08:50 (05:50 GMT)
The combination of burning rubber and brakes, pushed to their limit, filled the cabin and Blake’s nostrils. The tires squealed unforgivingly as he fishtailed around another corner and gunned the engine. The power plant was nearly one hundred kilometers away. His mind bounced back and forth to different ideas on how to stop Shorets and save Adriana, never settling on any one particular plan. He reached for his phone and dialed an old friend at the Secret Service. A tired voice answered.
“Tim, this is Blake. I need your help.”
“Blake MacKay? Dude, it’s like—one in the morning. What the fu—”
“Just shut-up and listen to me. I need to talk to the president immediately. It’s about an assassination attempt on the President of Belarus. I don’t have her direct number on me. Can you help me?”
Blake heard rustling over the phone as Tim must have straightened up in his bed. “Yeah, yeah. Hold on. Let me get in-touch with someone at the While House. Just hold on Blake, I’ll try and do a three way call.”
The line went silent. A long twenty seconds later, his friend came back on the line. “Blake, I’ve got Jeff Lyons on the line. Go ahead Jeff.”
“Hello Mr. MacKay, how can I help?”
“I need to talk to the president now. She will know what this is about. It’s urgent.”
“I’m headed upstairs now.”
From experience, Blake knew that outside the president’s residence doors, there was a call panel. Inside was a phone that rang directly to a phone next to her bed. Blake could hear Jeff talking to the president through the phone as his anxiety rose. A few seconds later he heard the door open and the president got on the line.
“Yes, Mr. MacKay, I assume this about your theory in Belarus.”
“Yes, Madam President. There is going to be an assassination attempt on the President of Belarus and Prime Minister Shorets is behind it. He’s placed the Metal Storm weapons in multiple buildings around the city and is planning on firing them when the president gives his speech in Victory Square today at fourteen hundred Belarusian time.”
“What time is it over there now?”
“It’s nearly nine o’clock.”
“Okay, Mr. MacKay. What do you need from us? Just let me know and I’ll do my best to make it happen.”
“I need an expert on this weapon, either someone from the DOD or the manufacturer. We need to find a way to deactivate them. There’s got to be an override code or something,”
“Ok, I’ll get on the phone to the DOD and find their expert. We’ll get him or her on the line and give you a call back just as soon as we have something.”
“Thanks,” Blake said.
“What’s your current status?” she asked.
“I’m headed to the nuclear power plant. That’s where the prime minister is.”
“Okay, Mr. MacKay. Stand down once you get there. Don’t do anything until you hear back from me personally. Do you understand? The last thing I want to do is start an international crisis.”
The president disconnected the call and turned to Jeff. “Assemble the Joint Chiefs, call the Secretary of Defense, get my intelligence directors here and have them meet me in the war room. And for the love of God, find someone that knows something about that damn weapon!”
Blake pulled up the directions to the power plant on his cell phone’s GPS. He drove through the Belarusian countryside and thought about kicking anyone’s ass that harmed Adriana. His phone rang and pulled him from his thoughts. The clock on the dash indicated that it had been nearly twenty minutes since he spoke to the president.
“Blake. President Pennington. I have the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of Defense Price, Director Slocum and Colonel Sherwin Cloonan. He is the resident expert on the Metal Storm weapons system.”
“Thank you, Madam President, everyone. Colonel, how can we disable these weapons?”
The Colonel answered, “Mr. MacKay, I hate to tell you this, but there are only two ways that you can disable them. Number one is to send a cancellation code to the computer that controls the firing. Or, number two is to find each of them and disable them one at a time.”
“Well, number two is out of the question. We don’t know where they’re located. Is there a universal cancellation code to disable all of them at once?”
“No, each unit or network of them will have their own cancellation code that is set by the person that set them up. There is no factory override.”
Blake was sure the sound of him slamming his fist on the dash could be heard through the phone. His anger rose.
For a moment, he could hear them mulling around other ideas. Veronica was the first voice to come through the phone.
“These things run on power don’t they? Why not just kill the power in that section of the city?”
“No director, Slocum,” said the colonel. “These are made to run independently, out in the field. They all run on batteries.”
“Colonel, what about an EMP burst?” Blake asked.
“What?” Veronica said.
“An E. M. P. an electromagnetic pulse,” Blake said.
“I know what an EMP is. That’s a crazy idea. It would put the country back into the Stone Age. Besides, where are we going to get an EMP generator in enough time? Think of something else.”
Secretary Price chimed in, “Actually director, that is an excellent idea.”
A smile creased Blake’s face.
“Explain,” said the president.
“We have a small EMP generator that we can attach to the bottom of a helicopter. It’s directional, and we can adjust the strength of the pulse. We can zero in to as small as a three hundred foot radius or expand it out to as wide as three kilometers.”
Veronica asked, “But where do we have one of those that we can get to Belarus in time?”
“Germany. We have one at Ramstein,” Secretary Price said.
Blake concentrated on the road as he spoke. “That’s great Mr. Secretary, but we’ve still got to find an aircraft to put it on. As far as I know, the fastest helo you’ve got there is an Apache. They can only go about two hundred and thirty klicks an hour. If you stripped it, you could maybe get two hundred and eighty klicks per hour out of it. It’s over fourteen hundred kilometers to Minsk. That’s not enough time.”
Admiral Thomas Andrews, of the Joint Chiefs cleared his throat. “I believe we might have an answer to that problem.”
“What’s that, Admiral?” the president asked.
“We’ve been working with DARPA and four aircraft manufacturers to develop a better veetol aircraft.”
“Sorry, Madam President, V. T. O. L., or vertical take-off and landing. We’re working with Sikorsky, Boeing, Aurora..”
“Just get to your point, Admiral.”
“Sorry Ma’am. Bottom line. We’ve got one of these aircraft on the Ronald Reagan in the North Sea right now. It’s the Boeing Phantom Swift. It’ll do over seven hundred kilometers per hour. I could have it to Ramstein in an hour. Give them an hour to fit the EMP generator on it and it could be in Minsk two hours.”
“I thought those were scaled down, unmanable prototypes,” she said.
“The original ones were, but the one on the Ronald Reagan can take a pilot.”
“That’s cutting it really close,” said the president. “Admiral, make the call now. I want that thing in the air in fifteen minutes. Secretary Price, call Ramstein, have them get that EMP device ready. I want it on that experimental aircraft immediately after it arrives. Colonel, work with Secretary Price to determine what size burst we’ll need to disable the Metal Storm weapons. As much as I’d like to see Solonovich ousted, we can’t have a blood bath of innocent people.”
Blake heard the mumblings of agreement in the room.
“Mr. MacKay, does this sound like we’ve taken care of everything?” the president asked.
“As far as the weapon goes, yes. However, I’m almost to the power plant. I can still try and find out who’s in charge of detonating it and if things don’t go as planned on your end, we’ll still have a back-up.”
“Keep us informed.”
“Madam President, there will be a lot of KGB. I could use some help from our side.”
“Understood. I’ll round something up and get back to you. For now, stay put.”