The Everpresent Threat

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Everybody Polke

Jim Wosniac, now Chairman of the “Select Commission on the Causes and Results of the Taking of the President of the United States and the American People Hostage to International Terrorism,” planned to take a very hard look into the breaches that allowed such a disaster to occur without our security forces detecting it early enough to have prevented the disaster that had just occurred from having happened in the first place.

All of this horror could have been prevented if Congress had just implemented the 41 recommendations of its own 9/11 Commission, but given the carnage, that discussion had to wait for another day.

It was a task that Wosniac intended to fulfill. He knew it was like 1945, one of those years in history when human history can actually be changed for a hundred years for the better. But right now Susan Kuppferschmidt was watching him over his morning coffee and paper. She knew all too clearly what he was also thinking.

“Not so soon after the President’s release, Jimmy. That would almost be sacrilegious.” She raised a cheek for him to kiss.

“Give me a break, Susan. I almost lost my life for him and you don’t think I’m entitled to all the fun I can handle for the next few days?” He went over and put on Jimmy Sturgis, his favorite Polka tape, and pushed “ON.”

“Give it time, Jimmy dear. Good things come to those who wait. And that’s a promise.” She smiled at him and laughed.

“And God helps those who help themselves. Jimmy reached over and gently rubbed Susan’ tight and muscular ass. “Wanna polka!?”

“What?”

“Wanna Polka? I just put the Jimmy Sturgis polka tape on so that we can polka. Once you polka a little you’ll be up for more physical amusements. Polka, polka, polka my polka queen...let’s go.” He raised his hand to hers, put his hand around her waist in traditional polka dancing style, and tried to start swirling her about the room.

She resisted. “I’ve never polkaed in my life.”

“Well the list of what you’ve been missing all your life continues to grow longer and I’m here to make it shorter. Let’s go!”

“Listen Susan, I’m sorry, but what I saw will never go away. Most of the Americans captured were tortured and burned to death. You have no idea how hard it is to look at the form of a burned nineteen year old American boy soldier who died so you and I continue to be here. It was much harder to see the burned children, toddlers, and babies. I know it sounds cruel, but the sooner we all begin to polka and get this horror behind us the sooner the whole nation recovers.”

“I’ve always maintained that the biggest difference between us and all those miserable nations out there that continually rehash their persecution and suffering is that we have “...the pursuit of happiness” written into our very Constitution. Find another country that states that as a national goal. So give me your hand...”

He began to swirl her around the room with a frenetic energy, hoping the constant swirling and swirling and the upbeat polka music and the gorgeous form of her face would make it all go away. In his heart, he felt an agony that only those exposed to death and mutilation on the scale he had witnessed can every really comprehend.

He knew it either embittered and destroyed you or it gave you a lust for life that would only be satisfied by action and giving. It was the World War survivor syndrome...survive and prosper or allow it to engulf you and die.

He took her into his arms and danced and swirled and danced and swirled until the backdrop disappeared and only her eyes and face were real to him. In the way that love can do that to two people, he forgot all the waste and destruction of the past few days and looked into her eyes for hope and salutation.

Then he stopped and collapsed onto the floor into a fetal ball convulsively crying. His body heaved as he tried to get enough oxygen to breath. His eyes hurt from the depth of the crying and his throat chocked. Instinctively, Susan dropped to the floor, cradled his head in her arms and chest, and stoked his hair.

“SHHHH….SHHHH….SHHH…it will be alright, Jimmy….it’s all over. It’s all over…”

He tried to respond to her, but the depth of his grief overwhelmed him again and he kept sobbing convulsively. She bent her head over his face and began to use her hair to absorb his tears and to try to reach him in the depths of his grief. The sensation of the hair on his cheeks began to bring him out of his grief, and he managed a few words.

“God…Susan…the remains of the kids…all I could think of when I began to see their mutilated forms was…was…they never had a chance. They’ll never get to shoot a basket or throw a baseball or run around the schoolyard or read a book. It’s over for them…over…” He began to lose it again.

’SHHHHHH….SHHHHH…” she said again.

“Everything happened so fast I went on autopilot. McKenna helped, because he’s trained to operate through such horror. He just acted, which was good, and I’m stuck analyzing everything. Paralysis through analysis. Christ, this one kid was squashed by…” He began to shake and cry and the tears ran down his cheeks. Susan used her hair to soak up as many tears as she could get.

He began again. “There were so many of them, dead, wounded, and dying. It became triage. We had to help those we could and leave the majority to die. That feeling of not being able to help people live like you can under normal circumstances when you call 911 or drive them to as hospital, will never leave me."

"Then it hit me. I had to think clearly like McKenna if there was to be any hope of saving anyone. Once I had that breakthrough moment, the rest was easy. Every decision, from who to help and who to bypass, was based on whether it advanced the mission or interfered with the mission. These military guys do it all the time, but it was something very new for a civilian like me.”

Susan continued to cradle his head. “Jimmy, there was nothing you could do. They hit us hard and you will pick up the pieces. You saved millions, if you think about it. Those hundreds of thousands were dead because of the Jihadi’s total lack of respect for the lives of what they consider non-believers, be they Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Christian, pagan, Jew, or whatever.

"They have this twisted notion they can kill whoever is not one of them. It’s some tribal belief that goes back to their murdering founder. He murdered, so they think they can murder, and they just did. Fortunately, we have them contained for a while, thanks to you and McKenna and millions of others.”

He looked up at her and she stared into his soul with all the passion that lay buried underneath the official Washington to the unofficial Washington of individual lives made up of moments like these that came and went so briefly they had to be inhaled in seconds where others got years.

He was overwhelmed by the desire to somehow let her know how much her life made his life bearable and good, and he pulled her to him and softly kissed her forehead.

She pressed her form tightly to his, covering his pain with her body and asking him to trust her in a way men and women have trusted each other in the best way since time began, to free himself of his doubts and questions and to allow her entrance into his very soul, to the part where no other could be allowed in, especially in Washington.

He was so intoxicated by the smoothness of her shirt, the smell of her freshly washed hair, her strong hug, and the tender caress of her hand on his back, that he let out a primal scream that could have shattered glass.

“AAAAAAHHHHAHHAHHAHAHAH” he screamed suddenly and unexpectedly.

“Let it out, Jimmy. Just let it out.” she whispered.

He had never done this before, but he kept screaming and screaming until the tears broke out of his soul and careened down his face to her hair.

He, a man who made his living from words, could not formulate any words to describe this emotion. Instead, his body heaved in physical and emotional pain as he embraced her whole body and soul with his.

Finally, the words came in torrents.

“...you...you...can’t imagine the destruction...the limb parts and body parts in the streets. Kids sliced and mutilated with knives. Body parts blown into walls like a hurricane can drive a straw through a tree. Human blood in every color from crimson to purple red awash on floors and streets and cars and offices...just everywhere.

It’s like they took a special pride in mutilating and maiming for the sake of impact. They must have done it for so many years in the Middle East that it was natural to them to just unleash such atrocities here. I don’t know. Wahhabi and jihadi ideology and religious fanaticism can cause humans to do terrible things to each other. I saw it.”

“And I’m always supposed to keep moving, moving, and keeping the momentum going until we recaptured it all. Through body bits and fingers and limbs and distended stomachs and intestines hanging from chairs and across people’s office desks. God, I hope this is the last time I ever see this kind of thing.”

“Let it all out, Jimmy. I’ll be here for you no matter what. Just let all that pain wash out and we’ll put it somewhere far away where we don’t have to ever see it again.”

“You mentioned that McKenna who seemed to help you get through so much of this, Jimmy. Did he fight back as brutally as the Jihadi’s attacked?”

“No. He only fired when he had to and usually he was returning fire. If I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have believed it. Round after round came at him and he would maintain his composure, husband his ammunition, and only shoot the bare minimum required to take out each jihadi. He was methodical. His control was complete.” He used to say, ’Roger’s Ranger’s faced worse than this and kept calm.” or “Mosby’s Ranger’s took more of a pounding than this.”

He had a Revolutionary and Civil War guy for every situation. It makes me hopeful that people like him are out there who know these guys from American history and keep them alive in their heart."

"Not their memory, but their living breathing selves alive. It was eerie sometimes, but it was as if he had fought this battle before. He just knew where a bullet was going to come from or where Abdullah was going to strike next and he got their first. You had to see it to believe it. It was almost mystical.”

“Somewhere inside him he’s steel. There’s a core that just can’t be broken despite the worst odds. And not in that phony Hollywood Rambo kind of way.” He stroked her hair and she rubbed his lower back tenderly.

“Everything with Frank McKenna is different. He changed history and no one will ever even know it. As you know, I started out as an historian. There’s a debate in historical circles that always rages about whether forces change history or people change history. Now I know its people because I saw it right before me.”

“If Frank McKenna had not been there at several critical points, Abdullah might have pulled his plan off. I can’t tell you all of it, but millions would have died, and that includes millions of French, Germans, Japanese, English, Russians, Canadians, Australians, and others besides Americans."

"He wanted the end of Western Civilization and the emergence of an Islamic world like the one that ruled so much of the world in the eighth century. We captured many of his papers which I’ve read so I know what he was hoping to create."

"He...they...wanted Sharia law established under a new Caliphate. And if they had just waited another generation, they might have pulled it off. We had no idea how many cells and operatives they had in local, state and certainly federal offices until we searched their computer links.”

“That’s why these hearings are so critical. The next time we get our asses in a sling like this there may be no Frank McKenna around to bail our asses out. So I want to institutionalize some countermeasures to prevent this event from ever being repeated.”

Susan sat him down on the sofa and put her leg over his. She then placed her hand on his neck and turned her body toward his as he continued to talk.

“First of all...do you know that those goobers clambering for a big showdown don’t know? The ones you see on TV each night demanding that we pull some move to get our honor back?”

“Well...what they don’t know is that some of the renegade Russian criminals that participated in this with Abdullah for pay are now ashes. You know how those three thermonuclear devices in Kazakhstan and Siberia and how two went off and one didn’t? All the speculation in the media has been that we sent some stealth bomber to deliver them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what really happened.”

“Russia right now has a criminal network that would make Al Capone’s Chicago of the thirties look tame by comparison. Well, maybe as corrupt as Chicago under Rahm Emanuel. Anyway, they understand money and force and nothing else. They’ll sell out their own for the right amount of money. An old fashioned early American pioneer raiding party was sent to Russia to locate and destroy as many of those devices as possible before they were used.”

“What we did was up the ante by allowing several of them to explode as timed, but back where they originated. Get it? The bastards who made them ended up being blown away by them. Except for one. McKenna planted that baby near the desk of an old KGB guy, a one General Kroslov. Rotten to the core."

"He’s a really crafty son of a bitch I’ve been following for years. He shit green when he saw it because we have an eyewitness account. Now he knows that our intelligence is so good we can locate him and his cronies with our latest generation of drones and destroy them whenever and wherever we decide. He now knows that we can track and destroy his ilk with impunity. Word like that spreads in a criminal network faster than anywhere.”

“It’s not that these Russian criminal networks won’t continue to exist, they will. But now they know that we can locate and eradicate them within hours, and that will act as a deterrent on their trying anything on their own or with Abdullah’s in the future.”

“And the 82nd Airborne didn’t all of a sudden go to Peru to end the cocaine trade. They were there eradicating Jihadi’s who had built a relationship with the M-19. Completely. It doesn’t exist anymore. Unlike before when we conducted a hit and miss operation depending on how much funding Congress allocated that year, this time we went in as a full-scale military operation."

"We hit them hard and fast. Used our stealth weapons and our Predators. We always knew where they were from satellite pictures. We just never hit them like we did this time. They were smoked in a matter of weeks.”

“So, all these TV commentators and editorial writers with their “Action Plans” are really talking to themselves. We’re still, for all our openness, able to conduct intelligence operations in secret. And thank God for that. Several thousand Jihadi’s were just wiped out and no one but a handful even know the name Frank McKenna.”

“So what ever happened to this Frank McKenna?” She continued to stroke the back of his neck.

“Here’s the thing. His Reserve unit was assigned to Thailand as their base of operations and he had good contacts from Turkey to the Philippines. Apparently, there were Afghans who remembered him from when we supplied them when we went in after 9/11.

"He organized small cells of special operations guys and used Afghanistan as a base to penetrate and wreak havoc in Iran. They took out power lines and power plants, blew up bridges, cut pipelines, and sank the Iranian navy, destroyed and all military equipment they could locate. They also took down the nuclear power plants the Iranian’s built to make nuclear weapons. And Mossad tied up their computers with well-placed malware.”

“Basically, they used stealth and night operations and software bots to take out the Iranian military machine that had helped this group and many other jihadi groups in Iraq. They completed what we should have done long ago. Current intelligence estimates are that it will take a century for Iran to get to where it was in 2013.”

“The genius of McKenna’s plan is that they made it look like it was internal Iranian dissident forces that were doing the destruction. The sad thing is we’re not sure if McKenna as lost, killed or captured. We only know that everyone he went with is safe and back in Europe but his whereabouts are a mystery.”

Susan stood up and ran upstairs. Wosniac realized then, as he probably should have so long ago, what a treasure he had in her. Thirty nine and a bachelor, the close calls in the Metro made him think that maybe it was time to have a Susan and maybe even a few children living in his cavernous Capitol Hill townhouse on sixth and Constitution. A man could do worse.

As he rose to join her upstairs, he heard a loud knock at the door. He looked over at his security screen and saw Frank McKenna’s face on the screen. But how...

Wosniac opened the door and confirmed what his security surveillance cameras had already registered, that Frank McKenna was not only alive but on his front doorstep. He had the flair for clothes many military men adopt, and he was dressed in a very expensive rayon floral Hawaiian shirt, Givenchy shorts, and Ocean Pacific flip flops.

“Aye, brains! You owe me a beer or I owe you a beer. Let’s go get it!

Jim Wosniac stood there dumbfounded. Frank McKenna stood there what a smirk from ear to ear and his crystal blue eyes shining in the early morning sun. “Well...howzaboutit? Let’s go!”

With that Frank McKenna, one of thousands of anonymous saviors of a nation that had almost lost its very existence to the machinations of the July 5th Strike Force Jihadi’s and their Wahhabi financial supporters, bounded down Jimmy Wosniac’s townhouse stairs.

“Hey, come on Wosniac, somebody had to come back and keep all these Washington pukes in line, right? Now let’s go get a beer. I got a wife, five kids, my parents, and orchard and tons of peaches that need to get to market to get back to. I only stopped here because you saved my life once and I don’t forget men like that.”

“Oh yeah. I’m supposed to brief a buddy of yours, a General Galvin, in about two hours about my recent adventures spreading good will abroad toward the American system. So let’s see if we can get to the Dubliner and get a seat before all the government zombies arrive.”

“Jimmy Wosniac...Jimmy Wosniac. I’m waiting!” Susan screamed from the third floor bedroom loud enough to startle both men.

“Lord, Wosniac, what are you doin’ blabberin’ with an old man like me when you have a fine lady like that waitin’ on you. What’s wrong with you boy! Get up there and forget about me. And you better marry her real soon before someone like me sees her and snatches her up.”

Susan recognized the code name and yelled out in joy. “AAAHHHH! Give me a minute to get down there, Frank McKenna. I want to thank you and nobody’s going to stop me!”

Susan put her head back in the window, quickly put on shorts and sneakers, and ran down the stairs. She ran out the front door and nearly knocked Frank McKenna over when she bounded into his arms and kissed him square on the lips.

“My, Woman, control yourself! This is a married man you’re tempting.”

Susan laughed and answered, “Thank God you’re alive, Mr. McKenna! Thank God somebody’s married these days.” She shot a look at Wosniac. “And thank God we’re all alive because of you. We’ve always a place at our table if you visit! Thank your family from all of us for letting the country borrow you for the time it did! Now you two go get a beer. I think I have a wedding to plan.” She winked at Frank McKenna.

Wosniac laughed. “Might as well. I made up my mind at some point during all this I needed to get married. Might as well be you.” he joked.

“AAAAHHHH!” she giggled, and hugged them both.

“Yeah. And I’ll be there as a distant cousin from the sticks. No introductions and no acquaintances and I’ll be right there to see you two kids wed proper and right. As the Good Lord provides!”

That said, Frank McKenna and Jim Wosniac ambled down East Capital Street on their way to the Dubliner Bar, the sole remaining building in the area and even it was missing its four top floors.

Unrecognized and unknown to the power brokers of the city, who were scattered to the four corners of the country and beyond until the city was safe to reenter, they walked past a Capital building that even now thousands of workman were rebuilding to restore to its former beauty and grandeur. Frank McKenna stopped Wosniac and both watched as stone masons put new walls in place. Frank smiled a craftsman’s smile.

“See that stone mason, Woz? He’s from the country. See the care with which he plumbs his line and puts each brick in place? That’s what you have to do in this Committee of yours.

I saw what happened to this nation’s intelligence people. For years I watched it go down and nobody wanted to hear it because they were all getting their promotions and their stripes so everyone was happy congratulating everyone else on how great their intel teams were.

Problem is, they never spent any time in the world and thought the worlds they created in their heads actually existed out there.

So much so, that when a guy like me came along and told them the world of which they spoke was only in cyberspace, they looked at me like I was from another century. You have an opportunity to correct that, Woz. For me and my family and this country’s good, you have to get it right.”

“I couldn’t agree more, Frank. It’s a bear what we do but more lives than we can imagine depend on our efforts. That fighting I just experienced is enough to last me a lifetime. I don’t know where the next conflagration will ignite, but I’ll put in place the institutional means to handle it correctly. I promise you that.”

“Then I’m back to my orchard, Woz. You marry that girl and I’ll be at the wedding. Promise.”

Both walked on in silence, noting with acute pain the destruction of a once mighty city brought low by apathy, indifference, ambition, the seven cardinal sins, and a 1400-year enemy.

They also noted that, despite the mighty destruction of this once great city they had both helped save, it was time to return to the ordinary and mundane tasks that, although each seemed small and insignificant at the time, in aggregate assured that the American spirit always survived and triumphed when severely and savagely tested.

Both also knew that the day-to-day effort made successfully passing such great tests possible, and that despite their combined expertise there was no predicting where the next great test would take place. As Thomas Jefferson had said so long ago, “Eternal vigilance is the price of democracy.”

Both men now knew just how long eternity could be.

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