ninety-Three

  The rope that held the cooler in place was cut, and with Lieutenant Mathews supervising, a lead blanket was draped over the cooler and it was carried up the boat ramp and placed in the back of the Bell 430 helicopter. Two older members of the Blue Team as well as one of the Search Response Team members climbed in the back of the chopper and studied the device. Then one-by-one the three of them exited the helicopter, shaking their heads.

  Rapp watched all this while he stood in front of the helicopter, his phone stuck to his ear. He guessed correctly that the two older members of the Blue Team were both master chiefs. Master chiefs were the backbone of the SEAL Teams, and when it came to explosives they were some of the most knowledgeable people in the world.

  Rapp looked at the two pilots who were still in the cockpit of the CIA helicopter. He held up his right index finger and began twirling it in the air. The pilots nodded and started flipping switches and checking displays. Rapp's mind was already made up. Every second was going to count, and he wasn't going to sit around wasting a single one of them.

  He began walking toward the helicopter and said into the phone, "So one of your scientists thought this up?"

  "Yes," answered Reimer.

  "And you think it'll work?"

  "I know it'll work. We've run all the calculations."

  The engines on the helicopter fired up and a second later the rotors began turning. "Paul, you get all the facts you need to convince the president. I'll call you back in a minute when I'm in the air."

  Rapp didn't have to go find Lieutenant Mathews because he was already on his way over. "I need an answer. Can you do it or not?"

  "My chiefs say we've got a fifty-fifty shot at best."

  "Not good enough," said Rapp, who immediately turned away from the lieutenant and toward the helicopter.

  "What did the president say?"

  "He said if you can't guarantee success, he wants this device as far away from the capital as possible." Rapp hadn't spoken to the president, but he was sure that at least on this, they would share the same opinion.

  Mathews followed Rapp, "Where are you taking it?"

  "I'm not sure just yet," Rapp lied. He got in the back of the helicopter, closed the door, and asked the pilots, "What's the top speed of this baby?"

  "She's rated for one hundred and sixty miles per hour, but at that speed we can only stay up for approximately one hundred miles, depending on wind conditions."

  "We're not going that far. Okay, let's get the hell out of here. Head due west as fast as you can and as low as you dare. Once we clear the city by at least ten miles we'll start heading north. I'll give you an exact heading in a few minutes."

  Rapp sat down, and as the helicopter lifted off the ground, he did the math in his head. They had to go approximately sixty miles. At top speed the helicopter would cover 2.66 miles every minute. That meant it would take less than thirty minutes, not counting takeoff and landing, to get there. He rounded it up to thirty-five just to be safe, and then moved the heavy lead blanket and lifted the lid to the cooler. The closest LED told him the bomb would detonate in forty-six minutes. That wouldn't give him much time to handle the rest but it was doable. Rapp set the timer on his watch and covered the cooler back up with the blanket.

  His phone rang and he answered it instantly. "Yep."

  "Are you rea
dy?" It was Reimer.

  "Yeah, we're already in the air."

  "I'll patch us through."

  There were a couple of clicks on the line and then Rapp heard the president's voice. "Mitch?"

  Rapp leaned his head against the leather headrest. "Yes, Mr. President."

  "Good work today."

  Rapp was caught slightly off guard. For some reason he was expecting to get his ass chewed out. "Thank you, sir."

  "Paul tells me that our technical people aren't sure they can stop this thing from going off. Is that what you're hearing?"

  "Yes, sir. I was told defusing it was a fifty-fifty proposition at best."

  "How much time do we have?"

  Rapp looked at his watch. "Forty-five minutes, sir."

  Reimer quickly interjected, "That's not enough time to take it out to sea, Mr. President."

  "Then what do you propose we do?"

  "We have two options, sir. We can dump it in the Chesapeake, in which case the immediate fatalities will be limited to the number of boaters in the area, though due to the fact that the bay is not very deep the fallout will be significant. We'd end up with a sizable cloud of radioactive vapor that would spread for hundreds of miles, and since the wind is coming from the east, it would move toward the more populated areas."

  "Could it reach Washington?"

  "Possibly."

  "How many fatalities?"

  "Initially probably somewhere around a hundred, but the fallout could drive that number easily above a thousand as cancer rates would skyrocket. It would also take decades for the Chesapeake to rebound, as well as the contaminated surrounding areas that take the brunt of the fallout."

  There was silence. "What's the second option?"

  "The second option, sir, is a bit controversial, but it is also the one that would result in the fewest casualties, and do the least harm to the environment."

  "Let's hear it, then."

  "Take the bomb by helicopter to Mount Weather and put it inside. Then close the blast doors to limit the fallout."

 
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