Diane Sawyer of CBS News had been a member of Richard Nixon’s White House staff and had also served President Ford during the transition before accepting her current position as a television news reporter. Ford thinks very well of her, and CBS had hired Sawyer precisely for this warm relationship with the President and her other contacts in the Administration. But flying down to tropical Antigua with a small support team, Sawyer finds that this island of a hundred thousand people just thirty miles south of Barbuda was as close as any member of the media could get to the combat, no matter who they are or how impressive their credentials might be.
Barbuda is well over the horizon except for an indistinct sliver of green that was the top of the largely uninhabited and wooded central plateau but a great deal of black smoke rises into the air over the island from many fires, and this the Ford administration cannot hide. Through extreme telephoto lenses much footage has been shot of military helicopters and aircraft flying in front of those columns of smoke, firing rockets and streams of rounds with tracers.
Sawyer seems resigned to accepting this state of affairs until a woman approaches her.
Miss Sawyer, my name is Dory, and I am the third-ranking member of the Church of Green Dome. What would you say if I offered to get you and any two other people of your choosing to the combat zone on Barbuda?
A round trip, I presume?
If all goes well. Naturally there are risks, this being a war and all, but you’re a journalist so you already know the drill.
How do you propose to carry out this offer, Miss Dory?
With a stealth-mode variant of a standard Church of Green Dome aircraft, but I have to warn you right now that when you first see it you will think this is a terrible practical joke.
And let me guess: you expect to be paid for this little trip, right?
Money? Heavens no, Miss Sawyer. The only thing that I ask is that you keep the passengers down to three, including yourself, and that you do not use lights when you shoot your footage. The, ah, aircraft has lots of windows and you will greatly improve our chances of making this a truly round trip if you stick to night-vision photography.
Your offer is intriguing, Miss Dory. I don’t seem to have much choice. But I will need an hour or two to arrange for the equipment.
Make it three hours, Miss Sawyer. We shall need to go in under cover of darkness.
When Sawyer sees the flying saucer she grew very angry and almost called the whole thing off, thinking it to be an elaborate joke. Her outburst kicks off the filmed portion of the reporting. Then she remembers how Dory had warned her reaction would be precisely that.
I assure you, Miss Sawyer, we will be over Barbuda twenty minutes after you and your crew get on board.
Helicopter, huh? So why did you go with a saucer?
Sometimes we gotta fly in daylight. Somebody sees us, even take a picture, nobody’s going to believe it. They’ll think they tossed a hubcap in the air and snapped that. But for this war, no, we only come out at night.
For a helicopter Sawyer found the ride to be remarkably smooth and quiet, and this pinged her natural curiosity as a reporter.
What do you use for power?
It’s a bit complicated and technical, but we have a thing called a macro that allows us to convert matter, such as the air over the roof of the aircraft, into a form that no longer interacts with light, only with gravity. The molecules of air are turned into sub-atomic particles that slip away under the surface of the Earth. This creates a partial vacuum over the saucer, and that in turn creates lift. You see the result.
Okay, but that doesn’t really answer my question. Where does this macro you speak of get its power?
It’s simple, really, it gets it from what it eats. We can do a selective conversion, just make the electrons go away from some of the air, leave the nuclei intact. That makes a charge gradient, positive and negative, right? Then we have a flow of electricity.
They are flying over the waters around Barbuda now. Sawyers cameraman captures a shot of one of the Navy’s ten amphibious assault carriers assigned to Operation Caribbean Rage. This shot is in the monotone shades of green of a low-light camera setup. A helicopter could be seen landing on the deck.
How many of these flying saucers do you have?
Hundreds of them, Mr. Sawyer, and most of them are in the air over Barbuda tonight. In fact, if the Navy could see how many of us were aloft right now, they wouldn’t dare to bring the Eisenhower anywhere near the island.
What about the Richard M. Nixon?
If the Navy could see our saucers the Eisenhower wouldn’t dare to come near the island because of what already happened to the Nixon.
The President said the Nixon was being relieved by the Eisenhower.
I suppose that’s true in a manner of speaking. The Nixon has been sent to Davy Jones Locker so guess they needed to bring in the Ike to take over.
You’re saying the USS Richard Nixon has been sunk? An American aircraft carrier is gone?
That’s exactly what I’m saying. Four nights ago. The President didn’t think it was important enough to mention it to you in your interview, did he? But that’s a billion dollars down the toilet and five thousand American sailors. Those five thousand men with mothers and fathers, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends who will be waiting for their loved ones to come home and they’re never coming home. That’s something President can’t cover up forever. Now he wants to bring in the Ike and make the butcher’s bill ten thousand sailors, and for what? For an island too rocky to plant anything bigger than a garden with two thousand people too poor to buy the clothes they sew in their little huts converted to sweatshops.
Dory did a pass over the beaches of Barbuda, showing the collapsed trenches in the sand where one of three successive attempts by Marines to make an amphibious assault on the island had failed miserably. The town of Codrington, with about a thousand people, had no building still standing larger than a hovel, the result of one of the most intense air campaigns in American history.
The word on the street is that the Navy is about to make a fourth attempt somewhere, maybe on the east side of the island. Exactly where the hammer will fall is a secret, but it doesn’t matter, the whole island is so rotten with passages it makes the tunnel rats of North Korea look like amateurs. Macros responsible once again, I’m afraid. From the chatter were hearing on the radio the Marines haven’t pulled out a completely intact body yet. Lots of little pieces though. This is going to be like Iwo Jima squared.
Perhaps the President will bring in an army airborne division and bypass the beach.
Well, as you already know, Mr. Sawyer the President found another job for those fellas guarding the White House. We hear some SEALs are sneaking around somewhere on Barbuda, though, and a few Marines are here and there dropped by helicopter but we are keeping them busy too. Unfortunately for the US side Hunky is here as well. So we hear the phrase Charlie Foxtrot passed around on the radio a lot.
The flying saucer lands in the jungle of the Barbuda plateau near the outskirts of Codrington. Dory asks Sawyer, her cameraman, and her producer to help her cover the aircraft with large banana leaves, then she lead them through the jungle to the nearest house. From an upstairs balcony Sawyer and his crew set up their camera to overlook the carnage going on in the town below. This was more coverage than anyone had managed to achieve over the entire operation. Sawyers producer sets up a satellite dish to upload what he has already recorded on the flight over and to establish a live feed for Sawyer to do a special report.
Downstairs Hunky arrives at the house and embraces Dory passionately.
The second carrier is almost here but we’re on it.
There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the amount of pain Ford is willing to take, does there?
You got Sawyer upstairs?
Yep, and she’s going out live. More pain for President Jerry.
I expect they’ll be able to zero in on this house from the images she broadcasts. We’ll have to be ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Check, I’ll wait for the first commercial break and let Sawyer know.
Love ya, babe.
The response comes in about an hour and it was just Marines, nothing serious like Rangers or SEALs. Sawyer goes with Dory then, walking down a narrow underground macro-carved tunnel with her cameraman and producer, and they set up operations in the empty house next door and aim their cameras at the first house through a window. The Marines didn’t bother with this second house because they thought they already cleared it.
Soon a Marine knocked on the front door of the first house and it is answered by Hunky, who throws out something in Spanish. The Marine tells her to gather what she needs and evacuate the house immediately.
No choice. This is mandatory.
In reply Hunky slams the door shut and throws the matrix of deadbolts shut with a single snick.
Six defenders of the house, through gun slits on the top floor, drop two Marines in the yard. Automatic gunfire is returned, pocking every side of the house and shattering glass. Tear gas canisters merely bounce back out the windows, having hit plate steel behind deceptively lit Venetian blinds.
Covered by a hail of suppressing fire, more Marines in body armor make their way to the front door with a battering ram and began trying to bash their way in through a thick metal door deceptively painted like oak and reinforced with carbon steel jambs. They work until they are exhausted and put nary a dent in the door.
The Marine lieutenant in charge of this platoon pulls his boys back. Hunky doesn’t give the Marines any time to get set up whatever heavy response they are contemplating next. She leads a surprise attack out of the house right away. And since the members of the Church of Green Dome can never truly die, they are the most fierce warriors who ever lived. Additionally, it is attractive young women who were pouring out of the house, which made the men of the Marine platoon instinctively hesitate to fight them.
Aurelia bought it right away in a three-shot burst from Corporal Castle. Then Private Johnson picks off Jo, a nineteen year-old still in training. By this time, a volley of knives went up from the Church of End Dome side.
These were not ordinary knives. They had an arming switch. Immediately after leaving the thrower’s hand a sensor detected free fall and ignites a small solid rocket in the handle. An infrared detector in the hilt zooms in on body heat. It is basically a model rocket with a bayonet fixed to it, deliberately blunted to prevent the thing from passing clean through the victim. After burying itself in the victim, the rocket motor burns right up inside the magnesium alloy blade, starting an unquenchable metal fire right inside the person’s body. Only after the entire blade burnedwould the fire go out. Water only made it burn hotter, and the flame rips its required oxygen from the fellow’s own body tissues.
One blade closes in on Castle in tightening spirals and another was distracted from its intended target to follow the more attractive engine heat of the first one. Two class Delta fires for Castle then. The pain is vast, like being scraped under the foot of a giant with blue-hot soles. He can only scream God help me! and his prayers are answered, because the twin burning blades finish him with great haste.
Hunky is the one who flung that first blade. Her next blade went out and found Johnson.
Sondra was a two-fisted knife thrower. The left hand took out Sergeant Hervey, the right hand blade sailed out toward a cocksure rookie. Hervey saw the deadly thing snaking toward him and tried to shoot it down, but all he achieved was a burst of stray bullets tearing into Sondra.
As she dies, Sondra’s final memories are uploaded to the Swarm via a neutrino link. Lieutenant Atkins dies under a more regular blade from Olivia. His actual cause of death, she later reported, was six quarts of missing blood due to her famous Filipina Haircut which is an incision that started at one ear and crossed to the other one under the chin. A few men who had wavered in retreat now joined the others in fleeing for their lives.
The surviving defenders, Hunky and Olivia, run in different directions through nearby alleys and the backyards of neighboring houses, making good their escape. The entire incident of United States Marines being driven off by young women wearing short tunics and kneeboots is captured on tape by Diane Sawyer and her camera crew.
After World War II the United States dominated the globe as a military colossus, projecting sea and air power with aircraft carriers named after what the US Navy considered to be great American presidents.
One of the newer nuclear-powered carriers, the USS Richard M. Nixon and her support ships, had steamed in the waters off Barbuda in support of the ongoing combat operations there ordered by the President. At the time this represented the only combat ready carrier power on the east coast, since the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is half-way across the Atlantic embarked on a deployment to the Mediterranean, the USS Herbert Hoover is already in the Med, the USS Calvin Coolidge is monitoring the whirlpool near New Zealand, and the USS Warren G. Harding and USS William Howard Taft are both in drydock for overhaul. The remaining six carriers are based in the Pacific and were unavailable for Operation Caribbean Rage.
After nearly a week, and despite one of the most intense air campaigns in American history which levels the port and every building larger than a hovel in the tiny hamlet of Codrington, three successive attempts to take the island by amphibious assault have failed. Invading troops literally find the ground open up beneath their feet and fall through and nine times out of ten not even their bodies can be found.
Then the unthinkable, the unbelievable happens. The USS Richard M. Nixon was suddenly hit in so many places and sunk so quickly that the Navy didn’t even have video footage of her demise.
After the Chief of Naval Operations advised President Ford, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is ordered to make a starboard turn and steam for Barbuda, a leg that would take nearly three days. She is twenty-four hours from arriving on station when Diane Sawyer began to broadcast live from Codrington, the only reporter to manage to do so during the entire evolution of Operation Caribbean Rage. She even covers an attempt by Marines to attack the house from where she had initially set up to do her reporting.
After discerning that Sawyer had moved to the house next door, a seemingly endless series of attempts by attack helicopters to take out this house were nipped in the bud by Church of End Dome air assets and woman-portable air defense systems, providing a great deal more fireworks for Sawyer’s crew to capture and broadcast. But with the immanent arrival of the Ike, Dory recommends that Diane Sawyer get back in the air with her again, for two reasons. One, the house would be the first target of an air-strike package from the carrier, and two, Sawyer might want to get footage of Del’s counter-response.
And so once again Dory takes Diane Sawyer, her cameraman, and her producer up in her flying saucer and out over the waters north of Barbuda. There is no need to resort to night-vision once more, because the USS Eisenhower is lit up as though for Christmas for aircraft launch and recovery operations.
Most of the radio traffic monitored by Dory consists of scrambled fragments of voice as orders flew back and forth under encryption, but at one point a woman’s voice goes out in the clear, speaking with entirely unique accent.
Alfa Whiskey this is Del of the Church of Green Dome, over.
Alfa Whiskey is shorthand for the commander of the air war, the commanding officer of the cruiser which was accompanying the carrier or at least the officer who was standing in for the CO of that cruiser. Del repeated her call, and this time there came a response.
Del this is Alfa Whiskey, state your piece, over.
Alpha Whiskey, this is Del, we are observing that your carrier is lit up and has turned into the wind. Be advised that the instant the first strike aircraft starts to roll down the flight deck we will sink your bird farm almost as soon as the plane clears the catapult. You might want to advise your admiral of that fact. I should think that what we did to the Nixon would establish whether I’m bluffing or not. Del out.
Diane Sawyer noted that the coded voice fragments reached a sort of crescendo after that. Obviously Del’s comments were being weighed, but apparently not by wiser heads. One of the new F-14 Tomcat fighters starts to roll off the deck and pitchs into the wind.
Hovering in the night sky over the carrier at 15,000 feet and matching her course and speed are a dozen stealthy flying saucers rigged as unmanned drones, their crew compartments filled instead with a four thousand pounds of high explosive paste. When the F-14 clears the deck, as Del promised, these drones cut power and allow themselves to fall under gravity.
The superstructure of the carrier sustained a direct hit that blows out the island’s windows and outer skin of steel, instantly killing most of the ship’s senior officers.
The forward elevator is hit by a second drone and warped in such a way that it cannot be used to move any more planes up from the hangar deck. The blast is sufficiently powerful to throw dozens of flight crew overboard.
The aft part of the flight deck, already filled with planes fueled and armed and ready to launch, is hit by a third drone and explodes in a series of chain reactions scattering burning parts of planes and bodies everywhere.
The fourth drone drops through the middle elevator, which is flush with the hangar deck. When it explodes, the blast sets up another chain reaction of secondary explosions among the planes and ordinance being prepped down there as well as setting the criss-crossing fuel lines on fire.
With the initial damage done, the rest of the drones drop successively in pairs through the damaged elevators and explodes one after the other, five and six, seven and eight, nine and ten, each blast opening holes through two or three more decks until the eleventh and twelfth drones punch all the way through to the ocean.
After that seawater starts to flood into the red hot interior of the carrier and some of this water turns to steam. The aft end of the carrier remains more or less buoyant while the ship pitched forward at the same time she turned turtle. The Ike goes under the waves so fast there isn’t even time to call abandon ship, and there is no officer left alive with the authority to do so at any rate. All of this carnage was captured on camera by Diane Sawyer and her crew.
Welp. A slightly different death than the Nixon, but just as fiery and quick.
When Dory touched down back in Antigua, Sawyer, who had been shocked to utter silence since the sinking of the Ike, finally speaks.
At least I got the round trip you promised me, Dory. Thank you.
But I don’t think you are very much safer now. Hunky says that one fighter they managed to launch before we hit them went straight to the house you were broadcasting from and took it out. Essentially your pal Jerry Ford threw away an aircraft carrier and another five thousand men just to get you off the air.
It looks like he succeeded at doing that despite everything. My producer tells me we’ve just been fired and my own network refuses to accept our feed. No one will see the death of the Ike.
Then I’d say welcome to the Swarm, Miss Sawyer.
Please. Call me Diane.
Okay. People trust what you say, Diane, it doesn’t matter if it comes over cable or broadcast networks or or as neutrinos in the Swarm. Well get your footage out there. And I have no doubt that you have many more questions about what is going on. We are prepared to provide any assistance you need as well as any protection that we can offer, which as you might have seen recently, is considerable.
And what is going on?
Only the second American civil war.