Authors: Bruno Flexer
By Bruno Flexer
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright 2010 Bruno Flexer
First Kindle Edition 2010
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce in whole or in part in any form.
Cover design and overall publication design by Bruno Flexer and Eyal Davidi.
Day 52 after Earth Barrier Breach.
NSA HQ, Fort Meade, Maryland, United States.
Andrew Pearsons entered the instrument-filled office and grabbed Robert Thorpe’s arm.
“Come on,” he said.
“What? Who? Where?” Thorpe stammered.
“Let’s go. There’s something you’ve got to see.”
“Oh, no! I’ve heard that one before!” Thorpe said, backing away and waving his hands in protest. Pearsons tightened his hold and dragged Thorpe on his wheeled office chair.
“Okay, okay! Easy on the bruises, man!” Thorpe whined. He got up and they left the office together, but Thorpe darted back in a moment later and dug through a stack of unread department memos to find his green NSA ID card.
The two men walked side by side, passing through several security doors.
“Geez, you’d think having a new office all to myself would make life quieter, but anyone can just barge in. I might as well be back in my old cubicle,” Thorpe said. There was no response from the man walking beside him.
Thorpe tried again.
“All my life I’ve tried to hide from the eyes of authority. My schoolteachers never knew my name. My college professors never knew I existed. And most importantly, my bosses never knew I was here. And now, thanks to you, I’m famous. Do you have any idea how complicated you’ve made my life?” Silence. Thorpe glanced at Andy and then looked around. The long, seemingly endless corridors were deserted and ominously quiet, making the neon lights seem colder than ever. The two men’s footsteps echoed loudly above the soft hum of the air-conditioning. Thorpe glanced at Andy again.
“Even The Man popped in a few days ago, stayed for five minutes and left. I had to turn the heating up to maximum for the rest of the day and it was still freezing inside my office,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe looked closely at the man walking besides him. Andy, as usual, was wearing a suit, but his tie was loose and the collar of his well-ironed shirt wasn’t as straight as always.
“Andy, you all right? You look kind of pale.”
Again, there was no reply.
They entered the department’s large TV room and Thorpe looked at the scene in amazement. Usually the room was empty; everyone feared meeting The Man inside and having to explain why they were watching TV instead of working. This time, however, it seemed that most of the department was here. Anyone who hadn’t managed to grab a spot on the not-too-comfortable sofas was standing at the back of the room, watching CNN on the ten-foot-wide LCD display wall.
An NSA analyst burst into the room. “We have an eye witness report—an American tourist south of London!” He grabbed two men and they ran off.
Next the intercom sounded: “Ron, state briefing in half an hour.” A few agents left the room after the call.
Thorpe turned his attention to the news program and frowned. The petite brunette anchorwoman was talking, but she seemed to be hesitating, improvising. The large red ‘CNN Breaking News’ label was blinking on screen, while the scrolling news bar at the bottom of the display read “Multiple Explosions in London—Possible Terrorist Attack.”
“As of now, we have no reports of casualties. We do have many unconfirmed reports of explosions all over London, suggesting there may be significant civilian losses. We - umm - are still obviously checking on it, but all communication with the capital of the United Kingdom seems to have been cut off. We are also getting new reports of a large number of people escaping London, but we can’t confirm this information yet.” The anchorwoman stopped talking and put her hand to her ear.
“Actually, let’s go live to Dave Lawrence. Dave?” The screen split and a somewhat disheveled young man appeared, holding a microphone.
“Atlanta? Can you hear me? Atlanta?”
“Dave? We hear you,” she said.
“Atlanta? Are you -? Okay. We are on the shoulder of the M1 motorway, a few miles north of London. We’ve stopped near the intersection with the M25 London Orbital. One hour ago all communications with London failed. We have many conflicting reports, but it’s clear something is going on, though we don’t know what. A while ago I heard a few explosions coming from my right, from the city. We also heard some kind of high pitched whistling or streaking sounds I was unable to identify.”
“Dave? Dave? We heard that people are fleeing from London and its surroundings. Can you confirm this?”
“Yes, Kelly. All four lanes of the M1 motorway are jammed. You can see behind me the motorway itself. It seems that every car, bus and truck is on the road leaving London, and they are all packed full with people.”
“What can you tell us about the city itself?” the anchorwoman asked. The reporter turned to his right and Thorpe leaned closer to the display wall.
“We can see the northern London boroughs of Harrow and Barnet from here. Black smoke is rising over the city from several locations. Two buildings are on fire. I think that’s the NatWest tower over there. It suffered extensive damage to its top floors.”
“Dave, we are getting an update from our offices in Scotland. They can’t raise Bill Sheridan or any of our people in London. The cellular and the telephone exchanges have failed.”
“Yes, and we had a problem with our satellite link as well. When we tried to get closer to the city we couldn’t get a lock on a communications satellite. That’s why we are transmitting some distance away from the city.” The reporter paused. Muffled explosions could be heard, slowly fading away.
“Are you getting this? Can you hear it?” The camera hastily panned over to the city. The city was a distant, hazy white blur, obscured by carefully tended trees on the roads leading into London. Several of the tallest buildings appeared as vague rectangular objects, but the thick plumes of smoke pouring out of the city were clearly visible. “More explosions are coming from the city. I can’t see what’s causing them.”
“Dave, are you safe there? Dave?”
“I don’t think we’re in danger here. We are still several miles away from the city. Kelly, as I was saying, we just heard several more explosions. I think I - I don’t hear them anymore.” The camera panned across the city again, the image a little shaky. A cloud covered the city. Though it was hard to discern over the long distance, it appeared to be a low-hanging fog or haze that was casting a strange shadow over the city. The cloud appeared to be growing and spreading, slowly creating an opaque dome.
“Dave, we are now getting something. BBC radio is telling people to stay out of London. They are asking everyone to stay calm, but anyone who can should leave London. We’re also getting a report about United Airlines. Planes are being diverted from Gatwick and Heathrow to alternate airports. No reason is given.” The anchorwoman removed her hand from her ear.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation in London in this special breaking news broadcast. We’ll now repeat what we know so far for our viewers who are just joining us.”
Thorpe watched the CNN broadcast, eyes wide open. The rest of the NSA personnel in the room were as awestruck as he was. People were rushing in and out of the room, whispering urgently, filling the room with a low hum. Everywhere Thorpe looked he saw pale faces and frightened expressions.
“This all began half an hour ago,” Andy said in a dead monotone. “We have some independent confirmation. State called us and asked if we know something about it. The British sure as hell don’t know anything. Langley can’t get through to their boys there. It’s the Radio Blanket effect all over again, no doubt about it. No radio, no satellite, no electromagnetic broadcast can get in or out. The telephone exchanges are all dead; no one can use any landline in or out of the city.” Thorpe barely took notice.
Agent Mathew walked into the room, shouldering his way through the agitated agents. The big African-American agent appeared, as usual, to be stuffed into his too-small suit. Thorpe always wondered if this was intended to make people notice his muscular physique. Agent Mathew’s closely shaved scalp gleamed and his eyes glinted. He raised his hands.
“Okay, people! We're going to put our plans into effect. We have the first brigade combat team from the 101st airborne loading and it will be taking off in six hours from Fort Campbell. Four squadrons of Apaches from the 229 Aviation Regiment are being prepped for transport on C-5s, and a task force from the Sixth Fleet is already on its way. We need to give them enemy disposition and strength, and also a preliminary target assessment.
“We’re also getting reports of heightened activity near the Sudanese and Egyptian borders. And the situation in Colorado and Russia can also change any minute. The Man wants to see the department chiefs in fifteen minutes. You too, Thorpe! This is what we’ve been training for. Go, go, go!” With that, the big agent turned on his heels and left, followed by some of the people who had been in the room.
Thorpe looked at the departing agent morosely and held his bandaged left hand tightly, as if afraid to let go.
“When you don’t know what to do, shout as hard as you can. Typical military thinking,” Thorpe muttered, shaking his head.
Agent Graham entered the room, straightened his suit and looked around. The diminutive man smiled gently. People smiled back at him and waved hello. Some of the room’s chaos was quelled by his presence. “We have a KH11 pass in two hours. An asset is on the way to the scene, ETA one hour. We made contingency plans, people. Worst case scenarios. We knew this was coming and we know what to do. Come on, let’s do this, people.” The agent left the room, followed by most of the remaining NSA personnel.
Thorpe took advantage of the nearly vacant room and took a seat in the center, facing the display wall. He barely noticed Ellis sitting next to him, wearing sneakers, baggy pants and a sweater, blatantly ignoring the agency’s dress code. She looked at Thorpe while the red-haired young man watched the CNN broadcast.
“CNN will keep you posted as events unfold in the capital of the United Kingdom. And now, Gordon Horowitz is back with us again. Gordon is our analyst who handles security matters with us at CNN. Gordon, I know you’re back in Washington and I know you’ve been listening for the last fifteen minutes. Can you give us your perspective there, half a world away?”
The analyst appeared, a heavyset man in his late fifties. He smiled.
“Yes, Kelly. What we are experiencing now is the principle of uncertainty, what we call the fog of war. Information is scarce at first, but a clearer picture should emerge in a few hours. The British government sent out its evacuation warning because civilians are usually the first victims of an attack like this.”
“Gordon, can we assume that this is a terrorist attack?”
“Well, it’s too early to tell. If this is a terrorist attack we should see things move along fairly quickly. We should see demands and declarations. Terror fights its wars on the battlefield of public opinion.”
“Well, do you think it is a terrorist attack, Gordon?”
“I’m not sure, Kelly. Based on the information we have so far, the attack is widespread. Coordinating an attack this big is very difficult. This may be much bigger than 9/11.”
“Then, can we call it a terrorist attack?”
“Like I said, it’s too early to tell. It might be an industrial accident or a natural disaster. I’m sure details will become available soon.”
“Thank you, Gordon. And now Dave is back with us. Dave Lawrence is near the scene, outside of London. Dave, what is happening now?”
“The police are forming a barricade near us. I think they tried to move closer to the city, but they lost radio contact, same as we did. Umm - here are some people who have stopped next to us, looking at London, probably tourists.”
Thorpe saw the camera briefly pan over five or six people who were standing next to two cars, and were pointing their cellular phones at London, filming and taking pictures. One teenager saw the television camera pointing at him and waved enthusiastically at the viewers.
“What can you tell us about the situation now?”
“You can see it now on camera. The amount of traffic is fantastic; tens of thousands of cars are all leaving the area in endless columns. We tried talking to the police earlier, but they don’t know a whole lot more than we do. But I can tell you this, Kelly. They are taking this seriously. We - wait! There’s something over the city. Let’s try to catch it on camera. There, can you see it?”
“Dave, umm-... we’re not sure what it is.”
“Kelly - it - it’s - it looks like a -"
The camera zoomed in and out repeatedly, the video shaking, but it was clear something moved through the clouds above London, causing a long disruption in the clouds like a shark moving through water. Thorpe sat up straighter, a cold feeling gripping his insides.
Suddenly Thorpe gripped the sofa. Something poked out of the clouds, rising above them, impossibly tall.
“There! There! Do you see it?” The reporter yelled. A great, dark blue object emerged, vaguely triangular, like an immense triangular wing.
“Kelly, we are now seeing something emerge out of the clouds above London. We are not sure what we’re seeing, but it definitely -” The reporter stopped talking.
The bow of a huge ship appeared, cutting through the black clouds. The cameraman’s hand began shaking, blurring the images. There was a long silent moment. The ship swung completely out of the cloud.