The Lost Pulse – Chapter 2 and more
Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
Colonel Jackson’s staff had been performing flawlessly. As the Director of the newly formed National Security Office with authority over all security agencies in the U.S., Jackson had access to every bit of intelligence and the ability to initiate any mission he deemed necessary to assure the security of the country. He would only answer to the President, Defense Secretary Petty, and his Maker.
His team had fully embraced their leader’s mission statement and was enjoying their new freedom to seek and destroy without the restrictions they and generations before them had previously been forced to operate under. Despite their objections, after invoking elements of the War Powers Act, Congressional committees accustomed to cost and operational oversight were left without recourse. Once President Stewart had empowered Jackson’s NSO to eliminate all threats to the American way of life, both foreign and domestic, they ran with it with great success. At a 0700 post-op debrief, Jackson shared his enthusiasm as he summarized their most recent BOTM mission.
“Just as planned, and thanks to the incredible intelligence the CIA and the Air Force provided us, T1 was able to appear in the center of what the shitheads, I mean our targets, thought was a safe house. Standing in their pulse ring circle, on arrival, these six were able to take aim and hit the five terrorists in two seconds. There was no time for the bastards to react; they were dead quicker than a sneeze.
Captain Buchanan, do you have anything to add? Maybe a bit more color?”
Buchanan quickly obliged. “ The mission was executed perfectly. It was flawless and the expression on the only face that managed to see us was priceless. The dipshit was walking into the living room with a bottle of Diet Pepsi in each hand.”
The intelligence gathered about the room, the house, and the remote location in Yemen had been spot on. The team had set up a practice house inside the hangar at Andrews. It was laid out exactly like the target, reproducing the same size, shape, and positioning of the computer desks, chairs, television, windows, front door, toilet, and kitchen entrance. In preparation for the mission T1 had used the BOTM technology to practice the entry and exit. There would be only three feet between the weapons the operators would have pointed at the terrorists’ heads on arrival.
“One thing we didn’t take into consideration. What if any of those assholes had rolled their chairs back to stretch, or got up to take a dump? We would have landed on them and that would have made things a bit trickier.”
One of the operators joked, “Talk about shitting your- self! They would have.”
Jackson and the rest enjoyed the humor. Even in the toughest of times a well-placed joke or the perfect one-liner caused them to take a breath, and that helped calm the nerves a bit.
“Anything more?” Jackson asked, wanting to hear every detail.
“Well, sir,” Buchanan continued, “the dude with the sodas definitely shit himself, and the drinks left his hands at the same time my Sig put one in his forehead. The other four desk jockeys each took a close-range shot to the back of their heads and then all five received a second tap just in case there was the slightest glimmer of light left in their evil asses.”
With that remark, the operators in the briefing room exchanged high fives and this mission, scoring another big one for good over evil, was a complete success.
“We spent the next three minutes grabbing their laptops or hard drives and whatever documents were left on their desks. Two of us checked the rest of the house and it was empty just as the CIA boys and girls promised. Ten seconds later we had huddled up, grabbed the ten shell casings on the floor, formed the ring and headed home.”
One operator corrected Buchanan’s statement. “Sir, you left out that one of the casings took a bit longer to find. Turned out my guy fell out of his chair and landed on one. Had to pull it out of his brain soufflé. Other than that, as long as the intel is as great as we think it is, I’d give the op a perfect 10, sir.”
Everyone in the room was beaming with pride for the success of the tightest close-range insertion the group had ever tried.
Marine Captain Mike Buchanan was enjoying being the lead on T1. Ever since his first mission, when his group had been able to gather career-ending intel on President Stewart’s only real rival in the last election, he had embraced the new time travel technology. Once he traveled to the Garden to rescue Jackson and the three others who had survived in such a strange world, he was addicted. If he and his team could travel back into time, whether it was an hour earlier or one hundred years back, they were game.
As long as the objective was black and white, cut and dried, killing bad guys, and he was safe from prosecution, Buchanan was relentless.
“Best part of that op was—we recovered all the intel those dead asses had. Hard drives, cellphones, credit cards and messages—they’ll all be invaluable to us. The only things the local police or their shithead friends will find are five rotting corpses, each with double-tap headshots. Funny thing is, whoever finds them will see they were all facing the center of the room when they got their brains infiltrated. It won’t make any sense to them.” Buchanan was proud and so was his team.
White stood up and gave Buchanan a hard high-five. “Awesome,” she said, smiling at Jackson. She turned and fist bumped or slapped the four other T1 members who had taken that trip.
This had been their method. Gain the intel, thanks to the unrestricted and relentless pursuit by all law enforcement and intelligence services, and then use it to either eliminate the enemy outright, plant bugs that could be retrieved on a later visit, or leave something behind that would cause the targets to wonder if their partners in crime were plotting against them or working with the police.
Considering how many operations needed to occur, undermining the mindsets of the terrorists and criminals would result in them doing themselves in, saving time and bullets for the BOTM teams.
They messed with a drug cartel in Mexico that, in turn, caused a civil war at every level of the cocaine business. Distribution from the Arizona border all the way through Central America to Columbia and beyond was disrupted.
The most intriguing operations, one performed by T1 and the other by T2, involved Moscow and Peking. In order to keep the leaders of those two powerful nuclear countries busy looking over their own shoulders, the Black Ops planted bugs and incriminating documents, and sent erroneous communications, all done from within the most private offices of those men. At White’s suggestion, they even left the wrapper of a condom in one of the leaders’ bathroom trashcans just before his wife returned home from a dinner with some of her friends. The leader might have been a tough guy and one of the most powerful men in the world, but his beautiful blonde bride wasn’t a pushover. They had met at the old KGB, and over half of the country’s political and military decision makers were her relatives. It was a crude ploy, but effective. With the furor behind the walls at the Kremlin, worrying about what America and terrorists were up to was left for another time.
After another twenty minutes of jokes mixed in with another review of the operation, Jackson told everyone he wanted them to take a few days off. There were some very interesting ops being planned and he wanted them rested and relaxed so they could engage again on Monday morning.
“Last thing,” Jackson said, causing everyone who had headed for the door to stop dead. “My wife Michelle and Tommy Wilson, Captain Wilson, are driving in from Montana and will be here sometime tomorrow. If anyone’s interested in welcoming them home let me know. We haven’t all been out together for a while and we’ll make Wilson buy if that helps influence your decisions.”
Christy White’s expression said it all. She had not seen or even heard from Wilson since the day he went on R&R after the Camp David assault. She wasn’t sure if this was good news or not.
They waited for everyone to leave the briefing room and White closed the door so they could speak in private. “JJ, the one thing I would never want to do is compromise the team or complicate things,” she offered. Her team leader and frequent arm-wrestling opponent listened attentively. “I let myself start to feel something for the first time in a very long while back in the desert with Tommy. I thought we would wind up running around ancient Greece and Italy after resigning myself to the thought that we would never make it home. But then we were rescued and our whole world changed in a matter of a few days. We were home, Michelle was healthy, General Stewart was now POTUS, Camp David got torn up, and Tommy got shot. The fact that I didn’t hear from him while he was out west makes me think he feels the same way I do. That we can’t be any closer if we’re going to continue to serve on the same team.” JJ stepped closer and put his arm on her shoulder.
“ That’s the tough part about doing what we do. Whether it’s military or law enforcement it’s tough to focus a hundred and ten percent on your job if you’re looking out for someone even more than we normally do for your team members.”
She knew what he was saying. She was a professional just like Tommy and the rest of them. If he was coming back east to rejoin the BOTM program then they’d either have to go back to arm-wrestling and busting on each other, or one of them would have to transfer out.
“I know what this all means, JJ,” she said with frustration. “Maybe I need to go back to the Raiders. You told me that would be my option. We’ll just chalk up what we were headed for in Israel to what it was and get back to killing bad guys.”
JJ nodded that he understood what she was saying. “Smart girl. Tommy’s on a personal crusade anyway so you two would have crashed and burned at some point. But don’t think about moving back to Cali, at least not yet.”
He laughed and said, “I did have one recreational trip laid out on the wish list that you would be very much a part of. You can take it as a reward for all you have done for the team and the Corps and the country.”
Her curiosity got the best of her. ”Mykonos, you’re taking us to the islands!” she said, assuming she had guessed it right. JJ laughed.
“Tommy owes you that one, or at least he did.” Jackson shook his head, realizing he shouldn’t have said that. “Nope, more like 120 miles south and 208 years back in time.” White thought for a minute and asked for another clue. “I’ll bet you a nickel you won’t guess it.” Jackson paused for a moment. “Doing what we do is tough on relationships. Hell, I met and married Michelle and then got lost in the desert and came home only to be separated again when duty called. It’s like a deployment that will never end. Sometimes I—”
Suddenly Buchanan knocked and then quickly opened the door. “Colonel, there’s been an incident at GITMO!” Jackson and White tensed. “It appears terrorists used the same nerve gas and tactics like on the Camp David assault and went after Camp Delta. Of the Marine guard on watch at the time, there were no survivors. All detainees are dead or missing.”
Jackson delivered a powerful martial arts kick to the refrigerator door, virtually destroying the appliance in an instant. “Mother fuckers,” he shouted. “I need to call the President, and you need to get ready to go. We have to get down there before the assault started and be ready for those assholes.”
“Sir, yes, sir,” Buchanan responded and left the room to prep for the mission.
“What about Brooks and Scott?” White asked.
“Oh shit,” he whispered.
Within two minutes he was able to reach his friend and mentor, his Commander in Chief, in the Oval Office. Stewart put the call on speaker so Petty, the Secretary of Defense, could participate in the call.
“ This is unbelievable,” Stewart said in anger. “How the hell did they get the drop on us not just once but twice? That’s over a hundred dead Americans as a result. On top of that, two treasonous bastards aren’t accounted for. They don’t deserve the term MIA.”
Jackson was quiet. So much so that Stewart asked if he was still on the line. “Yes, I’m still here, sir. You don’t get the drop on Marines like this. You don’t get the drop on the Secret Service either. This is strange Mr. President.”
There was a long pause before anyone responded. “Meaning?” Stewart asked. “I wonder if we have a mole. With Brooks and Scott locked up just before the Camp David assault occurred and now the raid on Camp Delta and they’re nowhere to be found.” Stewart let the thought sink in.
“Could be JJ,” Stewart responded. “If you want to use BOTM to snoop around at the White House or anywhere else you have the authority and assets to do so. Keep us informed.”
“I’ll get a team on it right away,” JJ replied. “Right after that I plan to send T1 and T2 down to GITMO so they arrive about twenty minutes before the attack took place and do what we can to stop it.” Another long pause made Jackson wonder why there wasn’t any response or comment from either of the men in the Oval Office.
“Stand down, Colonel,” Petty said softly. “ The President was called to the Situation Room and I need to follow him. We’ve got a thousand res to work on this morning. This one complicated things exponentially.”
Jackson bit his tongue. “To clarify, Mr. Secretary, stand down on trying to catch another mole or the BOTM trip to GITMO?”
Petty cleared his throat and hesitated as if searching for the right words. “You can’t go to GITMO, President’s orders.” Jackson was exasperated but before he could say a word in protest Petty said soberly, “Believe it or not, the next of kin notifications have already begun. The media has caught wind of what’s happened in Cuba. There’s no changing things now.”
Jackson took a moment to consider any other options, but it was clear a trip back in time to alter the outcome of the attack was not one of them.
“Permission to come to the White House for follow-up, sir,” Jackson asked.
“JJ, take a breath,” Petty advised. “Work this. Find out what happened. Find out if there’s a connection between this and Brooks and Scott. If they, or others, are moles, find them.” Petty sighed. “I know you, JJ, I know how passionate you are about your fellow Marines and about protecting people. It’ll be tough, but you can’t deliver shock and awe on your own, not on this one. ” He paused. “Listen, we’ll sort this out, JJ. But first, we’ll put all embassies, consulates, government and military facilities, federal prisons, courthouses, and law enforcement agencies on high alert. These animals have been using the cover of darkness to get close enough to strike so we’ll address that behavior with countermeasures immediately. We got the actors who shot things up at Camp David, but it will take some time to track these bastards.”
“No arguments. When the time is right we’ll make the moves needed to avenge what just happened in Cuba.”
JJ knew Petty and Stewart were right. He took a breath, shaking his head as the refrigerator door finally fell to the floor with a loud crash.
Petty laughed. “Not sure what you just killed there, but let me remind you of one thing, Colonel Jackson.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“Absolutely, under no circumstances, are you to go rogue in any way, shape, or form. No more Garden adventures unless they’re ordered by POTUS.”
Jackson took a moment and thought back to that night, 2,000 years back. “Sir, yes, sir,” he responded and then signed off.
He walked out into the hallway and looked at White. “Well? What now?” she asked. “I mean, if we can’t stop it from happening…”
“Right. We’ve lost those men. And, no more gardens, he says. But I don’t recall any gardens at Guantanamo, do you?”
“No, sir, I sure don’t.”
“Right. So I’m thinking, it might be a good idea if we get down there and at least see if we can track those bastards as they leave the compound.”
What should have been a joyful and celebratory reunion was anything but. Michelle greeted JJ with a hug that seemed to last and last, while Wilson stood behind her with re in his eyes.
“I can’t believe this happened,” Michelle whispered as she backed away to look into her husband’s face and try to read what he was thinking. She was still unaware of the capability of the BOTM program. She didn’t even know it existed. Regardless, she knew her men were laser focused on finding those who had killed their Marines and exacting vengeance on them.
“Where’s Bunker?” JJ asked, surprised he hadn’t been pounced on by their black German shepherd.
As Michelle walked around their new apartment, inspecting what had been a man cave until her arrival, she laughed and reminded JJ that the dog was full grown and accustomed to the open spaces of the family ranch back in Montana.
“She loves it out there. This little box is no place for that girl,” she said, hoping the news wouldn’t make her husband’s day any worse.
“ That’s cool,” he responded. “We’ve been wide open since our world changed and what’s best for her is okay with me.” He thought for a few seconds. “We’ll get another dog, only maybe something smaller this time.”
She didn’t have the heart to tell him what she had decided about serving her country. Now would be the worst time to drop that bomb.
“Let’s let you and Mad Dog Wilson here go seek and destroy those assholes from Cuba,” she said sternly.
The men carried the boxes from the car to the living room while Michelle looked to unpack the basic necessities. As the two Marines made trip after trip to the car their sole focus was developing a plan of attack.
“Petty might have told you not to go but he didn’t say shit about me, now did he?” Wilson said. “I can go down there with five others. We could alert the guards at GITMO and totally overwhelm the bastards before they get o a shot.”
Jackson lifted the last box from the trunk and slammed the lid down. For the next fifteen minutes the two discussed and then argued about the situation.
“We didn’t go back to any of the schools to prevent those massacres, just like we didn’t stop the hijacking, “JJ said with frustration.
There were certain things they couldn’t do, and Wilson knew it. There weren’t enough pulse devices or hours in a lifetime to go back in time and fix everything they would have liked to. “Complicated” was the political and practical reasoning behind it. That didn’t mean he accepted it.
Their conversation ended as both men considered the dozens of lives lost in the GITMO assault. Rather than have a few beers and further torment themselves over what they couldn’t prevent, they turned in for the night.
Wilson stared at the ceiling from his spot on the sofa. “Complicated, my ass,” he whispered and after a few restless moments finally fell asleep.
The next morning the men drove to the BOTM hangar at Andrews and left Michelle to reconnect with some of her old friends. Once Colonel Jackson finished his T1 briefing and reiterated the sole purpose of the post-assault mission to GITMO, he left for the Pentagon to meet with Secretary Petty. An hour later, while he addressed a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Captain Wilson put his plan into action.
“Stand down,” he ordered the lone Army Ranger just as the team had formed their six-operator circle and prepared to activate their pulse devices. “Stand down, Sergeant, that’s an order from Colonel Jackson. I’ve got more hours in this program than all of you combined. He wants me to go along for this ride.”
It seemed out of the ordinary, but everyone knew of the tight bond between Jackson and Wilson, and nobody had ever been given reason not to follow their orders. Plus, Wilson outranked them all.
“Dim the lights to darkness, please,” Captain Buchanan called out.
Ten seconds later, counting down 3-2-1, the team of three Marines and three Navy Seals were gone.
There was no moonlight. The air was still. Only the crashing of the waves behind them broke the silence. In the distance the glow from the high-security detention center at Camp Delta lit up the sky like a ballgame being played under the lights. Two Seals headed for the beach to plant tracking devices on the Zodiac boats the terrorists had used to access the area. The rest of the small team spread out as Buchanan slid over to Wilson without either of them taking their eyes o the camp. They both flipped up their night vision goggles.
“Orders, my ass,” Buchanan whispered.
Wilson smirked and was relieved to hear his friend’s support. “ They’re coming.”
The Lost Pulse is available in paperback and eBook formats. The prequel, Found In Time, is as well. Simply click back to BOOKS to purchase or read more.