Chapter 68: Clear and present danger
President Hank Kemper’s POV
The one thing Tammy and I agreed on after all this, was that I was done.
We were not over the assassination attempt yet. Physically, the cut had healed, leaving a bright new scar on my forehead. Mentally was a different thing, and that was why I hadn’t returned to the White House yet. Officially, we were still evaluating and updating security to deal with the new threats.
Unofficially, we didn’t feel safe there. The reports from the FBI and BATFE on the drones scared the hell out of me. These things were the perfect smart weapon; able to be released a distance away, fly autonomously, then hover until facial recognition identified the target. The manufacturer of the drones had come forward, cooperating completely with the investigation. His briefing of their capabilities was truly frightening. They could be released in swarms, working together against dozens, even hundreds at a time. They could be programmed to recognize uniforms, weapons and vehicles to take out military or law enforcement guards. Finally, they could be programmed to “clear the way,” with some exploding to break through windows or barricades.
It all depended on how they were programmed.
The FBI investigators had traced the purchases and the money used for them, and we had identified and tracked the people who had ordered and picked it up. The trails led back to the Zetas, the ones in custody linked by banking records and phone calls to other Cartel agents. So far, none had given up who they worked for. The Zetas ran a tight ship; it was well known that they could reach anywhere and extract a horrible revenge on those who crossed them.
Even the Camp David area was changing. Camouflage netting and specially-made mesh, with thin wires reinforcing the grid, were now hung above and around the cabins and the offices. It was low tech, but it would hamper the facial recognition and hopefully foul propellers of drones as they went through.
My Secretary of State was having trouble with Mexico as the Cartel war spilled over into the streets there. Public opinion had turned against us. The people hurt by the war were still furious at our military strike, and a wave of nationalism rose up against further cooperation. The Mexican President was forced to step down to quell the rising anger. The American flag, and my effigy, were being burned in huge protests.
They blamed American drug use for the deaths, and they were right.
The scandal surrounding this was unprecedented; my Administration had been deeply compromised by the Cartels, along with so many in law enforcement. Congress was investigating, the Press was breathlessly covering each new breaking story, and no one knew who to trust.
I didn’t do it, I didn’t know about it, but I sure as hell was responsible for my Administration.
I was already working on my letter of resignation.
I had to head back this morning, I needed to inform a few people and prepare to address the nation. I shook the hands of those who had supported me over this difficult time, then loaded into the armored SUV for the short drive to Thurmont. We arrived at the elementary school field that we used for visits, where Marine One was waiting. I held Tammy’s hand as we turned and waved goodbye to the assembled staff, and I saluted the Marine by the stairs as we climbed the stairs into the helicopter.
I settled in to the chair, my wife next to me, and the usual people along. My Secret Service agent today was Daniel Kaffee, and Colonel Nathaniel Jessup had the nuclear ‘football’ codes. The pilots and crew rounded out the group, the rest of my team would ride back in vehicles.
The crew chief handed out the headsets, they used active noise cancelling to reduce the noise of the helicopter and had a microphone, so we could talk to each other. I liked to listen to the pilots, so I turned mine to the cockpit channel. I held Tammy’s hand as we took off, and I looked out the small window as we left the woods and mountains behind. I saw the Cobra attack helicopters form up on each side as we climbed towards cruising altitude, following the mountains south, and then all hell broke loose.
“BREAK RIGHT BREAK RIGHT” I heard over the headset, just before the helicopter banked hard. The engines were screaming, and I could hear the pings of bullets hitting us. The engines were straining, then one of the Cobras was firing back. The Gatling gun sounded like an angry bee as it tore into the target below.
“MISSILE MISSILE BREAK RIGHT” came just before the next hard turn, but we were too slow. The explosion ripped into us, tearing a huge hole in the left side. We started to spin counterclockwise, forcing me against the undamaged side. “MAYDAY MAYDAY MARINE ONE GOING DOWN,” I heard as we descended rapidly. As the helicopter spun, I could see the trees and the mountain getting closer, and one thing went through my mind.
This was going to hurt.
Thurmont Pack Grounds
Lisa (Giovanni) Nichols POV
I was pushing my wolf forward, letting her have her fun as I led a half-dozen women of my new Pack on a run. I was still learning the territory, but things were getting better each day; the Pack had accepted me quickly. I was still learning all the duties of my new position, but with Ross’s help, and multiple calls each day to Patricia, I was figuring it out. I was glad she was so organized, since she was performing the duties of the Alpha female while her brother was mateless.
We were working our way along the trail on the eastern side of the Pack grounds, well inside the boundary fencing that kept the area clear of humans. We were moving uphill along a small creek, single file, when I heard the two helicopters approaching us. I stopped and looked up, and recognizing the Cobra attack helicopters heading towards Camp David. “The President must be leaving,” I sent.
“Yeah, it happens every time,” Laurie sent back. “I’m glad we don’t have to hide anymore, it’s so nice now that things are out in the open. Did you ever ride in Air Force One?”
“A few times, you can’t fly commercial after that, though. It ruins you. I’ve never been on Marine One, I wasn’t important enough.” We continued our run towards the north, when we heard three helicopters coming our way. “Come on, let’s get to the ledge, we should get a good view of my old boss,” I said.
“No shifting though, right?” Melanie teased. I could just imagine the reaction if the pilots were flashed by a half-dozen naked and totally hot women. They were Marines, after all.
“No shifting.” We ran to the edge, where the rocks broke through the tree line and gave us a good view. The helicopters were a few hundred feet above our level as they turned towards Washington, DC.
When the machine gun opened up, all of us were shocked. I could see the tracers heading up towards the Presidential helicopter, the red trails working their way in. The helicopter turned hard, almost on its side as it turned away from it. One of the Cobras went into a dive, its gun raining hellfire down on the ground. The machine gun stopped firing, just as two missiles streaked into the sky.
“NO!!!” I watched helplessly as the rockets sped towards the helicopter. The pilot released flares and turned hard again, but there wasn’t enough time. One slammed into the side, the explosion ripping into the body like it was a coke can. The helicopter started to smoke, and the tail began to swing.
Marine One was out of control and was going to crash behind us.
I turned to chase after it as it spun towards the hard ground, the others behind me. “MARINE ONE IS GOING DOWN, NORTH EAST CORNER OF THE TERRITORY, GET HELP UP HERE!” I was running hard, the big helicopter crashed heavily into the trees and into the ground. We were at the scene thirty seconds later, and it was already burning.
“GET THEM OUT NOW,” I sent as I raced to the fuselage. Shifting, I jumped though the hole in the side. I found the President in the corner, he was covered in blood. I unbuckled his belt, picked him up, and raced back out, ignoring the flames and the pain from the hot and twisted metal I was stepping over. The other girls were picking up and dragging the others out. We moved them away from the burning wreckage, finding a small spot of grass to set them down.
I laid the President down and turned to go inside. “Don’t,” Melanie said as she ran back. “They’re all dead.”
My heart sank, only five people were here with us. “Tammy? The First Lady?”
“She’s gone, so are the two pilots.” I looked down, one of the Marines in full dress uniform was sitting up, his leg broken above the knee. The others were unconscious. We made them comfortable, raising their legs to stave off shock as we waited for supplies and medical help.
“Lisa,” I heard the whisper from below me.
“Mr. President, don’t try to move,” I said. I ripped part of his shirt free, folding it before using it to press around the wound on his stomach. He was bleeding, I could hear his heartbeat starting to weaken.
“Lisa… change me. I’m dying.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do it, please.”
I had Melanie hold pressure on the wound while I shifted into my wolf. Moving forward, I bit his forearm, making sure to put extra slobber into the bite. Shifting back, I moved by his head. “You need to relax and stay calm, sir. If you are angry or panic, your wolf will come out fighting.”
He closed his eyes, trying to relax despite the pain. I could hear the Cobra circling, and more helicopters were inbound. We covered the wounded with our bodies, shielding them from the rotor wash, as one started to hover. A man was lowered by winch into the clearing, he unhooked and ran over to us as a stretcher was being readied. He ran to us, making a beeline for the President. “Sir, we’ve got you,” he said as he took off his backpack. Opening it up, he reached in and grabbed a battle dressing, placing it over the soaked portion of shirt. He then grabbed a bag of blood, cleaning his hand with alcohol before inserting the needle. “Hold this, please,” he said as he handed me the bag.
He examined the President quickly, as a second paramedic arrived with the rescue stretcher. “He’s got to go now,” the first man said.
“Check the others, I’ll help him,” I told the second man. We carefully lifted the President and strapped him in, then I took one end as the first paramedic took the front. We moved quickly to the helicopter, hooking up the stretcher to the winch cable and steadying it with a rope as it was raised up.
“Thanks for you help,” he said as it disappeared into the helicopter.
“I need to go with,” I told him. “I’m a werewolf, the Alpha, and I had to bite him to save his life. He’s going to change, and I have to be there for it.”
He looked at me, his face going from shock to horror to understanding in just a few seconds. “Come on,” he said as the cable was lowered down again. He clipped his harness on, then gestured me to him. “Hang on tight,” he said. I wrapped my legs around him, my arms around the cable, and we were pulled up.
As soon as we were being raised, the helicopter started to pull away. The men continued working on the President as I found a seat, one of the crewmen tossed me a spare flight suit that I put on. The flight to the hospital in Frederick took less than ten minutes, and a crowd was waiting as we arrived.
The President was rushed off into surgery, and I followed with the Paramedics. Secret Service agents and police were everywhere, and I only got through because one of the agents recognized me. “Bob, I’ve got to talk to the doctors. This isn’t going to be normal for them. I’m a werewolf, and I bit him. He’s going to change.”
His face turned ashen as he realized what it meant. He called over the radio for the floor to be evacuated except essential personnel; they started moving everyone out. “What do I need to know?”
“The change will accelerate his healing, and the change could come fast given the amount of adrenaline in his system from the crash,” I said as we reached the surgical floor. As soon as the elevator doors opened, people started to run for it. I moved into the hall, searching for the commotion, and watched as people bailed out of a room. Secret Service agents were pointing their weapons inside, completely terrified.
A bloodcurdling growl came from the room, right before a big black wolf ran through the door.