Gender: N/A Age: N/A Location: N/A
|Introduction: Not my story|
Military Terminology Glossary
ADCAPs: ADditional CAPability. The second generation of the Mark-48 torpedo. It has better active sonar, and is faster than the original Mark-48 torpedo.
AEGIS: Advanced Electronic Guided Intercept System. The AEGIS fighting system is a combination of computers and a phased-array radar used to defend battle groups against air attacks from airplanes and missiles.
CAG: The commanding aviator onboard a carrier. This person is in charge of all of the aircraft on the carrier, and overseas all the aviators onboard. The acronym stands for "Commander, Air Group", even though the navy now calls it an Air Wing.
CAP: Combat Air Patrol. This is a defensive measure. A group of aircraft fly in a pattern in the sky to protect either a particular object, or a particular area.
GUARD frequency: This is not an acronym. I do not know why it is usually fully capitalized. "GUARD" frequency is the emergency radio frequency.
LAMPS helos: The acronym means Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System. It is a suite of electronics that helps the helicopter navigate and function.
nucs: Anyone who works on a nuclear submarine.
ROE: Rules of Engagement. The rules that the military personnel have to follow concerning when they may shoot at an enemy.
RIO: Radar Intercept Officer. The person in the back seat of an F-14. Their job is to handle all of the electronic equipment used for tracking and intercepting enemy aircraft.
SLAM: Standoff Land-Attack Missile. A missile that has both Land and Sea strike capability, and a range of over 200 nautical miles.
Chain of Command
The flight across the Atlantic had been turbulent and unsettling. Ron and his family were now in Sweden, after a very long flight with lousy food and a boring movie. It had been three days since the death of Mike McGavin and the Committee. Ron had gotten very little sleep in that time. That, as much as anything else, explained why it happened.
They had not been met, so Lars led them to the home of the SkuggDrakarna, the ancient psionics guild of Europe. Lars spoke briefly to the guards, and the group was admitted into the Great Hall of the Dragon’s Heart, the leading body of the SkuggDrakarna. There, they waited. For two hours, they waited for the Dragon’s Heart to arrive.
Finally, the council entered the Great Hall and was seated. Dressed in blood red robes, they kept the hoods up to cover their faces. The head of the council wore a breastplate over his robe, made of what looked like silver. It had two dragons intertwined on it, one dragon bright and shiny, while the other dragon was a subdued color. The dragons appeared to be fighting.
Ron’s train of thought about the breastplate was interrupted when the leader spoke.
“Nå, Lars, ni har slutligen fört honom till oss.” /“So, Lars, you have finally brought him to us.”/
“Ska sanningen fram, Ers nåd, så är det han som har ansökt om detta mötet.” /“Actually, My Lord, it is he who has requested this meeting.”/
“Jag förstår. Och vad är det pojken vill?” /“I see. And what is it that the boy wants?”/
Ron wasn’t about to stand and listen to a conversation he couldn’t understand.
Lars looked at Ron for a moment, and motioned him forward, as if to say, “Go for it.”
Ron took a step forward, looking around at all the other psionics that had entered the Great Hall just before the council had. He cleared his throat as he began his appeal to the Dragon’s Heart.
“Sirs, I come to you today to tell you of something about which you may not be fully informed. I know that you are aware of the plans and ambitions of the Russian organization we believe is called the Filitov Council. I am sure you are also aware that they have made a great number of strikes into the United States already.
“What you may not be aware of yet is that the Filitov Council has, just three days ago, destroyed the CAMP Committee inside our own compound. With this single act, the Filitov Council has effectively declared war on the American psionic community. And they have shown no hesitation at killing any normals that might happen to get in the way.
“It is our belief that this Russian organization has world-wide ambitions. I am not aware of attacks on psionics in other countries, but I would not be surprised by them. Perhaps you have information on this issue that I do not. In any event, I am requesting your assistance in fighting these people, before too many innocent lives are lost.”
There was a stir in the room as Ron stepped back with the others. The members of the council bowed their heads, and Lars told Ron that they were conversing telepathically. Ron waited as patiently as he could while they spoke amongst themselves for the next ten minutes. Finally, they raised their heads and spoke.
But not to Ron.
”Lars, du var tillsagd att föra honom hit för att förena sig med oss i insatts mot den där Amerikanska organisationen, CAMP. Varför har du fört honom framför oss med andra mål i sinnet?” /“Lars, you were told to bring him here to join with us in an effort against this American organization, CAMP. Why have you brought him here with any other goal in mind?”/
”Ers nåd, han är villig att förena sig med oss, men ämnet som är tillhanda är förståeligt me viktigt för honom för stunden.” /“My Lord, he is willing to join us, but this issue is understandably more important to him at present.”/
”Vi har inget intresse att delta i något krig, Om vi hade lagt oss i alla små trivial små despyter som minskliga rasen någonsin haft så hade vi aldrigt fått någon ro.” /“We have no interest in fighting a war. If we were to involve ourselves in every petty squabble the human race started, we would never have any peace in our lives.”/
”Ers nåd, vi talar inte om någon normal liten konflikt. Detta är en konflikt mellan psionics. Om vi inte kommer att visa ledarskap vid ett sådant här tillfälle , vad gör vi då här?” /“My Lord, we are not talking about any normal conflict. This is a conflict of psionics. If we are not going to show leadership in such a time of crisis, what are we here for?”/
Ron had withstood all of this that he could take. “Somebody want to start speaking English? Remember me? The guy you are supposed to be dealing with?” The annoyance in his voice was quite evident.
The council was somewhat rocked by what they perceived as his impertinence. Their leader spoke to Ron. “You have no rights to speak in this forum. We allowed you to speak earlier only because our Hunter insisted. You will remain silent from here forward.”
Ron’s fury boiled over at this point. “Kiss my ass, buddy! You know, I may not speak Swedish, but I can tell you aren’t willing to help. You know what? That’s just fine. I wouldn’t want a coward like you fighting on my side anyway. When the fighting starts right here in your back yard, then maybe you’ll know we were right.” Turning to Lars he said, “We’ll be waiting out in the hall.” He stormed out of the Great Hall, with his family trailing behind.
Lars turned to the council. “He’s right. You have shown great disrespect to the leader of another guild. How can you profess to believe in our rules, when you break them so readily?”
“Our actions are not your concern, Hunter. You will return to your duties.”
“No, I don’t think so. See, I’ve been out in the world. I’ve seen what’s going on. And, you know what? He’s got it pegged. It isn’t just America. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve heard about these Russians. Sooner or later, they will come here. At that time, I hope you can manage to fight them off.” Lars removed the ceremonial tunic he had put on for this meeting, and laid it on the stone table before him. Without another word, he left the Great Hall.
Lars had apologized profusely on their way back to the airport, but Ron had remained silent, brooding. Even Nikki had not been able to pull him out of it, and the rest knew just to let him be.
Arriving at the airport, they found a small group waiting for them. From their style of dress, Ron could tell they were part of the ShadowDragon. His defenses immediately went to full strength. The energy he was radiating actually made them back up physically. The leader of this small band was a woman, about 5’9” tall, with flowing blond hair that reached her waist. She was dressed in warrior garb, reminiscent of medieval times, but made of newer materials. Her pale blue eyes widened upon feeling the power of Ron’s defenses wash over her. She bowed politely.
“Sir, you have nothing to fear from us. My name is Kimberly. I am an Adept of the Fourth Order, formerly of the ShadowDragon.”
Lars continued for her, “Kimberly is… was my deputy. What are you doing here, Kimmy?”
“Sir, we Hunters have seen a lot. The rest of the SkuggDrakarna may not believe you, but we know better. We will follow you wherever this leads.”
“This is going to be dangerous, Kim.”
“What worth doing isn’t?” she responded. Turning to Ron, she said, “Sir, I know you have no reason to trust us. We accept that you need proof of our intentions. We would ask only that you give us the opportunity to do so.”
“How many of you are there?” Ron temporized. He wasn’t sure what to say to this lady.
“There are fifty of us, ready to follow your lead.”
“Very well. Lars, can you take charge of them, and get them back to my house? We need to get all the troops together to try to plan something out.”
Lars came to attention, and bowed his head slightly. “It will be done.” Then he walked off with the group of Hunters to find the rest.
Ron and his family boarded another airplane for home. Ron was asleep before the wheels left the runway. He knew he was going to need all the rest he could get.
The USS Nimitz was patrolling in the Northern Atlantic, just west of Ireland. It was a calm, clear day, the sun glinting off the ocean. Captain Charles Farraday was lounging in his bridge chair, enjoying the morning, and keeping an eye on his crew. It was easier for him than most captains: Captain Farraday was a psionic.
“Sir, AWACS is reporting an unidentified surface group approaching, 200 miles out and closing,” reported a junior officer.
“Number of vessels?” inquired the XO for the captain.
“The Hawkeye doesn’t have a clear count because of distance, sir, but at least ten.”
“Captain,” said the XO, “I think we should send some aircraft over there to check it out.”
The XO saw that faraway look the captain sometimes got just before making an important decision. He waited patiently for the captain’s orders.
Finally, the captain said, “You’re right Bob. Air Boss, send the two S-3s to check out that surface group.”
“Aye aye, Captain!” replied the officer.
Though the captain outwardly settled back into his chair, appearing relaxed, he was very nervous. The surface group was too far away for him to read its intentions psionically. Either that, or someone was blocking his attempt. That would be really bad news. He’d gotten the message, through the grapevine, that there might be trouble coming. That would explain why the Nimitz was patrolling so far north. Well, if the Russians wanted to get frisky again, Farraday knew he could knock them down a peg. But if there were psionics involved, just what would that mean?
The captain passed the following fifteen minutes in a building dread. Something told him there was going to be trouble. Without any warning at all from anywhere, the captain turned to his XO and said, “Bob, let’s bring the group to general quarters.”
Though somewhat surprised, Commander Bob Maxton had learned not to question his captain’s motives; he was right far more often than he was wrong. “Aye, sir.” Maxton gave the orders to the bridge crew, who began to carry out those orders. All of the ships in the battle group came alive as personnel hopped out of their bunks, or put down their cards, and rushed to their battle stations.
The radio crackled with the report of the lead S-3 Viking. “Mother Hen, this is Jackal Lead, we have tally on fifteen, repeat one-five surface vessels of Russian origin. These are warships, Mother Hen. They are at full steam, and heading right for the carrier group. Requesting instructions, over.”
The radio officer turned to the captain expectantly. The captain said, “Tell them standard ROE is in effect, but to keep themselves between the two surface groups. Bob, I think it’s time we head down to CIC.”
Maxton followed his captain down into the ship, where the Combat Information Center was located. The room was dark, with red overhead lighting, to make the displays on the screens easier to read. As soon as the captain had arrived, he requested an update.
“Sir, as you know,” began the intelligence officer, “The Russians no longer have a functional carrier. However, we are close enough to their turf right now that they can easily do in-flight refueling to get bombers and fighters down from the mainland. The group ahead of us, according to the pilots in the Vikings, are mainly cruisers and destroyers. A few frigates, but no battleships or carriers. However, the S-3 pilots also report that they are in battle formation, sir. It looks like they are looking for trouble.”
“If they want trouble, they’ll get trouble,” interjected the XO, speaking aloud the sentiment of the entire crew.
“Let’s get the fighters up and fueled, and let's load the Harpoons onto the Hornets. I want every working aircraft in the air. If this becomes a shitstorm, I don’t want to have our pilots on the deck. Radio Washington and let them know what is going on. Tell them we have launched a full alert, but that we are not advancing to meet the other surface group. You have the birds form a CAP around the group at fifty miles.”
“Aye, sir!” chimed the officers.
“Pull that first flight back into the CAP. I don’t want them to be able to say we provoked them into something. If this is going to happen, I want to make damned sure they get the blame for it.”
“Aye, sir. Captain, should we put the AWACS in EMCON?” The officer was referring to Emissions Control, a way to deny the enemy information about yourself.
“No. It’s obvious they already know where we are. Probably satellite photos.”
Aboard the Russian vessel Zhdanov, Captain Beriya was extremely unhappy. He also knew that there was little he could do to change that. He had been given his orders by this... whatever he was. He was told, "call him Putin", but nothing more. He disagreed with his mission, but, as if this were the days of the old Soviet Empire, he was told that his opinion was not important, that this mission was good for the Rodina, that he would do as he was told.
As if the people of Mother Russia would approve of a direct assault on the Americans in this way! This is madness!
"Watch your thoughts, Comrade Captain," said Putin, startling Beriya out of his thoughts. "They may have a negative effect on your performance, and you wouldn't want that."
"Understood, Comrade Putin." Comrade. That was another return to the "Good Old Days" of the Union. What was happening to his Motherland, his Rodina? And how did this Putin seem to know what he was thinking all the time?
Igor Putin sat back in what should have been the Captain's chair, watching the first major operation of the campaign unfold. He had arrayed before him the largest battle group in the Russian Navy. A fleet of fifteen warships, with a group of fleet replenishment vessels on the way. His air cover would be there when he needed it, and he knew that the submarines were lurking in the area around the American battle group. His was the greatest power. Though he had never served a day in the military, he was now acting as Admiral, overseeing this, the first battle of the New Great Patriotic War. They would return Russia to power, to prominence. That he and his brothers and sisters of the Filitov Council would rule permanently shouldn't trouble the citizens greatly. After all, he thought, they were used to the czars once. They can get used to anything.
"Begin the attack, Captain Beriya," he commanded.
"Bring the battle group to general quarters," ordered Beriya. "Begin the launch procedure now."
The radio signal traveled from ship to ship, and missiles flew from the five cruisers in the fleet, one a minute, for the next eight minutes. A total of forty SS-19 missiles were launched at the Nimitz battle group.
Aboard the Nimitz, things got hectic in a hurry. Captain Farraday ordered all ships into air-defense mode. The first missile would hit in just under nine minutes. No one yet knew exactly which ships were targeted. The aircraft carrier would be the biggest prize, and so it was most likely the main target. Farraday's options were the same in any case: bring the fleet to air-defense readiness, and launch a counter-attack.
"Bob, launch the SLAMs."
"How many of them, sir?" his XO inquired.
"All of them," he responded solemnly.
"Bob, the Russian missiles will be here in less than 9 minutes. It'll take our missiles more than 20 minutes to get there. If we don't launch them all now, we may just have a bigger boom. Launch them all. And tell the air wing to follow them in. I want these cocksuckers doing the dog-paddle home."
"Aye aye, Captain!" The XO relayed the orders to the radio officers, who didn't question their orders, but found them highly unusual nonetheless.
Aboard the USS Monterey, 2000 yards away from the Nimitz, Captain John Sizlig found his orders most unusual. But he knew Farraday, and he knew what he was thinking. "Missile crews, prepare the SLAMs for launch. Your target is the Russian fleet. When ready, you will fire all, I repeat, all of our SLAMs."
He leaned against a bulkhead as he received confirmation from his missile crews. Their motions appeared frantic, but were well organized, and the first SLAM left the rails in under a minute. It would take over three minutes to launch all twenty of them. He knew that the same action was happening aboard the other cruiser in the group, the Normandy, as well as aboard the three destroyers, Stout, Mitscher, and Ross. He wondered if he'd be alive long enough to find out if his missiles hit anything.
In the skies above the battle group, Captain William "Shaggy" Barnes was flying the lead Tomcat of the squadron. He was CAG aboard the USS Nimitz, responsible for every aircraft flying off the deck. He received his orders, and quickly assembled his battle plan.
"To all flights, this is the CAG. Your mission is to follow in the SLAM missiles, and take out any Russian fleet vessels that they miss. Homer, you take lead. The F-14s will fly high cover, in case they've got air support hiding somewhere." He continued his brief, outlining mission objectives and a brief chain of command. He thought to himself, This is supposed to be done in a ready room, not at fifteen thousand feet. Once his briefing was finished, the aircraft broke into their elements, and moved off to the north, toward the enemy.
"Any trouble back there, Scooby?" he asked his RIO, his back-seat officer.
Martin Scobes had been with the fleet for exactly two months. He had gotten paired with the CAG because Shaggy didn't have a RIO at the moment. Given his name, and CAG's callsign, his was inevitable.
"Everything's fine up here, Shaggy," he answered, "But I wish they could've waited until after dinner."
"I hear ya. And I forgot my Scooby Snacks." The running joke did little to ease the tension. What were the Russians up to? No Russian fleet had opened fire on an American in longer than he could recall. What had changed?
Four hundred feet below the surface of the Atlantic, the next element of the operation circled, maneuvering at only five knots, the Politovskiy was nearly silent, and almost impossible to detect. It had been circling this area for days, waiting for the American fleet to come to this spot. The captain aboard the Politovskiy, Aleksandr Torpoyev, knew that American sonar was far too good for him to stalk the fleet. But his ship was truly undetectable at this speed, and since he knew where the Americans were going, he simply got there first, and stopped, waiting for them to pass over his head.
This they did, and now he would be allowed to do the thing for which he had trained his entire life. He would show the world that the Americans were not unbeatable. He would show them that Russian - no, Soviet! - naval power was just as strong. He did not understand the reason for his orders any more than his colleague Captain Beriya did, but, unlike Beriya, Torpoyev yearned for this day, and was reveling in the emotions.
His sonar officer announced, "The carrier has just passed over us, Captain. They are at 300 meters and opening."
"Very well. Torpedo room, load all tubes. Open outer doors."
With satisfaction, he noted that his actions were carried out quickly and efficiently. The torpedoes were ready to fire in well under a minute. "Range to target?" he asked.
"1500 meters and opening, sir! Bearing three-three-six!"
"Match bearings and fire," he ordered calmly. He was settling down now, he was becoming what he had been trained to be: a fighting machine.
The submarine shuddered as the four torpedoes were ejected into the water by high-pressure air. Two officers were guiding them in to the American carrier. The running time for the fish was barely over a minute.
This, the Nimitz was not prepared for. A frantic call erupted across the CIC. "Torpedoes! Torpedoes in the water bearing one-five-six! Range is close! Less than fifteen hundred yards!"
"All ahead flank!" ordered Farraday, knowing it was almost a futile action at that distance. He didn't need to ask how the sub had gotten that close: obviously this was a coordinated plan. "Activate all countermeasures! Get the Vikings, and the LAMPS helos, looking for that sub! Sound collision alarm!"
As crewmen rushed around to follow the captain's orders, he knew, in the kind of certainty that seamen have, that his ship was doomed. If only my Ability were stronger, I might be able to stop them! Captain Farraday had never had an opportunity to train himself in the psionic ways, and so was not able to turn away such a swiftly moving object. It would not have mattered in any case, for the Russian psionics were prepared for such an attempt.
There were now seven helicopters and two jet aircraft sweeping the waters around the carrier, looking for a submarine. The Politovskiy slid silently down into the depths, sliding below the thermocline, the boundary between warm surface water and colder deep water. This boundary reflected the active sonar waves of its pursuers back up to the surface, and so they felt they were safe.
It was not the fault of the sonar crew that they didn't hear the Seawolf.
Aboard the USS Seawolf, Captain Brad Simmons was pissed. He had just been informed that a Russian submarine had fired torpedoes at an American aircraft carrier. Mother-fuckers! So, you want to play in our pond, do you? We'll see about that!
"Spin up the ADCAPs! I want that boat sunk."
"Aye, sir! Working on a firing solution now, sir!"
"Very well, inform me when you have it."
Captain Simmons rested in his chair. Though not a psionic, he'd been warned about the coming troubles from his brother. And I thought he was out of his mind at first. Just the loss of his daughter sending him over the edge... But how else to explain this? Shit, I hope all of what Bill told me isn't actually going to happen.
His fire-control officer interrupted his train of thought. "Sir, we have a firing solution, distance to target six thousand yards, run time on the ADCAP will be four minutes."
"Fire tubes one and three, and reload." The submarine quivered as the torpedoes left their tubes. The sonar officer in charge of tracking the torpedo kept a running commentary as the fish closed on the target.
"Comrade Captain! Torpedo in the water! No! Two torpedoes in the water! They are in acquisition mode, they do not yet have us!"
Captain Torpoyev asked calmly, "Bearing and distance?"
"Two-two-four at fifty-five hundred meters!"
"Come right to zero-nine-zero, ten degrees on the rudder. Make your depth two hundred fifty meters. All ahead flank speed." The control room crew marveled at their commander's calm demeanor. Inside, he was enraged. How dare they fire on my ship! Do they not know that we are the leaders of the new order? We shall teach them a lesson they will never forget!" He walked back into the sonar room. "Do you have a bearing on the submarine yet?"
"Comrade Captain, I am not tracking a submarine. Obviously, he's out there, sir, but he does not show on a single scope. I can go active, if you wish..."
"No, that would make it far too easy to track on us. Keep working on it." He headed back into conn. "Fire control officer, prepare a shot down the reciprocal bearing of the two torpedoes."
"Match generated bearings and fire one and two."
Once again the vessel trembled as the torpedoes were launched.
The Seawolf, however, was nowhere near the direction that the torpedoes had been fired. As soon as their own fish had left the tubes, Capt. Simmons had ordered the wires cut, and he had maneuvered clear. He still had the enemy sub on sonar, and he could fire more shots if necessary, but this was obviously a war situation, and he did not wish to waste more torpedoes if he didn't have to. The Mark 48 ADCAP could just as easily find the other submarine on its own.
On the surface, it took only moments before the torpedoes closed the distance to the Nimitz. The torpedoes had spread out, and struck the ship from bow to stern, mortally wounding one of the largest ships in the world.
Captain Farraday was back on the bridge now, giving orders to the helm. "All stop!" He saw that his orders were being answered, and he turned to the 1-MC public address system. "All hands, abandon ship! Repeat, all hands, abandon ship! The Nimitz has taken multiple torpedo strikes, and is rapidly taking on water. All hands to the lifeboats!" He clicked off the system, and looked to the bridge crew, still staring at him in stunned silence. "Well? What are you waiting for? Get your asses in gear! Get to the lifeboats!"
As all the officers began to leave, the helmsman noted that the captain was not leaving. As young as she was, and as new as she was, she had no place questioning her captain, but she couldn't not say something. "Captain? Captain, aren't you coming?"
He looked at her in sympathy. "No, seaman. This is my ship, and I'll be damned if I'm jumping off her just because somebody put holes in her. Now, go! That's an order!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" she replied, with a not-so-small lump in her throat. She raced for the door, and looked back, to see the captain standing, staring out the huge bridge windows at the sea. She turned her back on him for the last time, and raced for the nearest life boat.
Captain Farraday had no illusions about going down with the ship. If he thought for certain that the boat was irreparably damaged, he'd have jumped ship like everyone else. But, he did have his Ability. And he had, he hoped, enough strength to keep the ship afloat until he could either get her to shore, or until someone could come repair her. He had to at least make sure that everyone else made it off safely.
Shaggy saw the inbound missiles as he passed over them. They were screaming in toward the fleet at nearly Mach 2. He whispered a silent prayer for the fleet. He radioed in to give them his visual report. That was when he found out that his carrier was sinking. Bastards! Unfortunately, his F-14 was not equipped to handle anti-ship weaponry. He passed the message along to the other flights. He considered keeping it from them until after the attack, but he knew that they would need to be aware that they would have to make a run for the UK as soon as the attack was over, and even then some of them might not make it.
Aboard the Monterey, the radar officer warned, "Time to impact, one minute."
Captain Sizlig ordered, "Put the system into automatic."
The officer in charge of the AEGIS defense system on board the Monterey lifted a cover and flipped a switch. The computer was now in charge of the defensive systems onboard the cruiser.
Aboard the Zhdanov, Putin was in the wardroom with the two other psionics on board. They were concentrating very hard. One of them, Bugayev, said, "About a minute to the first missiles, Ivan."
"Very well. Boris, you and I will take down the computer systems, with help from those on board the Plotkin. I will signal them. You begin your attack."
There were now five psionics focusing their powers on the battle group. Their psionic abilities reached out, searching for electronic pathways.
"Thirty seconds to impact, sir! System is fully operational!" Sizlig was just about to acknowledge that comment when every system aboard the cruiser flared. Some of the panels actually sparked, and then everything aboard went dead.
"Sir! All defense systems are down! All radar systems are shot to hell! We have no way to track the missiles now, let alone shoot them down!"
"Oh, fuck," muttered the Captain. He knew his next order was cowardly, and that, if he survived, his career was probably over. But the lives of several hundred crewmen were in his hands, and he couldn't live with their deaths to make a show of it.
"Abandon ship! All hands, abandon ship! Head for the lifeboats!" He unknowingly echoed the orders of his colleague on the carrier. "Let's move out, people!" He made sure he was the last to leave the Combat Information Center, but he did leave. He made his way to the nearest available life-raft. His raft hit the water just as the first missile struck his ship.
Aboard the USS Normandy, similar things were happening. However, the captain of that ship chose to stand his ground. The crew onboard felt this was madness, but they would not question their orders. Captain Carl Andreeson had served them well for several years, and they would not desert him now. He had determined that their vessel was not targeted in either of the first two waves of missiles, and that gave them some time to get the systems back up.
"Any luck at all?" he asked the nearest technician.
"Not yet, sir. I'll let you know if we get anything, okay?" He was nervous, and showing it, and the captain's interest didn't help any. Andreeson backed off.
Captain Farraday was holding it together so far. He was using most of his energy to keep the ship afloat. With what other strength he had, he was propelling it forward at a meager speed of five knots. His attention was too focused to notice the incoming SS-19s, and there was nothing he could do about them, anyway.
They struck fore and aft of the superstructure, where he was standing. The missile warheads exploded, ripping the flat top of the flight deck apart, and destroying the supports for the superstructure. The entire island began to topple over. Farraday was thrown through the bridge windows, his face and body lacerated by the broken glass. He fell nearly a hundred feet before hitting anything at all. When he did impact, he could feel bones breaking. The pain was intense. Pieces of the superstructure landed on top of him, pinning him to the deck. He knew that his body would not live much longer, and the ship was a complete goner.
He reached out with his mind, and found Commander Bob Maxton.
In the life raft, Bob Maxton was asking the helmsman, "You just left him there?"
"He ordered me to leave, sir. What was I supposed to do? Drag him out kicking and screaming?"
"I suppose not. Very well, take it..." His statement was cut off by the explosion of the two missiles on the carrier. "Heads down!" he screamed, grabbing the helmsman, and shoving her roughly to the floor of the lifeboat, throwing himself on top of her to protect her from flying debris. Neither of them moved until the explosions died away, and he was the one who rose. He looked at her for a moment, worried that she had been injured, but all of a sudden, some force tried to rip his brain in half.
Charles Farraday's last conscious act was to send a message to the world. But before he did that, he gave his best friend and first officer a parting present.
Bob Maxton was flung to the floor of the raft with the sheer immensity of power that had flowed through his mind. He had almost grasped the message that his captain had sent out to God-knows-who. He knew that something else had happened, but he could not yet grasp it. What he really knew was that he now had a splitting headache. He looked down, and he saw that the helmsman, whose name he recalled was Rita, was moving. He helped her up, and looked her over for injuries quickly. She appeared okay. Together they stared as their ship sank slowly beneath the waves of the North Atlantic.
"Sir?" she said tearily.
"We'll get the bastards, Connelly. I promise you that."
"Yes sir," she managed, before letting a sob escape her throat.
In the plane, flying over the Atlantic Ocean, Ronald Marcus Chaffey sat bolt upright in his airplane seat out of a dead sleep. His head was throbbing with the message that had carried itself around the world, and had probably awakened several dead people with its forcefulness. He wished Karen were here now, so he could verify that he had not dreamt it, but she was with Lars now. Linda, who was sitting beside him, noticed his sudden agitation.
"Is something wrong, Ron?"
"Yes, I think there is."
"What..." she started to ask, but could see that Ron had entered one of his "states", and wasn't going to be disturbed for a simple matter of curiosity.
Ron was searching for the source of the message. He soon found it, in two different places. Though this confused him, the two points of origin were very close together, and both were in the midst of a pack full of trouble. Ron saw the overall picture, and he realized that he was too far away to help everyone. How do you choose whom to save?
Ron came to his decision by a simple matter of numbers. He was too far away to try to take out the missiles directly. He could only protect one location. While attacking the Russian ships was desirable, that would only kill people, and not save anyone. This would save the lives of American sailors. It was the best he could manage.
Back underwater, the Politovskiy was fleeing for its life. Captain Torpoyev had tried every maneuver he could think of to escape the closing torpedoes. Nothing had managed to shake the Mark 48s. He was resigned to the fate of his submarine. He had taken out their most vaunted carrier, but it would seem that the devil would have his due. Their triumph would cost them their lives. He had but one last duty to perform for his crew.
"Surface the ship, emergency rise. All up on the bow planes!" His orders were confirmed and carried out swiftly. There was the chance that rising back through the thermocline layer would confuse the torpedoes, but it was a slim chance at best.
The torpedoes followed the Politovskiy up to the surface, and they contacted the sub just as its bow cleared the water. The explosion actually pushed the submarine farther out of the water, but this only made things worse. With so much of the sub out of the water, the impact when it fell back was too much of a strain for the already-damaged hull. The ship split in half, and quickly filled with water. Not a single crew member made it to safety before the halves slid back beneath the waters for the last time.
"I have two explosions, captain, and then some tearing noises. They made it to the surface just as the fish got there... No hull crush noises, but engine sounds are gone."
Captain Simmons easily restrained his enthusiasm. He had to make sure the sub was actually dead, and not waiting on the surface. "Periscope depth." His ship rose slowly up from the depths, not surfacing, but only close enough so that the ship's periscope could be raised out of the water. The captain made a quick sweep, and then a slower one. He slapped the handles on the periscope up and said, "Lower periscope." Turning to his crew, he said, "There's no sub on the surface, so I think we can call that a kill." He quashed the beginning celebration with his next sentence. "The USS Nimitz is also not on the surface." Silence filled the room as this bit of news sank in. "XO, surface the boat. There were life rafts up there, and we have a duty to those sailors. Sonar, this is the captain: keep your ears open for anything that doesn't belong."
Bob Maxton was looking in the wrong direction when the Seawolf surfaced. He heard a cry from one of the other lifeboats, and turned to see what that was about. Never had he seen a more welcome sight than the large, black sail of the submarine rising up from the ocean's surface. I take back everything I ever said about nucs.
The missiles were racing in now, and Captain Andreeson was just about to order the crew to the lifeboats. The missiles were mere seconds from impact, and he feared that he'd left evacuation too late. He was about to turn and give the abandon order, when he saw a bright flare of light from the direction of the missiles. The lookout standing next to him gasped in surprise, and then had his binoculars yanked away by the captain. What he saw was completely impossible: the missile had exploded in mid-air. Nothing had contacted it, and his ship could do nothing to stop it. Incredulously, he focused in on the remaining missile targeted on them. Just as he managed to find it, it too exploded without warning. Now what do I do? Do I abandon ship? Or do I stand my ground and hope like hell that whatever is stopping those missiles holds out?
The answer to his question was surprising for two reasons: first, he had not expected an answer, and second, it was not his voice that he heard in his mind. He was so startled by the event that he didn't question the wisdom of the voice.
"Get everyone inside! Everyone under cover!" If the missiles exploded any closer in, someone could get caught by the blast. "All right, folks, something is stopping those missiles from getting to us. I don't know what it is, but, by God, we've got a chance now. Any luck with the electronics?"
"No, sir. Sir, these are going to require an overhaul to repair. Every circuit is fried."
"Very well. Get to your damage control station. Situation report?"
"Sir, the Monterey is sinking, the Mitscher is gone. Both Stout and Ross are damaged, but still afloat. Neither of the frigates has been targeted with a missile. Sir... Nimitz has also been sunk." That statement silenced the entire room. They had failed. Whether they survived this mission or not, they had failed to protect the carrier. It was their job, and they had not done it, and the only redeeming fact was that the crew had gotten off. That, and...
"Sir, we have contact with the USS Seawolf. She reports having sunk the sub that fired on the carrier. They are presently doing rescue ops for the carrier crew. They report that they do not have room for all the survivors." That was, at the same time, good and bad news. The good news was that there were that many survivors. The bad news was that the weather in the North Atlantic was notoriously bad, and storms were scheduled to arrive in several hours. They would have to find a way to collect several thousand crewmen from the water before those storms hit.
"Put a call in to the British navy. Tell them if they've got anything in the area that can haul a large number of people, we need it."
"Aye, sir!" That response was punctuated by the sound of three more explosions, two to their front, and one behind them.
"The last explosion was a missile hit on Ross, sir. She's going down. All hands have abandoned ship. The two to our front were intended for us, but exploded like the others."
"Well, at least whatever that is, is holding out. Keep me informed."
"Aye aye, sir!"
Ron was sweating profusely in his airline seat. He had not ever had to work this hard from such a distance. The stewardess, alarmed at his appearance, reached to rouse him. Linda stopped her.
"Don't. He'll be okay. But, could you bring me a wet towel for his forehead?"
"Is it contagious?"
"Huh? Oh, no, he's not sick... he's... concentrating. Please, just bring me the towel."
The stewardess complied. But Ron saw none of it.
Shaggy Barnes passed the last of the inbound missiles, but could no longer reach any of the ships of the fleet. Finally, broadcasting on the GUARD frequency, he reached one of the frigates, just to be informed that, except for the Normandy, all of the main ships of the fleet were either damaged, sinking, or sunk, and that the Normandy was unreachable.
"Very well, Simpson. We've passed what appears to be the last of the inbound missiles. We are still fifteen minutes from our target. All friendly missiles appear to be tracking well. Can you tell me why the Normandy has managed so well?"
"Sorry, Turkey Lead, we don't understand the phenomenon involved. No missiles have been able to get through to the Normandy. It hasn't even had a near miss."
"Very well, Simpson. We will continue our profile, and then bingo to the United Kingdom. Can you call ahead and let them know we're coming?"
"Already done, Turkey Lead. There will be Texacos in the air waiting for you."
"Understood, Simpson. Thank you for that. Turkey Lead, out." To his rear-seater, he said, "Well, that eliminates that worry."
"Yeah, great, Shaggy. Now we just have to worry about whatever else can go weird on this mission."
"I hear you, Scooby. Keep your eyes on that scope."
The Russian fleet was aware of the incoming missiles, but, unlike the Americans, they had no system readily prepared to deal with it. They had to resort to anti-aircraft weaponry better suited to bringing down a bomber than a missile.
In the wardroom of the Zhdanov, Putin and his associates were keeping an eye on the missiles. Bugayev reported the incoming Alpha Strike of aircraft and missiles. Putin sent off a telepathic message. He had been waiting for this.
While jamming an AWACS radar is next to impossible, Mikhail Borodin had learned how to maneuver the radar energy away from its receiver. It had never occurred to him that this technique could be used on visible light as well, or he would have made his plane invisible altogether. It was enough that he had masked his flight of forty MiG-29s from the American radar systems. He acknowledged Putin's order, and radioed his comrade pilots. It was time to show the Americans who this part of the world's oceans belonged to.
Five minutes later, all of the Russian missiles had finished their flights. The last group had focused solely on Normandy, and the last of the five had come dangerously close to hitting them. Now, they had to help their friends who were in the water.
"Let's begin recovery operations. And thank the Lord, or whoever it was, for stopping those damned missiles."
The response startled him half out of his wits. He certainly had not expected a response to that statement. Once again, it was not his voice. He dared not mention it to the crew; they would surely think he'd gone mad.
The USS Normandy, last remaining major surface combatant of the Nimitz battle group, steamed toward the nearest group of survivors, those from the Mitscher. He hoped they would get help soon.
The MiG-29s came down from above. As they reached the target area, Borodin could not keep up his diversion of the radar systems, as he was too involved with flying his aircraft. The AWACS controller took immediate notice of three dozen new blips on his screen. He sent a panic call to Shaggy.
"Turkey Lead, Turkey Lead, this is Hummer-2. We have inbound bogeys at your two o'clock! Angels four-zero and descending rapidly! Distance seven-five miles! They appeared out of nowhere, Turkey Lead!"
"Roger, Hummer-2. Okay, Turkey Flight, this is Shaggy. Time to do our jobs." The flight of eight F-14 Tomcats increased speed, and gained altitude. It was their job to protect the strike-fighters on this mission. The MiGs were already within Phoenix missile range, and the Tomcats locked on quickly. Soon, twenty-four Phoenix missiles were heading for their targets at over Mach 3.
The lock-on signal was immediately recognized by the Russian MiGs. They began jinking to avoid the incoming missiles, but they could not be too evasive, as they had their own targets to destroy. If the MiGs didn't take out the cruise missiles, the Russian fleet was going to be a sitting duck. Borodin gave the commands, and the MiGs dove for the wavetops.
The SLAM missiles were traveling at subsonic speeds, a little over 500 knots. They were within six minutes of hitting their targets when the MiGs descended on them. As slow as they were, they were also miniscule radar targets. While an infrared missile could take one out, that was still an iffy thing at best. And the thought of a Phoenix missile bearing down on their aircraft did not improve the Russian pilots' accuracy. Of the 100 missiles launched, only twenty would be dispatched by the fighters.
The Phoenix missiles would fair better. Twenty-four missiles fired, and seventeen planes were hit. Two of those managed to run for the mainland, but the other planes were well and truly gone. That still left twenty-three MiGs, however, and now they were heading for the strike aircraft.
Shaggy sent a warning to Homer as they launched another twenty-four Phoenix missiles. The distance between the two flights was closing rapidly, and the Phoenix missiles passed just over the strike fighter groups on their way to the Russian targets. Head-on, the Phoenix had a lower kill rate, and only ten of the remaining MiGs were splashed. However, the MiGs and the F-18 Hornet strike-fighters were now in range of each other. But thirteen MiG-29s against 36 F-18s and the eight Tomcats really wasn't much of a match. In the ensuing furball, the Russians managed to down four Hornets, while the Americans splashed all but one of the MiGs, which turned for home rather than be blasted from the sky. Forty American planes and eighty SLAM missiles were now rushing headlong toward the Russian fleet. An unstoppable force, or so the Americans thought.
Putin was not entirely surprised that Borodin and his pilots had been so easily defeated. He had anticipated the possibility. Borodin had signaled their defeat as he raced his plane as far out of harm's way as possible.
To the others, Putin said, "The missiles are our first concern. Take out any missile targeted on our vessel."
"What about the other ships?" Bugayev asked.
"Fuck the other ships," responded Boris. "They're just normals."
"I will signal the Plotkin. They will be responsible to defend themselves. Now, get to work!"
The Hornet drivers were stunned as they followed the missiles in, to see several of them drop into the ocean, seemingly at random. They could not know that those twelve had been the only ones targeted at two specific vessels within the fleet. They watched as the rest of the missiles homed in on their targets flawlessly.
Aboard the Zhdanov, Captain Beriya was near panic. There were missiles inbound to his fleet, and he had little in the way of defense. Putin told him this would not happen. He told him that this would not be a problem. Damn him!
Putin appeared at the captain's side just then. "You need not worry about these missiles, Captain Beriya. None of them is targeted on your vessel."
"And how do you know this?" Beriya asked.
"It is my job to know such things. I will be on deck if you need me."
Beriya thought that madness in the middle of a missile attack, but if the man wanted to commit suicide, Beriya wasn't going to stop him. He also was not going to blithely sit by and watch missiles come in and pound his fleet. "Ready the guns! Take those missiles out if you can! NOW!"
The gunners aboard the Russian ships made a valiant effort, but there simply was little chance of them killing off all of the missiles inbound for their vessels. In short order, all but two of the Soviet ships were sinking quickly beneath the surface. The two remaining vessels, the Zhdanov and the Plotkin, had no missiles even attempt to hit them.
Henry "Homer" Simpson took note of that, but also realized it didn't matter. He radioed his fellow pilots, "Dragon Flight, this is Dragon Lead. We've got two targets left. Launch the Harpoons, NOW!" As he completed his sentence, he saw the briefest flash of light from below. Were they firing on us? The next thing he saw was his wingman's plane exploding not fifty yards away. He banked away from it, and, in doing so, saved his own life as he saw another blast of blue-white energy flash by and impact an airplane behind him. What in the fuck is this shit? "Dragon Flight, break and run! Let the missiles do the job, we do not have the fuel for an extended fight!"
The Hornets were falling rapidly, as the blasts from below seemed to come with greater frequency. Homer jinked and rolled to avoid them, but jinked one too many times, and he found his aircraft exploding about him. His last thought was that he had no idea what had killed him. Doesn't that just suck?
Shaggy Barnes was aware of what was happening to his friends in the Hornets. He also knew that he had absolutely no way to help them. "Scooby, what say we get the hell out of here?"
"Well, my fun meter is pegged, boss. I'm with you."
With a muttered curse, William "Shaggy" Barnes turned his Tomcat eastward, and headed for the United Kingdom and safety. Or, at least it was safe yesterday. Who knows today? His biggest concern was how he was supposed to tell over fifty families that their sons, and six daughters, he reminded himself, would not be coming home, ever. Shit.
The psionics aboard the two remaining Soviet vessels were able to disable all of the incoming Harpoon missiles. A good many of them had never been launched because of the timing of their energy attacks. One missile had splashed into the ocean a hundred yards away, but Putin took little notice of that. This, the first battle of the New Great Patriotic War, had been a victory. A costly one for the normals, but that was not Putin's concern. Not a single psionic life had been lost, or so he thought. He did not know about Captain Farraday. And, in truth, it would not have mattered to him anyway.
Ron slumped back in his chair. He opened his eyes, and realized that Linda was leaning over him, and that the other first-class passengers were staring at him. He took the offered towel from Linda's hands, and smiled at her.
"Are you all right, sir?" the stewardess asked with concern.
"Yes, I'll be fine... I'm just a bit stressed, that's all. Can I get a soda, please?"
As the stew hurried off to do that, Linda quietly asked, "What happened?"
Ron answered as deadpan as he could, "World War Three just started."
Linda's face went pale, and he worried she would faint. He reached out mentally and strengthened her vital signs, allowing her to absorb the information. She turned to him, stable but still pale.
"Will we win?"
"I don't know, Linda. I really don't."
Ron tried to rest throughout the rest of the flight, but his mind was continually upset with the thoughts that he had to do something about the loss of the Nimitz. He stopped the stewardess on her rounds.
"Ma'am, where are we stopping off to refuel?"
"We're making a quick turnaround at Dulles, in Washington D.C." she replied.
"Are passengers allowed off at that stop?"
"Yes, sir, we have several passengers getting off there, but your luggage-"
"I'm not worried about my luggage. I have to get to where it's going eventually, anyway. But I have to get off in Washington."
"Well, sir, that's your choice. Understand that your ticket won't allow you to go the rest of the way separately, though."
"Not a problem. Thank you -"
"Thank you, Terry. You've been very helpful." She beamed at him and moved off. He had Linda tell the others that they were getting off in Washington, and then he leaned back, closed his eyes, and tried to find Lars.
The summons might have popped his eardrums had it been audible. Karen snapped to attention the same way, having gotten the echo of the call through her link with him.
he said with no little sarcasm in his voice.
The plane landed safely and on time at Dulles International Airport. Karen and Lars stood hand in hand waiting for Ron and company to get off the plane. Standing behind Lars were Kimberly, his deputy; and another man of impressive bulk and serious demeanor. As Ron approached, Lars said, "I hope this was enough, I did not know what you had in mind. You remember Kimberly, I assume. This is Stefan. He is an Adept of the Fifth Order."
"This should be plenty... a larger group would only make things more difficult."
"What do you have in mind?"
"We're going to infiltrate the White House."
The incredulous stares he was getting would have been humorous if the reason for the statement were not so grim. He plowed on, not expecting resistance. "Look, I've got to talk to the President. We just had a battle group slaughtered in the Atlantic Ocean. I managed to save one ship, and most of the people survived, but not all of them. And I don't know what they're doing about all the survivors in that cold-ass water. But one of the captains was a psionic, and his last message, which I'm surprised you didn't hear, indicated that they weren't prepared for this war."
Karen said quietly, "We should have been ready." While the rest just stared at her, Ron nodded.
"So you did hear it."
"Yes, but it was not that strong... although I guess if it came from the middle of the Atlantic, it was stronger than I thought it was. I just assumed it was someone's stray thought from the neighborhood. I didn't take any notice of it."
"Well, I was a lot closer... nearly line of sight, I guess, and that meant it boomed through my head like you wouldn't believe. He was max power on that... and there's still something about that incident that puzzles me... well, we won't go into that now. Right now, we've got to sneak into the White House... I want to make such an impression that he'll have to listen to me. Here's what I've got planned..."
"Sir, we were lucky, the QE2 was in port, but ready to sail. She was underway in less than 30 minutes, and was on location in less than four hours. The storms are starting to raise hell with rescue ops, but they've already gotten aboard most of the survivors."
"What kind of losses are we looking at?" The president wanted to know.
"We don't have a verified count yet, sir, but here are the estimates: We've lost five ships: one carrier, the Nimitz; one cruiser, the Monterey; and three destroyers, Stout, Mitscher and Ross. Of the crews on board all of those ships, most of them managed to abandon before the missiles hit, so we suffered minor casualties there, unfortunately, one of the dead is Captain Charles Farraday, commander of the Nimitz. Of the air wing embarked on the carrier, we lost three F-14s and sixteen F-18 Hornets. That totals twenty-two men, sir. Our total casualties were light in personnel because of some quick thinking by our captains."
"They'll be well rewarded, Admiral. What else?"
"Well, the Seawolf managed to sink the sub, we think an Alfa class Russian attack sub, that hit the Nimitz. The Normandy, the second cruiser in the battle group, remained untouched throughout the missile strike. The report from our commander onboard states that missiles headed for his ship exploded mysteriously before hitting the target. We have no explanation for that."
"Who said that?" the president demanded. Everyone looked around, but the voice had seemingly come from nowhere.
"I did," replied Ron, who materialized right before the president's eyes. Secret Service agents immediately attempted to move to interdict the intruder, but were held in check by unseen forces. Their guns were removed from their holsters, and disappeared into thin air.
"Who-who are you?" the president requested apprehensively.
"I am Ron Chaffey, Mr. President. I am an American citizen, and I mean you no harm. I have come to help you understand the events occurring in the Atlantic Ocean this afternoon. You see, I witnessed most of them."
"I'm calling security to get this punk kid out of here..." The Admiral froze in his tracks suddenly, not able to move. Ron was not really putting forth that much effort, but figured it was time to stop fooling around. The rest of the team phased into existence, one behind each of the Secret Service agents in the room. His family, consisting of Nikki, Linda, Sandra and Megan, was gathered in a group behind him. Nancy and Cindy had been left to take care of the house.
"Mr. President, we can do this the hard way, with me forcing you to listen to me, or we can do it the easy way. The easy way is better for everyone concerned, I assure you."
The President of the United States was not used to taking orders from a teenager, but it was obvious to even the dumbest person in the room that this was no ordinary teen. "Very well, Mr... What did you say your name was?"
"Chaffey, sir. Ronald Chaffey."
"And, what is your affiliation? Your agenda? Why are you here?"
"I am affiliated with..." he almost said CAMP, but that was no longer the truth. He thought quickly and pulled a name from thin air, "The Provisional Psionic Army of the United States of America. My agenda is to save the United States from the coming war. I am here to tell you why the US military is not adequately prepared to face the Russians."
That was all more than the Admiral, who had been released from Ron's controls, could swallow. "Just what the hell is a Provisional Psionic Army?"
Ron rolled his eyes, and was about to explain, when an Air Force lieutenant intervened. "Sir, a psionic is defined as a person with mental powers. Someone able to manipulate the real world with their mind."
The Admiral looked at her as if she had sprouted a third arm. "Are you trying to tell me, Miss Saunders, that these people think they can do telekinesis and shit?"
"Sir, I am making no claim. He is. And, begging the Admiral's pardon, sir, but how else would you explain what just happened here?"
That silenced the Admiral effectively. Ron was beginning to like Lt. Saunders.
"You seem to know something about all of this, Lieutenant. Where does your information come from?"
The sheepish look on her face was evident. It highlighted her straight black hair and big eyes to great effect. "Mr. President... most of my knowledge of such things comes from science fiction novels. That's the only place I've ever known psionics to exist," looking at Ron, she hastily added, "until now." And his estimation of her went up yet another notch.
The president turned to Ron. "Are you telling me that you can manipulate things with your mind, son?"
In response, Ron simply reached out with his extension, and heaved the large conference table in the center of the room a foot off the floor. "Do you need a further demonstration, Mr. President, or will this be sufficient?"
The president stood, flabbergasted, at seeing what under any other circumstances he would have assumed was a magic trick. Well, it was magic all right, but this was real.
"Yes, I... I think that will do nicely... Um, could you please set it back down, now?"
Ron positioned the table softly on the floor, being careful not to spill the president's coffee, which sat on the table.
"Well, I have to take you at your word that you are one of these... psionics... but, what is the Provisional Psionic Army? Are you part of some militia, here to demand your second amendment rights?" The president smirked, to show that he was jesting.
"Like I have need of a gun," Ron responded in kind. "No, sir. The PPA is a group of citizens with abilities similar to mine. We are organizing now to combat the coming Russian threat. Sir, can we get back to this afternoon's battle?"
"All right, why don't you tell us what you know?"
"Can I ask a question first? Did we save all the sailors?"
The Admiral, feeling a need to assert himself again, answered, "The Queen Elizabeth 2 is presently seeing them safely to port in England."
"Good. I'm sorry, Mr. President, I was too far away from the battle to save more than the one ship. Missiles moving at... well, however fast them Russian jobbies were moving, well, they were too much for me to affect from such a distance. I was able to protect the one ship... boxy thing, what's it called?"
"The USS Normandy, it's an AEGIS cruiser," the lieutenant offered, to the annoyance of the admiral.
"Thanks. I was able to protect the Normandy from harm, but that was all. If I'd had other psionics with me, I could have protected all of them, but that just wasn't possible. I'm sorry, sir."
"You've nothing to be sorry for, son. You're not wearing a uniform, you did right well to do what you did." The president looked over at the admiral, who was still coming to terms with the idea of a real-life psionic in their midst. He shrugged. "Go on."
"Well, sir, I didn't see what happened to the carrier. I wasn't alerted to the battle until after that had been damaged. Anyway, I saw that the Russian missiles were coming in, and I sensed that the fleet's systems were down, that the ships couldn't defend themselves... The ship I saved was the biggest one still floating, sir, which is why I chose to protect it: I figured it had the most people on board. I was able to keep the missiles from hitting it, but the rest of the ships were sunk. I think most of the crews got off, though."
"Do you know anything about some fantastical energy weapon that the Russians have now?" The admiral chimed in.
"What did it look like?" Ron asked.
"One of our pilots described a blue-white ball of light, flashing past his windscreen."
"Lars, you want to do the honors?"
Lars nodded, aimed himself at a blank piece of wall, and let loose with a high intensity wave of psionic energy. The blue-white ball smashed into the wall and dissipated, without leaving a trace. "Satisfactory?" he asked.
Ron nodded. "Before you ask, Admiral, there's no damage to your wall there because we didn't want there to be. What you just saw is highly focused mental energy. It is controllable, to an extent. Such a highly charged burst cannot be directed with as fine a control as a lesser charge, which is why any of your planes survived at all. If they had been smart about it, you would have lost every plane in the group."
"What do you mean? This was a dumb attack?"
"In a way, yes sir. See, the more energy you put into the attack itself, the less energy you have left to control the attack. There are exceptions, usually brought on by extreme emotional distress, but this was not the case here. Had he used a more subtle energy attack, your planes would have fallen from the sky without the pilots even having a clue what happened. What I don't understand is why they didn't do so, when it is obvious that they used such a tactic earlier in the fight."
The president was confused. "What do you mean?"
"As I said, when I saw your ships, they were defenseless. All their systems had blown. I took a quick look through the circuitry after I finished saving the Normandy. All the boards had been fried. All of them, Mr. President. Even a lightning strike doesn't fry everything. This was a concerted attack, not by EMP or anything else you may be used to, but by a psionic blast. A well focused and highly controlled, low-energy psionic charge ran through your circuitry, and shorted it all out."
"How in the hell do we defend against that sort of thing? Some kind of shielding?"
"The only shielding possible, Admiral, is human. The only way to fight a psionic is with another psionic. Believe me, I've spent several months trying to find something that deflects mental energy, and I've come up completely empty."
"You've known this attack was coming for months?" The president was incredulous. "Why in the hell didn't you warn us?"
"Sir, I didn't know this specific battle was going to happen, nor when, where, or how. What I'm talking about is something you apparently still don't grasp. What you saw today was not an isolated incident, but the first battle of the Third World War. But this battle isn't going to be fought just with tanks and planes and ships and guns. This war is going to be fought with psionics. People like me, and him," he pointed to Lars, "and them," motioning to the other three. "We are assembling now, to try to fight off the Russian psionics. Sir, you should know that Russian psionics have been making small-scale attacks on American soil for months, maybe even years. It's just in the last little while that the American psionic community has geared up for the battle. I admit, sir, that we may not be as ready as we would like to be."
"You're telling me that I have to send our military out, defenseless against these... these psionics?" the president demanded.
"No, sir. You have psionics in the military. I can't tell you who they are, because I don't know, but they're there. I know there's at least one, or there was, on board the carrier in the Atlantic. The signal I got from him or her was confused, so I do not know if that psionic still lives. But where there's one, there has to be more."
"Well, we're just going to have to put one of you on each of my ships," proclaimed the Admiral.
"Admiral, we aren't here to volunteer. I'm here to tell you what's happening."
"We could draft you, boy," the Admiral threatened.
"What will that piece of paper mean when the Russians are ruling in Washington, Admiral?" Ron answered coldly. "You don't have the power to enforce rules over us if we don't want you to. You don't have the ability to win this war without our help. We can, if necessary, win it without your help, but it will be easier if we work together."
"What do you need from us?" the president asked.
"We've outlined our needs, sir, and here they are..." Ron continued for two hours, outlining plans, and needs, and projections and contingencies. Not all of his plans, but some of the very basic ones.
Six hours later, after endless meetings with people in uniform, Ron was on a military transport headed for home. His family was all with him, as well as Lars, Karen, Kimberly, and Stefan. Also aboard was Lieutenant Shelly Saunders, newly appointed liaison for the US government to the PPA.
Ron walked in, glad to be home after such a long visit. He had Cindy show Lt. Saunders to a guest room, and he went and sat down in his study. He turned on the TV to see the "Special Report" graphic on ABC. Apparently, the president was about to speak to the nation. Ron had not bothered to give the president any instructions on how to deal with the whole issue of the existence of psionics. He hoped the man had some brains.
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