The Everpresent Threat

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Sergeant Frank McKenna and Press Secretary John Fitzgerald crouched against each other behind an oak desk that was solid enough to absorb the hit, the explosives used had been minimal enough -- out of fear that Abdullah was still alive in there -- that they both easily survived the blast. Also, the bunker had huge impact absorbing coils surrounding it, which helped mitigate the impact of the explosion.

Fifteen of Abdullah’s handpicked men witnessed the carnage. They wickedly observed that their leader and his bodyguard had been mutilated and left in several pieces around the room.

They also observed that their greatest bargaining chip, the President of the United States, had escaped with his family and staff. From there they quickly noted the hole that was the most likely path of escape.

They ran about excited screaming things neither Frank nor John could understand. As yet, they had not been discovered. That was as Frank had hoped it would be. But what he had hoped would not happen began to happen all too quickly.

They began to run for the hole where, he deduced, they planned to make a quick pursuit for the President of the United States.

Frank gestured to John Fitzgerald to hold his fire until the Jihadi’s put their guns down in order to boost the foot of the first pursuer. When they did, Frank indicated that they would peel off a few ammo clips, with him taking out those in the rear and Fitzgerald handling those in pursuit of the President.

“NOW!” Frank yelled and charged Abdullah’s best Jihadi’s firing an AK-47 from the hip and firing a .45 Rugger at their heads. Within nanoseconds he laid ten of them waste. John Fitzgerald proved to be good to his word about his firing ability.

A lifelong member of the NRA and an instructor in their shooting and safety courses he quickly pumped out only eight rounds to drop five men. He conserved his powder and ball because he knew they still had a few battles to go before they were free.

Both fell back and crouched snugly against the wall with the newly blasted exit. Frank picked up his radio. “Opossum Gravy to Superspace. Come in.”

“Superspace here Opossum gravy.”

“Superspace. Is all quiet in the Big Enchilada?”

“Negative. Opossum Gravy. Unexpected weather interference. About fourteen spitballs have blocked us from reaching the Freedom Train. Any chance of Gravy for a Gravy Train.”

Frank hesitated.

He knew that there were plenty more to come into this room to discover the exit hole that would then be in hot pursuit. The original plan had been for him to secure the exit to avoid any surprises from the rear. He also wanted to find Wosniac’s other escapes while wasting a number of spitballs, but now he had to double back.

He motioned for Fitzgerald to cover him while he made a run for the blast hole. He grabbed two Uzi’s from the dead around him, stacked some bodies for added height, and then ran, leapt from the stacked bodies grabbed the hole.

As he went airborne he heard a hailstorm of fire behind him. He knew that those bullets were meant for him. “Oh, Lord, watch over my family if you’re taking me to the Old Rugged Cross!” he prayed as he continued to get into the exit hole.

As he scampered into the exit he heard Fitzgerald answering the hailstorm of bullets with bursts of his own.

He knew when he last looked at Fitzgerald that the Press Secretary realized there was no way both of them were going to make it out alive. It was the rare government official like Fitzgerald that made Frank proud to wear his uniform and to defend them from hostile powers.

Frank knew he still had enough high-explosives on his belt to take out the entire room behind him and to seal up his exit. He listened closely and knew that there was no way Fitzgerald could still be alive.

He turned briefly to confirm that belief and saw that the Jihadi’s were already mutilating Press Secretary Fitzgerald’s body.

In a rage Frank yelled, “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!” and furled the explosives into the room. He was far too close to have done so but his face became as red as his hair as he felt the impact of the blast hurl him back into the tunnel.

Somehow, he landed on his feet. He felt his shoulder and quickly ignored the strained muscles that were calling to his brain for attention. He checked to find he still had three machine guns, his pistol, knives and ammunition and explosives.

He heard gunfire and suspected that Superspace and his men, the Tunnel Rats, and the President were no more than a hundred feet away. From the constant rain of gunfire he now guessed that they were pinned down and unable to get the President to safety.

As Frank began to run ahead he remembered that they were in Metro Center, a major interchange for the entire Washington, DC Metro system. As such, it had several layers. If he could climb to a higher level and locate the Jihadi’s, he might be able to nail the Jihadi’s from above.

He quickly located the broken escalators, ran up two levels, and looked out over the side marble rail to see what kind of range of fire he might be able to gain from that perspective. Below he observed the Jihadi’s moving men and weapons forward.

About fifty feet in front of the Jihadi’s he could see the Superspace, his men, and the President in a bad way hunkered down before concrete pilings. They were unable to run in any direction because the Jihadi’s had a clear line of fire. Quite simply, they were badly out positioned.

He couldn’t use his explosives because that might endanger the President and his men if the explosions caused the concrete pilings to collapse. Instead, he decided to sneak up on them as he had on deer for decades and to drop them before they realized he was even there.

As they were mostly posed in classic sniper positions -- flat on their bellies, back leg crossed over the other -- he began to tie two of his three Uzi’s together to rain down a curtain of bullets to take most of them in one sweep.

Frank quietly ran down the escalator and crept up from air vent to air vent until he was a mere ten feet from his prey. He leveled his guns on the terrorist farthest to the right and opened up.

He raked several clips left and right straight across the backs of Abdullah’s now leaderless men. When he was done after laying down nonstop fire for almost a minute, there was not one of the enemies left alive.

“Gravy to Super. Be careful. These bastards might still have a more or two hiding out there to waste the President. Keep a tight ring around him. I’ll cover this side to make sure you’re not surprised from the front. Be especially careful on the edges to make sure there are no strays. When are the Agency college boys supposed to arrive.”

“Any minute now Frank. Between 1115 and 1130 was the official time. Maybe they encountered their own group of Jihadi’s.”

“Well...keep your eyes open, Superspace. I want everybody out of this alive. Just because we’re out of the White House Don’t think they don’t have people out there still. That goes for everybody.”

“Will do.”

The President and his staff all huddled underneath the train platform at Metro Center at the Blue Line level. As dangerous as it was exposing them to the danger of being hit by an incoming train, the danger was worth the risk to protect them from being cut down by gunfire or explosives.

Frank stood above them on one side monitoring the area for any hostile activity. Superspace took the other side and did the same there. The remainder of their strike force formed a protective wall around the President.

From the west the sound of a train began to increase in intensity. Frank signaled Superspace who in turn signaled the President’s protectors. They scrambled up to the platform. They all trained their weapons on the train just in case it had been hijacked by the Jihadi’s.

The car, now equipped with a layer of armor plating on every surface, pulled into the station and stopped. As it did, several dozen heavily armed CIA agents debarked and took up defensive positions. The Jihadi’s who had been hiding since the encounter with Frank now opened fire.

Their bullets hit a phalanx of agents immediately around the President. The ones hit in areas covered by Kevlar merely took some bad bruises.

Others were not so lucky and joined the numbers of other Americans cut down that day defending their families, lives, and territory. By exposing their positions these remaining Jihadi’s were quickly hit hard and taken out.

Frank ran down the platform to make sure they were dead. He noted that one had explosives tied to himself of the kind that killed so many Israeli children and old people in the last decade. “Jesus!” he screamed. “GET THE TRAIN OUT OF HERE! MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! HE’S LOADED WITH EXPLOSIVES!!!”

The train began to lurch forward. Frank sprinted, found the side rails on the opposite side of the terrorist who was about to explode, and held on for dear life. “Oh Sweet Jesus...” was as much of the prayer as he was able to get out before the explosion went off.

As the impact hit the train they were fortunate enough to be far enough ahead of the blast that most of the impact was contained in the large cavity of Metro Center. The train made it to Farragut North where they halted it for a few minutes to make sure that the tracks up ahead were clear of the enemy.

Frank went into the car and located an Agency guy with a radio. “Is that a Claris radio?” Frank asked him. Claris was a backup radio system that the Satellite Defense Agency had bought with billions of black box funds because they knew that in an emergency such as this neither the Internet, satellites, or any other system could be relied on the provide reliable voice and data transmission.

“Yes, Sir, it is. You’re welcome to it if you need it.”

Frank realized he had yet to signal Command Central in Paw Paw and that the counterassault that the American nation desperately needed to undertake had yet to begin in earnest. He thought of his wife and children for the first time since this action began and quickly spoke into Claris.

“Big Daddy, this is Opossum and the Scouts. We’re at Yellowstone, clear of all picnickers and the bears. Begin the World Series at all ballparks. Repeat. Begin the World Series at all baseball parks. Request permission to smoke out the groundhogs from all their tunnels.” He looked over at Spitball, Superspace and Zinger. They all smiled and winked back.

“Big Daddy has transmitted to all operating units. We are on Code Overstrike. Repeat. Repeat. Code Overstrike. Opossum is free to undertake parity. Enjoy the harvest, but leave about half as collateral in the event of their doing the same. Over.”

Frank’s encrypted words traveled 22,000 miles through space, bounced off several satellites, and were picked up on satphones and receiving stations on the top rung of American security networks worldwide.

That done, Frank looked at the tunnels and began to state the plan he was already formulating for his escape. “Marines forward!” he barked. They shot forward in the reaction time that made them famous.

When Frank looked at these kids he began to feel age like only one who is in his forties in the military can when looking at children in their late teens. He thought of their parents and families and like all good commanders aimed to keep as many alive as possible while still accomplishing his mission.

He laid it out in a command voice clearly and simply to them and their commanding officer. “I’m glad you guys thought to bring gas masks. Put them on and we’ll smoke them out with tear gas. Put some of your men above ground near air ducts and metro exits. When they come out, waste them. Keep a few of them alive in case we need them for prisoner negotiations later. Sound good?”

“Yes, Sir!” answered the Marines in unison.

Word was passed along the chain of command to get all Americans without gas masks out of the metro. The Marines undertook one of the most successful counterattacks that day by killing 7,753 Jihadi’s and capturing another 284.

Considering that most of those killed offered serious resistance, it was a tribute to the professionalism and training and grit of the Marines that they only lost a Desert Storm-like 27 KIA and 79 wounded in this operation.

Frank acted as a coordinator of these opening counter assault operations, organizing the Marines into commando cells of 5 to 8 men to spread the most firepower the fastest, to put major dents in the terrorist’s capabilities at the heart of their assault, and to reduce the possibility of major casualties if the Jihadi’s carried out a major counter assault.

He kept running from station to station in the downtown of Washington to make sure no holes developed in his strategic plan. When he was confident that everything was in order he contacted Paw Paw.

“Big Daddy. Almost four thousand killed, excluding the area around the White House. Estimate two thousand enemy wounded. Our casualties light. Over.”

“Mighty proud a you and those with you, Frank.” came the reply from the General. “We’re getting similar reports from New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Houston, Los Angeles, White Sands...everywhere. God only knows how many of them there are but we’re talking tens of thousands. This guy Abdullah did his homework.”

“One word of extreme caution, Frank. We’ve discovered that the traitor Farrakhun sold out his country for 30 pieces of silver. Apparently, the whole Nation of Islam in this nation, or the Black Muslims as they’re better known, has been on his payroll for years.

Farrakhan’s visits to Algeria and the money he took from Kaddafi before he was killed were merely a cover for the millions more he was getting from Abdullah to purchase arms for him and to supply him with American soldiers. So be aware that this is a multi-front battle.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Frank answered.

“By the way, Frank, your family knows that you freed the President. They’re grateful to you and so are we. Now remember that the objective of war is to make sure the enemy dies for his country.”

“Yeah, thanks, General. Godspeed.” Frank had been fighting so furiously that he’d forgotten the last of what the General had said until just then. He was not a man of physical fears and he knew that he could die like anyone else if he wasn’t careful. Even then, stray bullets have a way of finding their mark.

He decided that the next course of action had to be the securing of the White House and its immediate environs since that would mean the quickest way of getting the country back to normal, whatever normal would be after this, so that the healing could begin.

He gathered up his men and headed down Pennsylvania Avenue.

What he saw before him was a scene of total devastation. Word must have reached Antoun Moussavi, Massoud Moussavinejad, Vahid Nasr, Makmat Papinchak, Fereshteh Pirnia, Bahram Salehi, and the other July 5th Strike Force leaders that Abdullah was dead, because, to judge by the level of destruction, they had adopted a scorched earth policy. The evidence of their handiwork was evident in the bombed out and burning buildings all around Frank and his men.

As Frank rounded the corner of Seventeenth and Pennsylvania at the intersection where the shell of what was once the Renwick Gallery now stood, he hugged what was left of the building closely.

His men did the same in a Roger’s Ranger’s distance. Unfortunately, Antoun Moussavi and Vahid Nasr had tracked them for the last block and now stood ready to jump them. It was a technique both had mastered when they fought so brilliantly against the Iraqi’s in the last Iran-Iraq war.

Before they jumped Frank, they took aim and fired at him with a burst from their AK-47’s. Their plan was to badly wound him and then to slit his throat as they had against so many Iranian’s. However, unlike the Iranian’s of old, Frank was wearing a flak jacket with the latest Kevlar threads that absorbed the automatic burst.

Once Frank realized they were the source of the rounds that his vest had just deflected his mind became clear and focused. As they rushed him he was able to kick Vahid in the balls and to thrust his Ontario bayonet into Antoun’s throat. Antoun dropped to the ground clutching his throat but Vahid recovered and made another rush at him. In one motion Frank deflected Vahid’s rush by twisting his hip, throwing him to the ground, and putting a boot on his throat.

As he was drawing back his leg to kick Vahid in the temple Spitball shot a short burst from his gun and ended Vahid’s life. “Shit on a shingle, Frank, I thought those boys done you in! God, it’s good to see you here!”

Frank brushed himself off, made sure there was no damage he had not noticed in the heat of the battle, and signaled to his troops to join him. He began: “From what I’ve heard on my squawker the Jihadi’s have not placed many people in the Washington Hotel next to the Treasury Department.

If we can get over there that’s a pretty good vantage point from which to recapture the Treasury Department and then the White House. My thinking is that we can set up a base of operations there and use is as a central command and control point to recapture the city. Now let’s get our asses over there.”

Frank and his men rolled ahead tree by tree, bush by bush, statue by statue across Lafayette Park. The sounds of battle and the overall confusion all over the area as American units engaged Jihadi’s and the Jihadi’s found back.

Like Berlin in 1945, the vast destruction provided ample cover for advancing units as long as they hovered close to the ground and stayed aware of enemy snipers and troop concentrations.

The flotsam of the battle was everywhere. Even though this area had been off limits to cars and trucks because of several assassination attempts on the President that led the Secret Service to closing off the area as a security measure, it was now filled with burning and destroyed cars, vans, buses, trucks and, now, armored personnel carriers and Humvees.

There was enough crushed and burned steel that Frank and his men were able to leap frog down Pennsylvania and Fifteenth until they were at the base of the Washington Hotel without being discovered by the enemy.

In leaving the Washington Hotel free, Abdullah had left a weak link in his plan that Frank had perceived and was now quick to exploit. He knew that his forces, limited though they were, had the tremendous advantage of position and angle in the Washington Hotel.

For even though the Jihadi’s were deeply ensconced in the Treasury Building directly across from the hotel, the grandiose architecture of the Treasury meant that most firing positions from inside that building were at straight angles.

Any other angle from inside the Treasury was blocked by large pillars. This quirk meant that Frank’s men could shoot at the July Fifth Strike Force from any number of angles whereas they could only fire back in a straight line.

Frank knew that such an advantage could be exploited quickly to compensate for larger numbers in the enemies favor. From his new position atop the Washington Hotel he began to site Jihadi’s with his rifle and drill bullet after bullet into any terrorist he could locate.

His years of hunting and sniping were now evident as he identified fresh kills in his scope, plugged them, and quickly moved on. Even though at times he had to take cover from return fire, he established a kill ratio that was quickly moving the odds to favor the Americans.

When occasionally Frank would draw repeated fire, Superspace, Spitball and Zinger would locate the source of fire and concentrate intense bursts of M-16’s, Uzi’s and Browning’s on their positions until they were killed or driven off.

Fortunately, at this time supply lines had been established by various Marine units to Frank’s forward position. Goodies like Stinger missiles were arriving and he and his men were beginning to use them to maximum effect.

They trained burst after burst of Stinger missiles on the Fifteenth Street side of the Treasury building across from them. After over thirty Stingers blew out the front façade of the building the return fire from the Treasury began to decrease to nothing. Even Jihadi’s figure out that small arms fire is not going to do a great deal against missiles.

Frank gathered the Marines who had been bringing him missiles together and asked for their support in his next counter assault.

“It’s time to take a run into the Treasury. What I would ask you guys to do is to lay down a barrage of Stingers and machine gun fire until we’re inside. I’ll radio back when I get inside."

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