There is a genius for rapid organization that is uniquely American, for when it comes to bringing together disparate information,, data, materials, people, machines, computers, forces and institutions, it is the Americans who will forge a new entity superior to the disparate elements, and they’ll do it in less time than anyone. It was that uniquely American gift for rapid organization that was manifesting itself in Paw Paw, West Virginia.
“O’Callahan, Jenkins, Stein, Finneran...move that satellite dish eighteen degrees north. We’re receiving excellent communications from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Washington, but Miami is still dropping off the line.” Shouted Communications Specialist Air Force Lieutenant Raymond Evans.
He was overseeing, at that point, over 18 billion dollars’ worth of satellites, dishes, communications trucks and other telecommunications equipment that were going to provide instantaneous communications when the counterstrike occurred.
All around him units formed, received their orders, and receded to various outposts on the McKenna Orchard. The McKenna’s started with one hundred and fifty acres 25 years ago and had subsequently built their acreage to 423. It was rich in old growth forest and “holl’ers.” Both were perfect for hiding a massive counterintelligence operation, and the Air Force, Marines, and Army all had brigade-sized units installing that equipment.
Until the crisis was resolved, an airstrip large enough to handle C-130’s nearby was needed, and the hayfield was chosen as the place to build it. The team from Eglin Air Force Base that could build an airstrip in a matter of hours was flown in and they had the airstrip laid out in two hours.
As there was no knowing how much Pentagon communications had been compromised, recently purchased satellite telephones with encryption software installed were now the preferred means of military communications. Over that system the order was now being sent to ring Russia with all available nuclear submarines. Other subs were placed in triple rows off the coast of Iran and Iraq.
All of these decisions were being made as the McKenna’s fed the cows and did the other early morning chores of the Orchard. Mr. McKenna returned from feeding the cows their hay to find that a satphone link had been established between he and his son.
“I know that line as well as I know my own name, Frank. You’ve heard me tell of it hundreds of times. These men have just confirmed what we who drove that line knew all along. It runs right underneath where the President sleeps. Course in those days that was a safe thing.”
“Pop, you have to remember every detail about that tunnel. It seems there may be an air duct that they think went right to the President’s bunker where he’s being held.”
Mr. McKenna squinted his eyes and looked back in time. “Yup! It’s duct A-49. I know it is. I remember it because that’s the year I married your mother and it was the only air duct that was cleaned regularly and worked right. Folks said then it was because it went right to the White House but we never paid it no mind. It’s right past fifteenth street about thirty yards to the right. I remember it because every time I passed it I was thirty minutes closer to the end of my shift. It’s also the only one that has a square entrance. At least then it did.”
Frank listened at the other end well aware that his father’s memory could be not only the difference between life and death for the President, but it would mean his life as well. Everything depended on the accuracy of his father’s memory. Right now, two generals stood before him with old maps of the underground trolley system in Washington pointing to the air duct that his father had stated was the point of entrance.
Frank knew that his father had an incredible sense of direction for as long as he could remember. When they would take drives late at night or early in the morning to deliver apples, peaches, cherries and plums to buyers in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland, Pop would find their way through the worst traffic, fog and roads because he had an instinct for directions that was almost genetic.
“Now you’re absolutely sure, Mr. McKenna.”
Frank looked at the General in disbelief and said in anger, “General, if he says it’s there, and it’s there!”
“I appreciate your certainly, Sergeant. However, we’re talking about the President’s life. I must be certain your father recalls the exact location of that air duct before this operation commences. Otherwise, this entire mission could fail and too much rides on its success to allow any loose ends.”
“Forgive me, General, but I’m the one who might die if my father is wrong and I enter the wrong air duct. If my father says it’s there, it’s there.”
The General looked at Sergeant Frank McKenna carefully. He had the same elusive quality he had seen in so many special ops types, and he had worked with them since the First Gulf War. Trust between he and his troops was the most fundamental quality to ensure success in this kind of mission.
“As you said, Sergeant McKenna. We’ll go with your father’s information. It’s worth spending half an hour now getting down the layout of those tunnels. The men who will accompany you are...”
“I go in alone, General. There’s less chance for mistakes like noise that way.”
“I’m sorry, Sergeant. You must realize that there could be any number of people in that bunker. You will need plenty of support when it comes to confusing and neutralizing the enemy.”
“Forget it, General. I’ve slipped across more borders in this hemisphere and the Asian hemisphere than you’ll ever know. I’ve provided intel with info they never even knew was out there. And the reason I never got killed doing so was that I didn’t have anybody with me lighting a cigarette, or farting, or talking when they shouldn’t. So, if I’m your boy I go alone.”
The General’s contingency plan called for a host of special teams attacking simultaneously. It was a plan that had been worked out and practiced by teams within the Secret Service, Army, Marines, Capital Police, FBI, ATF, and others. And right now Sergeant McKenna was saying that it couldn’t be used.
“General, I know what you’re thinking. All those pretty boys you’ve been preparing for this day won’t have their day and they’re going to be mad. Well, I’ve trained with many of those boys and I’ll say many of them are good. But I’ve got an instinct. You know my record or you wouldn’t be wasting time with me right now.”
“Who’s to say the guy is still in the bunker? What if he has to be tracked, hunted and killed? I’ll smell him out better if I can do this alone because I won’t have to spend time worrying about others. It’s a mission that’s tailored for a person with my skills and others can only increase the likelihood of being detected which leads to the possibility of failure. Well?”
The General thought hard, swallowed, and nodded. When he did, Sergeant Frank McKenna picked up his rifle and other gear, and headed out to the Humvee that was waiting for him outside. Before he could leave, the General was at his side.
“Frank, I’ll agree to drop everyone from these plans but for one group. We’ve always kept the knowledge the Tunnel Rats learned so painfully in Vietnam around in a special unit for just such a contingency. They have unique skills that will be of use to you until you reach the bunker. I insist they accompany you that far.”
“I know their reputation and I’d be glad to have them along. But I go solo into the bunker to get the President out.”
“Agreed, Frank. God be with you.”
Frank looked above at the fading stars and then back to the generals. He saluted crisply, adjusted his helmet, made sure the safety locks were set on his guns, and then mounted the Humvee that would take him to the helicopter that, in turn, would take him to DuPont Circle’s underground shopping mall for insertion into the trolley tunnel system.