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Authors: Vincent Heck

Last War (3 page)

BOOK: Last War
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     "Ok, thanks officer."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Part One:

Jason Upton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I

 

Nebraska Complex, Washington D.C.

 

Friday, May 23, 2003

CURRENT HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISORY SYSTEM: YELLOW—ELEVATED TERRORIST RISK

    
Intense shockwaves rippled through layers of metal.

     A perfect sphere of fast and slow burning explosives crush
ed a beryllium-polonium initiator, sending neutrons bursting into 14 pounds of compressed plutonium. The nuclear reaction sent a massive 70 percent explosion cloud 12 miles into the sky, killing 40-thousand people on initial impact, and 75-thousand there afterwards.

     Jason Upton clicked out of that classic file on his computer. Once the window closed, the mighty seal of Homeland Security sat prominently on his desktop. He’d often take a tour through America’s unclassified history. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been his long-time obsession.

     In his mind, he was highly active for a couple decades defending the nation responsible for that isolated world event.

     He sat in his office staring at his monitor.

     Jacinda, an airport Behavior Detection Officer for the TSA, was under his command. He studied her like a book. Unbeknownst to her, her semi-monthly test was about to begin.

     “Mirage descending on eagle-eyes.” He chimed into his office walkie-talkie.

     The walkie-talkie piped into his boss’ devices – what the higher-privileged officials knew as “The Summit”.

     Jacinda’s eyes intently scanned left to right; up and down. Her head and eyes moved in concert – short, efficient and purposeful movements. Her golden hair, pulled back, revealed her glowing olive skin. She was one of Jason’s best. It was his job to study the behavior of those who worked for him. 

     The highly abstract unpredictability of man was so consistent, that Jason could almost forecast the limited amount of moves a person would take. 

     He had sent a middle-eastern man through the airport into Jacinda’s section. He knew she’d watch him. He also sent an African through in the same, offset, window of time. She’d miss one or the other – more likely she’d miss the African. He was Jason’s drill-bomber.

     Jason often wondered what this was all for. They had failed so many other times on things they had been drilled on, continually. He was on the committee for those ‘planes into American landmarks’ drills before 9/11.

     On top of everything, this day was different. He felt it. He knew that despite what he had sensed, everyone else viewed this as an ordinary day. Despite how dire the circumstances, it was always only an ordinary day to the masses. He knew it’s how the brain works; adapt to the surroundings.

     But, it wasn't an ordinary day, and this time he felt, possibly, only he sensed it.

     He had a feeling that if he didn't move—if he didn't act soon—his window of opportunity would slam closed like a country screen door just before the arrival of a tropical storm. As the minutes passed,
the feeling grew more intense – it was an intense, rapidly growing, premonition of sorts.

     He was offered a large sum of money. However, Jason thought to himself,
what has money done for anyone in this world so far?
It seemed to have only divided it.

     Jason believed he was happy. Or, that he could achieve happiness easily, if in some naive ignorance, he didn’t know he was unhappy.

     He believed, in some way, the pursuit of happiness was just as unstable as the haphazard, irresponsible, whimsical, "do what makes you happy" lifestyle that the polar opposite was used to living.

     His desk was cluttered; filled with papers, knick-knacks, writing utensils, and office supplies.

     He had few pictures up, and although married, Jason had no one to call ‘honey’; no one to visit outside of his own family.

    Jason didn't go anywhere until he felt it was time. To him, there was an exact time and place for everything and if it didn't feel quite right, he wouldn't do it.
 He wasn’t always that way.

     A message popped up onto his computer screen. As he glanced at the screen, he read the message from Christine Upton.

    

     Jason's heart
 plunged into his stomach creating the swishing feeling that reminded him of the sound his washing machine would churn out. A prompt message appeared:

      ::Continue with forward?::

     Jason clicked the accept button.

     ::Message delivered to 3155559827 - Maxwell Bradley.::

     The prompt message quietly disappeared as it whisked away to carry out its orders. He stared at his screen where the huge blue “U.S. Department of Homeland Security" seal sat on his desktop.

     That
 big, intimidating, American eagle, or whatever it was, held so much pride in the eyes of those who cared. Unfortunately, Jason wasn’t sure how much he cared, anymore. He knew he loved serving the 307 million people in his jurisdiction, but as of recent, he had his own problems to deal with; problems created by the institution he served, without any regret. The government didn’t seem connected to the people anymore. There was a completely different feel than the first day he had gotten into this as a young guy fresh out of the military.

     Despite his own feelings, nonetheless, he knew if he didn't keep himself together, the whole country would suffer, therefore further ruining his life.
 This was a new feeling to him. So Jason sucked up his emotion and bottled it deep inside his rock-solid outer layers. His worst fear was to lose control. He believed, if he did, he would lose control completely, further damaging his whole country. He followed his intuition because it was so naggingly logical. For as long as he could remember, it never failed him.

     :
:New message from 3155559827 Maxwell Bradley to Christine Upton.::

     Jason clicked on the intercept button.

     "Hey sweetie nothin much, how did you enjoy last night?"

     Jason forwarded the message.

     Last night? Where was I
?
Jason thought about it for a while.
Brendenhall meeting. Figures.

     ::New message from Christine Upton::

     “It was a blast, but it was too short. I'm gonna see when Jason's next assignment is, then we will plan a longer time together, maybe even a weekend.”

     Jason forwarded the message; his heart felt as if a vice clamp was winding tighter to it. It tightened to the climax of discomfort before sitting still with no release.

     Glimpsing at the monitor again, he was right. Jacinda missed the African.

     At that same moment, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was his partner, the Acting Secretary of DHS; his workmate and best friend, Michael Young. “Looks like you’re going to have to have a chat with her, huh?” He said.

     Michael was a tall muscular man, with the perfect shade of tanned-skin and dark-gelled hair. He often wore button up shirts with the top few buttons free.

     They had been through college together, were members of the same fraternity, served in the military, and had, seemingly, worked together their entire lives.

     “Who?” Jason responded. “Jacinda or…”

      Michael was eating a muffin he had balanced on the top of his coffee cup lid. Much to Jason's chagrin, he played, at times, Jason's life advisor.

     "You still watching those messages, I see. Give yourself a break. You know what they say, don't you? ‘What you don't know can't hurt you.’"

     "Mike, one: I already know. And two:
 Jacinda doesn’t know she just let a terrorist board a plane. And three: what if you didn't know that I put rat poison in your muffin and coffee? In those cases, what you didn't know
could
 hurt you and others, right? Possibly kill you."

      Mike took a bite out of his muffin. With his mouth full he said, "Well, I guess we'd have to just see. Anyway, what you are doing is highly illegal. In addition, you should be more concerned with the protests in Egypt."
 

     “How is it illegal when I suspect Max to be a terrorist? I’m gathering intelligence – PATRIOT ACT. And why should I care about Egypt? It’s what people do. They
constantly cry about privacy and rights.” Jason shrugged. “People protest. Always have.”

     “Privacy, rights... police brutality, freedom of speech, low wages, corruption, high unemployment...”

     “Well, congrats,” Jason said. “I don’t mean to trivialize what’s happening over there, but it sounds like Egypt has learned how to act like the American constituents.”

     Michael took another bite out of his muffin. “Look, I’ve known you long enough to know you’re not this apathetic. Or stupid. In fact, you’re probably losing sleep. You’re just unwilling, right now, to admit you’ve gotta step away from these messages. I understand – it’s emotional.” Followed by a gap of silence filled with the ambience of office chatter, Michael continued. “Anyway, we’ve got some info coming in from the NSA. It’d probably be wise of you to raise the HSAS to high when you get it.”

     “What is it?”

     “NSA got overloaded with some high priority key word triggers; connected people using words that point to a conspiracy of some sort. Their analysts are looking into it now. You’ll get a continuing briefing on the situation. But, to begin, you’ll get an email from Kim.”

     Michael started to walk away before stepping back towards Jason. He leaned in close to Jason while he still sat behind his desk. “Now, I know this is all new to you, but remember: It’s our job to maintain this luxury vehicle – we’re the airbag – and it’s our job to make sure the president looks good while doing it.”

     When walking away, he shouted back, "And don’t forget there’s a cabinet meeting tonight. 7 p.m."

     “I can’t make it, Mike. I have a lot going on tonight. You all will have to get along without me. Send my best regards to POTUS and FLOTUS Harris.”

     Michael laughed.

    Jason looked towards his monitor which lit up a new message in blue and orange from Max.

     "Wow, a weekend seems good. Just let me know."

     I’ll show you what can’t hurt me.

     Jason clicked the ‘intercept-edit’ button and he typed, in behalf of Max, "I don't know, just let me know, though. You know how busy sometimes things can get on the weekend for me."

BOOK: Last War
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