Prologue

The Pentagon is a huge building. It contains 3.7 million square feet of offices. It is sometimes called the “Puzzle Palace”, not only for some of the strange ideas that come from there, but more for the difficulty in finding your way around the building. 17.5 miles of corridors, 5 “rings” or concentric circles, 5 levels above ground, and 2 below that are publically acknowledged. In an unacknowledged sub-basement, in an unmarked room, a computer monitor displayed pictures and text. The man staring at the screen swore softly and typed an instruction on the keyboard. The screen changed again, this time displaying force dispositions by branch and time of last contact. He reached for the mouse and opened a new window, starting a new program. The title screen flashed, then asked for his Command ID and required password. Looking down at an open folder on his desk, he typed in the requested information from the top sheet in the folder. The screen cleared and then displayed “Authorization Accepted”.

It was 2 o’clock in the morning. Some would say that General Bronson was committing treason. The general thought otherwise.

 *  *  *

At the Picatinny N.J. U.S. Army Arsenal, computer printers began to spit out requisitions, not uncommon for a normal week day. After weekly exercises, the Army commands around the nation needed restocking of expended munitions and materiel. The arsenal shipped truck and trainloads of ammunition every day, so the orders being printed were not unusual. A private took the hard-copies to her computer workstation and began the process of keying the order into the arsenal’s internal processing system.

The 11 pm that night, an elderly US Army GP40 locomotive spotted 10 boxcars alongside the transportation hub at the arsenal then spotted another 10 on the opposite side. The boxcars were unmarked and unnoticeable on purpose. No one wants a trainload of ammunition going through their home town, and the Army doesn’t want gang-bangers to know that there are automatic weapons and ammo sitting on a siding somewhere. The usual car markings were there of course and the tagging art too. But what most people didn’t know is that the spray-painted tags weren’t gang symbols or expressions of wit and wisdom, but a carefully coded message to anyone who knew what to look for.

By 5 pm the next day, all 20 boxcars were loaded and sealed. Another anonymous locomotive picked them up and dragged them to a CSX classification yard to be separated and routed to their destinations.

For the next 10 days, this process repeated itself. Some days it was only 15 cars, other days, 30.

 *  *  *

It was a different story at the Watervliet Arsenal. Here, the US Army manufactured its own breaches and barrels for its large bore tank and howitzer guns. A lieutenant muttered as he flipped through the pages of requisitions. “Hey, sergeant? Isn’t Camp Ripley pretty much shut down in the winter? How come they are recc-ing a battalion’s worth of rebuilds?”

“Let me see that.” The sergeant took the sheets from the lieutenant and flipped through the pages. “This must be some mistake.” He walked over to a computer terminal and keyed his access code. A few more keystrokes brought up facility activity. He scrolled through the list until Camp Ripley was highlighted.

“They just received an activation notice. There’s going to be a full-blown live-fire training exercise for four weeks. That means a lot of expected breakage due to the cold weather.”

The lieutenant approved the requisitions. And over the next week, trainloads of heavy iron and steel rolled west. Across the country, US Army depots, arsenals, and ordinance facilities disgorged their stocks into waiting railcars.

 *  *  *

“You have got to be fucking kidding me.” The voices were dissimilar, but the words spoken were almost simultaneously spoken as new orders spat from computer printers in the headquarters companies of half a dozen different Army commands across the United States.

MOBILIZATION: WINTER COMBAT LIVE FIRE TRAINING EXERCISE

OPERATION: WARM HEARTH

 *  *  *

Two agents stood outside the bedroom of the President of the United States. One glanced at his watch then nodded to the other. The second agent reached for the doorknob and carefully opened the door. Moving quietly, he stepped into the dimly lit bedroom and carefully closed the door behind him. Reaching into his suit coat, he drew his weapon and carefully threaded the suppressor onto the barrel, all the time scanning the room for any possible threats. He moved further into the room, stepping carefully, listening to the sounds of sleep coming from the bed.

The massive bed stood before him, wreathed in shadows, and buried under the covers, two mounds as expected. The agent stepped carefully around the casually strewn clothing and shoes. In the dim light of the room, he could see two dark-haired heads, eyes closed in deep sleep. From a distance of three feet, he raised his arm, sighted down the barrel, and pulled the trigger twice, then moved his arm slightly to the left and pulled twice more. The only sound was the phut-phut of the suppressed weapon. The bodies only twitched slightly with the impact of the hollow point bullets on their skulls. The agent removed the suppressor, bent to pick up the shell casings, then turned and left the room as quietly as he had entered.

The first agent opened the door to the steward’s bedroom and repeated the process. With the steward to the President dead, there would be no early alarm. Once outside the door, he holstered his weapon, then raised his right wrist to his mouth and spoke “Raven is down. Repeat, Raven is down.” Both men walked at a slow and even pace in separate directions down the hallway and disappeared into the maze of hallways in the Residence section of the White House.

At the Naval Observatory, another agent assassinated the Vice President and his wife. And in other parts of Washington D.C. and Arlington, Virginia, other silent men assassinated the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security. Also assassinated were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, four former Presidents, and the top three candidates from each party for the office of President from the last election. The Secretary of Agriculture survived only because he was travelling to Ohio to be with his daughter for the birth of her first child.

As dawn broke the next morning, the sound of sirens sounded across the normally quiet expanse of the city. First ambulances, then police, followed in short order by SWAT teams, FBI teams and, not surprisingly, military Special Forces. The entire District was immediately shut down and a state of Martial Law was instituted. Not since the days after 9/11 had the Capital seen Humvees and Strykers with armed soldiers on all major intersections. The only aircraft in the skies over the Capital were military, flying combat air patrol.

A shocked nation held its breath as the news quickly spread that practically all of the leaders of the nation had, in a very short period, been assassinated. With the majority of the order of succession as laid out by the Constitution now dead, it was unclear who, if anyone was running the country. Two hours later, the Secretary of the Agriculture, a political hack who had gotten the job as payment for large donations to the President’s Election Campaign, had taken the oath of office and was now President.

 *  *  *

Most people in their 60’s remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated. Many more remember the loss of the first Space Shuttle, the Challenger Disaster on January 28th, 1986. Still more remember were they were on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Towers in New York City were destroyed by terrorists using hijacked aircraft.

*  *  *

For some reason that morning, I hadn’t turned on the television, which I usually do to get the overnight news and find out what the weather will be like for the day. Instead, I showered, dressed, fed the cats and left the house. I listened to ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ on the way to work and it wasn’t until I was close to town that I began to notice cars on the side of the road, with the drivers and passengers apparently listening intently to the radio. I glanced around at the skies, wondering if I had missed a storm warning, but the sky was cloudless, with a hint of the coming sunrise to the East. I had to really pay attention to traffic now, there were cars just stopped on the highway, and sooner or later, there was going to be a major crash. Not wanting to be a statistic myself, I restrained the impulse to switch the radio on and waited until I got to work.

 

As usual, I was the first in the parking lot. I opened up the building and, flipping the lights on, went into my office. I noticed that the message light was lit on the phone as I reached to turn on the computer monitor. Once the monitor was lit and displaying my screen saver, I loaded Chrome and sat back while MSNBC loaded. Not surprisingly, it timed out. Muttering to myself, I tried a couple of other news websites, and then when those would not load, I turned on the radio in my office…and sat in stunned silence.

I walked out of the office in a daze and found myself heading for the local diner. Jimmy’s had just started serving breakfast and I knew they would have all the TVs on. Sure enough, when I walked in the door, all 6 big-screen TVs had the news on. Interestingly enough, they were all tuned to different news stations: CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, CBS and Public TV. “A shocked Nation” read one banner, while another read “A Nation Mourns”, and yet another “Constitutional Crisis”. Most of the locals were gathered in front of the CNN broadcast, and the morning show crew was obviously taking the news hard. Everyone, including the men, were clearly trying to maintain a sense of calm despite the tragedy.

I moved from set to set trying to get a handle on the news, but since reports were still coming in, it was apparent to me that it was going to be a long morning. I sat and ordered some coffee and watched the news along with my friends.

Brian, the manager of the local convenience store, sat down next to me and poured himself a cup of coffee from the thermos the waitress had left on the table.

“Hell of a thing isn’t it?” he said, stirring sugar and fresh cream into his cup.

I shook my head. “It goes far beyond that, Brian. The President, Vice President, most of the cabinet…what the hell is going on?” I said. I took a sip of coffee and swallowed.

The TV programs continued to shift live camera feeds from the White House to the Naval Observatory, to other various residential sections of Washington D.C. I had seen enough, and soon my work crew would start showing up for work. “I need to get back. I’ll drop by later to pick up some lunch, see ya, Brian.”

“See ya.” Brian’s eyes never left the TV.

I dropped a couple of dollars on the table and walked out.

*  *  *

By noontime, the extent of the tragedy became known. A group of men and women, all seemingly unidentified, had killed members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches of the government. And, as if that was not enough, they had also killed the four living former Presidents and the top ranked candidates for President from the last election. No one knew the reason for the murders; no clues were left at any of the crime scenes. Seventeen men and women had just carried out the single most violent attack on our Nation’s government in its history. Video surveillance tapes from the White House and the other sites were currently being analyzed but according to the news announcers, it would be days before any identification was made of the assassins.

Suspicion immediately fell onto the Secret Service, of course. As the agency charged with keeping the President and Vice President safe, it fell to them to explain exactly how a man and a woman could penetrate the White House and the Naval Observatory and without being challenged, much less stopped in the act, assassinate the President and Vice President and their wives. The agency of course had no answer but was willing to ’stand down’ from its duties and submit its personnel to the most extensive examination and testing possible (and reading between the lines of the news reports, it was obvious that some of those examinations would be considered illegal in most civilized countries).

It was late by the time I got home that night — half of my crew failed to show up, calling in to say that they were staying home with their families, so I missed the beginning of the Presidential address to the nation.

“…in this time of profound sadness, it is my unhappy duty to inform you, my fellow Americans, that I am declaring a state of Martial Law in the United States of America. It is my expectation that this state of Martial Law will last for only a few weeks to a month at most, but it is of utmost urgency that we stay calm while we, your Government, attempts to find those responsible for this most heinous of crimes. I am hereby putting into effect a nation-wide dusk to dawn curfew at sundown local time for all citizens except those who are needed for life-critical jobs. If you work the night shift of an ordinary job, I am sorry, but I am requiring you to stay at home at this time. There will be no consequences to your employment: any business who terminates a night-shift employee will find itself permanently out of business. Those life-critical jobs are hospitals, ambulance services, police and fire services, power and telecommunications, and any other jobs that need 24 hour coverage for personnel. Radio and television companies are included in this curfew. If you violate the curfew, you will be arrested.

I am also taking the extraordinary step of closing the stock markets for the balance of this week. Banks are hereby ordered to remain open; however, individual depositors are limited to a maximum of $1000 per day withdrawal. I am ordering the Federal Reserve System to monitor the banking system, and if it appears as if a run on any particular bank occurs, the Federal Reserve will be given permission to take the necessary steps to end the run and bring the situation back into control.

I also hereby nationalize all state National Guard troops. Individual members are required to report immediately after this broadcast to your local duty station. Once you report in, you are to ‘gear up’. The local police and fire departments will need your assistance to patrol and enforce the curfew.

There will be no looting. There will be no rioting. All police and military commands are hereby authorized to use lethal force to stop rioting and looting.

I have consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and they have recommended to me that I immediately withdraw all troops from our overseas commands. I have decided that I will not pull home every single person from overseas, but I have instructed that all Special Forces and NEST teams return to their home bases for deployment inside the United States as soon as possible.

I am also suspending “Posse Comitatus”, and certain National Guard and Regular Army/Marine units will patrol our borders. Anyone caught crossing the border without identification will be taken into custody until they can be processed and sent back across the border. The patrol units are authorized to use deadly force if they are engaged by those crossing the border. I send the following message to our neighbors to the North and especially the South: Please do not test these patrols.

My fellow Americans, these are steps that I take with a heavy heart. But to keep you safe, both at home and at work, it is necessary to take these and other measures to ensure that our Nation endures for another 200 years.

Thank you and Good Night.”