Chapter Twenty One-Have a Bite of Elephant
The road to Kings Bay Submarine Base was long, not in distance but in relative time. Jack drove and his three SEAL bodyguards were alert, quiet and deep in thought. Nearing the base, Jack opened his cell phone and flipping through his electronic address book found his Executive Officers name, pressing the button to dial out; the phone picked up on the second ring.
“White” XO Commander Arlen White was trying to enjoy a meal with his wife and three children before his 90 day deployment. The kids were fighting with each other about who would be first playing a computer game that evening, and his wife was quiet as she would have to deal with this scene at least ninety times until Arlen returned.
“Arlen, this is Jack Miller” pausing to allow the security feature to acknowledge and beep “I’m sorry to disturb your family time, but I need to talk with you this evening.” Family time before a deployment was vitally important to the morale of any crew member; however, more important was their being able to return safely. Jack had a growing pit of fear in his stomach about his upcoming meeting with the Admiral.
“Is everything alright Jack?” XO White and Captain Miller had known each other since the Naval Academy.
“No…it’s not.” Pausing a moment “I’m meeting with the Admiral in a few minutes…I need to talk with you, Tim Rodgers and Ralph Stevens.” Pausing again “Can you meet me here at the base in fifteen minutes or so?”
“Sure Skipper, I’ll call Tim and Ralph”
“Arlen…meet me outside in the parking lot, and do not…I repeat do not, breathe a word to anyone. You’ll see some SEAL’s outside when you come into the lot…they’ll be expecting you…and only you understand?” Jack was insistent on the tight security and didn’t want Arlen to bring any of his sons for a quick ‘look see’ at the base with Dad.
“Aye Skipper…I’ll see you in a bit.” Arlen hung up and looking at his wife “Jack wants to meet with me and a couple of others tonight…I’m sorry honey, I’ll be back as soon as I can”
Arlen White’s wife Jennifer acknowledged and reluctantly accepted her husbands work, which she knew was vitally important to their country. Sometimes she didn’t like it; like now. With a cool tone she said “Don’t be long, ok?”
XO White rang the others that the Captain requested and the three sailors made their way towards the base.
Jack went through the base main gate and the security checks and finished his drive to his office. Before parking the Honda, the SEAL’s exited the vehicle and took their positions, weapons at the ready. Taking two large steps Jack opened the main door and went down the dimly lit hallway towards the Admiral’s office. Before meeting the Admiral, Jack stopped by his office and after entering his code on the key pad electronic door lock, he opened the door and flipped on the fluorescent lights. SEAL member Tomlinson followed Jack while Osterman and Walton had the parking lot. Jack looked around the office and saw that everything was in order; just as CPO3 Jones had left it…he hoped that he would be able at some point to return to a normal office…a normal world…a normal life.
Gary had taken a few minutes to try to compose himself, it took another shot of bourbon and the physical touch of April and most of the SEAL’s to calm himself. Looking up at Rob “I don’t know how long I sat there with Tony, but then the voice told me to take his chip…and I did.” Taking another breath “That was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever had to do.”
Rob looked at his new friend “We’ll have these chips looked at” Turning to Jefferson “Get Campbell to take these down to Graham, make sure that he knows to open them securely.”
“Yes Suh” Jefferson wrapped the foil over the chips and started to leave.
“Jefferson, don’t tell Graham WHO they came from, have him find out everything about who they are and where they are now.” Gary said and looked at Rob “Commander, everything that you know; has been told to you by me…I want you to verify what I am telling you.”
“Why is that important to you?”
“Cause then you can’t go back” Gary paused “I don’t think that you’ve answered the question of just exactly WHO you work for, and you need to do. This is just a little piece of what’s going on, and right now I think that’s all that you can handle.”
“Excuse me?” Rob sat straight up “First of all I KNOW WHO I work for.” Rob sounded indignant at Gary’s allegation.
“Who would that be Rob? The US Navy?...” Gary looked at the Commander and continued “…are you all employed to protect the citizens of the United States…or to protect the Government of the United States?” Gary smiled a questioning smile “It used to be that they were one in the same; it’s not any more, is it?”
Rob hadn’t given that line of reasoning much thought as it was too incomprehensible. He looked at Gary and asked “You raise a good question Martin, the short answer is the citizen’s pay our salary…but the Government and the Navy gives the orders. I can tell you this, there is a mandate to not to follow orders if they go against the ‘code’. I and my team will not be part of a Nazi Germany.” Rob paused “That being said, we’re not policemen or lawyers…we’re warriors and we operate a little differently.” Pausing again “Now, you say that this is a little piece? And that somehow, I can’t handle the rest?” Rob asked sarcastically
Gary nodded yes and said “It’s like eating an elephant, Rob. How do you do that?”
“How do you eat an elephant?” Gary asked again
“What the hell does this have to do with anything?” Rob sat back and turned up the sarcasm “I don’t know Martin, HOW do you eat an elephant?”
“One bite at a time, Commander…one bite at a time.” Gary’s eyes burned into the Commander
Jefferson turned back to Rob and asked “Skippah, where is Graham at?”
Rob took his cell phone off of his belt clip and tossed it to Jefferson, without saying a word. Jefferson caught the cell phone and went out to find Jason Campbell, who was inconspicuously along side of the Miller’s house standing guard.
“JC, Skippah wants you to take this to the Geek.” Jefferson handed the foil square to JC. “He ain’t in a good mood eith-ah…so don’t mess around.” Jefferson found Grahams number in the cell phone memory and dialed.
“Graham” Was the answer at the receiving cell phone. A momentary pause to let the encryption take effect.
“Geek, this is Jefferson. JC is bringing you somethin the Skippah wants you to check out. It’s…ah…piece of electronics, and it needs to be done…quietly, undah-stand?”
“Got it. Tell JC that they have me in a building near the EHW called the Sonar Testing Facility. He’ll see my pick-up truck outside” Graham paused “Jefferson…what’s going on over there?”
“Nuttin, jus yo typical everyday end of the world stuff…dat’s all.” Jefferson paused “Geek, we need this done quick…it’s important.” Jefferson knew what was at stake even without the verification, which he knew would take time, time they might not have.
“Gotcha…Jefferson, what kind of mood is the Skipper in about this?”
“Foul” Jefferson severed the connection of the cell phone and returned to the Rec room.
Knocking at the Admiral’s door “Captain Miller, sir” Jack said as he entered Admiral Brown’s domain.
“Come in Jack” Admiral Brown appeared as if he hadn’t slept in a week.
Jack looked around his office and saw two other officers; he nodded to them “What’s up Admiral?”
“Jack…” Admiral Brown motioned to the two officers “This is Antonio Baroni, formerly of the Italian Navy, and Pierre Martinique, formerly of the French Navy. Both of these Officers are Investigators and are now attached to the World Police Naval Forces.” Admiral Brown paused “Jack, I have bad news…the West Virginia is quite possibly missing…their rescue buoy started sending signals this afternoon.” Admiral Brown had no answers, just statements.
Jack was stunned although somewhat prepared for this meeting, he none the less was still shocked. “Sir, this isn’t a coincidence. Losing four subs…”Jacks voice rose as he put his hands on the Admirals desk and looked him directly and insubordinately in the eye “…FOUR UNITED STATES NAVY SUBMARINES…isn’t a coincidence…Sir.”
Admiral Brown understood Jacks anger and spoke “We need to make sure Jack, that’s what these two gentlemen are here for. They are going to have the recordings on the rescue buoy thoroughly examined for any evidence of foul play. We have a Destroyer in the area; they will pick up the buoy, and transport it back to Norfolk for examination.” The Admiral paused again “I sure as hell hope that we don’t have another ‘operator error’, on our hands.”
“Captain, we will do everything in our power to have answers for you.” Baroni said
Jack nodded to Baroni “I knew those men…” Jack caught himself and changed the questions “…why hasn’t the buoy been picked up and brought back already?”
“There’s a lot of weather right now Jack. The helo on The Sullivans is grounded until the storm blows through.” Admiral Brown stated
“When will I have some answers? You know we set sail in less than 48 hours.” Jack was insistent on having answers to the death of the West Virginia
“We’ll try to have answers for you, before you set sail Jack. However, it could be that we won’t know anything until you are well out to sea.” The Admiral; again with no hard answers, just speculation.
“Thank you sir, is that all?” Jack looked at the Admiral stone faced, trying to give an impression of professionalism, but deep inside his anger was raging.
“That will be all Captain.” Admiral Brown gave his Captain a quick salute and dismissed him. As the Captain left the room, Admiral Brown noticed something that he thought was odd, he noticed the two Investigators look at each other and briefly, very briefly smile.
Baroni spoke to Admiral Brown after Jack left the room “Captain Miller seems to be somewhat of a cowboy. I sure hope he is not as hot headed with those missiles on the Nebraska.”
Admiral Brown spoke in Jacks defense “Jack Miller is one of the finest Sub Commanders I’ve met, don’t you worry about him…you just get to the bottom of this.” Pausing “You two are dismissed”
Jack walked out of Admiral Browns office and the waiting SEAL Tomlinson followed him down the hallway. When they were almost to the front door Tomlinson spoke “Sir…”
Jack turned around and knew the question before it was asked “Martin was right…the West Virginia is down.”
The professional soldier acknowledged the information “Alright Sir, let’s get you back to the house quick.”
“I’m expecting the XO and my Weapons Officer to meet us here and I need to bring them both up to speed on this. They’ll go with me, so why don’t you guys take their cars to the house.”
“That’s not secure Sir.” The SEAL replied, as it was he who decided Jacks security arrangements.
“They aren’t going to hit us here. They’ll wait until we are out past the Shelf, that’s where they’ll try.” Jack paused “I really need some time with my men”
“Aye, Aye Sir. We’ll do it your way.” Tomlinson went in front of the captain and opening the door saw his teammates with the two Officers from the Nebraska.
Both Officers went directly to Jack and the three grouped together away from the security team. “Skipper, what’s up?” Executive Officer Arlen White asked.
“Yeah Jack, what’s with the SEAL’s?” Weapons Officer Ralph Stevens asked
Jack looked at both of his trusted men “Arlen…Ralph…the West Virginia is gone.”
The two Officers were like a couple of deer in the nighttime headlights of a car, stunned and immobile. They both spoke at once “You’re kidding…right?”
“I wish to God I was…now, here’s the real kicker.” Jack paused “There’s a guy at my house that told me it was going to happen…before I got the call from Brown.”
“What do you mean, before you got the call?” Arlen asked
“I mean…he knew that this was going to take place…and there’s more; he says they were sunk.”
“Is this guy a spook?” Ralph was referring to a CIA agent
Jack shook his head no. “You both are going to meet him, right now.” Jack said to the now wide eyed sailors “It might be a long night.”
Jefferson returned to the room and handed the Commanders cell phone back and stood behind Gary next to Espinoza, Goldberg and Williams.
“After I got the chip from Tony, I started moving. All of our weapons were destroyed in the blast so I only had the two pistols and a few frags. I guess it took about 6 weeks or so, moving mainly at night, until I finally made it down to Maryland.” Gary thought for a moment “I had another cache that I had set up just before all of this started, in it was the Garand and ammo, silver coins and some MRE’s…that kind of stuff.” Gary paused and then continued “Anyway, I found this cave up on a ridge and that’s where I holed up.”
Everyone listened intently; there were no questions.
“Once I was in Maryland, I started having these dreams.” Pausing again “Now, it’s kind of hard to explain, but in these dreams…I was actually there. I know it sounds weird…it started with me being in the same room as the President when she was talking with this guy Santana. I heard their entire conversations…” Gary looked at Rob “…I heard her give our country away.” Pausing for a deep breath “I saw the attack on the oil fields…and I saw the Global Hawk hunt and shoot down the Chinook…I was also inside the West Virginia.” Gary paused again “I felt those men die…dying under water like that…”Gary shook his head “…that’s horrible.” Gary continued “Do you know what the worst thing about this it is?”
“What’s that?’ Rob answered
“Not being able to tell anybody or to do anything…that feeling of hopelessness…the feeling of that it’s all lost, all gone…that’s the worst.” Gary was out of tears; that emotion was spent on reliving his friend Tony’s death.
Williams was standing directly behind Gary and turning to Jefferson said in a voice that all could hear “Yeah well, I think he’s full of shit.”
Jefferson’s eyes got big and his head drew back when he heard that off the wall statement.
Williams continued “No way an old fuck like him could’ve taken out twenty men. I think he killed Tony and is just filling us with smoke. You know what else I think…I think he’s just doing it for that slut over there…”
Gary heard the diatribe from Williams and did nothing…until he mentioned April. Gary moved like a man filled with rage, which he was. Flipping over the card table onto Rob’s lap, which caught him by total surprise; Rob sat back so suddenly that he fell backwards onto the floor. Gary rose, turned and found the SEAL looking at Jefferson, smiling. Gary drove his forearm into Williams’s throat and physically rammed him into the wall. Photos and awards that had lined Jacks wall came crashing down, breaking the glass picture frames.
Combat and fighting isn’t about rules, it’s not about being nice…it’s about winning at all costs. Surprise and superior force are the key ingredients to any victory. Any one of the SEAL’s could have killed Martin in a straight up fight. They are better trained and are physically superior to the Patriot. However, any grown man that has ever been on the receiving end of a three year old swinging a whiffle ball bat will tell you; there is one spot, properly hit, that will drive any man to his knees.
Gary found that spot with his right hand and taking hold of Williams’s testicles and squeezing with all of his might; the smaller, older, less trained and physically inferior Gary made Williams eyes grow as large as fifty cent pieces. It took a nanosecond for the nerve endings to register into Williams brain the pain he felt. A searing and paralyzing pain.
With his left forearm on his throat and a vice grip on Williams genitals Gary leaned in and through clenched teeth said “Listen to me asshole…I don’t give a rats ass what you think of me…”
As Gary was speaking Espinoza and Goldberg started to come to their SEAL brother’s rescue, as Rob was picking himself off of the floor. Jefferson reached over and grabbed the two SEAL’s by the shoulder, pulling them back and shook his head…no. Williams was on his own.
“…I really don’t care…but if you EVER…EVER… say anything like what you did about her again…I’ll hand these nuts to you on a fucking platter…do you understand me?”
Williams had a tear of pain in his eye and nodded yes, he got the message…loud and painfully clear.
Gary released Williams, who promptly doubled over, screaming to himself Gary stormed outside with April following.
Jefferson shook his head judgmentally at his brother “Williamz, I done tole you a hunnert times about talking dat way about other fellas wimmen…I spah-cifically…”
“JEFERSON…STOW IT.” Rob had picked himself off the floor and assessed the situation. Taking three steps to the bent over Williams; Rob grabbed the young SEAL by the throat, lifting and pinning him against the wall. “Williams…”the tone was obvious; Todd had screwed up, big time, and was now at the mercy of the enraged Commander “…you can fight with Marines…you can fight with the Army…but DON’T YOU EVER fight with him again. Do I make myself clear to you?”
Williams managed to say “Yes, Skipper.”
Rob continued “Now you get your sorry ass outside and you make it right with him…and it better be from the heart, got it?”
“Yes Sir” Williams hobbled out through the rear door
Jefferson, Espinoza and Goldberg were grouped together. Espinoza looked at Jefferson “What choo tink Jefferson?”
“What do I think about what? Jose”
“About Mr. Martín” Jose nodded to Jefferson
Jefferson looked at his two brothers and slowly said “I think…I like him…oh, I like him a lot.” Jefferson nodded to Jose and David, who felt the same about Gary.
Jose continued “Whew, Williams…his cajones must be screaming...eh?” Jose said smiling “choo know that fuckin hurt.” Jose placed his hands over his own ‘sensitive area’
David Goldberg spoke up “He’s had that one coming for a long time.”
“Well…are you three stooges just going stand around and wait for an invitation to clean up this mess?” Commander Toland stood like a rock with his hands on his hips. “I suppose that when we finally get you Girl Scouts off to war, that the enemy will need to send you a personal invite.”
Jefferson smiled “Suh…nice to see you feelin bettah.”
Gary was standing at the back fence staring out across the road and into the Pine woods as April came up to him. Wrapping her arms around him, she gave him an ‘I love you ‘squeeze. Williams hobbled out and stood a few feet away, not saying anything. Finally “Sir”
Gary turned and said to April “Give us a moment, ok?” Nodding, April started to walk to the patio.
Williams said “Wait…please” Williams looked down at the ground and had the overall demeanor of a scolded pet. “Miss April…I am sorry for what I said back there…I don’t know why I said it…it was wrong and I am sorry.”
April looked at Williams and nodded ok “Mr. Williams…we’ve all been through a lot…I accept your apology” April left to the patio.
“Mr. Martin…Sir…” Williams looked at Gary “…I am sorry. I really didn’t mean it.” Williams looked down again and took a deep breath “I’ve had a problem saying shit like that for a long time. Jefferson told me that one day I was going to get my ass kicked for it…”
“Williams…” Gary stood straight and held out his hand, Williams accepted and Gary pulled the SEAL to him and gave a football team bear hug. “…what’s your first name?”
“Todd…we have all been through a lot of crap, April and I have both lost our families…I think the world of that woman, you know?”
Todd nodded yes
“Now, I’m going to tell you something that I haven’t told the others yet…” Gary pulled away from the SEAL and held him by the shoulders “…this shit is far from over…they have nukes.”
Williams forgot about his personal pain; his apologetic demeanor instantly changed. “Are you serious?”
Gary nodded yes, slowly and said “Todd, I need you to take that anger and aggression you’ve got and focus it on them, ok?”
Williams nodded excitedly “Yes Sir…thank you.” Todd turned to walk away.
“Get the twins iced down…no macho bullshit…get some ice on them, and that’s not a suggestion, alright?”
Todd smiled and “Aye, Sir”
April walked over to the now smiling Gary “You know Gary Martin, I’m going to sound like an old lady here” April stood face to face with her man “I don’t like you fighting…” Looking him in the eyes “…but the way you stood up for me was the best compliment I have ever had.”
Gary pulled her close and they kissed. “I love you too.” Gary smiled “Would you do me a favor?” April nodded yes “Would you go get some ice for Todd…and…I am really starving.”
“Oh crap, that’s right, we haven’t eaten. I’ll see what Lauren has…” April smiled and left, running past the slowly walking Williams. Entering the house she flew into the kitchen and went up to the shaken Lauren. “You know, men are so weird.”
Lauren broke out of her funk and smiled “Why do you say that?”
“Well, they point guns at one another; fight with each other…and then they shake hands and…” April threw her hands up in the air “…it’s like they’re best friends.” April and Lauren laughed as she opened the freezer and started putting together an ice pack “do we have anything to eat?”
Lauren nodded yes as she got a large pack of hot dogs out of the freezer and set them in the microwave to defrost.
Williams slowly walked into the house and went straight into the kitchen, with his brothers close behind. April went over and handed him the ice, which Todd immediately put inside of his pants. Williams then went into the living room and half laid down on the sofa. April followed him in and handed him a half dozen ibuprophen and a glass of water.
“Here you go Todd.” April waited until he took three and drank his water; then left.
Jefferson, Espinoza and Goldberg came into the living room. “How you doin man?” Jose asked
“Choo want me to go kick his ass for you?”
“No…me and Martin, we’re cool.”
“Ya…I know, jes checkin”
“Hey….Martin told me something that he hasn’t told you guys yet.”
“And dat would be?” Jefferson asked
“They have nukes”
Jefferson took a deep breath and said “I sortah figured they would…” Turning to his brothers “…dhese Blue Hats…dey about to piss me off….” Pausing again “…dey really about to piss me off.”
Everyone nodded, it was a new game.