Act of War A Novel
By Dale Brown
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 Dale Brown
All right reserved. ISBN: 0060752998
The White House, Washington, D.C.
That same time
The President's National Security Adviser, Robert Hall Chamberlain, strode into the White House Situation Room ahead of a wall of military officers, civilian advisers and analysts, and Secret Service agents. They had to scramble to stay out of Chamberlain's way as he quickly entered the room and took his seat, not at the center of the oblong table but just to the right of the seat apparently reserved for the President of the United States. A former oil executive with TransGlobal Energy, an expert and adviser in foreign affairs and commerce, a wealthy political supporter and friend of the President and many other world leaders, Chamberlain had been described as having the geopolitical savvy of Henry Kissinger, the military affairs expertise of Condoleezza Rice, the wealth of Bill Gates, the charisma of Colin Powell ... and the ruthlessness of Saddam Hussein.
"All right, let's get started," Chamberlain said brusquely. He was of average height and size, but he made up for his lack of physical stature by his high degree of energy -- it always seemed as if he had someplace else he had to be; and in this current emergency situation, he was moving twice as fast. "Just to bring you all up to speed: the President, Vice President, most of the Cabinet, and the congressional leadership have been evacuated. The President, his chief of staff, SECDEF, SECSTATE, CJCS, and the congressional leadership went aboard Air Force One; the VP, Attorney General, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a few other senior Cabinet officials went aboard a C-37B, the Vice President's transport; the congressional leadership are in alternate secure locations throughout the East Coast. All are safely away and secure, and it is our opinion that the continuity of government has been assured to the best of our ability. As you all know, the President has already made one radio broadcast from Air Force One and plans on making another in a few hours. Except in southern Texas, the nation seems to be as calm as can be expected after a horrifying attack like this."
Chamberlain then turned to the woman beside him to his right, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Before we begin, I want to extend my personal condolences to Secretary of Homeland Security Calhoun, whom I understand lost some family members in Kingman City. It is truly a devastating loss, and I for one intend to see it avenged and the guilty persons destroyed. I thank her for staying here in Washington to oversee the defense and security of the United States. I'll postpone her briefing for a few ... "
"No ... no, I'm ready, Mr. Chamberlain," Calhoun said, wiping her eyes. She took a deep breath but kept her eyes on the table. Donna Calhoun was tall and statuesque but fragile-looking in her current emotional state. "Let me begin with a short synopsis: the attack occurred approximately three hours and twenty minutes ago, at three-thirty p.m. Central Time. We have no details of the incident itself yet, only the aftermath. The destruction, the death toll, is ... is immense. Approximately three square miles has been destroyed or dam ... damaged." She had to choke back a wimper, trying like hell to replace her sorrow with anger. "Estimated casualties are in the ... thous ..." This time she couldn't hold back the tears no matter how hard she tried.
"That's okay for now, Donna," Chamberlain said. He waited a few moments until her weeping subsided, then turned with a stony expression to the three-star general across from him. "General Hanratty?"
Lieutenant General Colin Hanratty was deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, the unified military command responsible for the defense of the fifty states; the commander of NORTHCOM was also triple-hatted as the commander of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the joint U.S.-Canada military alliance defending the entire North American continent; and also commander of U.S. Space Command, in charge of all of America's satellites and space boosters. "The commander of NORTHCOM, General Joelson, is at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex and is on duty with the senior duty controller monitoring the global military status and assessing North America's defense readiness. Although we are in constant communications with the Mountain, at the present time it is sealed up and ready to cut itself off from all outside communications and utilities at a moment's notice."
One of the wide-screen monitors on the wall showed a map of the world, with several annotations across mostly green shading. "The map shows the global defense status as of the latest observations, none of which a re more than two hours' old," Ha nratty said. "Our strategic adversaries are at normal defense configurations and we have observed no unusual strategic weapon movements. All of our detection, warning, intelligence, navigation, communications, and surveillance spacecraft are operating normally. Consequently, at this time Northern Command believes that this incident was a singular act of terrorism and not a coordinated attack or prelude to any sort of military action against the United States.
"As the lead military organization in the defense of the homeland, NORTHCOM was asked by the FBI to do some initial analysis of the explosion itself," Hanratty went on. "We estimate it was a point seven-five kiloton thermonuclear blast -- a so-called 'backpack nuke,' actually about the size of a very large suitcase, with approximately ten kilos of fissile material, comparable to a Soviet-era one-hundred-and-thirty-millimeter tactical nuclear artillery shell. The double-pulse characteristic of a small but potent thermonuclear blast was detected from space by our thermal and nuclear detectors."
"Are you saying the weapon was Russian, General?" Chamberlain asked pointedly.
"I have no information on its origin, Mr. Chamberlain. I was just making a comparison. But I've read lots of reports of former Soviet military weapons on the black market, including weapons of mass destruction, and since I've never heard of a Western WMD up for sale I can only assume it was Russian."
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