The Man From God Only Knows Ch. 05byAdrian Leverkuhn©
Part V of The Blackwatch Saga
©2009 Adrian Leverkuhn
Thomas Stormgren shook his head, steepled his fingers reflexively while he listened; his two boys Jamie and Austin had a plan for getting Blackwatch operatives out of Los Angeles. Their idea had some merit, he had to admit; now that the entryway to the Mag-Lev tunnel had been discovered getting these people out had become a priority. It would simply be a matter of days until ConIsmus forces crushed each successive barrier and gained the Mag-Lev platform. The most likely result: the Blackwatch would lose physical contact with the west coast, their agents would be lost. There simply wasn't time to construct a new platform and access-way to get the people out.
But as is the usually case in such instances, it had become a moral imperative that the Blackwatch try. And Stormgren wasn't so sure there wasn't a girl involved in his son's thinking...
"That's why we go in daylight, Dad," Austin said. "In and out, a fast pick-up. Three transports, four at the most."
"You say that like three or four transport aircraft will suddenly grow out of this rock! Austin, the Skunk Works will have to modify existing vehicles, and that could take weeks." Thomas looked at his son – until a week ago he had been just a fleeting memory – and he hated himself for the pain he saw in the boy's eyes. "Son, we just don't have weeks. Hell, we may not even have days. The surveillance cams showed them moving heavy equipment down to the area around the ramp last night. They'll move on it soon. We just... we're going to run out of time!"
"Can't we blow the access tunnel? Keep them from the platform?"
"And then what, Austin! Come on, think it through! How would you move our people down to the platform?"
"That's not my point, Dad. Simply denying access to the secret is the point. Once the Senatus know the Blackwatch have developed the infrastructure to move people in and out of one city they'll guess all their cities have been compromised! Then what? They found this one using fairly primitive sonar equipment; how long before the others are gone?"
"Believe or not, son, we thought of that once upon a time."
"Defensive measures were included in their construction."
"Chemical weapons, for one."
"You've got to be kidding! That's insane!"
Thomas nodded. "I agree, but it's there if we need it. The second option is only partly in place. There are prepositioned arms for a pretty large assault force near the platform, including a couple of tracked vehicles with mini-guns designed to operate in the tunnels..."
"But you said..."
"...that they'd breech the platform soon. Yeah, I know. That's the problem. We'd have to move on that within hours." Thomas paused, looked at his fingers again. "There is one final solution. We send a car down to the platform with a warhead in it."
"Dad?" James said while his brother started shaking. "What about the old airport, the one by the beach? Do they still use it?"
"The old LAX? Yeah, it's there all right. Maybe three of four flights in and out a month, but remember, the city's biggest desalinization plant is about a mile south of it. Heavily fortified airspace, lots of cops and militia."
"What if we could get all our people there? Couldn't we take one of the First Republic jets in with a small assault force, make a fast pick-up?"
Stormgren shook his head. "I remember the security in the area. I know where every camera is, how many security people they have, even response times and patrol patterns..."
"How could you possibly know that, Dad?" Austin yelled.
Jamie put his hand on his brother's shoulder and shook his head when they made eye contact.
"Oh. I forgot, Dad. Sorry."
"No problem." Thomas looked away; why was being a part of the so-called Hive stigmatized? He felt it, though, everywhere he went. Like he was different now, suspicious. But his older boy looked excited now, aggressive and excited. "Jamie, you look like you're about to bust.. What are you thinking?"
"A diversion, Dad. Focus their attention elsewhere while we go into LAX."
"The tunnel?" Thomas Stormgren said as a grin stretched across his face.
"We'll have to pick up about forty people, Jamie. At least. And it'll probably be a hot pick-up." A hot L-Z... wasn't that what the used to call it. He looked at his boys, looked at them the way all father's look at sons about to venture in harm's way. Pride and fear. Pride and... "Now what, Austin?!"
"Well, there's someone I want to try and get."
"Oh, forget about it Dad. Won't work anyway."
Thomas Stormgren looked at Austin. What was the boy thinking? What?
"Dad," Jamie interrupted his thinking again. "About forty, you think?"
"Uh-huh. You have an aircraft in mind?"
James Stormgren smiled. It turned out he did.
While Tribonian Thor Bergtorson listened to Stormgren, he grew increasingly aware of the predicament he was in – he and all the other Blackwatch secreted in the city. Getting Austin/Aurelius back to Chisasibi in time had been a priority, and a fitting gift for his old friend, but no one had planned on losing the Mag-Lev so soon as a consequence. Now, with the Emissary's departure only weeks away, all their plans, and most developed carefully over the last five years, would have to be revamped, but of most importance, could new escape routes be developed in the time they had left? All their lines of support could be exposed at any minute; security could be compromised at any level, and this meant the end of the line for the Blackwatch on the west coast.
The Watchers in Davos, Bergtorson knew, were collating information, developing a workable plan based on probabilities and expected outcomes, but no plan was ever perfect, and outcomes were almost never what you expected them to be. Still, he had learned the Watchers liked the initial framework developed by James Stormgren and were busily refining the concept, so he had to accept that this plan – or something close to it – would land on his desk within hours, and he'd have to implement it quickly.
It was time to activate his network.
It was time to move.
"Who is that?" the Commandant asked Sinn. "Is he here in the city?"
They were watching the recording of an intercept of a private comlink coming from Tribonian Bertorson's office, but the audio was encrypted, they had no way to know what was being said.
"There is no exact match on file but the computer has developed probabilities. The most likely match is a man named Thomas Stormgren..."
"What!" the Commandant jumped so suddenly she almost slipped out of her chair. Her voice grew old and rough: "Stormgren?"
"Yes, Commandant." Sinn had learned from hard experience to back-off when the Commandant spoke this way. She looked like a snake, a snake coiled to strike.
"The boy. Krul-son." The Commandant's eyes were dark now, dark with banked-down flames.
"What of him?"
"That was his birth name. Stormgren. Austin Stormgren." The Commandant looked at the screen, then at the Justinian. The girl looked sure of herself, of her facts anyway. What did she know?
"Then, Commandant, we must assume a link exists between this man Stormgren and the Tribonian, and if so, there is a link between the Tribonian and the attack on our officers."
The Commandant nodded, her eyes narrowed to glowing slits. "If you are correct, our government has been compromised at every level."
"Why do you say..."
"Think of it, Sinn!" the Commandant said as she slammed her hand down on the desktop. "The highest law enforcement officer in the region is linked to this tunnel! What is this tunnel? Where does it lead? But more important, we must assume that these people have been using this facility for quite some time, and to move people and supplies in and out of the city. First Republic supplies, am I correct in assuming?"
"Yes, Commandant. Autopsy recovered bullets from .223 caliber rifles, common in that era's weaponry. Probably M-16s."
The Commandant bunched her lips, her eyes burned now, burned with hatred.
"I must go to the Council of Elders. The Senatus may well be compromised." She punched up another screen, typed on her glass desktop and waited for the results to stream on the main wall-screen. "I will fly there tonight."
"What of the Tribonian, Commandant?"
"He must not be alerted. Begin reinforcing our position Westside, surround the access-way and prepare a major assault on the facility for tomorrow. We will move on the Tribonian then, at the same time. I will be back from New Jerusalem by late afternoon tomorrow. I will supervise his interrogation."
A cold chill ran up the Justinian's spine when she saw the look of cold evil in the woman's eyes.
A Watcher processes intercepts streaming in from Los Angeles and passes these on to the group.
Plans are adjusted, probabilities and outcomes recomputed. A new strategy develops.
Eyes blink rapidly.
As ground troops mass around a hastily drawn perimeter in the scorched remains of west-side Los Angeles, an air car hovers above a concealed access-way beside the crumbled façade of an abandoned auto dealership. The pilot concentrates on the scene below; the Justinian behind him is talking to Tribonian Bergtorson, who nominally presides over the operation from the Judicial Ministry downtown.
"Permission to commence, Tribonian?"
"Permission granted, Justinian Sinn. I wish you the greatest success. And please, be careful."
"Thank you, Tribonian." She changes frequency. "Echo one, go! Blowback, move to stand-by!"
Men in black are observed on screens around the world running to the once-secret vault door; they surround the area with explosive charges then can be seen dashing to take cover inside nearby ruins. The air-car increases altitude and backs away from the site as one of the men radios the countdown.
Sensors in the car record the explosion; the blast is felt by people more than fifteen miles away.
The Justinian is first to see the result of this explosion on her sensors.
A crater more than a hundred meters wide has been formed in the middle of the area; the auto dealership and all the buildings immediately around it have been vaporized, small fires burn amidst scattered piles of wood and old automobile tires, the twisted remains of the vault door lie meters away from where it had just moments before. The rough outlines of a tunnel are now just visible through roiling smoke and rubble still falling back to earth. The pilot drops lower, hits the area with a flood-light and trains the intense beam down the tunnel.
"Goddamn!" Sinn August-dottir shouts on the command circuit. "Goddamn-it all to Hell!"
"Justinian! What is it? What do you see?"
Through the clearing smoke – about a hundred yards down the tunnel – she can just make-out another vault door; this one appears larger than the first. And somehow she knows this one will be much stronger.
"There's another vault down there! Get another charge ready!"
"Yes, Justinian. What about the walls? Will we need to shore up the walls?"
"There isn't time. Move your men!"
The Justinian hovers while another group runs down into the earth; a moment later these men come tumbling out of the tunnel – coughing and rubbing their eyes. The Justinian sees blood coming out of one of the men's mouth and nose.
"Goddamn-goddamn-goddamn! Some kind of gas!" the Justinian screams on the command circuit. "Chemical protection suits, NOW!"
The Commandant has just re-boarded her jet in New Jerusalem – what was once Avignon, France – when the data-link goes active: as her jet taxis to the active runway video of the operation back home streams onto her monitor. She watches while she opens a link into the command and control circuit.
"Justinian!" she breaks-in when chatter dies down, and as wounded men are evacuated from the debris-field. "Blowback approved by the Council. Execute!"
The Justinian changes frequency, she links to men gathered on the fifth floor of the Judicial Ministry:
"Operation Blowback is green, repeat green," she says on the secure link.
A dozen commandos assault Tribonian Bergtorson's office with heavy force; doors are blown from their hinges, windows shatter and books scatter to the floor. The commandos enter the Tribonian's inner office...
"...Justinian, this is Blowback, negative contact, repeat, negative contact..."
"Affirmative. Proceed to secondary." Sinn shakes, then screams in frustration: "Goddamn!" She hears the Commandant's voice on the circuit and looks up to see her perplexed face on the screen before her.
"Justinian! What has happened?"
"He wasn't there! But he was there five minutes ago, and the office was surrounded!"
"We are compromised, Justinian. Assume all communications are monitored!"
"Do the best you can! Stick to the plan!"
Red lights begin flashing on her primary display, data streams on screen and she begins to tremble.
"Commandant, are you receiving this?"
"What? What is happening?"
"Commandant, there have been attacks at remote desalinization plants and the Institute reports gunfire within the dorm-pods. Central Division has been bombed and heavy casualties are being reported."
"Bombed? What do you mean, bombed? An aircraft?"
"No Commandant, first reports indicate a car bomb of some sort."
"I fear the End Times now, Justinian. We must pray."
Disgusted, the Justinian looked at another screen. The Commandant's ETA was three hours.
"The sun will have been up for an hour," Sinn said, and the pilot came on line.
"Pardon, Justinian, but did you say something."
She changed frequency back to the primary command net.
"Status! Can anyone tell me what progress we are making?!" she yelled.
"Justinian!" It was a man's voice. He sounded tired.
"Commander Weblenson! What is happening?!"
"The men are suiting-up; another charge is being prepared. They should be going down within a minute."
"Very well, and have another ready to go if there should be more obstructions."
Thorsten Weblenson smiled. He had positioned their best troops, those most loyal to the Commandant, around the accessway and had totally committed them to this operation. And while the Commandant's best troops were occupied here, he had quite deliberately left key points around the city unguarded. Would the device be big enough?
It was a bold plan. Would it work?
"Snowbird, Snowbird, this is Streetsweeper."
Streetsweeper! The Tribonian! He had escaped!
"Streetsweeper," Weblenson said into the small transceiver he had in his right ear. "Streetsweeper, Snowbird, go ahead."
"I'm proceeding to primary now. ETA ten. Final ETA is now three hours."
"Copy three hours. Proceed against Songbird?"
"Roger. Advise after."
He turned to the Lieutenant by his side. "Is the charge in place?"
"Yes, Commander," the commando from the tunnel said.
The second detonation was twice as large as the first. Weblenson was a mile away and the earth shook so violently he was knocked from his feet.
Reports were coming in from all over the city. Car bombs, truck bombs, snipers hitting key facilities – and all within moments of one another! And the Tribonian! Where had he gone? He had disappeared without trace! How?! And the Commandant! She looked almost catatonic! This was not the time to lose your mind! Sinn August-dottir watched as men moved toward the opening with their second charge, then switched on the intercom: "Pilot, move us back a mile. This next charge may be bigger..."
She looked down at the exposed entry as the pilot began her turn, then it was like time stopped for a moment. Her eyes wavered, the ground seemed to turn from a solid into plasma within the span of one heartbeat, then the earth gave up a violent shudder, fire was erupting from within cracks that began appearing without warning, radiating out from somewhere deep within the earth like slow-moving cracks across a window.
Radiation alarms flashed, warning alarms sounded; the Justinian's air-car spiraled out of control and fell from the sky like a stone.
Thorsten Weblenson smiled broadly. The men in the tunnel had obviously set the charge, and now his small group was in-place, ready to move. They'd not have to contend with the Justinian again, or the Commandant's troops! He looked at the Justinian's stricken craft falling, then at his watch. 'So much to do,' he thought. 'I might just make it out of here after all!'
"Streetsweeper, Songbird down. Repeat, Songbird down."
"Roger. Move to secondary, if she can still sing."
"Snowbird, clear." Well, that part had gone easily enough, Weblenson thought. Now it was time for the fun part. He turned to the east, to the first hints of the sunrise. They'd come from the east too, he knew.
The commando looked at him. "Ready, sir?"
"As I'll ever be, son. Ready as I'll ever be." He turned toward the smoke coming from, presumably, the Justinian's crashed air-car. "Well, let's go see if she made it."
End Part V