Project Retribution – Cyber War Unleashed: China VS US

Final Cover Project Retribution CED_pe

Chapter 1 – Cyber/Drone Warfare Unleashed

The small fly on the wall of the Premier’s office went unnoticed by him and his advisers. “We must stop the Americans before they have solidified the entire Middle East as their sole sphere of influence,” Chang Lo said in a heavy voice, filled with the same determination that catapulted him from a lowly private in the People’s Liberation Army to the chambers of the elite Chinese Communists’ Politburo.  Chang did so by eliminating 37 of his potential rivals by death or imprisonment, during his rapid upward climb.

“Are you suggesting we should embargo all oil coming from Iraq and Saudi Arabia to the United States? That would be an act of war against the United States – and the American president would have no choice but to act vigorously,” the wiry young man in his 40s objected in a voice that cracked while he squirmed nervously in his chair.

“That’s exactly what I am ordering – not suggesting,” the thick, balding man said as his fierce black eyes pierced the waning resolve of the younger Ho Chow, the vice secretary of the ruling politburo and President of the People’s Republic of China. “We need the oil more than they do,” the Premier said, continuing his pugnacious soliloquy. “They use their dominance in this part of the world to intimidate us – but no longer.”

“The time for waiting is over. We have sucked the life blood out of the Yankee Empire for decades by exploiting its weakness for borrowing and instant gratification to support its corrupt, swine politicians. We own this paper empire with our loans and we have helped make its people fat, weak and dependent on our cheap labor and goods,” Lo said, smiling at the men in the room like a father lecturing his errant children.

“The Yankee Empire took the bait, and while it spent our money and destroyed the will of its people to be vigilant, we built our armies, air force and navy using its money and treasure. Our aircraft carriers are now legion, while the Yankee Empire is putting its in mothballs. The Americans have to turn to foreign conscripts to man their fleets. The time is now, comrades, to take our rightful place in the world,” Lo spoke in a low, husky voice — banging his fist on the top of his desk to preemptively silence any more opposing views.

Six thousand two hundred and forty miles away in an underground bunker in the middle of the Nevada desert, Capt. Roger Ames, gingerly pulled back on the sensitive joystick that instantly moved the miniature, drone fly from the wall in the Premier’s office into the air. The 29-year-old Ames, a master drone pilot, one of the best in the U.S Air Force, then landed the robotic fly gently on the back of the Premier’s neck and quickly injected the lethal poison as the fly once again became airborne and flew out of the room through a slightly cracked-opened window.

As the Prime Minister clutched his chest, his face had already started turning blue. Despite his shocked comrades quickly jumping up and trying to resuscitate the 63-year-old dictator, he was dead before he hit the floor.

“Die you son of a bitch,” Ames whispered to himself, as he maneuvered his $50 million-dollar drone fly to a safe haven inside the American Embassy, less than a mile from the former premier’s office.

“We were ordered to terminate Premier Lo with extreme prejudice and that’s what we did,” Ames said gritting his teeth. The young man then swung around in his swivel chair, took off his earphones in one sweeping motion, and handed them off to his relief Capt. Tompkins Wood. “Time to get me some lunch… I could eat a whole Chinese Panda bear,” Ames said dryly with his North Carolinian twang as he sprung from the chair.

This was all done with no fanfare and no after thoughts. But Ames knew that his bosses and his bosses’ bosses were high-fiving it in some plush Pentagon office and White House basement — and he knew that his next assignment would probably be even deeper and darker than this one.

 

Chapter 2 – Righteous Wrath Unit 000

Ames had been recruited into the Righteous Wrath Unit 000 right out of the academy for many different reasons, one of which was the many championships he won in competitive online game tournaments. Of course, his ability to concentrate – a rare commodity in a world filled with attention deficit disorder Millenniums – and his unusually fast reflexes made him a prime candidate for the unit. But it was his total amoral and apolitical view of the world around him and his ability to never question orders that made him a man who could be counted on to deliver the goods every time.

In truth, Ames never gave any thought to patriotism; he just embraced it like some men embraced the religion of their fathers – with no questions and no doubts. His family had a long tradition of serving their country faithfully and unquestionably. The only time they went awry was when Ames great, great, great grandfather joined the Confederacy. And that was a matter of opinion. Some family members believed “Pappie’s” open rebellion against the Union was natural, while others saw it as an aberration. Ames didn’t have an opinion on the subject.  He barely passed several mandatory history courses he took at the Air Force Academy.

Such a mindset and lack of political and philosophical curiosity made him perfect for the Righteous Wrath Unit 000. Its name meant that the good old USA was bringing the swift justice of Uncle Sam right to the enemies of freedom and democracy, using the latest in its ever-increasing drone arsenal, provided by the ever-growing and powerful military industrial complex. The 000 simply signified that it was a stealth, top, top secret operation that could and would never be acknowledged or revealed – at all costs, with “all costs” underscored by its triple skulls insignia.

When Ames wasn’t carrying out the top-secret assassination missions for Righteous Wrath, he was busy engaging in extreme sports and lady hunting, both of which had put him in some dangerous situations, which Maj. Tripe Wilson, Ames’s superior officer, didn’t like, and let his concerns be known. “Why don’t you settle down with one woman instead of trying to poke the holes of the entire female population,” he would chide Ames after the unit had to bail him out of a woman-related problem, such as when a jealous husband or boyfriend came gunning for Ames.

It was the same fatherly tone the Major used when he lectured Ames on how he put the unit’s mission at risk by getting trapped in an underwater cave for three days while on leave. “Why don’t you take up golf – or some less dangerous sport, Ames?”

Ames would always answer with a perfunctory, “Yes Sir,” but in his mind he was thinking about his next sexual conquest or dangerous adventure. The fact was that Ames didn’t consider himself subject to the laws that governed ordinary men. He saw himself as a pure warrior; he expected to die young and he didn’t really care. All he cared about was the next thrill or adventure he could experience in the here and now.

 

Chapter 3 – A Cyber Response

“The United States is saddened by the sudden passing of the People’s Republic of China’s Premier Chang Lo, and we wish to express our most sincere condolences,” the official statement of President Rob Tennis read.

It wasn’t until the assassination had been signed off on by the recently-formed secret deliberation panel that President Tennis was told about it. This bothered him, but at the same time relieved him because of the political cover it gave him, in case things had gone wrong.

At first, Lo’s assassination appeared to be a perfect covert operation.

However, it wasn’t long before a team of China’s top pathologists had reasoned that Lo’s death was not from natural causes, despite the sophistication of the vanishing toxins that killed him. That’s because the Premier had just had a complete physical the week before — and he had been as strong as a bull, with low blood pressure and totally unclogged arteries. After all, he was a non-smoking vegetarian megalomaniac.

Then there was the small puncture wound on the back of Lo’s neck that had to be more than a mere coincidence; it begged for an explanation, but there was none. Finally, after hours of torture, one of building maintenance crew admitted that he had taken money from an American embassy employee to make sure that a window inside the Premier’s office had been cracked open a few inches the day of the assassination. “I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong,” were the last words he uttered before taking a bullet to the back of the head.

This pointed to foul play, using the latest in American drone weaponry. Although the Chinese weren’t up to speed in this arena, their intelligence knew of its great warfare potential. The American who bribed the worker was a minor diplomat assigned to the American Embassy — suspected to be CIA — but he had flown out of the country just a few hours before the Premier’s demise. It didn’t take the Chinese intelligent professionals long to put two and two together.

President Ho Chow stroked his brow as he contemplated the ramifications of this alleged assassination, if in fact the allegation was true. With just circumstantial evidence, he could not go to war. Besides, he had been vehemently opposed to Premier Lo’s aggressive stance toward the United States. Still, he couldn’t risk being seen as weak by Americans or the members of his ruling politburo. No, he had to reply to the Americans with a measured response that was short of an irreversible act of war, but strong enough to let them know that he and his comrades believed them to be responsible for the death of their leader.

Chow looked up from his desk at General Kal Cheng, head of the Peoples’ Liberation Army’s Cyber War Division. “I am authorizing you to initiate operation Dual Chaos for a 24 hour period – no longer, do you understand?” Chow asked in a stern voice.

“Yes, Mr. President, I fully understand, “Cheng said, bowing his head in respect.

With that Chow rose from his desk and Cheng stood up and moved quickly toward the door. Chow walked over to the window and looked down upon the street and watched as group of school children crossing the street holding each other’s hands.

 

Chapter 4 – Operation Dual Chaos

General Cheng tapped the young man listening to his i-Phone gently on the shoulder to get his attention. Dr. Song Ming, the head computer scientist at the People’s Liberation Army’s Cyber Warfare Center, immediately pulled out his ear buds, jumped up from his chair — and stood at attention.

“General, what can I do for you, sir,” Ming shouted in a false bravado.

Educated at Stanford University, Ming was the No. 1 architect of project Dual Chaos. In fact, his intimate knowledge of the United States gave him a certain amount of gravitas among men like Cheng, who had never left the mainland, nor knew how to speak English.

“The time has come for you to activate project Dual Chaos,” the General said with a stern look on his face.

Ming was stunned, not only had he spent 15 years in the United States, he still had friends and family members there. As the significance of what General Chang was ordering sank in, their faces flashed before his eyes.

“Of Course, General Chang,” Ming said his voice shaking. “When do you want the project to be operational?”

“Have I not made myself clear to you Ming,” the General snapped impatiently. “Now… I want it operational now.”

“Yes, General,” Ming said as he jumped into his seat and punched in the special code for “Dual Chaos” into his triple-screen computer

Instantly, more than 2,000 members of the People’s Liberation Army’s Cyber Warfare Center ceased what they were doing and instead began to attack the predetermined Web sites in the United States with thousands of denial-of-service attacks designed to slow down and eventually shut down the sites.

Within two minutes the 2,000 members would geometrically increase to 200,000. In addition, special teams of elite hackers all educated in the United States or Russia would enter pretargeted corporate, government networks and utility power grids, giving a wake-up call to millions of dormant viruses that had been planted there with malware over a period of years.       They had been downloaded into sensitive banking, government and utility grid computers over the last decade via various phishing emails and pornography sites frequented by government and companies’ employees. They had laid their undetected and dormant cyber-weapons, waiting for this moment to arrive.

Within 20 minutes ATMs, power grids, cell phones, alarm systems and anything and everything that depended on a network or a computer would stop working right– or fail altogether. Within 3 hours, Ming estimated there would be utter chaos enveloping New York City and Washington, D.C – hence, the project’s name: Dual Chaos.

“Cease the attack after 24 hours,” the General instructed Ming, who nodded his acknowledgement of the order. Ming wondered what would happen to a former American lover who lived in New York. He did his best to force the thought out of his mind, but he kept seeing her face in his mind’s eye.

An Untold Story

Leigh Jacobson had been talking to her editor at the Capital Post when her cell phone suddenly stopped working. She was standing in line getting ready to withdraw some money from an ATM machine in the middle of the Pentagon City Mall, but the line had stopped moving and people were already rolling their eyes and cursing.

“The damn ATM is broken,” an Army Colonel announced as he stormed away from the front of the line. Suddenly, the lights in the Mall began to flicker and there was a collective hush among those in the upscale marketplace across the street from the Pentagon, located near the Potomac River.

“Looks like we might be losing power,” a young woman standing in front of Jacobson said, clearly as worried and curious about the situation as she was. Jacobson tried her cell phone again, but there was no signal. She had to pick her 5-year-old son up at daycare at 6 p.m., in less than two hours — and she needed some cash because she only had a couple of dollars on her.

The lights went out again, but this time there were some screams. “What’s going on, “she heard one man shout. “Is this some kind of terrorist attack?”

Just as he said this, the lights came back on dimly, and Jacobson decided to abort the ATM run and head for the Metro stop in the mall. But as she approached the stop, a crowd of people were milling around. “It’s not working,” a young man informed Jacobson. “The Metro’s is shut down. Look!” he said pointing to a car that had stopped in the middle of a track.

The conductor and some passengers were trying to pry open the doors. “Don’t panic and push up against us,” the conductor warned the throng of frightened passengers clustering behind him. “The door can be opened manually and you’ll all get off in a few minutes. Don’t panic. Be patient,” he appealed. A Metro police officer behind him put up his hand, signaling them to back off.

“Give them some room,” he said in a strong and reassuring voice. “It’s going to be O.K., folks.”

Jacobson turned around and by instinct headed for the nearest exit from the mall. On the sidewalk outside there were groups of bewildered people who were attempting to cross the street back to the Pentagon, only to be almost run over by cars going through dead traffic lights. All order was breaking down. A few MPs who had been having lunch at the mall started playing traffic cops, but many of the drivers ignored their directions. It appeared all of the unexpected power outages and lost communications were slowly building up into a crescendo of a full blown panic and chaos.

Jacobson clutched onto her laptop computer, the notes and emails she had been working on for the last six months were all on its hard drive. It was a story that would put her on the map and catapult her from a lowly online beat reporter to a super star the likes of the ancient Woodward and Bernstein. While all of the news today was video streamed and written into short iPhone ready blog posts, the story she had stumbled upon would leap frog her instantly onto the big-time sites and cable network shows.

What had started out as a few inquiries about a handful of no-bid Pentagon contracts had led her to the biggest story of her young life. The couple of million dollars for those contacts were just the tip of a clandestine iceberg hiding a gigantic black-op project in Nevada that was spending a hundred billion or more dollars a year – all off the books. Jacobson had the documentation to prove it, and more importantly, she had a source within the operation feeding her unbelievable information that would blow the top off of the CIA, NSA, the Pentagon and the White House.

“This unit, which is called “Righteous Wrath 000” is by no means rogue, her inside source explained to Jacobson in one of his emails to her. “It is official, sanctioned and signed-off on at the highest levels of government. Its sole purpose is to terminate those individuals who are deemed threats to the security of the United States, using the most advanced drone technology. All assassinations are approved by a secret committee that circumvents Congress and the White House. Elected officials are only brought into the loop on a need-to-know basis, usually after the fact.  This appears to be a mutual agreement negotiated between the ruling elite and the committee for legal and political reasons. Their motto is jokingly referred to by members of the operation as the rule of the three monkeys: the Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court. They see no evil, hear no evil — speak no evil,” the source’s email explained.

If what her source said could be proven, and he had promised to furnish “Top Secret“ documents that would do just that, this story would be bigger than “Watergate of Russia Gate” and ensure Jacobson and her son’s financial future as well as her place in the worldwide journalist’s hall of fame.

A loud horn blowing startled Jacobson as a Honda Civic pulled up to the curb. Jacobson looked and recognized her colleague from the Washington Herald, Harry Howard.  “Need a lift somewhere Leigh?” Howard asked looking concerned.

“Harry, yes… you’re a real life saver,” Jacobson said as she reached for the passenger’s handle. As she buckled up, Harry gunned his engine and barreled into the erratic traffic. The car radio was sputtering in and out, but the emergency broadcast was repeating the same monotone message.

“Please return to your homes in an orderly fashion. There are major power outages and communication problems as the result of a possible cyber-attack from unknown entities. Please return to your homes, stay calm and wait for further instructions.”

Howard turned up the volume and looked over at Jacobson. “They’ve been warning us that this could happen for years. Well, it looks as though they were right.” Jacobson gritted her teeth and nodded yes as she clutched onto her laptop. “Harry can you drive me to Arlington to pick up my son who is in day care?” she asked.

“Sure thing, Leigh,” Howard said, making a quick U-turn.

Twice divorced and in his mid-forties, Howard had nowhere and nothing else to do. Besides, chauffeuring Jacobson beat sitting alone in his tiny apartment writing another boring gossip column about the comings and goings at the Pentagon that no one would read except a handful of egotistical generals and their wives and girlfriends. Anyway, although he never let her know it, Howard had a major crush on Jacobson.

Big Apple on Fire

Johnny Seaford took a secure line from a Secret Service agent in his New York hotel luxury suite. As President Tennis’ advance man, he had come to New York 24 hours ahead to prepare the way for tonight’s campaign fundraiser, which had been canceled because of the power outages and communications break downs

The Secret Service had special channels that operated even during a nuclear attack, so Seaford, who was stuck on the 19th floor of the Biltmore, was one of the few people in the city who could communicate with the outside world. “What the fuck is going on down there,” Seaford screamed into the phone.

“Easy does it Johnny,” Mac Seal, the president’s chief of staff said trying to calm down his friend of 25 years. “They think it a cyber-attack by the Chicoms,” said Seal. “So far, it’s seems only to be aimed at New York and DC.”

“Jesus Christ,” now what? Seaford asked, rhetorically at the other end of the secure line. “Not only is the Goddamn stock market shut down, this fucking city is on fire,” he shouted, walking over to his huge penthouse window. “Everywhere I look I see small fires, and since there is no communications, fire trucks are not coming to put them out.”

“Yeah, we are getting reports on the ground of looting and small groups of people ransacking mid-town,” Seal said. “Hang in there Johnny; we got a helicopter on its way. It’s landing on the Biltmore’s roof ETA 5 minutes, and will soon bring you back here.”

“How are things down there?” Seaford asked, suddenly feeling like a balloon that had been punctured with all of its air streaming out.

“The President and his cabinet are secure in bunker Deep Pocket 1,” Seal replied. But the VP is stuck somewhere in Northern Virginia; we’re about to air lift him out of there.”

“And… What’s next? Seaford inquired.

“Johnny, you know what’s next. It’s an automatic,” Seal said in a matter-of-fact fashion.

Seaford paused and took a deep breath. “You mean “Project Retribution.”

“That’s right, Johnny, Project Retribution,” Seal whispered, cupping the secure phone to keep nearby Secret Service Agents from hearing him. “President Tennis signed off on it 20 minutes ago. It’s a go.”

 

Chapter 5 – Project Retribution

Sam Jenkins, the head of cyber warfare at the National Security Agency, had been ready to go home when his car was turned around at the west gate and he was informed about the cyber-attack against the Washington, D. C. area and New York City.

Two hours later he received orders to initiate “Project Retribution.” He had gone through so many exercises on this particular cyber counter attack that he could perform them in his sleep. Yet, he was a little jumpy because – after all – this was the real thing. Within 30 minutes of receiving a go every bootlegged American movie or music file downloaded by tens of millions of Chicoms, who sold them for profit throughout China would morph into the most destructive computer and network virus known to man. Not only would this secret, virulent virus immediately destroy every hard drive and network where it hid dormant, but it would multiply and spread to all known email addresses on these devices before it destroyed them. It was a lethal computer-destroying disease that could only be stopped by one known command – which even Jenkins wasn’t privy to.

This was only the first phase of Project Retribution. Phase two targeted all of China’s and North Korea’s nuclear installations and was designed to make them inoperable. Phase two, however, could only be initiated by a direct order of the President.

Jenkins prayed that he never received this order because that meant nuclear war was probably imminent. That’s because, once our enemies realized we were going to shut down their nukes, the fear was they might launch them immediately. As he monitored the first stages of Project Retribution, Jenkins couldn’t keep his eyes off of the picture of his wife, Alice and his two sons Sam and William that sat on his desk.

Street Vendor in Beijing

It was a slow morning in the street market in Beijing where Hang Ling Cho peddled the latest pirated U.S. videos, sometimes even before they were released stateside.

Cho had been flashing his wares under the noses of the People’s Liberation Guards, who left him alone for a few movies a week. They, like many of his other customers, would copy the movies to their PCs, because most of them would make copies for their friends and relatives. Others would become entrepreneurs and sell them for profit as Cho did. Although the Chinese government officially outlawed such rampant copyright violations, in reality they encouraged the trade and even benefited from the jobs such piracy created for peasants who otherwise might be up to no good.

America’s protests against copyright violations were seen as a minor annoyance, which was easily pacified by regularly orchestrated raids of street markets that were simply theatrics performed to make the Americans believe that their interests were being respected and protected. But nothing could be further from the truth. Cho knew something was wrong when he saw a hoard of people surround Yan Su, one of his competitors a block away. At first, Cho wondered what movie Su had managed to pirate before he had. But as he saw the crowd beat Su to the ground, he decided it was time for him to pack up his inventory and move on.

But before he could break down his small table, someone in the crowd was shaking his fist in Cho’s direction and the mob began to run toward him. Cho decided to abandon his inventory when the first brick shaved his cheek. But it was already too late. The second brick hit him squarely on the left temple, which knocked him to the ground. The last thing he saw was a club being swung toward his head. Cho didn’t live long enough to hear a man in the crowd scream out the reason for his quick execution. “You thieving dog. Your movies destroyed my computer and the computers of all of my family members… you son of a bitch – die!”

 

Chapter 6 – Operation Locust

It was 11 a.m. and Capt. Ames had just awoken and began to admire the perfect behind of his latest conquest, Jane Sweeney, a receptionist at the health club Ames had recently joined. But before he could explore her body with his hand, heavy pounding at his door made him reach instead under his bed for his 9 mm Glock. The noise startled Jane out of a deep sleep. “Who’s that,” she asked rubbing her eyes. Ames held his finger to his lips signaling her to be still.

Ames didn’t answer as he quickly hopped out of bed buck naked and threw on a nearby bath robe. Sweeney admired Ames cut physique as he tip-toed to the peek hole on his apartment door.

“Bang, bang, bang, bang.” the pounding on his door escalated.

Ames looked through the peep hole and saw to his dismay two young MPs from the base standing ramrod straight. “Hold on, I’m coming,” Ames called out. He put his handgun on a chair and unlatched the deadbolt.

“Capt. Ames, sir. We have orders to immediately escort you to your post, sir,” one of the two MPs shouted out in an excited staccato voice.

“Ok, ok. I got the message. Can you boys give me a couple of minutes to throw on my uniform?”

“Yes sir, Capt. Ames. But please make it fast, sir.”

Ames invited them in as Jane peeked around the bedroom door. She had already begun dressing and would soon hurry out the front door. Twenty minutes later Ames was sitting in a briefing room and had already been brought up to speed by his fellow drone aviators on the dual-city, Chicoms cyber-attack.  This didn’t really surprise Ames. After all, that’s the way of the world, tit for tat. It’s been that way since the beginning of time. But what did surprise Ames and the others in the room was when Maj. Wilson handed over the meeting to a civilian identified as only Mr. Ignatius, who was informally dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a black turtleneck sweater.

Ames could barely make out the letters on the credentials that hung around his neck, but he thought they read: “Above Majestic. –COSMIC” This was a clearance and an agency he had never heard of in his entire military career. This impressed Ames. Although he was apolitical and basically followed orders, he was always in awe when he found out something new existing in a system he often found boring. It gave him hope that his existence would end up being more than just the killing, screwing and eating humdrum it had become over the last five years.

“Gentlemen, as you know by now,” Ignatius said in a perfect London accent, “ that Washington, D.C and New York City have come under major cyber-attacks, which we have verified were initiated by the People’s Republic of China’s Cyber-Warfare Unit,” he paused for a moment in a theatrical move to underscore the seriousness of the situation. “This is clearly an act of war, and it remains to be seen just what kind of war it becomes,” Ignatius continued. “That will be up to us and how we respond to this direct threat to our National Security,” he paused, and then gulped down some water from an aluminum bottle he held in his right hand. Ignatius wiped off his mouth with the back of his hand and began to speak again.

“Now, we have already counter punched the Chicoms with a cyber-attack of our own, but, if you don’t already know it, our policy is not just to retaliate in kind – but to also retaliate with other assets at our disposal. Namely, gentlemen, we aim to teach the Chicoms a lesson about fucking with us that they won’t soon forget. That’s where you and Operation Locust come in to make sure that the message we send is crystal clear.”

The room was eerily silent. Even the most combat hardened drone operators knew this was deep shit.

“It is our hope that once the Chicoms see the error of their ways,” Ignatius continued, “ that they will cease and desist their cyber-attacks and be willing to negotiate with our government at the highest levels – in good faith.” again Ignatius paused for effect. If not, then we will be forced to take it to the next level,” he said grimacing, as though he said something he wasn’t supposed to say. He held his hand up in a stop motion. “Look forget I said that, gentlemen. Today, we will activate Operation Locust, which I am confident will bring the Chicoms to their senses.”

Mr. Ignatius then turned the briefing back to Maj. Wilson who began handing out sealed envelopes with coded messages to members of the drone squadron charged with the execution of Operation Locust. Ames went back to his station, tore open the envelope and immediately began typing his assigned password into his drone’s console. “Shin Buster 666.” was the code. Ames didn’t like the sound of it, and like many of the drone pilots, he was superstitious and really disliked the apocalyptic numerals 666. Within three seconds the mission scenario unfurled in front of him on his screen. His drone was one of 50 covertly buried several years ago in the jungle floors that surrounded the Panama Canal. His Slasher Combat Drone Model 255 had already fired up and dug itself out of its 8-foot-deep burrow and was waiting to be deployed.

Such dormant drone assets were buried in isolated areas all over the world near potential hot spots or places that might be contested by enemies of the United States within a decade or two. Ames was always impressed with the brains behind such strategic planning for these future-use deployments. As his Slasher came alive, Ames methodically went down a checklist and got his drone up to speed quickly, yet safely, and above all else covertly. It was crucial that a drone’s presence never be revealed prematurely. To do so could jeopardize the entire mission.

Once the Slasher, which resembled a crop-cutting machine camouflaged to blend in with the Panama rain forest, was active, the full operation was spelled out along with a time table. “At 1300 begin moving Slashers within 1 meter of barracks housing approximately 400 advisors from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and await further orders.”

“Holy shit,” Ames thought. “We’re getting ready to start a shooting war with whole Goddamn Chinese Army.”

Ames had read online that the United States had been uneasy about a Chinese military presence near the Panama Canal for years. But this was the first time he knew the extent of the Chicoms’ presence. It was obvious even to him that the Chicoms were looking to take control of the canal, which is a critical waterway that directly affects supply routes to the United States and the entire hemisphere. Many policy wonks had been arguing for years that this military deployment by the Chinese was a direct violation of the Monroe Doctrine and a quiet act of war against the United States. But politicians from both sides of the aisle had chosen to ignore the Chinese encroachment. After all, there were rumors that the Chinese had been handing out bags of cash for decades to help these politicians commit treason through inaction.

When 13:00 came, Ames focused his mind and became one with his drone. He moved his Slasher in unison with 49 others, stealthily avoiding any detection — although there was one close call when a Chicom sentry glanced in the direction of the sound of a broken branch. Ames shutdown immediately and didn’t move again until the sentry lit up a cigarette and started looking in the opposite direction.

By 14:00 all the drone Slashers were in place — totally surrounding the Chicom barracks. At 1401 Ames and the others got the following message. “Intelligence sensors have identified 347 enemy troops presently in or around the barracks. At 14:05 begin phase 2 of Operation Locust and terminate all humans and animals in the targeted area with extreme prejudice. Once the mission is completed self-destruct all participating Slasher drones.”

Blood Bath

Capt. Lu Fong at first thought he was seeing things as he watched a group of his men who had been playing soccer appear to fall to their knees. He also mistook the distorted grimaces on their faces as smiles and their screams as laughing over some group joke. But in both cases he was wrong. It was only when he saw a young soldier run toward the barracks with blood pumping out of a stump, which seconds before had been an arm, that Fong grabbed his assault rifle and began taking aim at the strange slashing machines that blended in perfectly with the terrain.

He and others simultaneously began firing away at these metal demons, but to no avail. Fong and many of the other still surviving officers watched in horror as their entire unit was slashed to pieces by these maniacal robots from Hell. Fong reached for a grenade, but before he could pull the pin, he felt a sharp pain in his right calf muscle and before he could blink an eye his blood was pumping out of an artery onto the wooden veranda just outside the entrance to the barracks. Ames’ drone had taken him down; his orders were to target all officers first, then terminate the enlisted men. For the first time ever, Ames began to feel disdain for what he was doing. This really surprised him, because he had thought of himself as a cool, detached warrior. But today, that all changed. In a split second, Ames reasoned that he had these feelings because it was the first time he had ever been assigned to assassinate ordinary grunts. In the past, it had always been identifiable bad guys who had either killed Americans, or were planning to do so in some spectacular way. In the case of the Chinese Premiere and other heads of states, they were always maniacal despots on the brink of starting World War III.

As Ames’ drone entered the barracks, something had been awakened deep inside of him. Maybe he wasn’t apolitical after all; maybe he had just been asleep. “Hold that thought,” he whispered to himself as his drone approached a young man that appeared to be still in his teen years. He had just been awoken by the escalating slaughter. Ames had him in his sights and began slashing him to pieces. He pulled off his earphones because he didn’t want to hear the piecing death scream of the young soldier. “What’s with you Ames,” Major Wilson asked, immediately picking up on his action.

“My ear is itching, sir, that’s all,” Ames answered, quickly scratching his right ear and then putting the earphone back on. The next 10 minutes where the longest in Ames short life. He and the other 46 still-operational Slasher drones butchered every living thing within the assigned perimeter. Once the Major confirmed the kills via on-site sensors relayed by satellites, he gave the self-destruct signal. Ames and all the other drone operators pressed their buttons and watched their screens go to black. “Job well done, men,” Maj. Wilson said in loud voice filled with false enthusiasm. There were no women in the unit. The last one resigned two months ago. Ames thought she made a big mistake then, but after what he had just experienced he viewed her as the smart one.

“Ok. Drone operators. Let’s get some dinner! Wilson said clapping his hands together loudly. The Major was acting like the head coach of a winning football team, Ames thought, instead of a leader of a team of grim reapers which he was. Ames felt light-headed. “Be right with you all,” he told his comrades, who were slapping each other on their backs and high-fiving it as they headed for the dining hall. “I got to go to the head.” Once inside Ames feel to his knees in front the toilet bowl and puked his guts out.

 

Chapter 7 – Temporary Arrangement

Jenkins had been the one to give General Ulysses Watkins, director of the NSA, the confirmation that the fierce and effective cyber-attack against the two American cities had in fact originated from the cyber-warfare center near Beijing. Although the United States had been caught with its pants down, Homeland Security with the help of NSA had already been able to block and neutralize the effects of the continuing attacks. About one-third of the power and communications in both the Washington, D.C. area and New York City had been restored. Emergency communications were up and running and power had been restored to hospitals, most of the downed power grids and all the key agencies in both cities. “We are going to teach these red bastards a lesson,” the General growled at Jenkins who held his breath waiting for his orders. “I want you to initiate phase 2 of Project Retribution…, Watkins said, but stopped when he saw the color drain from Jenkins’s face.

 

“Hold on, son,” “let me finish,” Watkins’ voice softened. “I’m not ordering you to initiate phase 2 across the board. I’m authorizing you to initiate phase 2 on North Korean nuclear assets only – for now. Do you understand? North Korean assets only.”Jenkins, exhaled strongly. “Yes, sir,” he said, sounding relieved. “I can initiate a limited phase 2 right now,” he took his secure i-Pad from his lap and typed in the coded order.

“Good,” the General said. “Let’s see if the Chicoms get our hint before we pull the plug on their nukes as well.”

Jenkins took a handkerchief from his pocket and carefully wiped off the sweat dripping from his brow.

The Reappraisal

President Chow listened solemnly as three debriefers from Cyber-Warfare headquarters reported to him the estimated American casualties caused directly or indirectly by Dual Chaos thus far. “We estimate about 123 deaths in Washington, D.C. and another 236 in New York City, less than we anticipated,” said Dr. Foo Yung

“Did you estimate the 347 men we lost in the Panama Canal in your calculations,” Dr. Yung, Chow asked pointedly.

“No, we didn’t, Mr. President,” Yung answered. “But in any venture there are always unknown factors – especially in war.”

Chow hated that word, war. It chilled his bones. He had seen firsthand the ravages of war during his service as a young border guard. He knew that there was always an unexpected blowback during times of war. As an atheist, he didn’t believe in divine retribution, but as a practical Communist he knew there was such a thing as material karma. And he was beginning to see it working against him and his country’s interests. “And there is something else, Mr. President,” Yung said, as though he was trying to hold back his words.

“Yes. What is it,” Chow snapped clearly irritated by Yung’s coy actions.

“Five minutes before this meeting I got an emergency call from my North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang…

“Yes? So? Chow cocked his head as if in disbelief.

“Well, it appears the Americans have somehow shut down their nuclear power plant and their entire inventory of defensive nuclear missiles.”

For a second, Chow thought he was in the middle of a nightmare. He felt like someone had slapped his face hard. “So, Dr. Yung, do we know how this was done?” Chow asked in a controlled, soft voice.

“Unfortunately, Mr. President, we do not,” Yung replied.

“And is it fair to assume if the Americans can shut down our ally’s nuclear missiles, they can also shut down ours?” Chow asked in a whisper.

“I am afraid the answer is yes, Mr. President,” Yung said, staring down at his feet.

“Well, then. There really are very limited options for us, wouldn’t you agree, Dr. Yung?

“I really can’t comment on that Mr. President. That is your venue, sir,” Yung responded, looking at Chow sheepishly.

“Get out,” Chow shouted, losing control for a rare moment. “You all make me sick.”

The three scurried out of the room and Chow turned to a corner chair where General Kal Cheng, the chief of the Cyber-War unit sat silently tapping the top of his hat, which he had sitting in his lap. “So, what do we do now, General?” Chow asked more like a bewildered son to a father than a superior to a subordinate.

“We negotiate,” were the two words Cheng uttered.

“Are you serious? Negotiate? The Americans have the power to shut down our only guarantee that they don’t wipe us off the face of the earth and you say negotiate?”

“Yes, Mr. President. If the Americans had wanted to annihilate the Peoples’ Republic of China they could have done it already. They are not run by madmen like our beloved and late Premier Lo,”

Cheng paused for a second and then continued.

“At least not now. No, they eliminated him, so they would not have to go to war with us. They believe they have far more to lose by going to war than we do. They are soft, Lo was correct about that. The Americans want to milk us dry, but we won’t let them,” Cheng paused, making sure that Chow understood the meaning of his words.

“Please, go on… “Chow said, intently hanging on to Cheng’s every word.

“They are sending us a message. The message is: ‘We want to negotiate. We can work things out. Otherwise, we would not be having this conversation. We would have already been dust.”

“So, we stop our cyber-attacks unilaterally and ask for a meeting?” Chow blurted out, clearly unsure of himself.

“No, my president,” Cheng said, slowly putting his general’s hat on. “We continue the attacks, but we call in the American ambassador and tell him we know about the assassination of our beloved premier and explain that is why we took the action we did. We then tell the ambassador, unofficially, that we understand the concern the Americans had about Lo, and that some of the members of our politburo had the same concerns. We then suggest negotiations on equal footing. We add that once they agree to the negotiations, all cyber-attacks will cease. – as will the Americans’ hostile actions. We also say it serves no purpose for either of us to make public the private grievances we have between us, nor the scrimmages resulting from them.”

Chow smiled for the first time in days. “Do it,” General,” he ordered.

The general bowed his head and replied, looking Chow straight in the eyes. “Remember, we will not always be in this position.” Mr. President. “I consider it merely a temporary arrangement.” With that, Cheng half smiled, turned and left the room.

 

Chapter 8 – Stand down

President Tennis listened intently as John Wilson, the head of the CIA, explained the actions that had already been taken without the President begin asked to sign off. “The authority for the Assassination of the Premier and the Chinese troop terminations were given to the committee by provisions in executive order 1984GO, which your predecessor signed in 2018” Wilson explained in a matter-of-fact way.

“But, we’re talking about the Goddamn preemptive assassination of a head of state here,” interrupted Tennis’ Chief of Staff Mac Seal.

Wilson glanced over at Presidential Seal, but ignored the question. He continued:  “After consulting with his legal counsel, Mr. President, your predecessor came to the conclusion that if a president directly participated in the decision-making phase of the kind of actions that are necessary in this age of terrorism and cyber-war, he might find himself in violation of international war and subject to trial in the International Court, or possibly impeached by hostile partisans,” Wilson said. “In addition, these life and death decisions to protect the security of the United States cannot wait for a consensus – or being weighed against an infinite number of political considerations. Executive order 1984GO offered the perfect solution: the ability to act quickly and the legal and political cover needed for the executive branch to maintain its plausible deniability.”

“I see,” Director Wilson “I see,” Tennis said holding his hands in front of him as though he were praying.

“Now, Mr. President, let me point out, that you do have the Constitutional power to rescind this order, but I would advise you against doing so as I have advised Congress against going through the archaic and timely ritual of declaring war. These actions are just no longer viable options.”

Tennis began to fidget at this point and brought the conversation back to where he was more comfortable. “So, what are we going to do about the Chicom cyber-attack?” he asked Wilson.

“We are setting up a team of negotiators as we speak,” Wilson explained in a calm and reassuring voice. “They are professional diplomats who are intimately familiar with both the issues and the players, sir. The Chinese want more oil; well we can work that out with some of our friends in the Middle East. Meanwhile, we keep building our reserves, developing our cyber and drone assets and within a decade, it won’t matter what the Chinese want or don’t want, Mr. President,“ Wilson said, tightening the knot on his club tie.

“You’re more of an optimist than I,” Mr. Wilson, Tennis said, rubbing his hands together like a man who was sitting out in the raw cold. “What am I to tell the American people about the cyber-attack? “Tennis asked, looking sideways at his chief of staff.

“Mr. President, we already have a cover narrative that says the cyber-attacks were the work of a handful of rogue hackers, who are essentially nut case anarchists,” Wilson explained. “No one knows about the Chinese causalities in Panama, and the Chicoms have already publically blamed the deaths of their men on horrible munitions accident. Believe me, sir, they want to sweep these incidents under the carpet, so to speak, as much as we do,” Wilson, said.

“Very well, Wilson,” Tennis spoke with his voice trailing off. Let’s put it to rest.”

 

Chapter 9 – Cover Story

Leigh Jacobson sat in her warm apartment and had just finished helping her son finish his homework when the phone rang. It was a call from her editor, Mike Johnson, who wanted to know if any of her sources at the Pentagon had any information on the cyber-attack, which had ceased as quickly as it had started just 10 hours ago. “At first there were rumors that the Chinese might be behind it, but now, the consensus is that it was simply a small group of disruptive hackers who get a big charge out of shutting systems down,” Jacobs explained. “Most of them are wild-eyed anarchists, I’m told.”

“It figures that this whole thing was concocted by a group of techno-malcontents,” Johnson replied.

“But, Mike, don’t despair. I’m working on something very, very big,” Jacobson said.

“We could really use something big, Leigh – especially now. What is it?”

“Listen, Mike, you have to trust me on this. This story is so big I don’t want to talk about it on the phone. Can we meet at your office tomorrow afternoon at about 4 p.m.?  There was a slight pause at the other end of the line. “Of course we can,” Johnson responded, his voice filled with excitement. “You have really piqued my interest.”

Jacobson hung up and turned on her laptop, so she could edit and compile all her notes on Righteous Wrath 000.

The Test

Word soon spread throughout the Nevada compound of the victory scored by the cyber operators of Righteous Wrath and how the Chicoms had crumbled to their knees, but Ames was tired and wasn’t in the mood for celebrating. In a few hours, they would switch back to their peacetime schedules and Ames began to envision himself on top of his latest, greatest girl. But as his mind sought some relief from the last few hours or intense combat, he was brought back to reality by the touch of a hand on his shoulder. It was Maj. Wilson.

“Capt. Ames, you got a minute?” the Major said opening the door to his office.

To Ames surprise, Mr. Ignatius was sitting behind the Major’s desk.

“Sit down, Capt. Ames, please. We’d like a couple of minutes of your time to discuss something very important,” Ignatius said, in a voice and manner that reminded Ames of the undertaker he dealt with when he buried his mother last year.

“Sure sir. Not a problem,” Ames said, gritting his teeth as he sat in the chair in front of the desk. The Major kept standing and folded his arms, making it clear that Ignatius was in charge.

“Do you know this woman,” Ignatius asked, as he pulled a photograph of Leigh Jacobson from a brown folder sitting on top of the desk in front of him.

Ames took the photo of Jacobson from Ignatius’ hand and carefully looked at it. The girl was about 35 years old and quite attractive. “I wish I did know her, sir” Ames said. “But, I’m sorry to say I don’t. “

Ignatius stared deeply into Ames’ eyes as though he was trying to read his mind. “It’s good, son, that you don’t know her. Because someone in this unit does and they’ve been passing her classified information about our unit and what we do here,” Ignatius said, his voice trembling with indignation.

“Well, sir, I don’t know her,” Ames said, as he started to rise.

“Whoa, wait a minute, Capt. Ames. We’re not finished just yet,” Ignatius said, softening his tone. Ames looked over to Maj. Wilson, who simply said, “Hear him out, Roger.”

Ames sat back down in the chair.

“Capt. Ames, there are two traitors in this scenario, the mole inside Righteous Wrath and this reporter,” Ignatius said. “Unfortunately we don’t know who the mole is yet, but we do know where the girl is and we have already moved assets within striking distance.” Ames got a sick feeling in his stomach and his instincts didn’t like the direction in which this conversation was going.

“Maj. Wilson tells me you’re the best man he has in his entire drone unit. Isn’t that so, Major? Ignatius asked.

“That’s very much so,” Wilson replied for Ames in a trumped-up way.

“Well then, Capt. Ames. I’d like to give you first crack at a mission that could spell a promotion and six months leave if you accept it and complete it tonight,” Ignatius said, smiling like a jackal.

Ames’ ears perked up for a second or two, but once again his common sense knew there was a mighty big catch that he hadn’t been told about yet.

“What’s the mission, sir?” Ames asked.

“The same as it always is, son. You are to eliminate a major threat to the security of the United States,” he said, pushing the photo of the Jacobson in front of Ames. “Eliminate this traitor with extreme prejudice, “Ignatius said putting his finger on Jacobson’s face. The information she wants to release to the public will do grave damage to the assets and security of the United States,” Ignatius said, in a voice that reminded Ames of the hiss of a snake.

Ames reflectively jumped out of the chair, recoiling from Ignatius. “She’s a United States citizen doing her job as a journalist – are you crazy? “ Ames shouted, not knowing where the words were coming from. “If you got a problem with the material leaked to her then go through the proper legal channels and have a court stop its publication,” Ames said, finding words he had forgotten since he took civics classes in high school.

Ignatius looked over at Maj. Wilson and they both broke out in a big belly laughs. “We really had you going, didn’t we son,” Ignatius said, stepping from behind the desk and slapping Ames on the back. A confused Ames looked at the Major with a bewildered look on his face.

“That’s right Roger, it was just a test – and you passed with flying colors. Now, go home and get yourself some rest.”

Ames just shook his head in disbelief and exited the office. When his shift ended, a tired Ames walked to his red Camaro, opened the door, started the engine and drove up to the gate. Ames saluted the sentry and said good night as he drove off the base, looking forward to a drink and good, night’s sleep.  It was now about 1 a.m. and the Nevada desert was cold, so he rolled up his window. Ames didn’t notice the fly on the back window of his car, and didn’t even realize that Ignatius and the Major were not kidding about the assignment he turned down until he felt the prick on the back of his neck and his car crashed into a telephone pole at 70 miles per hour. The local authorities would write off Ames’ death off to the natural conclusion of a reckless,  young Air Force hot shot that had a long history of speeding, which had caused his license to be suspended twice.

Back at the base, Ames relief drone officer Capt. Tompkins Wood had just activated the fly on the wall of Leigh Jacobson’s apartment. She had gone to the bathroom and Wood took the opportunity to fry her laptop’s hard drive by injecting it with a high voltage surge from the drone fly’s stinger. He hated to do this, but to turn down the mission would made him suspect as it had Ames. And besides, he was the mole inside Righteous Wrath, and there would be other opportunities to expose the operation to some other willing and ambitious reporter. His mission was more important than the loss of two innocent lives.

Just then, Jacobson came out of the bathroom and realized that something had gone wrong with her laptop. But before she could get worked up, Wood landed the drone fly on the back of her neck and bid her farewell.

Also read: The Nirvana Project (Flash Fiction)

© 2018 Chet Dembeck



Categories: Future Trends, Flash Fiction

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