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Memorial day, p.40
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       Memorial Day, p.40

         Part #7 of Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn
 

  Mount Weather was a secure hardened facility built in the 1950s, located fifty-five miles from the White House. It was the main location in the Federal Relocation Arc, a system of just over a hundred shelters in five states designed to house key government employees in the case of a nuclear attack or other emergency.

  "Mount Weather!" someone shouted. "I'm at Mount Weather! You can't bring the damn thing here!"

  Rapp recognized the voice as belonging to the attorney general. Rapp pictured the look of panic in the man's face and smiled. Every cloud had a silver lining.

  "Mr. President," said the Director of Homeland Security, "Mount Weather is the backbone of our emergency command-and-control system. The replacement cost would be staggering it would be at least several billion dollars."

  "We're a rich country," answered Valerie Jones. "We'll build a new one. Mr. President, you can't drop this thing in the Chesapeake Bay."

  Rapp was slightly taken aback. He thought this was probably the first time he'd ever agreed with Jones on anything.

  "FEMA has offices located on that mountain, sir," countered Secretary McClellan. He was referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "And the Blue Ridge Mountains are as much a national treasure as the Chesapeake Bay. The Appalachian Trail runs within two miles of the place."

  "I think the FEMA facilities will survive the blast, Mr. President," Reimer said. "Mount Weather is carved out of the most dense rock on the East Coast, and it has two sets of vaultlike blast doors that are each five feet thick."

  Before Reimer could continue, the conference call broke out into a free-for-all with invective and opinions flying back and forth. All of the sudden Rapp felt really tired. The leather chair was comfortable, and the slight vibration from the helicopter was putting him in a trance. He let out a yawn and almost put his feet up on the cooler but he caught himself at the last second.

  Rapp shook his head and looked at his watch. After another moment of listening to the arguing he said, "Mr. President." The free-for-all continued, so he repeated himself a little more loudly. Again, no one yielded so Rapp yelled, "Everybody shut up! Right now!"

  The arguing trickled to a stop, and Rapp said, "Mr. President, you need to make a decision. I'm already in the air with the bomb headed west away from the city. Now, if you want me to dump it in the Chesapeake, then you'd better tell me quick, because I'm going to have turn around and haul ass back over the city, and hope I can get there in time."

  "You're already on your way to Mount Weather?" asked a shocked Attorney General Stokes.

  "Yes, and quit your whining, I'm the one whose been baby-sitting this thing for the last hour."

  The president's voice was calm. "I don't want to hear anyone else speak unless I ask for their opinion. Mr. Reimer, how far away would we have to get the people at Mount Weather to protect them from the explosion and fallout?"

  "Not far at all, sir. Our worst-case blast damage analysis indicates that as long as the main blast doors are closed, the facility will contain all of the blast. There is a slight chance of some venting but it will be minimal."

  "How far?" The president sounded impatient.

  "A mile would be sufficient."

  "Mitch, how much time do we have left?"

  Rapp looked at his watch. "We're down to thirty-eight minutes, Mr. President."

  "How long will it take you to get to Mount Weather?"

  "Approximately twenty-five minutes."

  "General Flood your thoughts on this?"

  "We do have other facilities, sir, such as Site R, where you are right now."

  "But," interrupted Secretary McClellan, "Mount Weather is the most important facility in the system."

  "Kendall," the president snapped, "I'm talking to General Flood right now. When I want you opinion, I'll ask for it. Now, general, as you were saying."

  "For starters NORAD is the most important facility in the system, and from the Pentagon's point of view Site R is of greater importance than Mount Weather. Even more appropriate, though, is that there's a shared opinion among the brass that these bunkers are good for command and control, but if we actually go to war with the Russians, or some day the Chinese, Mount Weather will be taken out in the first salvo with either multiple strikes or one of their big, deep underground megaton bombs."

  "So you're saying it's obsolete."

  "Sir, I think it was obsolete about a year after it was completed."

  "How long would it take to evacuate the mountain?"

  "I have no idea, but I do know it takes ten minutes to close the blast doors."

  Ten seconds of silence ticked by and then the president said, "I want Mount Weather and the surrounding area evacuated immediately! And, General Flood, I want my cabinet members on the first helicopter out."

  "Yes, sir."

  "And make sure Mitch gets whatever he needs."

  "Thank you, Mr. President," said Rapp. "General, I'll call you back in a minute with an exact ETA."

  Rapp closed his phone and poked his head into the cockpit. "You guys know where Mount Weather is?" They both nodded. "Good. Get us there as fast as you can."

  * * *

  Ninety-Four

  VIRGINIA

  Mount Weather is located in the craggy northwest corner of Virginia near the West Virginia border, five miles south of the town of Bluemont, Virginia, on Blue Ridge Mountain Road. The site occupies a mere hundred acres, but can be seen for miles around due to the large communications towers that spike up from the peak of the mountain, one of which is owned and operated by AT&T. Since its inception in the fifties, the facility has been shrouded in deep mystery. Not even Congress gets to look at the annual budget, and over the years the facility has even changed names in an effort to keep its location and purpose a secret. Those names have varied from its first code name, which was High Point, to Crystal Palace, the name for the president's quarters within the facility, to a long list of mundane names that mean different things to different government agencies. In the end, though, it is most commonly referred to as Mount Weather.

  The place is a living, breathing dinosaur of the Cold War. Much like Site R, it was built to survive a nuclear war, back when the bombs were bigger in design, smaller in yield, and significantly less accurate. Fortunately for the people who were intended to occupy the facility in the event of a nuclear war, Mount Weather never got the chance to take its place beside the Siegfried and Maginot lines in history's trash heap of well-intended, but short-sighted, fixed fortifications. Now it would serve a purpose, though, and in the end become the tomb it was always destined to be.

  As they approached the mountain from the east, Rapp could see cars moving down the mountaintop's switchback road like ants streaming out of an anthill. Four military transport helicopters were also taking off from the small landing strip at the top of the mountain and another helicopter was vacating the helipad by the east portal. The Mount Weather facility had two main roads leading into the underground bunker, one on each side of the mountain. Traffic was moving well down both roads. There were a couple of stragglers still getting in their cars, but the bulk of the people were well clear and already past the mile mark.

  Just as General Flood had promised, a pickup truck was waiting for them next to the helipad. It was pointed toward the concrete reinforced tunnel entrance that led into the mountain. Rapp checked his watch. They were down to twelve minutes. He yanked the lead blanket off the cooler and checked the timers. They read 00:12:26. A little less than twelve and a half minutes.

  Reimer had informed him that the calculations had been based on taking the device into the center of the facility and putting it in an elevator that would drop it down another hundred feet into the bedrock. He promised Rapp there would be plenty of time to accomplish this. Rapp hoped he was right.

  The CIA helicopter set down in the center of the pad. Rapp pushed the door open immediately, and grabbed the handle of the cooler. He dragged it to the edge, and the four men dressed in blue battle dress uni
forms from the Federal Protective Services came to his aid. Like attendants from a mortuary hauling a casket, they took hold of the cooler and loaded it into the bed of the idling pickup truck. Three of the men then jumped in the back with the cooler, and the officer in charge of the group slid in behind the wheel. Rapp got in the passenger seat and they took off.

  The sunny afternoon disappeared behind them as they entered the long tunnel. The man driving the truck glanced over and said, "You must be the man Secretary McClellan and A. G. Stokes have been bitching about for the last twenty minutes."

  "That would sound about right."

  The tunnel narrowed a bit and they passed some type of decontamination station. The driver honked the horn and kept his foot on the gas. "We have to start closing the doors now."

  Rapp looked at his watch and nodded. They were cutting it close.

  "McClellan says you're a real pain in the ass." The man said this with great amusement.

  Rapp smiled and shook his head. "Yeah well, actually, McClellan doesn't even know his head from his ass, so I'm not sure he's the best judge."

  "You ain't going to get any argument out of me." The driver nudged his way around an abandoned golf cart and hit the gas. "So what's in the cooler?"

  Rapp kept his eyes focused on the tunnel. He still couldn't see an end to it. "They didn't tell you?"

  "Nope."

  "Here's the deal, Lieutenant, when we get to the elevator I'll tell you what it is."

  "Well, whatever it is, it can't be good. Here comes the elevator right up here."

  The truck began to slow and then skidded to a quick stop on the concrete floor. Everyone piled out. The head of the security detail opened the freight elevator and Rapp helped the other three men carry the cooler. They placed it in the middle of the large elevator, closed the gate, and hit the button for the bottom floor. Rapp watched it disappear and then jumped back in the truck just as it had finished turning around.

  As they peeled out he looked at his watch. They had a little over eight minutes to go.

  "So what's in the cooler?" asked the driver.

  Rapp laughed. He supposed the young man was going to find out sooner than later. "A bomb."

  "What kind of bomb?"

  "A nuclear bomb."

  "You're kidding me?"

  "Nope. You'd better step on it, because it's going to go off in about eight minutes, and if those blast doors don't hold we're screwed."

  The young man punched the gas and they accelerated down the tunnel. Less than a minute later they skidded to a stop in front of the first blast door, which was already half closed. They abandoned the vehicle, and everyone hit the ground running. They ran one by one past the second blast door and up the road out into the bright afternoon sun. The head of the FPS detail told his men what was in the cooler. The news was received with shocked looks. All Rapp could do was laugh in the face of such insanity.

  They reached the helipad with just under three minutes to spare and everyone piled in. The helicopter lifted off and raced eastward. Rapp called Reimer and told him the device was safely tucked away. Reimer advised Rapp that if they were more than a mile away by the time the device blew they wouldn't have to worry about the electromagnetic pulse of the weapon, which could potentially down the helicopter. Rapp told the pilots to keep flying and stay low.

  Rapp looked at his watch, counted the seconds, thought of his wife, and willed the helicopter to fly faster. With ten seconds left before detonation he yelled to everyone in the helicopter, "Cover your eyes-don't open them until I tell you."

  Rapp counted the seconds in his head. He got to ten and still hadn't heard anything, so he kept going. After twenty seconds he grabbed his phone and dialed Reimer. "What happened? Did it blow?"

  "It sure did. We felt the tremor all the way over here across the state line."

  "Did the mountain contain the blast?"

  "I don't know. You're in a better position than I am."

  Rapp asked the pilot to turn around so he could have a look. Rapp gazed out across the beautiful tree covered range in search of any sign that the bunker had failed to contain the blast. There wasn't a plume in sight-not even a puff of smoke.

  Rapp smiled and said, "Tell the president we did it. It worked."

  "I think you should be the one to make the call," Reimer insisted. "You're the one who did all the heavy lifting."

  "It was your idea, Paul. You call him. I'm going to take a quick nap." Rapp closed his phone before Reimer could argue further. He suddenly felt the need to talk to someone.

  He looked up the number for the cabin on his phone and punched send. After six rings the familiar voice of his wife answered.

  "Don't tell me you're not coming." Her voice was full of disappointment.

  "Come on, honey, have a little faith."

  "You're going to make it?" she asked excitedly.

  "Yep, I'll be there by dinner." Rapp figured after what had just happened he could wrangle the Agency's G-V executive jet for a little personal trip.

  "So, everything's all right?"

  Rapp looked at the communications towers that were still standing atop Mount Weather. "Yes, honey. Everything is just great."

  * * *

  Epilogue

  MONDAYMORNING; MEMORIALDAY

  The birds were singing, the sun was peeking through the sides of the window shade, and somewhere off in the distance the thrum of an outboard engine punctuated the still morning air. It was summer. Rapp stirred and reached out expecting to find the smooth, soft skin of his wife. All he found was a lumpy pillow. He clutched it and rolled over, not yet sure if he wanted to keep sleeping or get up. The guest cabin at his in-laws' north woods retreat was a great place to sleep. It sat a mere twenty feet from the water's edge, and when there was a slight breeze the water would lap up against the shoreline rhythmically, sending you into a prenatal slumber. It was nature's version of a mother's heartbeat.

  On this particular morning, however, there was no breeze, which presented an entirely different problem. In addition to the thrum of the outboard engine, which was fading, there was the sound of another boat on the water-a boat he was very familiar with. Rapp's in-laws were big water skiers, and when at the Rielly cabin, there were only two times to ski: either early in the morning or late in the evening. Early in the morning was always preferred. The evenings were a bonus.

  On Saturday, Rapp had left D.C. almost immediately. He'd talked briefly to Kennedy, and it didn't go very well. The full reality of what they had narrowly avoided had begun to gnaw at him almost immediately. In his typical straightforward manner, he told Kennedy what he thought of certain high-ranking people in the U.S. government. She asked him to keep his opinions to himself, and he hung up the phone without responding.

  He left D.C. on a private jet and flew to Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where his wife was waiting to pick him up. They had sat by the camp-fire that night with his in-laws and told stories. At no point were the events of the last week brought up. Rapp had slept hard that night and then right through the morning ski ritual. Anna and her three brothers had ribbed him about it the rest of the day. That was the other thing about the Rielly family-if you didn't ski you were a wimp. Rather than suffer through another day of verbal abuse he threw back the covers and got out of bed.

  In the small galley kitchen he found a pot of coffee and a note. It read:Honey, went skiing. You'd better get your butt down to the dock or you'll never hear the end of it. Rapp smiled. He poured himself a cup of coffee and looked out at the lake. Through the tall pines he got a glimpse of them skiing down the north shore of the lake. He went back to the bedroom and threw on his swim trunks and an old faded sweatshirt.

  On his way back to the kitchen his satellite phone rang. He picked it up and looked at the screen. It was Kennedy. This was the fourth time she'd tried to reach him since he'd left D.C. There was no TV at the cabin, and he'd made no effort to turn on the radio and find out what was happening in the world. He stood there star
ing at the screen and after a few seconds reluctantly decided he'd better find out if something was going on. He unplugged the charge and brought the phone up to his ear.

  "Hello."

  "Good morning," Kennedy said in a slightly guarded tone.

  "Everything all right?" Rapp's voice was gravely from sleep.

  "Yes, everything's fine. I'm sitting on the deck, watching Tommy build a sandcastle. Any reason why you haven't been answering your phone?"

  Rapp grabbed his coffee and stepped outside, the screen door slamming closed behind him. "I wasn't in the mood to talk." Rapp worked his way across the dew-laden grass toward the dock.

  "And why is that?"

  After he left Washington on Saturday, Rapp's resentment toward those who lacked his fervor had worsened significantly. "Why do you think, Irene?" Rapp stepped onto the dock. "You think, just maybe, I'm fed up with all the bullshit?" Despite his choice of words there was no cynicism in Rapp's voice, only resignation.

  "Could you be a little more specific?"

  "For starters, we came within minutes of losing a half million people and the nation's capital." The old dock squeaked under his weight.

  "But we didn't, Mitch. Thanks to you and Paul Reimer and Skip and a whole lot of other people, we stopped them."

  Rapp sat down in an Adirondack chair at the end of the dock. "It should've never gotten that far, Irene. We got lucky."

  "But we stopped them, and the president is extremely grateful for what you did."

  Rapp looked at the water. There wasn't a ripple on the lake. He wanted to tell Kennedy that the president could kiss his ass, but he decided to instead say, "At the moment I don't really care too much about what the president thinks."

  "That's unfortunate, because you are probably the only person who can talk him out of acknowledging you when he addresses the nation tonight."

  Rapp was dumbstruck. "What are you talking about?"

  "You haven't read the papers or seen the reports on TV?"

 
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