TC58

“Have a macro,” the newly-arrived young woman said, and she passed to Hunky a silver copy of the golden weapon she held in her own hand. It was probably snagged from a Navy of Mastema armory somewhere. “Kill that camera, please, Hunky.”

Hunky used her Silver Gift to make the slowly rotating video camera covering the space they occupied to entirely go away.

At that point the squad of eight DECON troops dispatched by Conley entered the office space though the door, which seemed to work for them just fine. “Everyone lay down your weapons and freeze!” one of the newcomers shouted, and Hunky marveled that he even got the two commands in the correct logical order.

Then Hunky stepped in front of Del and blossomed her phantomizer blade to full umbrella mode, something the original Golden Gift couldn’t even do. This caused a great wind to start. She used this black shield to absorb the initial bullets of the guards, which came immediately after her movement.

In a perfect dance, as though they had rehearsed it, which in fact they often did, Hunky collapsed her blade and stepped beside Del. And Del, stepping a bit forward, fired exactly two rounds, center of mass, killing two guards. Lather, rinse, repeat. Two more guards down and then Hunky and Del were close enough to just hack the rest to pieces.

“How’d you get in?” Hunky asked.

“Well there is this network of tunnels inside the mountain,” Del explained, “and there is a network of tunnels we made under the mountain as insurance. It was a simple matter of making one well-placed connection.” She held up her Golden Gift, as though she needed to explain to Hunky the actual mechanics of the entry.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Hunky said, “allow me to introduce Del, daughter of Talishi, which, I suppose, makes her the sister of Jesus.”

“What did she give you just now?” President-elect Henry Jackson asked. “Is there more than one Golden Gift?”

“Naw, we call this a macro,” Hunky said, holding up hers. “Del’s mother God gave the first one to some very clever monkeys, and we very clever monkeys copied it and made it better.”

“What’s next?” asked Ted Hickey, choosing not to dwell on the God thing. “Our plan was to move down and out.”

“We will stay with your plan,” Del said, “except that we will backtrack precisely along the path I carved on my way up here. I took the liberty of killing the cameras in every space I entered.”

“That’s just great,” Hickey said. “Now Conley’s got a trail of dead cameras leading directly to the last position he knew we were. So now he knows we have help and he knows where we are going.”

“There is such a thing as the fog of war,” Del countered. “Let’s see how bright this Conley fellow really is. Let’s see how far we get before he puts it all together.”

“The President has arrived, sir,” the duty officer told Ed Conley. “He’s making his way to the summit now.”

“Good, when he gets here and authenticates, unlock the elevators. Meanwhile I want the bodies of these two agents put in the path of somewhere we know Jackson went. It’s called shaping the evidence trail.”

Ed Conley stepped back from the Big Board to allow his personnel to remove the bodies. Stepping back, he was able to take in the whole picture. There were hundreds of small screens showing mostly stationary views, some empty, some with idle DECON personnel, but about twenty random screens were blank blue with no signal, and he wondered about that. He knew there was no particular relationship between the dead screens and the position of the corresponding camera within the mountain, but he thought if such a relationship could be made, it might speak volumes. When the bodies were dragged away, Conley approached the duty officer again. “Plot the position of this dead camera,” he ordered.

“Yes sir,” the duty officer replied, and presently a floor map of that level of the mountain was displayed, with the dead camera indicated by a flashing red dot.

“Can you plot all the dead cameras? Is there a PolyCode script ready to do that?”

“No sir, but I can whip one out for you. Just one moment.” Presently the duty officer hand completed his script and ran it. Twenty maps flashed on the screen, one after the other.

“Okay, now here’s the real test. I want you stack those maps in order, and then I want you to rotate the whole shooting match to an oblique view so I can see them from the side and up. Can you do that?”

The duty officer had to think for a bit before he could answer in the affirmative, and the script for this took somewhat longer than the first one. But in about ten minutes Conley was looking at a kind of x-ray view of Yellow Mountain, with a trail of red dots meandering through the center of the hill to the bottom. The top dot was the most interesting one of all, that was the camera covering the space where he had sent that squad of seven DECON personnel before losing contact with them.

“Do you see that?” Ed Conley said, tracing the line of red dots from the bottom to the top. “They’ve gotten help from outside.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible, sir. How would they get in?”

“Who’s to say the whole thing isn’t sitting on a network of tunnels they made, waiting for the right time, and they just punched through? Send everything we have to that bottom dot.”

In the space one level up from that bottom dot Del stuck her head through the hole she made in the floor just long enough to see it was filled with more DECON personnel than she could possibly deal with, even with her, Hunky, and the four Secret Service personnel in full berserk mode. She sat back up, looked at Agent Hickey sheepishly, and said, “You were right. This Conley fellow you mentioned put all the pieces together. We shall have to get out another way.”

“Any ideas?”

“Actually, I’ve just had a brilliant one,” Del said. “I’ve called in our air assets via Neutroninet. DECON will want to scramble to deal with them, so all we need to do is be in one of the helicopter hangers when they do. Then we just walk right out of the mountain.”

“Show me the body of the Vice-President,” said Gerald Ford after he had seen the cell-camera footage of the demise, not fully aware exactly what it was he was asking for, but Ed Conley dutifully took him up to the cell and showed him the pile of hamburger that used to be Earl Roland and it was everything Ford could do not to puke up his lunch right there. He wheeled away out of the cell and up against the rail looking down on the control bay to steady himself. “Where is the so-called President-elect?” the President asked when he was able to speak again.

“Mr. President, the President-elect together with the assassin are being taken out of the complex by six Secret Service agents, against my better wishes. Apparently there was a disagreement among those six agents as well, we’ve found the bodies of two of them they shot up and left behind.”

The President looked to his own Secret Service agents. “See to it.” And it occured to Ed Conley just then, much too late, that the dead agents were full of DECON lead, and he hadn’t thought about that. So he started thinking about making his own way out of the mountain.

The duty officer said, “We count twelve incoming bogeys, possibly Church of End Dome air assets come to pull the assassin out.”

The President said to Ed Conley, “You handle it. All I want right now is a private office with a computer and total access to the files. I mean all of them.”

The cliff on the east side of the base of Yellow Mountain was pierced with eight large four-story high helicopter hangers opening on a large landing area. Here was where DECON’s dreaded black Sikorsky H-5 helicopters were maintained and stowed. Hunky noticed that close up they weren’t really black at all, but dark green.

A small company was guarding the hanger where Del’s party happened to emerge, with about fifty alert troops. Del squeezed Hunky’s hands to assure her, then stepped out to try a supreme bluff.

“Report!” Del snapped to the company commander.

“Lieutenant Ross, Ma’am. Hangar Six all secure. All personnel present and accounted for.” He did not question her bizarre uniform or her strange, unknown accent. After all, it was Protocol Red. If she was still moving around, then she obviously had the authority to do so no matter who she was. But Hunky’s orange prison uniform raised eyebrows.

“Do you recognize this civilian?” she barked, pointing at Hunky.

“Yes Ma’am, it’s the reporter we took into custody at Mount Rushmore.”

“The alert was called away because the Vice-President of the United States is dead and his killer has escaped,” Del told him. “The enemy is already here and they want this woman. Do you understand?”

“Yes Ma’am!”

“They will try to get this woman come hell or high water.”

“I understand the danger, Ma’am.”

“Then I turn her over to you, lieutenant.”

“What?” Hunky wailed as Del turned away, thinking that this was some kind of double cross, like when Edgar the Younger went over to Mastema’s camp. “But Del looked back again, her attention caught by the appearance of the company commander’s rifle. She came strolling right back and ordered the man to present arms. Then Del did a thorough inspection of the exterior, with sarcastic military flair. Then all kidding aside, with practiced motions she broke the weapon down to it’s component parts while muttering “Mm-hmm…mm-hmm…” Finally she turned back to the officer. “Lieutenant, tell me why is there light machine oil all over everything in your rifle except where it belongs?”

“Ma’am, I have no explanation.”

“How about your men? Round them up. Let’s have a quick personnel inspection.”

They left their posts in the nooks and crannies of the hangar and formed up on Del’s makeshift parade grounds right in the middle of the hangar. Del, Hunky, the President-elect, the four Secret Service agents and the company commander got halfway down the first rank before Del stopped and shook her head sadly. “Lieutenant this is a major safety hit. I won’t have any of your soldier’s half-assed work, inspired by you, causing a hang fire.”

“My apologies, Ma’am. I can offer no excuse.”

“If this was a drill I’d let it go. But this is Protocol Red! It’s the real thing! Instruct your men to disassemble and quickly clean their weapons. Handguns too! Everything!”

“Yes Ma’am!”

“It’s a disgrace. And in front of civilians too! I’ll tell you what, Lieutenant Ross. I’ll make you a deal. I won’t report this.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”

“But I am going to take the prisoner to Hangar Seven.”

“I understand, Ma’am.”

Del’s team were nearly all the way across the hangar floor when a hundred security men finally caught up and entered, anxiously looking for them. Some of these men were pilots who piled into the helicopter. But what they all saw defied belief: the DECON duty officer had started rolling up the large hangar door leading outside to the landing pad in preparation for the launch of the helicopter. And fifty soldiers had let Del’s people slip past them because they were all sitting flat on the floor, legs spread out, with their weapons disassembled in tiny pieces all around them.

Ed Conley was watching it now on the monitor in the control bay. He screamed for an override on the door, and got it. The door began to shut again after opening only three feet.

The bursts from the DECON security men’s rifles began to hit around them, some very closely. Under fire, partially protected by Hunky’s macro in full mushroom bloom, Del, the President-elect, the four Secret Service agents and finally Hunky dropped and rolled under the closing hangar door just before it slammed shut.

They were safe for perhaps one minute.

Three flying saucers arrived on the landing pad, piloted, respectively, by Dory, Jill, and Mike Morrich. Mike had miraculously survived the nuclear annihilation of Washington DC on Timeline Zeta and became a member of the B’nei Elohim, but he had never accepted the Name Ritual.

“I was about to give up on your ass,” Mike said as Del and one of the Secret Service agents sat in the webbing slung across the central core. In Dory’s second saucer the President-elect and two more agents piled in. Jill got Hunky and the last agent. Then everyone’s stomachs clenched as the saucers accelerated sharply upward, and the ground dropped quickly away.

“Seriously?” the President-elect said, “am really I seeing this? Flying saucers?”

“And why not?” Dory said. “It’s the same trick as the macros. Make the air go away over the roof and you get a bubble of low pressure, hence lift. And a macro makes its own power the more it eats. Basically we’re just like a helicopter but with unlimited fuel.”

DECON already had three birds of their own in the air, and they had five more getting prepped to fly. But Del’s wing had twelve units already in the air. Del told everyone flying them, via Neutrinonet, to play a little Three Card Monte, and the twelve flying saucers mixed it up like gnats for a while, until nobody watching could be sure which one held who. They even made a point of mixing up any attempt to track them on radar by briefly pointing the top of the saucers back toward the transmitter at DECON now and again. If air molecules disappeared, it went without saying that radar pulses did too. Then in one coordinated move the twelve saucers split up to every point of the compass.

In a thirty mile circle centered on the point where Wyoming, South Dakato, and Nebraska all came together a dozen dilapidated trucks had been prepared, waiting on the side of various dirt farm roads. Most of these were decoys. Hunky and one of the Secret Service agents named Gwen Scott was set down by Jill on the Wyoming side, and Hunky jumped out to get in the truck, but Special Agent Scott said, “Whoa, whoa, we got a problem now. We’ve fulfilled our mandate to protect the President-elect but now our mandate is to investigate the death of the Vice-President. You’re a material witness, Hunky, perhaps even the perp, I can’t let you out of my sight. You must know how it is.”

Hunky said, “You were right there, you came into my cell before you let the President-elect come in, it was a polywire web. Yeah I set it up but what is there for you to investigate? I didn’t want to get any more electric shock torture from Roland. How about you investigate that? Shit. Me, I’m for out of here.”

Gwen pointed her gun at Hunky. And Hunky, with intense sadness, pointed her macro right back at her. Hunky said to her, “This entire operation was put together to get me out of that Yellow Mountain shithole, I’m not going to let you follow your stupid rules and put me back in there, which is exactly what would happen. So we part ways right here, Special Agent Scott, like it or not. Jill, take her to meet the rest of her team.”

Already five of the decoy saucers had stopped for a few minutes by five decoy trucks, then the saucers and the trucks went their merry way. Del had been dumped off on the Nebraska side and started heading for Crawford. She saw two black helicopters crossing the sky as she drove across the Ogala National Grassland, green from recent rains, but the choppers were looking for flying saucers, which, of course, was the whole point of the B’nei Elohim using the trucks.

On the South Dakota side, Dory was speaking to Ted Hickey and the President-elect when Jill and Mike came in, bringing their one agent apiece. Dory said to the President-elect, “He got to you, didn’t he? The Vice-President? Pulled out all the DECON stops?”

Jill arrived just in time to hear the President-elect admit that it was true. “Sex videos. Stuff that would have killed my campaign.”

Dory said, “You see, that’s how America rolls these days, and we don’t like it. We never did. They call us the enemy within, Domestic Enemies, right? But that crap you saw up there in the mountain? Torture? Extortion? That’s what we’ve been fighting since ‘43. And I’m telling you to stand by for heavy weather, Mr. Jackson, because we saw the President go in to DECON just as you were coming out.”

Mike came up, caught the jist of what Dory was saying, and threw in his two cents. “Best case scenario, Ford deletes whatever crap the Vice-President had on him, goes home, and in two days you and Jeane Kirkpatrick are sworn in. I presume you are going to dismantle DECON if that’s the case.”

The President-elect said to Mike, “You are absolutely right. I’m going to tear DECON down to molecules and hold everyone who put it together responsible. If that was the object of this entire exercise, folks, then consider it a resounding success.”

“Well, let’s not celebrate just yet,” Mike cautioned. “Worst case scenario, Ford calls off the inauguration and uses DECON to squash any impeachment flack he might get from Congress. At that point all you will have is a sort of government in exile. You’ll be like the Dalai Lama. We consider ourselves real American patriots, so we will offer what help we can, which is considerable, but it is pathetic that the United States has come to this. And historic, any way you look at it. How does the ancient Chinese curse go? May you live in interesting times? We might be looking at a second American civil war.”

Jill added, “Between the best and worst cases are scenarios that are a mix of the two. We’ve gamed all this stuff out. In most of our scenarios, President Ford releases whatever crap DECON had on you to the media. You will have to be prepared for that to happen.”

“Hunky suggested to me that whatever it was that I thought was crap wasn’t really crap,” the President-elect said, “and I’ve started to think she might be right. The stuff I saw in Yellow Mountain, now, that really was crap. But you, Special Agent Hickey, where do you come down on all this?”

Hickey said, “I am carrying out my oath to protect the President-elect of the United States. Until such time as you are sworn in as Commander-in-Chief, I will continue to carry out that oath, and I will expect the agents under me to carry out theirs.”

Special Agent Gwen Scott said, “Yes sir, but I think I just made an enemy out of Hunky. I tried to keep her from leaving my sight because I knew she was mixed up with the assassination of the Vice-President but it quickly came to an armed standoff and she left. Threatening a federal officer is another offense, by the way.”

Henry “Scoop” Jackson crawled into one of the waiting farm trucks, one driven by a third Secret Service agent, rolled down the passenger-side window, and said, “I was in that God-forsaken mountain. I watched Earl Roland torture Hunky and she was simply doing what she could to keep it from happening again. If it comes down to it, when I’m President I will pardon Hunky myself, and also any of you for helping me if the Secret Service tries to retaliate for you going rogue. Now lets get the hell out of Dodge.”