"Not with a bang but a whimper?" the President asked.
"That's the idea," Ryan said, selling the phone down. Satellite imagery showed that whatever the losses had been in the air battle, the Japanese had lost another fourteen aircraft due to cluster munitions on their airfields. Their principal search radars were gone, and they'd shot off a lot of SAMs. The next obvious step was to isolate the islands entirely from air and sea traffic, and that could be done before the end of the week. The press release was already being prepared if the necessity presented itself.
"We've won," the National Security Advisor said. "It's just a matter of convincing the other side."
"You've done well, Jack," Durling said.
"Sir, if I'd managed to get the job done properly, it never would have started in the first place," Ryan replied after a second's pause. He remembered getting things started along those lines…about a week too late to matter. Damn.
"Well, we seem to have done that with India, according to what Dave Williams just cabled in." The President paused. "And what about this?"
"First we worry about concluding hostilities."
"We offer them an honorable way out." Upon elaboration, Jack was pleased to see that the Boss agreed with him.
There would be one more thing, Durling didn't say, but he needed just a little more thinking about it. For the moment it was enough that America looked to be winning this war, and with it he'd won re-election for saving the economy and safeguarding the rights of American citizens. It had been quite na interesting month, the President thought, looking at the other man in the room and wondering what might have come to pass without him. After Ryan left, he placed a telephone call to the Hill.
One other advantage of airborne-radar aircraft was that they made counting coup a lot easier. They could not always show which missile killed which aircraft, but they did show them dropping off the screen.
"Port Royal reports recovery complete," a talker said.
"Thank you," Jackson said. He hoped the Army aviators weren't too disappointed to have landed on a cruiser instead of Johnnie Reb, but he needed his deck space.
"I count twenty-seven kills," Sanchez said. Three of his own fighters had fallen, with only one of the pilots rescued. The casualties were lighter than expected, though that fact didn't make the letter-writing any easier for the CAG.
"Well, it's not exactly like the Turkey Shoot, but it wasn't bad. Tack on fourteen more from the Tomahawks. That's about half their fighter strength—most of their F-I5's—and they only have the one Hummer left. They're on the short end from now on." The battle-force commander went over the other data. A destroyer gone and the rest of their Aegis ships in the wrong place to interfere with the combat action. Eight submarines definitely destroyed. The overall operational concept had been to detach the arms from the body first, just as had been done in the Persian Gulf, and it had proved to be even easier over water than over land. "Bud, if you were commanding the other side, what would you try next?"
"We still can't invade." Sanchez paused. "It's a losing game any way you cut it, but the last time we had to come this way…" He looked at his commander.
"There is that. Bud, get a Tom ready for a flight with me in the back."
"Aye aye, sir." Sanchez made his way off.
"You thinking what I am?" Stennis's captain asked with a raised eyebrow.
"What do we got to lose, Phil?"
"A pretty good admiral, Rob," he replied quietly.
"Where do you keep your radios in this barge?" Jackson asked with a wink.
"Where have you been?" Goto asked in surprise.
"In hiding, after your patron kidnapped me." Koga walked in without so much as an announcement, took a seal without being bidden, and generally displayed the total lack of manners that proclaimed his renewed power. "What do you have to say for yourself.'" the former Prime Minister demanded of his successor.
"You cannot talk to me that way." But even these words were weak.
"How marvelous. You lead our nation to ruin, but you insist on deference from someone whom your master almost killed. With your knowledge?"
Koga asked lightly.
"Certainly not—and who murdered the—"
"Who murdered the criminals? Not I," Koga assured him. "There is a more important question: what are you going to do?"
"Why, I haven't decided that yet." This attempt at a strong statement fell short on several counts.
"You haven't spoken to Yamata yet, you mean."
"I decide things for myself!"
"Excellent. Do so now."
"You cannot order me about."
"And why not? I will soon be back in that seat. You have a choice. Either you will resign your position this morning or this afternoon I will speak in the Diet and request a vote of no-confidence. It is a vote you will not survive. In either case you are finished." Koga stood and started to leave. "I suggest you do so honorably."
People were lined up in the terminal, standing in line at the counters to get tickets home, Captain Sato saw, as he walked past with a military escort. He was only a young lieutenant, a paratrooper still apparently eager to fight, which was more than could be said for the others in the building. The waiting jeep raced away, heading for the military airfield. The natives were out now, unlike before, carrying signs urging the "Japs" to leave.
Some of them ought to be shot for their insolence, Sato thought, still coming to terms with his grief. Ten minutes later, he entered one of Kobler's hangars. Fighters were circling overhead, probably afraid to stray offshore, he thought.
"In here, please," the Lieutenant said.
He walked into the building with consummate dignity, his uniform cap tucked inside his left arm, his back erect, hardly looking at anything, his eyes fixed on the distant wall of the building until the lieutenant stopped and pulled the rubber sheet off the body.
"Yes, that is my son." He tried not to look, and blessedly the face was not grossly disfigured, possibly protected by the flight helmet while the rest of the body had burned as he sat trapped in his wrecked fighter. But when he closed his eyes he could see his only child writhing in the cockpit, less than an hour after his brother had drowned. Could destiny be so cruel as this? And how was it that those who had served his country had to die, while a mere transporter of civilians was allowed to pass through the American fighters with contempt?
"The squadron command believes that he shot down an American fighter before turning back," the Lieutenant offered. He'd just made that up, but he had to say something, didn't he?
"'Thank you, Lieutenant. I have to return to my aircraft now." No more words were passed on the way hack to the airport. The army officer left the man with his grief and his dignity.
Sato was on his flight deck twenty minutes later, the 747 already pre-flighted, and, he was sure, completely filled with people returning home under the promise of safe passage by the Americans. The ground tractor pushed the Boeing away from the jetway. It was driven by a native, and the gesture he flashed to the cockpit on decoupling from their aircraft was not exactly a friendly one. But the final insult came as he waited for clearance to take off. A fighter came in to land, not a blue Eagle, it was a haze-gray aircraft with NAVY painted on the engine nacelles.
"Nice touch, Bud. Grease job," Jackson said as the canopy came up.
"We aim to please, sir," Sanchez replied nervously. As he taxied off to the right, the welcoming committee, such as it was, all wore green fatigues and carried rifles. When the aircraft stopped, an aluminum extension ladder was laid alongside the aircraft. Jackson climbed out first, and at the bottom of the ladder a field-grade officer saluted him correctly.
"That's a Tomcat," Oreza said, handing over the binoculars. "And that officer ain't no Jap."
"Sure as hell," Clark confirmed, watching the black officer get into a jeep. What effect would this have on his tentative orders? Attractive as it might be to put the arm on Raizo Yamata, even getting close enough to evaluate the possibility—his current instructions—was not a promising undertaking. He had also reported on conditions on Saipan, and that word, he thought, was good. The Japanese troops he'd seen earlier in the day were not the least bit jaunty, though some officers, especially the junior ones, seemed very enthusiastic about their mission, whatever that was right now. It was about what you expected of lieutenants in any army.
The Governor's house, set on the local Capitol Hill next to the convention center, seemed a pleasant enough structure. Jackson was sweating now. The tropical sun was hot enough, and his nomex flight suit was just too good an insulator. Here a colonel saluted him and led him inside.
Robby knew General Arima on sight, remembering the intelligence file he'd seen in the Pentagon. They were of about the same height and build, he saw. The General saluted. Jackson, bareheaded and under cover, was not allowed to do so under naval regulations. It seemed the proper response not to, anyway. He nodded his head politely, and left it at that.
"General, can we speak in private?"
Arima nodded and led Jackson into what looked like a combination den/office. Robby took a seat, and his host was kind enough to hand over a glass of ice water.
"Your position is…?"
"I am Commander Task Force Seventy-Seven. I gather you are the commander of Japanese forces on Saipan." Robby drank the water down. It annoyed him greatly to be sweating, but there was no helping that.
"In that case, sir, I am here to request your surrender." He hoped the General knew the semantic difference between "request" and "demand," the customary verb for the occasion.
"I am not authorized to do that."
"General, what I'm about to say to you is the position of my government. You may leave the islands in peace. You may take your light weapons with you. Your heavy equipment and aircraft will remain behind for later determination of status. For the moment we require that all Japanese citizens leave the island, pending the restoration of normal relations between our countries."
"I am not authorized to—"
"I'll be saying the same thing on Guam in two hours, and the American Ambassador in Tokyo is now requesting a meeting with your government."
"You do not have the ability to take this one island back, much less all of them."
"That is true," Jackson conceded. "It is also true that we can easily stop all ships from entering or leaving Japanese ports for the indefinite future. We can similarly cut off this island from air and sea traffic."
"That is a threat," Arima pointed out.
"Yes, sir, it is. In due course your country will starve. Its economy will come to a complete hall. That serves no one's purposes." Jackson paused.
"Up until this point only military people have suffered. They pay us to take chances. If it goes any further, then everyone suffers more, but your country most of all. It will also generate additional bad feelings on both sides, when our actions should be to restore normal relations as rapidly as circumstances allow."
"I am not authorized to—"
"General, fifty years ago you could have said that, and it was the custom of your armed forces to fight to the last man. It was also the custom of your armed forces to deal with people in the lands you occupied in a way that even you must find barbaric—I say that because you have behaved honorably in all respects or so all my information tells me. For that I thank you, sir," Jackson went on. speaking evenly and politely. "This is not the nineteen-forties. I wasn't born before the end of that war, and you were a toddler then. That sort of behavior is a thing of the past. There is no place for it in the world today."
"My troops have behaved properly," Arima confirmed, not knowing what else to say under the circumstances.
"Human life is a precious commodity, General Arima, far too precious to be wasted unnecessarily. We have limited our combat actions to militarily important targets. We have not as yet inflicted harm on the innocent, as you have not. But if this war continues, that will change, and the consequences will be harder on you than on us. There is no honor in that for either side. In any case, I must now fly to Guam. You know how to reach me by radio."
"I must await orders from my government."
"I understand," Robby replied, thankful that Arima meant that he would follow those orders from his government.
Usually when Al Trent came to the White House it was in the company of Sam Fellows, the ranking minority member of the Select Committee, but not this time, because Sam was in the other party. A member of his party's Senate leadership was there also. The hour made this a political meeting, with most of the White House staffers gone for the day, and a President allowing himself a release from the stress of his office.
"Mr. President, I gather that things have gone well?"
Durling nodded cautiously. "Prime Minister Goto is not yet able to meet with the Ambassador. We're not sure why, but Ambassador Whiting says not to worry. The public mood over there is shifting our way rapidly."
Trent took a drink from the Navy steward who served in the Oval Office. That part of the White House staff must have kept a list of the favored drinks for the important. In Al's case it was vodka and tonic, Finnish Absolut vodka, a habit begun while a student at Tufts University, forty years earlier.
"Jack said all along that they didn't know what they were getting into."
"Bright boy, Ryan," the senior Senator agreed. "He's done you quite a few favors, Roger." Trent noted with annoyance that this stalwart member of what he liked to call "the upper house" felt the right to first-name the President in private. Typical senator, the House member thought.
"Bob Fowler gave you some good advice," Trent allowed.
The President nodded agreement. "True, and you're the one who put the bug in his ear, Al, aren't you?"
"Guilty." The word was delivered with a laugh.
"Well, I have an idea I want to float on the both of you," Durling said.
Captain Checa's squad of Rangers made the last treeline just after noon, local time, concluding a thoroughly murderous trek through snow and mud. There was a single-lane road below. This part of town must have been some sort of summer resort, the Captain thought. The hotel parking lots were almost entirely empty, though one had a minibus in it. The Captain pulled the cellular phone from his pocket and speed-dialed the proper number.
"Ah, Diego! I've been waiting for hours. How was your nature hike?" the voice asked with a laugh.
Checa was formulating his answer when the lights on the minibus flashed twice. Ten minutes later all the men were inside, where they found some hot drinks and room to change their clothing. On the drive down the mountain, the CIA officer listened to the radio, and the soldiers could see his demeanor relax as he did so. It would be a while longer before the Rangers did the same.
Captain Sato performed another perfect landing at Narita International Airport, entirely without thinking about it, not even hearing the congratulatory comment of his copilot as he completed the run-out. Outwardly calm, inside the pilot was a vacuum, performing his customary job robotically. The copilot did not interfere, thinking that the mechanics of handling the aircraft would itself be some solace to his captain, and so he watched Sato taxi the 747 right up to the jetway, stopping again with the usual millimetric precision. In less than a minute the doors were opened and passengers clambered off. Through the windows of the terminal they could see a crowd of people waiting at the gate, mainly the wives and children of people who had flown so recently to Saipan in order to establish themselves as …citizens, able to vote in the newest Home Island. But not now. Now they were coming home, and families welcomed them as those who might have been lost, now safe again where they belonged. The copilot shook his head at the absurdity of it all, not noticing that Sato's face still hadn't changed at all. Ten minutes later the flight crew left the aircraft. A relief crew would take it back to Saipan in a few hours to continue the exodus of special flights.
Out in the terminal, they saw others waiting at other gates, outwardly nervous from their expressions, though many were devouring afternoon papers just delivered to the airport's many gift shops.
Goto Falls was the headline: Koga to Form New Government.
The international gates were rather less full than was the norm. Caucasian businessmen stood about, clearly leaving the country, hut now looking about in curiosity, so many of them with little smiles as they scanned the terminal, looking mainly at the flights inbound from Saipan. Their thoughts could hardly have been more obvious, especially the people waiting to board flights eastward.
Sato saw it too. He stopped and looked at a paper dispenser but only needed to see the headline to understand. Then he looked at the foreigners at their gates and muttered, "Gaijin…" It was the only unnecessary word he'd uttered in two hours, and he said nothing else on the way to his car. Perhaps some sleep would help him, the copilot thought, heading off to his own
"Aren't we supposed to go back out and—"
"And do what, Ding?" Clark asked, pocketing the car keys after a thirty-minute drive around the southern half of the island. "Sometimes you just let things be. I think this is one of those times, son."
"You think it's over?" Pete Burroughs asked.
"Well, take a look around."
Fighters were still orbiting overhead. Cleanup crews had just about cleared the debris from the periphery of Kobler Field, but the fighters had not moved over to the international airport, whose runways were busy with civilian airliners. To the east of the housing tract the Patriot crews were also standing alert, but those not in the control vans were standing together in small knots, talking among themselves instead of doing the usual soldierly make-work. Local citizens were demonstrating now, in some cases loudly, at various sites around the island, and nobody was arresting them. In some cases officer backed by armed soldiers asked, politely, for the demonstrators to stay away from the troops, and the local people prudently heeded the warnings. On their drive. Clark and Chavez had seen half a dozen such incidents, and in all cases it was the same: the soldiers not angered so much as embarrassed by it all. It wasn't the sign of an army ready to fight a battle, John thought, and more importantly, the officers were keeping their men under tight control. Thai meant orders from above to keep things cool.
"You think it's over?" Oreza asked
"If we're lucky, Portagee."
Prime Minister Koga's first official act after forming a cabinet was to summon Ambassador Charles Whiting. A political appointee whose last four weeks in the country had been very tense and frightening indeed, Whiting noted first of all that the guard detail around the embassy was cut by half.
His official car had a police escort to the Diet Building. There were cameras to record his arrival at the VIP entrance, but they were kept well back, and two brand-new ministers conducted him inside.
"Thank you for coming so quickly, Mr. Whiting."
"Mr. Prime Minister, speaking for myself, I am very pleased to answer your invitation." The two men shook hands, and really that was it, both of them knew, though their conversation had to cover numerous issues.
"You are aware that I had nothing at all to do—"
Whiting just raised his hand. "Excuse me, sir. Yes, I know that, and I assure you that my government knows that. Please, we do not need to establish your goodwill. This meeting," the Ambassador said generously, "is proof positive of that."
"And the position of your government?"
At exactly nine in the morning, Vice President Edward Kealty's car pulled into the underground parking garage of the State Department. Secret Service agents conducted him to the VIP elevator that took him to the seventh floor, where one of Brett Hanson's personal assistants led him to the double doors of the office of the Secretary of State.
"Hello, Ed," Hanson said, standing and coming to meet the man he'd known in and out of public life for two decades.
"Hi, Brett." Kealty was not downcast. In the past few weeks he'd come to terms with many things. Later today he would make his public statement, apologizing to Barbara Linders and several other people by name. But before that he had to do what the Constitution required. Kealty reached into his coat pocket and handed over an envelope to the Secretary of State. Hanson took it and read the two brief paragraphs that announced Kealty's resignation from his office. There were no further words. The two old friends shook hands and Kealty made his way back out of the building. He would return to the White House, where his personal staff was already collecting his belongings. By evening the office would be ready for a new occupant.
"Jack, Chuck Whiting is delivering our terms, and they're pretty much what you suggested last night."
"You might catch some political heat from that," Ryan observed, inwardly relieved that President Durling was willing to run the risk.
The man behind the ornate desk shook his head. "I don't think so, but if it happens, I can take it. I want orders to go out for our forces to stand down, defensive action only."
"It's going to be a long while before things return to normal."
Jack nodded. "Yes, sir, but we can still manage things in as civilized a way as possible. Their citizens were never behind this. Most of the people responsible for it are already dead. We have to make that clear. Want me to handle it?"
"Great idea. Let's talk about that tonight. How about you bring your wife in for dinner. Just a private one for a change," the President suggested with smile.
"I think Cathy would like that."
Professor Catherine Ryan was just finishing up a procedure. The atmosphere in the operating room was more akin to something in an electronics factory. She didn't even have to wear surgical gloves, and the scrub rules here were nothing like those for conventional surgery. The patient was only mildly sedated while the surgeon hovered over the gunsightlike controls of her laser, searching around for the last bad vessel on the surface of the elderly man's retina. She lined up the crosshairs as carefully as a man taking down a Rocky Mountain sheep from half a mile, and thumbed the control. There was a brief flash of green light and the vein was "welded" shut.
"Mr. Redding, that's it," she said quietly, touching his hand.
"Thank you, doctor," the man said somewhat sleepily.
Cathy Ryan flipped off the power switch on the laser system and got off her stool, stretching as she did so. In the corner of the room, Special Agent Andrea Price, still disguised as a Hopkins faculty member, had watched the entire procedure. The two women went outside to find Professor Bernard Katz, his eyes beaming over his Bismarck mustache.
"Yeah, Bernie?" Cathy said, making her notes for Mr. Redding's chart.
"You have room on the mantel, Cath?" That brought her eyes up. Katz handed over a telegram, still the traditional way of delivering such news. "You just bagged a Lasker Award, honey." Katz then delivered a hug that almost made Andrea Price reach for her gun.
"You earned it, doctor. Who knows, maybe you'll get a free trip to Sweden, too. Ten years of work It's one hell of a clinical breakthrough, Cathy."
Other faculty members came up then, applauding and shaking her hand and for Caroline Muller Ryan, MD, F.A.C.S., it was a moment to match the arrival of a baby. Well, she thought, almost…
Special Agent Price heard her beeper go off and headed to the nearest phone, taking the message down and returning to her principal.
"Is it really that good?" she finally asked.
"Well, it's about the top American award in medicine," Katz said while Cathy basked in the glow of respect from her colleagues. "You get a nice little copy of a Greek statue, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, I think, the Goddess Nike. Some money, too. But mainly what you get is the knowledge that you really made a difference. She's a great doc."
"Well, the timing is pretty good. I have to get her home and changed," Price confided.
"Dinner in the White House," the agent replied with a wink. "Her husband did a pretty good job, too." Just how good was a secret from nearly everyone, but not from the Service, from whom nothing was secret.
"Ambassador Whiting, I wish to apologize to you, to your government, and to your people for what has happened. I pledge to you that it will not happen again. I also pledge to you that the people responsible will answer to our law," Koga said with great if somewhat stiff dignity.
"Prime Minister, your word is sufficient to me and to my government. We will do the utmost to restore our relationship," the Ambassador promised, deeply moved by the sincerity of his host, and wishing, as many had, that America had not cut his legs out only six weeks earlier. "I will communicate your wishes to my government immediately. I believe that you will find our response to your position is highly favorable."
"I need your help," Yamata said urgently.
"What help is that?" Tracking down Zhang Han San had taken most of the day, and now the man's voice was as cold as his name.
"I can get my jet here, and from here I can fly directly to—"
"That could be viewed as an unfriendly act against two countries. No, I regret that my government cannot allow that." Fool, he didn't add. Don't you know the price for this sort of failure?
"But you—we are allies!"
"Allies in what?" Zhang inquired. "You are a businessman. I am a government official."
The conversation might have gone on with little point, but then the door to Yamata's office opened and General Tokikichi Arima came in, accompanied by two other officers. They hadn't troubled themselves to talk with the secretary in the anteroom.
"I need to speak with you, Yamata-san," the General said formally.
"I'll get back to you," the industrialist said into the phone. He hung up. He couldn't know that at the other end the official instructed his staff not to put the calls through. It would not have mattered in any case.
"Yes—what is it?" Yamata demanded. The reply was equally cold.
"I am ordered to place you under arrest."
"By Prime Minister Koga himself."
Yamata blinked hard. He looked around the room at the other men, now flanking the General. There was no sympathy in their eyes. So there it was. These mindless automatons had orders, but not the wit to understand them. But perhaps they still had honor.
"With your permission, I would like a few moments alone." The meaning of the request was clear.
"My orders" Arima said, "are to return you to Tokyo alive."
"I am sorry, Yamata-san, but you are not to avail yourself of that form of escape." With that the General motioned to the junior officer, who took three steps and handcuffed the businessman. The coldness of the steel startled the industrialist.
"Tokikichi, you can't—"
"I must," It pained the General not to allow his…friend? No, they'd not been friends, not really. Even so it pained him not to allow Yamata to end his life by way of atonement, but the orders from the Prime Minister had been explicit on that score, and with that, he led the man from the building, off to the police station adjacent to his soon-to-be-vacated official quarters, where two men would keep an eye on him to prevent any attempt at suicide.
When the phone rang, it surprised everyone that it was the phone, and not Burroughs' satellite instrument. Isabel Oreza got it, expecting a call from work or something. Then she turned and called, "Mr. Clark?"
"Thank you." He look it. "Yes?"
"John. Mary Pal. Your mission is over. Come on home."
"Affirmative, good job, John. Tell Ding the same thing." The line went dead. The DDO had already violated security in a major way, but the call had taken only few seconds, and using the civilian line made it even more official than the covert sort could.
"What gives?" Portagee asked,
"We've just been ordered home."
"No shit?" Ding asked Clark handed the phone over.
"Call the airport. Tell them that we're accredited newsies and we might just get a priority." Clark turned "Portagee, could you do me a favor and forget you ever saw me?"
The signal was welcome though surprising. Tennessee immediately turned due east and increased speed to fifteen knots for the moment, staying deep. In the wardroom, the gathered officers were still joshing their Army guest, as was also happening with the enlisted men.
"We need a broom," the engineering officer said after some deep thought.
"Do we have one aboard?" Lieutenant Shaw asked.
"Every submarine is issued a broom, Mr. Shaw. You've been around long enough to know that," Commander Claggett observed with a wink.
"What are you guys talking about?" the Army officer asked. Were they jerking him around again?
"We took two shots and both were kills," the engineer explained. "That's a clean sweep, and that means when we enter Pearl, we have a broom tied to the number-one periscope. Tradition."
"You squids do the weirdest things," the lone man in green fatigues observed.
"Do we claim the helos?" Shaw asked his CO.
"We shot them down," the ground-pounder objected.
"But they flew off our deck!" the Lieutenant pointed out.
"Jesus!" All this over breakfast. What would the squids do for lunch?
The dinner was informal, up on the bedroom level of the White House, with what passed for a light buffet, albeit one cooked by a staff good enough to upgrade the rating of any restaurant in America.
"I understand congratulations are in order," Roger Durling said.
"Huh?" The National Security Advisor hadn't heard yet.
"Jack, I, uh, got the Lasker," Cathy said from her seat across the table.
"Well, that's two in your family who're the best around," Al Trent observed, saluting with his wineglass.
"And this one's for you. Jack," the President said, lifting his glass. "After all the grief I've gotten on foreign affairs, you've saved me, and you've saved a lot of other things. Well done, Mister Dr. Ryan."
Jack nodded at the toast, but this time he knew. He'd been around Washington long enough, finally, to hear the falling sandbag. The trouble was that he didn't know exactly why it was falling toward his head.
"Mr. President, the satisfaction comes from—well, from service, I guess. Thanks for trusting me. and thanks for putting up with me when I—"
"Jack, people like you, well, where would our country be?" Durling turned. "Cathy, do you know everything Jack has done over the years?"
"Jack? Tell me secrets?" She had a good laugh at that.
"Well, Cathy, it's time you learned," Trent observed, much to Jack's discomfort.
"There is one thing I've always wondered about," she said at once. "I mean, you two are so friendly, but the first time you two met several years ago, I—"
"The dinner, the one before Jack flew off to Moscow?" Trent took a sip of the California chardonnay. "That was when he set up the defection of the head of the old KGB."
"Tell the story, Al, we have lots of nine," Durling urged. His wife, Anne, leaned in to hear this one, too. Trent ended up speaking for twenty minutes, telling more than one old tale in the process despite the look on Jack's face.
"That's the sort of husband you have, Dr. Ryan," the President said when the stories were ended.
Jack looked over at Trent now, a rather intense stare. What was at the end of this?
"Jack, your country needs you for one last thing, and then we'll let you go," the Congressman said.
"What's that?" Please, not an ambassadorship, he thought, the usual kiss-off for a senior official.
Durling set his glass down. "Jack, my main job for the next nine months is to get reelected. It might be a tough campaign, and it's going to absorb a lot of my time under the best of circumstances. I need you on the team."
"Sir, I already am—"
"I want you to be my Vice President," Durling said calmly. The room got very quiet then. "The post is vacant as of today, as you know. I'm not sure yet who I want for my second term, and I am not suggesting that you fill the post for more than—what? Not even eleven months. Like Rockefeller did for Gerry Ford. I want somebody whom the public respects, somebody who can run the shop for me when I'm away. I need somebody heavy in foreign affairs. I need somebody who can help me put my foreign-policy team together. And," he added, "I know you want out. You've done enough. And so, after this, you can't be called back for a permanent post."
"Wait a minute. I'm not even in your party," Jack managed to say.
"As the Constitution was originally drafted, the Vice President was supposed to be the loser in the general election. James Madison and the others assumed that patriotism would triumph over partisanship. Well, they were wrong," Durling allowed. "But in this case—Jack, I know you. I will not use you in a political sense. No speeches and baby-kissing."
"Never pick up a baby to kiss it," Trent said. "They always puke on you, and somebody always gets a picture. Always kiss the baby in the mom's arms." The good political advice was sufficient to lighten the atmosphere a little.
"Your job will be to get the White House organized, to manage national-security affairs, really to help me strengthen my foreign-policy team. And then I'll let you go and nobody will ever call you back. You'll be a free man, Jack," Durling promised. "Once and for all."
"My God," Cathy said.
"It's what you wanted, too, isn't it?"
Caroline nodded. "Yes, it is. But—but, I don't know anything about politics. I—"
"Lucky you," Anne Durling observed. "You won't have to get stuck with it."
"I have my work and—"
"And you'll still do it. A nice house comes along with the job," the President went on. "And it's temporary." He turned his head. "Well, Jack?"
"What makes you think that I can be confirmed—"
"Leave that to us," Trent said in a way that announced quite clearly that it had already been settled.
"You won't ask me to—"
"My word on it," the President promised. "Your obligation ends next January."
"What about—I mean, that makes me President of the Senate, and in the event of a close vote—"
"I suppose I ought to say that I'll tell you how I want you to vote, and I will, and I hope you'll listen, but I know you'll vote your conscience. I can live with that. As a matter of fact, if you were any other way, I wouldn't be making this offer."
"Besides, nothing on the schedule will be that close," Trent assured him. They'd talked that one over, too, the night before.
"I think we should pay more attention to the military," Jack said.
"If you make your recommendations, I'll incorporate them in the budget. You've taught me a lesson on that, and I may need you to help me hammer it through Congress. Maybe that will be your valedictory."
"They'll listen to you. Jack," Trent assured him.
Jesus, Ryan thought, wishing that he'd gone easier on the wine. Predictably he looked over to his wife. Their eyes met, and she nodded. You sure? his eyes asked. She nodded again.
"Mr. President, under the terms of your offer, and just to the end of your term, yes, I will do it."
Roger Durling motioned to a Secret Service agent, letting her know that Tish Brown could make the press release in time for the morning papers.
Oreza allowed himself to board his boat for the first time since Burroughs had landed his albacore. They left the pier at dawn, and by nightfall the engineer was able to conclude his fishing vacation with another sizable game fish before catching a Continental flight to Honolulu. His return to work would include more than a fish story, but he wouldn't mention the gear that the boat's skipper had dumped over the side as soon as they were out of sight of land. It was a shame to dump the cameras and the expensive lights, but he supposed there was some reason for it.
Clark and Chavez, still covered as Russians, managed to bully their way onto it JAL flight to Narita. On the way aboard they saw a well-dressed man in handcuffs with a military escort, and from twenty feet away, as they moved the man into the first-class cabin, Ding Chavez looked into the eyes of the man who had ordered the death of Kimberly Norton. He briefly wished for his light or a gun, or maybe even a knife, but that was not in the cards. The flight to Japan took just over two boring hours, and both men walked their carry-ons across the international terminal. They had first-class reservations on another JAL flight to Vancouver, and from there they would fly to Washington on an American carrier.
"Good evening," the Captain said first in Japanese, then in English.
"This is Captain Sato. We expect this to be a smooth flight, and the winds
are good for us. With luck we should be in Vancouver at about seven in the morning, local time." The voice sounded even more mechanical than the cheap ceiling speakers, but pilots liked talking like robots.
"Thank God," Chavez observed quietly in English. He did the mental arithmetic and decided that they'd be in Virginia around nine or ten in the evening.
"About right," Clark thought.
"I want to marry your daughter, Mr. C. I'm going to pop the question when I get back." There, he'd finally said it. The look his offhand remark generated made him cringe.
"Someday you'll know what words like that do to a man, Ding." My little baby? he thought, as vulnerable to the moment as any man, perhaps more so.
"Don't want a greaser in the family?"
"No, not that at all. It's more—oh, what the hell, Ding. Easier to spell Chavez than Wojohowitz. If it's okay with her, then I suppose it's okay with me."
That easy? "I expected you to bite my head off."
Clark allowed himself a chuckle. "No, I prefer guns for that sort of thing. I thought you knew that."
"The President could not have made a better selection," Sam Fellows said on "Good Morning, America." "I've known Jack Ryan for nearly eight years. He's one of the brightest people in government service. I can tell you now that he is one of the men most responsible for the rapid conclusion of hostilities with Japan, and was also instrumental in the recovery of the financial markets."
"There have been reports that his work at CIA—"
"You know that I am not free to reveal classified information." Those leaks would be handled by others, and the proper senators on both sides of the aisle were being briefed in this morning as well. "I can say that Dr. Ryan has served our country with the utmost personal honor. I cannot think of another intelligence official who has earned the trust and respect that Jack Ryan has."
"But ten years ago—the incident with the terrorists. Have we ever had a Vice President who actually—"
"Killed people?" Fellows shook his head at the reporter. "A lot of Presidents and Vice Presidents have been soldiers. Jack defended his family against a vicious and direct attack, like any American would. I can tell you that out where I live in Arizona, nobody would fault the man for that."
"Thanks, Sam," Ryan said, watching his office TV. The first wave of reporters was scheduled to assault him in thirty minutes, and he had to read over briefing materials, plus a sheet of instructions from Tish Brown. Don't speak too fast. Don't give a direct answer to any substantive political question.
"I'm just glad to be here," Ryan said to himself. "I just play them one game at a time. Isn't that what they tell rookie ballplayers to say?" he wondered aloud.
The 747 touched down even earlier than the pilot had promised, which was fine but wouldn't help on the connecting flight. The good news for the moment was that the first-class passengers got off first, and better still, a U.S. consular official met Clark and Chavez at the gate, whisking them through customs. Both men had slept on the flight, but their bodies were still out of synch with the local time. An aging Delta L-1011 lifted off two hours later, bound for Dulles International.
Captain Sato remained in his command seat. One problem with international air travel was the sameness of it all. This terminal could have been almost anywhere, except that all of the faces were gaijin. There would be a day-long layover before he flew back, doubtless full again of Japanese executives running away.
And this was the remainder of his life, ferrying people he didn't know to places he didn't care about. If only he'd stayed in the Self-Defense Forces maybe he would have done better, maybe it would have made a difference. He was the best pilot in one of the world's best airlines, and those skills might have…but he'd never know, would he, and he'd never make a difference, just one more captain of one more aircraft, flying people to and from a nation that had forfeited its honor. Well. He climbed out of his scat, collected his flight charts and other necessary papers, tucked them in his carry-bag and headed out of the aircraft. The gate was empty now, and he was able to walk down the bustling but anonymous terminal. He saw a copy of USA Today at a shop and picked it up, scanning the front page, seeing the pictures there.
Tonight at nine o'clock? It all came together at that moment, really just an equation of speed and distance.
Sato looked around once more, then headed off to the airport administrative office. He needed a weather map. He already knew the timing.
"One thing I'd like to fix," Jack said, more at ease than ever in the Oval Office.
"A CIA officer. He needs a pardon."
"What for?" Durling asked, wondering if a sandbag was descending toward his own head.
"Murder," Ryan replied honestly. "As luck would have it, my father worked the case back when I was in college. The people he killed had it coming—"
"Not a good way to look at things. Even if they did."
"They did." The Vice President-designate explained for two or three minutes. The magic word was "drugs," and soon enough the President nodded.
"And since then?"
"One of the best field officers we've ever had. He's the guy who bagged Qati and Ghosn in Mexico City."
"That's the guy?"
"Yes, sir. He deserves to get his name back."
"Okay. I'll call the Attorney General and see if we can do it quietly. Any other favors that you need taken care of?" the President asked. "You know, you're picking this political stuff up pretty fast for an amateur. Nice job with the media this morning, by the way."
Ryan nodded at the compliment. "Admiral Jackson. He did a nice job, too, but I suppose the Navy will take good care of him."
"A little presidential attention never hurt any officer's career. I want to meet him anyway. You're right, though. flying into the islands to meet with them was a very astute move."
"No losses," Chambers said, and a lot of kills. Why didn't he feel good about that?
"The subs that killed Charlotte and Asheville?" Jones asked.
"We'll ask when the time comes, but probably at least one of them." The judgment was statistical but likely.
"Ron, good job," Mancuso said.
Jones stubbed out his cigarette. Now he'd have to break the habit again. And now, also, he understood what war was, and thanked God that he'd never really had to fight in one. Perhaps it was just something for kids to do. But he'd done his part, and now he knew, and with luck he'd never have to see one happen again. There were always whales to track.
"One of our 747's has mechanical'd rather badly," Sato explained. "It will be out of service for three days. I have to fly to Heathrow to replace the aircraft. Another 747 will replace mine on the Pacific run." With that he turned over the flight plan.
The Canadian air-traffic official scanned it. "Pax?"
"No passengers, no, but I'll need a full load of fuel."
"I expect your airline will pay for that, Captain," the official observed with a smile. He scribbled his approval on the flight plan, keeping one copy for his records, and gave the other back to the pilot. He gave the form a last look. "Southern routing? It's five hundred miles longer."
"I don't like the wind forecast," Sato lied. It wasn't much of a lie. People like this rarely second-guessed pilots on weather calls. This one didn't either.
"Thank you." The bureaucrat went back to his paperwork.
An hour later, Sato was standing under his aircraft. It was at an Air Canada service hangar—the space at the terminal was occupied again by another international carrier. He took his time preflighting the airliner, checking visually for fluid leaks, loose rivets, bad tires, any manner of irregularity—called "hangar rash"—but there was none to be seen. His copilot was already aboard, annoyed at the unscheduled flight they had to make, even though it meant three or four days in London, a city popular with international aircrew. Sato finished his walk-around and climbed aboard, stopping first at the forward galley.
"All ready?" he asked.
"Preflight checklist complete, standing by for before-start checklist," the man said just before the steak knife entered his chest. His eyes were wide with shock and surprise rather than pain.
"I'm very sorry to do this," Sato told him in a gentle voice. With that he strapped into the left seat and commenced the engine-start sequence. The ground crew was too far away to see into the cockpit, and couldn't know that only one man was alive on the flight deck.
"Vancouver tower, this is JAL ferry flight five-zero-zero, requesting clearance to taxi."
"Five-Zero-Zero Heavy, roger, you are cleared to taxi runway Two-Seven-Left. Winds are two-eight-zero at fifteen."
"Thank you, Vancouver, Five-Zero-Zero Heavy cleared for Two-Seven Left." With that the aircraft started rolling. It took ten minutes to reach the end of the departure runway. Sato had to wait an extra minute because the aircraft ahead of his was another 747, and they generated dangerous wake turbulence. He was about to violate the first rule of flight, the one about keeping your number of takeoffs equal to that for landings, but it was something his countrymen had done before. On clearance from the tower, Sato advanced the throttles to the takeoff power, and the Boeing, empty of everything but fuel, accelerated rapidly down the runway, rotating off before reaching six thousand feet, and immediately turning north to clear the controlled airspace around the airport. The lightly loaded airliner positively rocketed to its cruising altitude of thirty-nine thousand feet, at which point fuel efficiency was optimum. His flight plan would take him along the Canadian U.S. border, departing land just north of the fishing town of Hopedale. Soon after that, he'd be beyond ground-based radar coverage. Four hours, Sato thought, sipping tea while the autopilot flew the aircraft. He said a prayer for the man in the right seat, hoping that the copilot's soul would be at piece, as his now was.
The Delta flight landed at Dulles only a minute late. Clark and Chavez found that there was a car waiting for them. They took the official Ford and headed down to Interstate-64, while the driver who'd brought it caught a cab.
"What do you suppose will happen to him?"
"Yamata? Prison, maybe worse. Did you get a paper?" Clark asked.
"Yeah." Chavez unfolded it and scanned the frontpage. "Holy shit!"
"Looks like Mr. Ryan's getting kicked upstairs." But Chavez had other things to think about for the drive down toward the Virginia Tidewater, like how he was going to ask Patsy the Big Question. What if she said no?
A joint session of Congu'ss is always held in the House chamber due to its larger size, and also, members of the "lower" house noted, because in the Senate seats were reserved, and those bastards didn't let anyone else sit in their place. Security was usually good here. The Capitol building had its own police force, which was used to working with the Secret Service. Corridors were closed off with velvet ropes, and the uniformed officers were rather more alert than usual, but it wasn't that big a deal.
The President would travel to the Hill in his official car, which was heavily armored, accompanied by several Chevy Suburbans that were even more heavily protected, and loaded with Secret Service agents carrying enough weapons to fight off a company of Marines. It was rather like a traveling circus, really, and like people in the circus, they were always setting up and taking down. Four agents, for example, humped their Stinger missile containers to the roof, going to the customary spots, scanning the area to see if the trees had grown a little too much—they were trimmed periodically for better visibility. The Secret Service's Counter-Sniper Team took similar perches atop the Capitol and other nearby buildings. The best marksmen in the country, they lifted their custom-crafted 7mm Magnum rifles from foam-lined containers and used binoculars to scan the rooftops they didn't occupy.
There were few enough of those, as other members of "the detail" took elevators and stairs to the top of every building close to the one JUMPER would be visiting tonight. When darkness fell, light-amplification equipment came out, and the agents drank hot liquids in order to keep alert.
Sato thanked Providence for the timing of the event, and for the TCAS system. Though the transatlantic air routes were never empty, travel between Europe and America was timed to coincide with human sleep patterns, and this time of day was slack for westbound flights. The TCAS sent out interrogation signals, and would alert him to the presence of nearby aircraft. At the moment there was nothing close—his display said CLEAR OF CONFLICT, meaning that there was no traffic within eighty miles. That enabled him to slip into a west-bound routing quite easily, tracking down the coast, three hundred miles out. The pilot checked his time against his memorized flight plan. Again he'd figured the winds exactly right in both directions. His timing had to be exact, because the Americans could be very punctual. At 2030 hours, he turned west. He was tired now, having spent most of the last twenty-four hours in the air. There was rain on the American East Coast, and while that would make for a bumpy ride lower down, he was a pilot and hardly noticed such things. The only real annoyance was all the tea he'd drunk. He really needed to go to the head, but he couldn't leave the flight deck unattended, and there was less than an hour to endure the discomfort.
"Daddy, what does this mean? Do we still go to the same school?" Sally asked from the rear-facing seat in the limousine.
Cathy handled the answer. It was a mommy-question. "Yes, and you'll even have your own driver."
"Neat!" little Jack thought.
Their father was having second thoughts, as he usually did after making an important decision, even though he knew it was too late for that. Cathy looked at his face, read his mind, and smiled at him.
"Jack, it's only a few months, and then…"
"Yeah." Her husband nodded. "I can always work on my golf game."
"And you can finally teach. That's what I want you to do. That's what you need to do."
"Not back to the banking business?"
"I'm surprised you lasted as long as you did in that."
"You're an eye-cutter, not a pshrink."
"We'll talk about it," Professor Ryan said, adjusting Katie Ryan's dress.
It was the eleven-months part that appealed to her. After this post, he'd never come back to government service again. What a fine gift President Durling had given them both.
The official car stopped outside the Longworth House Office Building. There were no crowds there, though some congressional staffers were heading out of the building. Ten Secret Service agents kept an eye on them and everything else, while four more escorted the Ryans into the building. Al Trent was at the corner entrance.
"You want to come with me?"
"After you're confirmed, we walk you in to be sworn, and then you take your seat behind the President, next to the Speaker," Sam Fellows explained. "It was Tish Brown's idea. It'll look good."
"Election-year theatrics," Jack observed coolly.
"What about us?" Cathy asked.
"It's a nice family picture," Al thought.
"I don't know why I'm so darned excited about this," Fellows grumbled in his most good-natured way. "This is going to make November hard for us. I suppose that never occurred to you?"
"Sorry, Sam, no, it didn't," Jack replied with a sheepish grin.
"This hovel was my first office," Trent said, opening the door on the bottom floor to the suite of offices he'd used for ten terms. "I keep it for luck. Please-sit down and relax a little. One of his staffers came in with soft drinks and ice, under the watchful eyes of Ryan's protective detail. Andrea Price started playing with the Ryan kids again. It looked unprofessional but was not. The kids had to be comfortable around her, and she'd already made a good start at that.
President Durling's car arrived without incident. Escorts conveyed him to the Speaker's official office adjacent to the chamber, where he went over his speech again. JASMINE, Mrs. Durling, with her own escorts, took an elevator to the official gallery. By this time the chamber was half-filled. It wasn't accepted for people to be fashionably late, perhaps the only such occasion for members of the Congress. They assembled in little knots of friends for the most part, and walked in by party, the seats divided by a very real if invisible line. The rest of the government would come in later. All nine justices of the Supreme Court, all members of the Cabinet who happened to be in town (two were not), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in their beribboned uniforms were led to the front row. Then the heads of independent agencies. Bill Shaw of the FBI. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Finally, under the nervous eyes of security people and the usual gaggle of advance personnel, it was ready, on time, as it always seemed to happen.
The seven networks interrupted their various programming. Anchorpersons appeared to announce that the Presidential Address was about to begin, giving the viewers enough information that they could head off to the kitchen and make their sandwiches without really missing anything.
The Doorkeeper of the House, holder of one of the choicest patronage jobs in the country—a fine salary and no real duties—walked halfway down the aisle and performed his one public function with his customary booming voice:
"Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States."
Roger Durling entered the chamber, striding down the aisle with brief stops to shake hands, his red-leather folder tucked under his arm. It held a paper copy of his speech in the event that the TelePrompTers broke. The applause was deafening and sincere. Even those in the opposition party recognized that Durling had kept his promise to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and as powerful a force as politics was, there was also still honor and patriotism in the room, especially at times like this. Durling reached the well, then climbed up to his place on the podium, and it was time for the Speaker of the House to do his ceremonial duty:
"Members of the Congress, I have the distinct privilege, and high honor, to introduce the President of the United States." And the applause began afresh. This time there was the usual contest between the parties to see who could clap and cheer the loudest and the longest.
"Okay, remember what happens—"
"Okay, Al! I go in, the Chief Justice swears me in, and I take my seat. All I have to do is repeat it all back." Ryan sipped a glass of Coke and wiped sweaty hands on his trousers. A Secret Service agent fetched him a towel.
"Washington Center, this is KLM Six-Five-Niner. We have an onboard emergency, sir." The voice was in clipped aviatorese, the sort of speech that people used when everything was going to hell.
The air-traffic controller outside Washington noted the alpha-numeric icon had just tripled in size on his scope and keyed his own microphone. The display gave course, speed, and altitude. His first impression was that the aircraft was making a rapid descent.
"Six-Five-Niner, this is Washington Center. State your intentions, sir."
"Center, Six-Five-Niner, number-one engine has exploded, engines one and two lost. Structural integrity in doubt. So is controllability. Request radar vector direct Baltimore."
The controller waved sharply to his supervisor, who came over at once. "Wait a minute. Who is this?" He interrogated the computer and found no "strip" information for KLM-659.
The controller keyed his radio. "Six-Five-Niner, please identify, over."
This reply was more urgent.
"Washington Center, this is KLM-Six-Five-Niner, we are 747 charter inbound Orlando, three hundred pax," the voice replied. "Repeating: we have two engines out and structural damage to port wing and fuselage. I am descending one-zero thousand now. Request immediate radar vector direct Baltimore, over!"
"We can't dick around with this," the supervisor thought. "Take him. Get him down."
"Very well, sir. Six-Five-Niner Heavy. Radar contact. I read you one-four thousand descending and three hundred knots. Recommend left turn two-niner-zero and continue descent and maintain one-zero-thousand."
"Six-Five-Niner, descending one-zero thousand, turning left two-niner-zero," Sato said in reply. English was the language on international air travel, and his was excellent. So far so good. He had more than half of his fuel still aboard, and was barely a hundred miles out, according to his satellite-navigation system.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the fire station located near the main terminal was immediately alerted. Airport employees who ordinarily had other jobs ran or drove to the building, while controllers decided quickly which aircraft they could continue to land before the wounded 747 got close and which they would have to stack. The emergency plan was already written here, as for every major airport. Police and other services were alerted, and literally hundreds of people were snatched away from TV sets.
"I want to tell you the story of an American citizen, the son of a police officer, a former Marine officer crippled in a training accident, a teacher of history, a member of America's financial community, a husband and father, a patriot and public servant, and a genuine American hero," the President said on the TV. Ryan cringed to hear it all, especially when followed by applause. The cameras panned over Secretary of the Treasury Fiedler, who had leaked Jack's role in the Wall Street recovery to a group of financial reporters. Even Brett Hanson was clapping, and rather graciously.
"It's always embarrassing, Jack," Trent said with a laugh.
"Many of you know him, many of you have worked with him. I have spoken today with the members of the Senate." Durling motioned to the Majority and Minority leaders, both of whom smiled and nodded for the C-SPAN cameras. "And with your approval, I wish now to submit the name of John Patrick Ryan to fill the post of Vice President of the United States. I further request the members of the Senate to approve this nomination by voice vote."
"That's pretty irregular," a commentator observed while the two senators stood to walk down to the well.
"President Durling has done his homework well on this," the political expert replied. "Jack Ryan is about as non-controversial as people can be in this town, and the bipartisan—"
"Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate, and our friends and colleagues of the House," the Majority Leader began. "It is with great satisfaction that the Minority Leader and I…"
"Are we sure this is legal?" Jack wondered aloud.
"The Constitution says that the Senate has to approve you. It doesn't say how," Sam Fellows said.
"Baltimore Approach, this is Six-Five-Niner. I have a problem here."
"Six-Five-Niner Heavy, what is the problem, sir?" the tower controller asked. He could already see part of it on his scope. The inbound 747 hadn't turned to his most recent command as sharply as he had ordered a minute earlier. The controller wiped his hands together and wondered if they'd be able to get this one down.
"My controls are not responding well…not sure I can…Baltimore, I see runway lights at my one o'clock…I don't know this area well…busy here…losing power…"
The controller checked the direction vector on his scope, extending it to—
"Six-Five-Niner Heavy, that is Andrews Air Force Base. They have two nice runways. Can you make the turn for Andrews?"
"Six-Five-Niner, I think so, I think so."
"Stand by." The controller had a hot line to the Air Force base. "Andrews, do you—"
"We've been following it," the senior officer in that tower said. "Washington Center clued us in. Do you need help?"
"Can you take him?"
"Six-Five-Niner Heavy, Baltimore. I am going to hand you off to Andrews Approach. Recommend turn right three-five-zero…can you do that, sir?" the controller asked.
"I think I can. I think I can. The fire's out, I think, but hydraulics are bottoming out on me, I think the engine must have…"
"KLM Six-Five-Niner Heavy, this is Andrews Approach Control. Radar Contact. Two five miles out, heading three-four-zero at four thousand feet descending. Runway Zero-One-Left is clear, and our fire trucks are already moving," the Air Force captain said. He'd already punched the base panic button, and his trained people were moving out smartly. "Recommend turn right zero one zero and continue descent."
"Six-Five-Niner," was the only acknowledgment.
The irony of the situation was something Sato would never learn. Though there were numerous fighter aircraft based at Andrews, at Langley Air Force Base, at Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center, and at Oceana NAS, all within a hundred miles of Washington, it had never occurred to anyone to have fighter aircraft aloft over the capital on any other night like this one. His elaborate lies and maneuvers were hardly necessary at all. Sato brought his aircraft around at a painfully slow rate to simulate a crippled jumbo, couched every degree of the way by a very concerned and professional American controller. And that, he thought, was too bad.
"Opposed?" There was silence after that, followed a moment later by applause. Then the Speaker stood.
"The Doorkeeper of the House will escort the Vice President into the chamber so that he can be properly sworn."
"That's your cue. Break a leg," Trent said, standing and heading for the door. The Secret Service agents fanned out along the corridor, leading the procession to the tunnel connecting this building with the Capitol. Entering it, Ryan looked along the curving structure, painted an awful off-yellow and lined, oddly enough, mostly with pictures done by schoolchildren.
"I don't see any obvious problem, no smoke or fire." The tower controller had his binoculars on the incoming aircraft. It was only a mile out now. "No gear, no gear!"
"Six-Five-Niner, your gear is up, say again your gear is up!"
Sato could have replied, but chose not to. It was really all decided now. He advanced his throttles, accelerating his aircraft up from approach speed of one-hundred-sixty knots, holding to his altitude of one thousand feet for the moment. The target was in view now, and all he had to do was turn forty degrees left. On reflection, he lit up his aircraft, displaying the red crane on the rudder fin.
"What the hell is he doing?"
"That's not KLM! Look!" the junior officer pointed. Directly over the field, the 747 banked left, clearly under precise control, all four engines whining with increased power. Then the two looked at each other, knowing exactly what was going to happen, and knowing that there was literally nothing that could be done. Calling the base commander was just a formality that would not affect events at all. They did that anyway, then alerted the First Helicopter Squadron as well. With that, they ran out of options, and turned to watch the drama whose conclusion they'd already guessed. It would take a little over a minute to conclude.
Sato had been to Washington often and done all the usual tourist things, including visiting the Capitol Building more than once. It was a grotesque piece of architecture, he thought again, as it grew larger and larger, and he adjusted his flight path so that he was now roaring right up Pennsylvania Avenue, crossing the Anacostia River.
The sight was sufficiently stunning that it momentarily paralyzed the Secret Service agent standing atop the House Chamber, but it was only a moment, and ultimately meaningless. The man dropped to his knees and flipped the cover off the large plastic box.
"Get JUMPER moving! Now!" the man screamed, taking out the Stinger.
"Let's go!" an agent shouted into his microphone, loudly enough to hurt the ears of the protective detail inside. A simple phrase, for the Secret Service it meant to get the President away from wherever he was. Instantly, agents as finely trained as any NFL backfield started moving even though they had no idea what the danger was. In the gallery over the chamber, the First Lady's detail had a shorter distance to go, and though one of the agents tripped on the step, she was able to grab Anne Durling's arm and start dragging her away.
"What?" Andrea Price was the only one to speak in the tunnel. The rest of the agents around the Ryan family instantly drew their weapons, pistols for the most part, though two of their number pulled out submachine guns. All of them brought their weapons up and scanned the yellow-white corridor for danger, but there was none to be seen.
On the floor of the chamber, six men raced to the podium, also scanning about with drawn weapons in a moment that millions of television viewers would fix in their minds forever. President Durling looked at his chief agent in genuine puzzlement, only to hear a screamed entreaty to move at once.
The Stinger agent atop the building had his weapon shouldered in record time, and the beeping from the missile tracker told him that he had acquisition. Not a second later he loosed his shot, knowing even then that it didn't matter a damn.
Ding Chavez was sitting on the couch, holding Patsy's hand—the one with the ring now on it—until he saw the people with guns. The soldier he would always be leaned into the TV to look for danger, but seeing none, he knew that it was there even so.
The streak of light startled Sato, and he flinched somewhat from surprise rather than fear, then saw the missile heading for his left-inboard engine. The explosion was surprisingly loud, and alarms told him that the engine was totally destroyed, but he was a mere thousand meters away from the white building. The aircraft dipped and yawed slightly to the left. Sato compensated for it without a thought, adjusting trim and nosing down for the south side of the American house of government. They would all be there. The President, the parliamentarians, all of them. He selected his point of impact just as finely as any routine landing, and his last thought was that if they could kill his family and disgrace his country, then they would pay a very special price for that. His last voluntary act was to select the point of impact, two thirds of the way up the stone steps. That would be just about perfect, he knew…
Nearly three hundred tons of aircraft and fuel struck the east face of the building at a speed of three hundred knots. The aircraft disintegrated on impact. No less fragile than a bird, its speed and mass had already fragmented the columns outside the walls. Next came the building itself. As soon as the wings broke up, the engines, the only really solid objects on the aircraft, shot forward, one of them actually smashing into and beyond the House Chamber. The Capitol has no structural steel within its stone walls, having been built in an age when stone piled on stone was deemed the most long-lasting form of construction. The entire east face of the building's southern half was smashed to gravel, which shot westward—but the real damage took a second or two more, barely time for the roof to start falling down on the nine hundred people in the chamber: one hundred tons of jet fuel erupted from shredded fuel tanks, vaporizing from the passage through the stone blocks. A second later it ignited from some spark or other, and an immense fireball engulfed everything inside and outside of the building. The volcanic flames reached out, seeking air and corridors that held it, forcing a pressure wave throughout the building, even into the basement.
The initial impact was enough to drop them all to their knees, and now the Secret Service agents were on the edge of real panic. Ryan's first instinctive move was to grab his youngest daughter, then to push the rest of the family to the floor and cover them with his body. He was barely down when something made him look back, north up the tunnel. The noise came from there, and a second later there was an advancing orange wall of flame. There was not even time to speak. He pushed his wife's head down, and then two more bodies fell on top to cover them. There wasn't time for anything else but to look back at the advancing flames—
Over their heads, the fireball had already exhausted the supply of oxygen. The mushrooming cloud leaped upwards, creating its own ministorm and sucking air and gas out of the building whose occupants it had already killed.
—it stopped, not a hundred feet away, then pulled away as rapidly as it had advanced, and there was an instant hurricane in the tunnel, going the other way. A door was wrenched off its hinges, sliding toward them but missing. His little Katie screamed with terror and pain at all the weight on her. Cathy's eyes were wide, looking at her husband.
"Let's go!" Andrea Price screamed before anyone else, and with that, the agents lifted every member of the family, carrying-dragging them back to the Longworth Building, leaving the two House members to catch up on their own. That required less than a minute, and then Special Agent Price was the first again:
"Mr. President, are you okay?"
"What the hell…" Ryan looked around, moving to his kids. Their clothing was disheveled but they seemed otherwise intact. "Cathy?"
"I'm okay, Jack." She checked the children next, as she had once done for him in London. "They're okay, Jack. You?" There was a thundering crash that made the ground shake, and again Katie Ryan screamed.
"Price to Walker," the female agent said into her microphone. "Price to Walker—anybody, check in now!"
"Price, this is Low; RIFLE THREE, it's all gone, man, the dome just went down, too. Is SWORDSMAN okay?"
"What the hell was that?" Sam Fellows gasped from his knees. Price didn't have time even to hear the question.
"Affirmative, affirmative, SWORDSMAN, SURGEON, and—shit, we don't have names for them yet. The kids are—everybody's okay here." Even she knew that was an exaggeration. Air was still racing past them into the tunnel to feed the flames in the Capitol building.
The agents were recovering their composure somewhat now. Their guns were still out, and had so much as a janitor appeared in the corridor right then, his life might have been forfeit, but one by one they breathed deeply and relaxed just a little, at the same time trying to focus in on what they had been trained to do.
"This way!" Price said, leading with her pistol in both hands. "RIFLE THREE, get a car the southeast corner of Longworth—and do it now!"
"Billy, Frank, take point!" Price commanded next. Jack hadn't thought she was the senior agent on the detail, but the two male agents weren't arguing. They sprinted ahead to the end of the corridor. Trent and Fellows just watched, waving the others on their way.
"Clear!" the one with the Uzi said at the far end of the corridor.
"Are you okay, Mr. President?"
"Wait a minute, what about—"
"JUMPER is dead," Price said simply. The other agents had heard the same radio chatter and had formed a very tight ring around their principal. Ryan had not and was still disoriented and trying to catch up.
"We have a Suburban outside!" Frank called. "Let's go!"
"Okay, sir, the drill is to get you the hell away from here. Please follow me," Andrea Price said, lowering her weapon just a little.
"Wait, now wait a minute, what are you saying? The President, Helen—"
"RIFLE THREE, this is Price. Anybody get out?"
"No chance, Price. No chance," the sniper replied.
"Mr. President, we have to get you to a place of safety. Follow me, please."
It turned out that there were two of the oversized vehicles. Jack was forcibly separated from his family and pushed into the first one.
"What about my family?" he demanded, now seeing the orange pyre that had been the centerpiece of America's government only four minutes earlier. "Oh, my God…"
"We'll take them to…to…"
"Take them to the Marine Barracks at Eighth and I streets. I want Marines around them now, okay?" Later, Ryan would remember that his first presidential order was something from his own past.
"Yes, sir." Price keyed her mike. "SURGEON and kids go to Eighth and I. Tell the Marines they're coming!"
His vehicle just headed down New Jersey Avenue, away from the Hill, Ryan saw, and for all their sophisticated training the Secret Service people were mainly trying to clear the area.
"Come around north," Jack told them.
"Sir, the White House—"
"A place with TVs, and right now. I think we need a judge, too." That idea didn't come from reason or analysis, Jack realized. It just came.
The Chevy Suburban headed well west before turning north and looping back toward Union Station. The streets were alive now with police and fire vehicles. Air Force helicopters from Andrews were circling overhead, probably to keep news choppers away. Ryan got out of the car under his own power and walked within his protective ring to the entrance of the building where CNN operated. It was just the closest. More agents were arriving now, enough that Ryan actually felt safe, knowing how foolish that feeling was. He was taken upstairs to a holding room until another agent arrived with someone else a few minutes later.
"This is Judge Peter Johnson, D.C. Federal Court," an agent told Jack.
"Is this what I think?" the judge asked.
"I'm afraid so, sir. I'm not a lawyer. Is this legal?" the President asked.
Again it was Agent Price: "President Coolidge was sworn by his father, a county justice of the peace. It's legal," she assured both men.
A camera came close. Ryan put his hand on the Bible, and the judge went from memory.
"I—state your name, please."
"I, John Patrick Ryan—"
"Do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States."
"Do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States…and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God." Jack completed the oath from memory. It was little different, really, from the one he had sworn as a Marine officer, and it meant the same thing.
"You hardly needed me at all," Johnson said quietly. "Congratulations, Mr. President." To both men it seemed an odd thing to say, but Ryan took his hand anyway. "God bless you."
Jack looked around the room. Out the windows he could see the fires on the Hill. Then he turned back to the camera, for beyond it were millions, and like it or not, they were looking back at him, and to him. Ryan took a breath, not knowing that his tie was crooked in his collar.
"Ladies and gentlemen, what happened tonight was an attempt by someone to destroy the government of the United States. They killed President Durling, and I guess they killed most of the Congress—it's too soon, I'm afraid, to be sure of much.
"But I am sure of this: America is much harder to destroy than people are. My dad was a cop, as you heard. He and my mom were killed in a plane crash, but there are still cops. A lot of fine people were killed only a few minutes ago, but America is still here. We've fought another war and won it. We've survived an attack on our economy and we'll survive this too.
"I'm afraid I'm too new at this to say it properly, but what I learned in school is that America is a dream, it's—it's the ideas we all share, it's the things we all believe in, most of all it's things we all do, and how we do them. You can't destroy things like that. Nobody can, no matter how hard they might try, because we are who and what we choose to be. We invented that idea here, and nobody can destroy that either.
"I'm not really sure what I'm going to do right now, except to make sure my wife and children are really safe first, but now I have this job, and I just promised GOD I that I'd do it the best way I can. For now, I ask you all for your prayers and your help. I'll talk to you again when I know a little more. You can turn the camera off now," he concluded. When the light went off, he turned to Special Agent Price.
"Let's get to work".