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Plan of Attack
Air Intelligence Agency Headquarters,
Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas
"Where is he, Chief?" Colonel Trevor Griffin, operations officer and acting commander of the 996th Information Warfare Wing of the Air Force Air Intelligence Agency, asked as he hurried through the doors. His excitement was obvious as he waited at the verge of impatience exchanging security badges with the guard, facing a sensor for a biometric face-identification scan, and entering a security code into a keypad to open the outer door. Griffin was a sort of caricature, like a kid wearing his dad's military uniform -- short in stature, beanfaced, with slightly protruding ears and narrow, dancing blue eyes. But the broad shoulders, thick neck, and massive forearms under his overcoat only hinted at the soldier hidden behind those giddy eyes.
"In the boss's office, sir," the command's Chief Master Sergeant Harold Bayless responded as he met the colonel on the other side of the security barrier. "I came in early to get caught up on some paperwork, and he was already here. I buzzed you and the boss as soon as I found out."
"Let me know when the boss gets in," Griffin said as he removed his Air Force blue overcoat and handed it to the chief master sergeant. "Make sure he has an office, a car, and billeting set up."
"Yes, sir," Bayless said. Physically, the two men could not have been more different: Bayless was husky and tall, with lots of thick, dark hair and humorless, penetrating dark eyes. Despite their height difference, Bayless had trouble keeping up with the quick full bird -- Bayless finally had to let Griffin hurry off ahead of him, and he retreated to his own office to make all the appropriate notifications on behalf of this most unexpected distinguished visitor.
Despite his fast pace, Griffin wasn't even breathing hard as he hurried past the stunned noncommissioned officer in charge and into his office. There, sitting on the sofa in the little casual seating area, was their unexpected visitor. "General McLanahan!" Griffin exclaimed. He stood at attention and saluted. "I'm sorry, sir, but I didn't know you'd be here so soon. I'm Trevor Griffin. Good to meet you, sir."
Patrick McLanahan got to his feet, stood at attention, and returned the colonel's salute. Griffin came over to him and extended his hand, and Patrick shook it. "Good to meet you, too, Colonel Griffin," Patrick McLanahan responded.
"For Christ's sake, General, please, sit down," Griffin said, a little confused at McLanahan's formal bearing. "It's a pleasure to have you here, sir. Can I get you anything? Coffee?"
"Coffee is good, thank you. Black," Patrick said.
"Me, too -- commando style." Griffin buzzed his clerk, and moments later the man came in with two mugs of coffee. Griffin introduced his NCOIC, then dismissed him. "I apologize, sir, but I didn't expect you for quite some time -- in fact, I was only just recently notified that you'd be joining us," Griffin said. He stood aside so Patrick could take the commander's seat, but Patrick reseated himself on the sofa, so Griffin, a little confused, took his armchair at the head of the table. "We're thrilled to have you take command of the unit."
Griffin waited until Patrick took a sip of coffee, then said with a smile, "I'm Trevor -- or 'Tagger' to my friends, sir."
"Sure," Patrick said. "I'm Patrick." Griffin nodded happily and took a sip of coffee, still acting as excited as a kid about to go through the turnstiles at Disneyland. "I guess it's been a while since I've reported in to a new unit. I'm a little nervous."
"And I'm not used to two-star generals showing up without a lot of fanfare."
"I'm no longer a two-star, Tagger."
"It was either a mistake, or a temporary budgetary/billeting/ allotment thing, or somebody's sending you a pretty strong message, Patrick," Griffin said, "because the Air Force doesn't take away a general's stars, like you're some young captain that just got a DUI. If they did, guys like MacArthur and LeMay would've been buck sergeants in no time. General officers either get promoted or they retire, either voluntarily or involuntarily -- they don't get demoted." He couldn't help but stare, bug-eyed, at the ribbons on Patrick's chest, especially the Air Force Cross -- the highest award given to an Air Force officer besides the Medal of Honor -- and the Silver Star. "But whoever's testing you or pushing on you," he went on, dragging his attention back to his new commanding officer, "it's their loss and my gain. But we didn't expect you for another month at least."
"I decided to show up early and meet everyone," Patrick said. "My son is with his aunt in Sacramento."
"And your wife?"
"I'm a widower, Trevor."
Griffin's face fell. "Oh, shit ... I'm sorry, sir," he said sincerely. He averted his eyes apologetically, embarrassed that he hadn't known this extremely important piece of information. "I received your personnel file, but I only glossed over it -- as I said, I didn't expect you for a few weeks."
This uncomfortable pause gave Patrick a chance to look Trevor Griffin over. His compact frame only served to accentuate his powerful physique -- he looked as if he had been power-lifting most of his life, and perhaps still did. Griffin's short-sleeved casual uniform had few accoutrements -- command jump wings under a senior weapons director's badge -- but Patrick saw his Class A uniform hanging on a coatrack behind the door, and it appeared as if Griffin had every ribbon and award an Air Force officer could have -- and then some: Patrick noticed a Combat Infantry Badge and even a yellow-and-black ranger tab.
"That's okay, Trevor," Patrick said. "I guess I've thrown a monkey wrench into your office by coming here early like this. I'm sorry."
"We both have to stop saying 'sorry' to each other."
Patrick smiled and nodded ... Plan of Attack
. Copyright © by Dale Brown. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.