Montana, Current Time
“You know I love it here,” Michelle said. Her brother nodded and looked back to the landscape they were driving through. The beautiful aspens, the orange leaves, and the blue sky above that surrounded them. “Tommy, there’s something I want to throw at you before I talk to JJ about it.”
Maybe the painkillers were doing their job, numbing his senses, because he didn’t respond. The raid on Camp David had taken place weeks ago, but to him it felt like yesterday. The stealth tactics used by the terrorists, who bled an odorless nerve agent into the air to neutralize the guards at one checkpoint and then another and then the next, had worked flawlessly. With the use of sound-suppressed weapons, snipers, and night vision goggles, the highly trained invaders held the advantage, this time. With amazing speed and numbers, the terrorists quickly gained ground and within minutes had silently overtaken nearly every one of the Presidential retreat’s security systems and guards.
This new breed of terrorist had implemented their version of shock and awe and used it almost to perfection. Nearly sixty invaders had gotten closer and closer to the President of the United States without detection. Luckily, there happened to be a very special group of Marines with him that night.
Inside the retreat’s Aspen cabin, a joyful reunion had been taking place. Four U.S. Marines, then Major Jim “JJ” Jackson, Captain Tommy Wilson and Sergeant Christy White had recently been rescued after being stranded for three years in a Middle Eastern desert. The fourth, Sergeant Omar Sharif, had headed home to Michigan to be reunited with his own family.
An incredible life-saving mission had gone horribly wrong. Years before this, Jackson had been handpicked by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marine General Richard Stewart, to assemble two small teams and test a new, top secret technology that had been developed by the Department of Defense.
The Black Ops Time Machine program, using the acronym BOTM and nicknamed “Bottom,” wasn’t a machine at all. It incorporated small pulse devices worn around the necks of six participants who would form a ring. Once geographic coordinates and landing dates and times were programmed in at their secret operations hangar at Andrews AFB, the operatives were able to go back in time.
Initially Team One, T1, led by Jackson, had gone on simple missions to test the technology and themselves while the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon, who had originally scoffed at what they thought was science fiction, discussed how best to use this new weapon or if they would use it at all. The night of that fateful journey, Jackson, Tommy’s brother-in-law, had disobeyed direct orders and taken the special operators on a very risky rescue mission. He went to the Garden of Gethsemane, to ask the most amazing man that had ever walked the earth, a man of miracles, to save his wife Michelle from the illness that was slowly but surely killing her. Learning of the insubordination while the time travelers were still in the past, Army General Robert Brooks and his aide, Army Captain Josh Scott, sabotaged the technology and left the T1 team stranded.
It took three years for the equipment to be repaired and T2 could be sent on search-and-rescue missions to find the six missing operatives. Only the four would be found alive. Roman soldiers had killed Marine Lieutenant Freddie Jones and Navy Corpsman Bennie Abrams, and left their bodies left in the desert.
After Stewart became President and uncovered the details of the compromised mission, he made sure every attempt to recreate the technology was made and after many attempts, the T2 search-and-rescue mission had found the survivors and returned them home. Stewart refused Brooks and Scott a trial, declared them guilty and sentenced them to solitary confinement at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Their sudden absence from the Pentagon was attributed to their being on a highly classified overseas assignment.
In the time Jackson and his team had been MIA, missing in Black Ops action, much had happened. Michelle’s doctors had been astounded by her miraculous recovery from cancer. Stewart, once retired from the military, campaigned for the most powerful position on the planet and after his only true rival in the election died in what appeared to be a freak accident in his suite at a plush Washington hotel, he was elected in a sweep of all fifty states. Running on the pledge to eliminate domestic crime and international terrorism, using any and all means at his disposal within the law, he had surprisingly won the support of conservatives and liberals alike. Stewart was charismatic, authentic, had impeccable credentials, and was the type of real leader the tired and weary country, and the world for that matter, wanted desperately.
Within a few days of T1’s rescue, after choosing to remain in modern day Jerusalem to acclimate back into the current time, the team was snapped back to reality by an attack on Stewart’s motorcade in Washington. Hours later they were flying home to Andrews AFB on a military aircraft. It was time to get back to work.
Stewart had survived the bomb attack, but a concussion and three broken ribs had slowed his mind and body, and recuperation at Camp David, with the public that had been led to believe he was resting well in the safety of the White House residence, was progressing. The size of the assault on the Camp by the terrorists had taken everyone there by surprise and the raiders had gotten so close to the President’s cabin that Stewart, Jackson, and their wives had been forced to bear arms and take on their attackers alongside the T1 Marines. Only a handful of Secret Service agents survived the night, and the First Lady collapsed and died of heart failure.
After her funeral at Arlington, Stewart returned to the White House with Jackson at his side. Michelle and Tommy had both resisted doctor’s orders but eventually agreed it best to return to the Wilson family ranch in Wyoming, near Yellowstone, to heal physically and mentally. It would also give them time to spend together, since they’d been separated for many years.
“Tommy, you awake over there?”
Suddenly five deer darted across the narrow road in front of their car. They left her no way around them. Michelle slammed on the brakes and slid to a stop, but the car following them swerved and slid off the road.
Michelle jumped out of her car and ran to check on the other driver. “You okay?” she called out to him. She peered through the driver’s window and saw a cellphone resting in the teenage boy’s lap. The screen glowed blue with text bubbles.
“You were texting?” she gasped. She was aware of Tommy moving slowly toward her, one hand pressed to the side of his body where the stitches were. “I got this, Tommy!”
Michelle opened the driver’s door and pulled the frightened teenager out from behind the wheel. If the near accident hadn’t scared him enough, now it looked like a crazy woman was going to give him a good beating. She grabbed the phone and threw it as far as she could into the woods. “Now go find it. You could have been killed! You could have killed us! You know that?” She blew out a breath. Was she overreacting? Maybe, but she didn’t care. Next time the kid might think twice before distracting himself while driving.
Minutes later, on the road again, she continued their conversation as if nothing had happened. “Remember the time I joked that you and JJ shouldn’t be having all the fun?”
Tommy shook his head. “I’m just surprised that little prick had a damn signal way out here.”
“Tommy, I’m being serious. At Camp David something happened inside me. All of a sudden, I wasn’t in seek-shelter mode or even protection mode. I was pissed off. In kill mode. Maybe that’s why I’m here. Maybe Mom and Dad named me after Michael the Archangel for a reason.”
Tommy, and JJ for that matter, had left her time after time to go after terrorists, she assumed. They could not talk about their missions. All she could do was watch them walk into harm’s way. It was only fair now, when she felt called to action, that they respect her decision and support her.
“I think,” she said, “I’m going to join the Army and become a Ranger.”
Tommy turned his head and gave her a look, wondering if she was joking. He didn’t ask.
“I thought we might sell the ranch, or lease it to the government. President Stewart can use it as a getaway. He did say he loved it out here.” They looked at each other, and it was clear they were keeping it. “Anyway, I guess we’ll need somewhere to hang out and get old once we’ve killed off all the bad guys.” He laughed. “You do know that was sexist.”
After a while, her brother looked at her again. “So, you’re going to put off making me an uncle?”
“You know I can’t have kids, Tommy.”
“Well adoption worked for Mom and Dad otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
She remained focused on the road. It was true; she had wanted to be a mother. But this…this stirred something in her that was more important than anything else.
“You haven’t even hinted to JJ about any of this?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Not yet.”
“But a freakin’ Ranger?”
She couldn’t help grinning. “Yep. You know I’m more of a mountain girl. Not into watersports all that much. I’ll leave that to the Seals.”
“When you tell him, I’m not sure whether I want to be there or on the other side of the world,” he said as he focused back on the view. He laughed then clutched his side. “Damn stitches.” And they drove on toward the Wilson Ranch.
Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba
News of the hurricane headed their way had caused the Navy, and the Marines guarding the Camp, to prepare for the worst. Reports of extreme high winds, heavy rain, and potential flooding meant the focus would be slightly shifted. With twenty-four hours before the projected landfall, the Marines went from protecting themselves and their prisoners to preparing for a natural disaster. Despite the warnings from NOAA, the only sign of the trouble to come were amassing heavy gray clouds. The moon was long gone, and the air grew still: the calm before the storm.
The guard towers were fully staffed and the foot patrols along the fence and shorelines continued. Suddenly, Marine guards dressed in their standard camouflage fatigues began to drop like wet rags. Those who saw it happen lost consciousness before they could muster a sound or reach for the alarm.
Employing the same tactics the enemy had used at Camp David, at least fifty highly trained, terrorist killing machines had now besieged Camp Delta, bent on destroying the infidels and freeing their comrades so they could fight another day.
Highly toxic nerve gas grenades had been fired to within a few feet of the Marines as they watched from their posts. Silenced assault rifles took out the guards. With the same timing and precision with which Jackson and his team had eliminated the SS guards at the bunker in Berlin, this enemy executed nearly sixty Americans in a matter of seconds. JJ’s speech to his new White House staff had been dead on. This enemy, this animal, would be one that kept him up at night. They were like junkyard dogs on energy drinks and they were trained as effectively as the U.S. Military.
Minutes after the terrorists entered the grounds of Camp Delta, they rushed about opening all the detention cells. Most of the prisoners had been sound asleep or deep into the delirium of having been water-boarded relentlessly and kept in isolation for more than fifteen years. The assault proceeded quickly and as planned. No time for hesitation. Decisions about captives made in seconds.
“This one is gone,” one operative said to another.
“Send him home,” was the response.
Any prisoner unable to fight, or of no value, was shot in the head without a second thought. There was no time for baggage. The psychological effect of raiding America’s controversial base at Guantanamo, freeing some of the scariest and most dangerous terrorists the U.S. had ever captured, would be immense. The jihad needed a shot of adrenaline, a boost to their recruitment drive. It would further embolden lone-wolf perpetrators bent on killing innocents. It would also show many, not just military and law enforcement men and women, but ordinary civilians around the world, a glimpse of what was to come.
“What about these two?” another attacker asked of his leader. He pointed to two white men dressed in orange jumpsuits, who sat on their beds staring at them, trying to grasp what was happening.
The sight of these two prisoners brought the leader up short. They were so different from the others they had come to free. He thought to himself perhaps they were Americans who were there for treason or some other crime against the United States.
“Do you love your President Stewart?” he asked, the words in English feeling awkward in his mouth.
“Fuck him!” the taller one shouted.
“Yeah,” the other echoed.
“Free them, turn them loose,” he said decisively in his own language. “If they are here they are enemies of America. Let them go so they can continue their mission.”
With that, the terrorists turned and went on to the next cell and then the next. Within ten minutes they were gone.
Bodies of executed inmates, deemed to be of no use to the cause, lay in their bunks or on the floor. As the two cellmates peered down the quiet hallway they realized this was their chance at freedom.
“Let’s get the hell out of here, Scott,” the one called Brooks said, his voice getting stronger with every word.
His companion followed without a word but, as they stepped over fallen Marines who had kept them in isolation, he reached down and removed two side arms and a radio. Within minutes, the two prisoners, American Army officers who had been secretly sentenced to serve time at GITMO for treason, for lying to the President, and abandoning five Marines and a Navy corpsman back in time, disappeared into the night.