Read an Excerpt
Dale Brown's Dreamland: Retribution
White House Situation Room,
2125, 14 January 1998
(0725, 15 January, Karachi)
The V-shaped deck of the Chinese aircraft carrier Khan grew in the screen as the plane approached, its color fading from dark black to gunmetal as the focus sharpened. There was an aircraft at the catapult launcher on the right side of the screen; on the left, an antiair missile foamed and flew out of the frame. The deck continued to get closer and closer, until the shadow of the approaching aircraft, an American EB-52 Megafortress bomber, appeared directly below. The early morning sun rode almost on the plane's back, and the shadow engulfed the aircraft carrier's deck, as if the plane were swallowing the ship, not the other way around.
Red, computer-generated letters flashed at the bottom of the image.
The image went black.
"Is that real time?" shouted Jeffrey Hartman, who'd just entered the room.
"No, Mr. Secretary," said Jed Barclay, the National Security Council deputy responsible for liaisoning with Dreamland during Whiplash missions. "It's three minutes old."
"Jesus. Did the plane crash or what?"
"Um, it made it, sir. The video cut out as a latent effect from the, uh, T-Rays. S-S-Scientists say it's kinda like a sunspot effect. This is the airplane over here."
Barclay pointed to the smaller screen at the front of the situation room. Centered on the Arabian Sea, the screen mapped the waters off the coast of India and southwestern Pakistan.A bright red blip headed southward; this was the Megafortress that had just narrowly avoided diving into the Chinese aircraft carrier. The time flashed at the bottom, indicating Washington, D.C., and the time in Karachi, Pakistan—an arbitrary point selected as a reference for the operation, which was taking place across several time zones.
"The Chinese stood down?" said the Secretary of State. "They didn't launch their nuke?"
"Yes, sir. The President managed to convince the government, and Dog must've gotten through to the captain of the carrier. They sent the nuke plane back into the hangar."
"Um, that would be Lieutenant Colonel Bastian, Mr. Secretary."
"Oh, yeah, the Dreamland flyboy."
President Kevin Martindale, who'd stripped off his jacket and tie, looked up from the secure communications console at the far end of the room. He'd just finished a conversation with the Russian prime minister, explaining that the U.S. had intervened in a three-way conflict between Pakistan, India, and China, arresting a nuclear exchange with the help of newly developed terahertz radiation weapons called EEMWBs—Enhanced ElectroMagnetic Warfare Bombs, generally pronounced as "em-web." The missiles—the word bomb in the title was a misnomer—the "T-Rays" fried most electronic devices within a five hundred mile radius of the explosion.
"About time you got back, State," said Martindale.
"The Pakistanis were quite difficult and—"
"Never mind. Get over here. I need you to talk to the Indian prime minister."
"On my way."
Hartman turned to Jed. In a whisper he asked if they'd gotten them all.
"All of the nukes both the Indians and the Pakistanis fired were neutralized," said Jed.
Hartman patted Jed's shoulder, as if Jed had personally knocked all of the missiles down.
Jed pulled over a chair and dropped down into it. The Dreamland force had averted a nuclear war. But at what cost? Power failures were cascading across the subcontinent; it was likely that power would be disrupted throughout Pakistan and in India at least as far south as Hyderabad. It would take weeks, perhaps even months, to restore it all.
Meanwhile, all but one American spy satellite in the area had been disabled. And contact had been lost with two of the Dreamland aircraft, one of which was almost certainly shot down.
That aircraft happened to contain Jed's cousin, Jeffrey "Zen" Stockard, the head of Dreamland's Flighthawk program.
"Young Jed," said the President, "get over here and help me again with these projections."
"Yes, sir," said Jed, getting up from his console. Then, glancing again at the frozen main screen, he whispered a prayer. "I hope you're OK, Jeff. Jesus, I just hope you're OK."Dale Brown's Dreamland: Retribution. Copyright © by Dale Brown. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.