CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
Chase House was literally abuzz with change. Rick walked to his new office from home, a short quarter mile stroll. He heard the noise well before reaching the portico of the large and opulent Civil War era mansion. The noise from numerous gas powered generators was occasionally drowned out by the whine of the carpenter’s electric saws chewing through wood. The interior of Chase House was undergoing a remodeling to accommodate the first new tenants in almost fifty years.
Walking into the sawdust littered lobby of the House and down the hallway Rick looked for any of the office staff personnel. Rapping on the doors as he went along the hallway, he finally found everyone in one of the rear bedrooms which was converted to a smaller office. Stepping inside the office he saw everyone sitting and listening to a trio Air Force technicians explain their new phone system.
“Oh…sorry.” Rick said, apologizing for the interruption.
“No problem Mr. Martin. Pull up a chair.” The Tech Sergeant in charge replied, and then continued, “I was showing your people how to use the new phones.”
Rick pulled out a chair and listened as the Tech Sergeant explained thoroughly the system and its functionality.
Rick raised his hand slightly. “So this is a satellite system, and our phones communicate through a satellite instead of cell phone towers or land lines, right?”
“Correct.” The Tech Sergeant replied. “You have the same capabilities as any other phone system. We have moved what was left from a global satellite system to cover the Northern Hemisphere…and now we’re able to communicate.” He said with a smile.
Rick nodded, and was glad to have the communication system.
“Like I was saying before you arrived Mr. Martin, you’ll have a complete phone system with multi lines and a switchboard. There’s no difference in the functionality of this system and any other phone system you’ve used in the past.” He said pausing and then continued, “You’ll have a bundle of public phone numbers which will give you, fax capability and the ability to access Internet. That is, what’s left of the world’s Internet system.”
“We have computers?” Rick questioned.
“Yes Sir. We’ve brought twenty four laptop computers and two hundred eighty eight phones.”
“Very nice.” Rick said, and then looked over at Maggie and Karen, “Why don’t you both draw up a list of people that will get a phone and then do the same with the computers. I don’t want to give everything out all at once, ok?” He said and then turned back to the Tech Sergeant, “Thank you for your help, we really appreciate it.”
“My pleasure Sir. It’s really been nice being here for the past three days.” He said, pausing momentarily, then continued, “I’ll show you how to use your phone Sir. Yours is slightly different.” The Sergeant looked back at the office staff which included the Committee heads and asked, “Anybody have any questions?”
No one said anything, they were all extremely anxious to set up their personal phones and computers.
“Mr. Martin, let me show you what we’ve done.” The Tech Sergeant said, leading Rick out of the room and towards the rear of the mansion. They came to the rear most room in the house. Opening the door, Rick was shocked at the electronic equipment installed in the room. “Here is all of the switching equipment, servers and routers for your system.”
“Servers and routers?” Rick asked, and added, “Are you saying that we have the ability to create a web site?”
“Sure, if you have someone that can do that sort of thing.” He replied closing the door to the electronics room and leading Rick out the back door. The back patio now took on a new look with three satellite dishes off to the side pointing to the heavens. The Sergeant and Rick took a chair at one of the four white wrought iron picnic tables. Opening the box which he had brought, “Here is your phone.” He said, handing Rick the device.
“It’s heavy.” Rick said, hefting the small device.
“Yeah it is. Basically it’s two phones in one.” The Sergeant replied, “Do you remember what I said about the satellite constellation? Well, we’ve been able to set two systems with it…one for the military and one for civilian use.”
“Well, this phone accesses both systems.” He said and then handed Rick a binder of papers. “This is our phone book. You’ll need to make your own for the civilian side.” He said as Rick opened the black book and flipped through the pages.
Rick looked at the Tech Sergeant and smiled, “You’ve got my name in here.”
“Yes Sir, General Barker requested it. This book has every Officer or NCO with a phone on this system.” He said and then added, “I would ask that you would keep this directory secure.”
Rick nodded and flipped open the phone.
“Now to access the military side, all you do is press ‘Mil’ and then dial. There are two SIM cards inside so all of the numbers you store for the ‘Mil’ side will separate from the ‘Civ’ side.” He said, pointing to the ‘Civ” button. “Now, if you’d like I can set up two separate ring tones so that you’ll know which side is calling.”
Rick nodded and handed the phone back to the Sergeant who deftly worked through the functions to set the separate ring tones. “You should have everything you need in the package. There’s a basic instruction manual and two chargers.”
“You guys thought of everything didn’t you?” Rick said with a smile as he examined closely examined his phone.
“It wasn’t us Sir, it was DARPA. They were the ones who were focused on the ‘what ifs.’” He said referring to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “At some point in the past they saw the need to be able to do this very thing, and worked out a plan and had equipment built.”
“Amazing.” Rick said and then quickly added, “How many of these, uh, ‘dual phones’ do I have?”
“We’ve included six.” The sergeant replied, and began to say something else, when Rick’s phone chirped. “Hey, you’ve got a call.”
“Mr. Martin, this is Brigadier General Nicholas Robinson. I’m your Base Commander.”
“Excellent. It sounds like you’re on a plane.” Rick said, recognizing the background noise.
“I am Sir, and we should be wheels down in slightly over an hour.”
“Very good. I’ll meet you there.” Rick said, closing the connection. Looking at the phone, “This is really going to come in handy.” He said and then to the sergeant, “I would have never guessed that after that day we would have phones again.”
The two men shook hands and split up. Rick went inside looking for Maggie. He found her thoroughly engaged in setting up her new laptop computer. Rick chuckled, “Hey can I have the keys to my truck?”
Maggie smiled and pulled the keys out of her purse. “Can I have them back after you’re finished? I need to run some errands this afternoon.” She said with a broad smile.
“You’ve been hanging around Brenda too long.” Rick quipped with a smile, and then headed out to the parking area. Climbing into the truck and giving a slight curse as Maggie had the seats too close to the steering wheel, he started the engine. Opening the box of phone equipment, Rick plugged the phone into one of the power points in the pick-ups console. Opening the phone book, he found General Barkers number and dialed it.
* * * * *
The vibration on his belt indicated he had a call. “General Barker.”
“General, this is Rick Martin.”
“Rick, good to hear from you…I see you have your phone.”
“Absolutely and thank you very much.”
“You al are more than welcome.” The General said and added, “Have you spoken with General Robinson?”
“A few minutes ago. I’m heading to the airport to meet him.”
Very good.” He said after pausing momentarily, “Rick I’m sending Commander Nash down to you. Greg will be your personal security.”
“Look, right after that day, we had a meeting. Commander Nash ordered me to have security. Now, I out rank him by about a half dozen levels, but I understood his thinking with the matter, and I’m glad I did.” He said and then added, “You’ll work well with Commander Nash…he’s a damn good man.”
The phone was silent as Rick thought about what General Barker was saying. “Alright General, I’m going to trust your judgment. I look forward to having the Commander here.”
“Good man.” General Barker said and closed the lid to the phone and placed it in the belt carrier.
“General?” Commander Nash asked.
“Greg, you’re needed with Martin.” He said deferring the complaint from his advisor. “You can leave some of your SEAL’s here. I’m not in any danger here…and you know that. However, Martin needs your help.” He said to the silent SEAL Commander, “This is permanent.”
* * * * *
Rick sat in the truck on the airport tarmac making phone calls. He worked his way through the phone book, contacting all of the people he had met previously and then added their names into the phones memory. The noise from the landing cargo aircraft put a halt to any more phone conversations. Standing outside of the truck as the gray C-130 taxied to the tarmac and then shut down next to the other C-130 which delivered their communications equipment and technicians. The rear ramp lowered and then it’s crew disembarked.
A single file line of green fatigue clad Air Force men and women came out of the plane. Rick waved to them, motioning them over. A Humvee which towed a small trailer rolled down the aircraft ramp and drove to Martins truck stopping alongside.
The officer, a man about Rick’s height and medium build, walked in front of his team. “Are you Mr. Martin?” The man asked.
Rick nodded and extended his hand. “That would be me.”
“Brigadier General Nicholas Robinson, Sir.” The General said with a broad smile as the two shook hands.
“Welcome General, it’s good to have you here.” Rick replied.
General Robinson looked at the crew of the Humvee, “Go ahead and get set up.” The Humvee drove off the tarmac and onto the runway. “They are going to check the condition of the runway and then set up a radio with weather station.”
Rick looked at the other team member and the back to the General. “Is this your entire team?”
General Robinson nodded, “The entire team is about a hundred men and women.” He said and paused briefly, “We didn’t know what you all could support here, so we came with the bare minimum.”
Rick nodded and then smiled, “We can support your whole team General…give them a call and have them sent over.”
The Humvee returned and then parked on the outskirts of the tarmac, the airman opened up the trailer, extended a weather vane with its rotating cup wind speed indicator and then assembled a rod antennae. One of the airmen shouted a command to one of the personnel standing near Martin and the General. The rest of the crew unloaded orange plastic panels and arranged them alongside the runway.
“What are they doing?” Rick asked.
“Those panels are visual signals that we can communicate with inbound aircraft, if we don’t have radio contact. The way we arrange them will signal which direction we’d like for them to land.”
Rick waited until the team had their system set up, which only took a few minutes. He then motioned for them to gather around. The pilots and engineer aboard the C-130 also came over. “I want to welcome you all to our little part of the world.” Rick said smiling at each person. “I guess you all know that you are here permanently, and I think you’ll like it here. Miss Linda will be over shortly to help you with your temporary quarters.”
The team smiled and nodded.
“Now, Miss Linda and her crew are setting up some of those motels…” Rick said and pointed towards the outside of the airport, “for the sailors we have coming in to help out. Eventually, Karen will be over to help you with your permanent homes.”
The group shifted excitedly.
Rick smiled. “Yes, you all will have your own homes here.” He said and paused briefly, “Now, I know that getting this base put together will take a lot of work…and probably a lot of improvisation. However, I have all the confidence in your abilities to get the job done correctly and on time.” He said and then added; “Now, what I would like for you all to do is to get yourselves situated here, and then head into town and introduce yourselves around.”
They all smiled and then turned their heads as Miss Linda drove towards the group in a noisy small yellow school bus. The bus stopped next to the group and Miss Linda and four of her team stepped out and immediately began hugging and introducing themselves to the airmen.
General Robinson stood next to Rick. “Mr. Martin, I can begin to tell you how much I appreciate you giving me a second chance.” He said.
Rick turned and looked at the General. There was something about his comment which struck Rick as being odd. “What do you mean ‘second chance’?”
General Robinson looked at Rick and then quickly away and back again. “You don’t know…do you?” He said, his voice soft, and his body language flushed with guilt.
Rick maintained direct eye contact and shook his head. “No.”
The General scratched his head and exhaled audibly. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable in coming forth with an explanation. “I was the base commander for Ramstein Air Base in Germany. After the nukes went off, all hell broke loose in Europe.”
“I didn’t know.” Rick said in a fatherly tone to the General. “Go on.”
“Everything happened so fast…” General Robinson said, “Right after the nuke attack, Europe was solidly behind us. Oh, there were some elements as always who didn’t want us there, but for the most part we were secure.” He said and paused, “Then the radioactive clouds began to drift across the Atlantic.”
Rick nodded and gently tugged the General by the sleeve, leading him closer to the pick up truck. Rick fished around inside the cab for a pack of cigarettes. Offering one to General Robinson, who politely refused, Rick lit his smoke and leaned against the truck comfortably. “So the Europeans got nervous about the fallout?” Rick said, taking the conversation back to their last point.
“Nervous? That’s an understatement. The political tide shifted in a six hour period one hundred eighty degrees.” He said and then added, “We had violent protests outside all of our bases.” He said and continued, “You have to understand that we didn’t have any support from the states, we were on our own for the time being.”
“So what happened?”
“We drew up plans to move our equipment back to the states…only as a last resort, mind you.” He paused and then added, “Then we struck North Korea.”
Rick exhaled a line of smoke, listening to every word General Robinson spoke.
“That was the final straw for Europe. They saw that they were in danger of being attacked like the US, simply by us being there.” He said and paused, “This was also the time when Engstrom came onto the scene.”
Rick lifted his head, his eyes widening over this comment. “What did Engstrom have to say?”
“He told the EU that we were wrong to attack North Korea and we would leave.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“No…I wish I was.” He said and added, “So General Barker decided to pull everything out and leave Europe. This pissed off the EU tremendously, as they wanted us to just leave everything in place and move only our personnel.”
“They wanted our stuff huh?” Rick said with a slight chuckle.
The General nodded and continued, “We began to move everything that had advanced technology to Wilhelmshaven. We had four military cargo ships which were crewed by Merchant Marines. We loaded Abrams Battle tanks, Patriot Missile Batteries, THAAD Theatre High Altitude Air Defense Systems, advanced munitions and even Apache Helicopters.” He said and after pausing momentarily continued, “I think you get the idea.”
Rick nodded and motioned for him to continue.
“We ferried almost all of our aircraft back to the states…and then the ships set sail.”
“And?” Rick questioned.
General Robinson exhaled loudly. “And…the ships never arrived.”
“Those ships just disappeared….vanished…not a word.”
Rick slowly exhaled the last of his smoke and stepped on the butt. “How can four ships just vanish?”
“That’s the sixty four dollar question isn’t it?”
“What are your thoughts?”
“They were either sunk or were stolen. Personally, I believe they were stolen.”
“How do you steal four ships?”
“Well, keep in mind we were still the fog of war. What was left of our satellites were focused on North Korea and that area.” He replied and continued, “We had intelligence reports that Russia was working on a theatre size non-nuclear EMP device.” He said and added, “If they knew where those ships were, and they were able to cut off their communications, then they might have been able to board them.”
“Do you think that Engstrom had anything to do with it?”
“I don’t know, but I don’t trust that guy at all.” He replied and added, “It was right after that when they set up their kangaroo court and put General Barker on trial.” He said his voice soft with guilt. “That’s why I said thanks for the second chance.” He said and continued, “My career was over.”
Rick understood now. “Ok, here’s how it works with me.” He said looking the downcast General squarely in the eye, “I don’t care what happened in the past…what I care about is now. I don’t hold anything against you for that…but from here on out, you’re mine.”
General Robinson smiled and the two men shook hands. An arriving helicopter hovered over the runway. One of the airmen stepped towards the craft and motioned to it with a pair of orange coned flashlights. The gray Navy Seahawk settled down and taxied onto the tarmac and turned down the power to a low idle. Out of the side door, which was already open, stepped Commander Nash. He unceremoniously tossed a large duffle bag onto the ground and then gently set his heavy pack beside. Holding his cap to keep it from blowing off, Commander Nash lowered his head and walked towards Rick and General Robinson.
Rick recognized Commander Nash, waved and then walked over to him. “Greg.” He said and extended his hand.
“Good to see you again Mr. Martin.” Greg Nash said with a broad smile.
“Commander, have you met General Robinson?” Rick said introducing the two. Commander Nash saluted the General who returned the salute and then the pair shook hands.
“If you two will excuse me, I’ve got a ton of work to do.” General Robinson said and then left to call in more of his team and start getting the base organized.
“Welcome Greg, nice to see you again.” Rick said excitedly. “I guess that you’re my security now.”
Commander Nash nodded, “Yes Sir.”
“Great. Now we can start by dropping the Sir and the Mr. Martin stuff, alright?”
Commander Nash smiled. “That’s fine with me.”
“Good, now let’s get you settled in.” Rick said and then went over and helped Greg with his bags. The helicopter taxied out onto the runway and after applying power, took off in a whirlwind of dust. Rick opened the rear door of the truck and moved his Garand, setting the duffle on the seat. “One of these days, I’m going to get a rifle rack for this thing.” He said.
Greg tossed his pack on top of the duffel and then unslung his short barreled assault weapon and climbed into the passenger seat. Rick explained what he wanted from the air base to Greg and then drove off, bringing his protector up to speed on what was going on with the town and the people. Driving slowly through town Rick pointed out some of the buildings and what they were being used for and then turned towards home.
“Well, here we are.” He said and then climbed out of the truck and headed into the house, with Greg close behind. Their home was empty at this time of day, as Brenda was finishing up her twelve hour shift and the girls were still at school.
Greg walked through the home, looking at some of the Martin’s recent family touches which made their house a home, so to speak. He paused in the kitchen at a drawing Emmy had made in school, which was stuck to the refrigerator with magnets that originated from someone’s vacation at Atlantic City, NJ. Greg’s mind was a million miles away with thoughts of his own past.
Rick broke the silence, “Ok, so here’s the deal.” He said and paused, “Our home is your home. If you’re going to live with us, and I would assume that is what’s on your mind, right?”
Greg nodded yes, his focus changing back to the present.
“Come on.” Rick said and then went upstairs to the empty spare bedroom. “Emmy and Rosa share a room, so this one is empty.” He said and added, “We’ll get our packs and junk out for you…if you want this one.” He said allowing Greg to look around the room and make his own decision, “I do have something else, you might like better.” He said and then led Greg downstairs and out the back door. They walked to the garage and up the separate side steps to the second floor of the garage’s second floor apartment. “I was thinking that when everything settled down I would turn this room into a ‘man cave’.”
Greg looked around, smiled and said, “This is perfect.”
Rick pointed out some of the features, “There’s a small shower and bathroom over there…the fridge works and the bed is comfortable.” He said pushing his hand down on the thick mattress. “When was the last time you had a real honest-to-goodness bed to sleep on?”
Greg pressed his hand down on the mattress, and sighed, “It’s been…” He started and then shook his head slightly, “I don’t remember, it’s been that long.”
“Check this out.” Rick said and opened the small sliding glass door. They stood outside on the tiny balcony. Both men taking in the view of their back yard with its turned soil for next years garden, the empty homes on both sides and the mountains in the distance. “Welcome home.” Rick said, bear hugging his new friend and continued, “Let’s get your stuff in, and then I’ve got some reports to go over.”
“Paperwork in the ‘new world’?” Greg said with a smile.
Rick chuckled, “Always.”
The pair split up in the Martin home. Rick sat at the kitchen table, reviewing the hand written reports from Maggie and the ‘Core Group’, while Greg put together his room.
It didn’t take Greg very long to have his few personal things put away, he came back inside the main house and poured himself a cup of coffee. “So, how do things look?” He asked.
Rick shook his head and smiled. “Everything seems to be moving right along. We’ve had contact with Front Royal and Strasburg.” He said, and then looked at a map of the state, finding the two areas. “I would expect those two towns to join up soon. That will add another thousand people and over ten thousand acres to what we’ve got.” He said and then looked at the map again, “I wish I had some reports from Hal at the nuclear plant.”
“Are you concerned?”
“No, not really. General Perry sent some Marines with Hal and the engineers, so I’m sure if there were any security related problems I would have heard by now.” He said and then added, “The nuke plant is going to be a long term project. I just would like to know how long.”
Greg sat back in the chair and sipped his coffee. “Where do you see us in the next five years or so?”
Rick got up and refilled his cup. “Good question, I spend a lot of time thinking and making plans to position ourselves for the future.” He said and exhaled slowly, “I see us with an economy and a basic functioning government…one with a Congress, Senate and elections, just as our Founding Fathers had intended.” He said, without being too specific. “If in five years we are anything like what we are today, then we’re in for some good times.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, first of all, everyone works together. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before.” He paused as he sipped his coffee, “When there is a job to do, it gets done…no arguments no infighting, it just gets done.” He said with a chuckle, “It’s almost supernatural…and then there’s the personal dynamics of the people.” He said taking another sip of the black brew, “People here are ‘hooking up’, and in a big way too.”
Greg looked at Rick, his eyes telegraphed his questions, as personal dynamics wasn’t something familiar to the SEAL.
Rick smiled, “I would bet that this time next year we’ll see hundreds of babies being born. I spoke with Marilyn Rome, she runs the Hospital Committee, anyway she told me that they have a lot of birth control medications and devices at the hospital pharmacy….but nobody wants them. Everyone wants to raise a family.” He said with a smile and added, “That also bring up more issues. Karen Simpson, she runs the Housing Committee, told me that she is seeing a lot of people who want to trade out of their current homes and into ones that are larger…more bedrooms, more kids.”
“Interesting.” Greg said.
Rick chuckled, “Yeah well, It’s more than interesting…I look at it this way, God gives us children and that is His vote that we should go on.”
* * * * *
The heavy dew soaked grass in the back yard would make any excursion off of the patio a cool and wet wake up. A few of the Core Group sat in the early morning around the wood picnic table, having steaming coffee and mulling over various printed reports.
“Maggie, I have to tell you that you have done a phenomenal job in getting the computers set up and now that we have printers…these reports are very easy to read.” He said and then added, “Not to say that your handwriting was sloppy or anything.” He commented with a smile.
Maggie smiled at the comment and then glanced over at Gunny Winters, and then her eyes quickly looked down in a very demure fashion.
“Gunny, it looks like the training is going well.” Rick said.
“As well as can be expected Rick. At some point we’re going to need a new source for ammunition, but we’re fine for the short term. Everyone is more than willing to learn how to shoot…it’s actually pretty easy teaching them.” He said and added, “Now, how come I haven’t seen you at the range?” He questioned and added, “You know, at your age, rust settles in pretty quickly.” He smiled.
Rick looked over at the Gunny, and wiped his eye with his extended middle finger.
“Oh no, here they go again.” Karen Simpson commented with a chuckle. “You two act like brothers who beat each other up and yet are totally inseparable.” She said with her smooth southern drawl.
Rick looked at the Gunny, “Set me up for later this week, ok?” He asked and then added, “I can still out shoot you.”
They all laughed, knowing that the Gunny more than once barely took honors in their impromptu’ shooting challenges, which Rick still denied in a brotherly sort of way.
“So…ah, how is Commander Nash working out with you?” Gunny asked.
“Very well.” Rick replied, and turned around to look at Commander Nash, who was perched on the small deck of the garage. Greg was focused on viewing the surrounding area with a pair of binoculars, his scoped sniper rifle and short barreled assault weapon at his side. Rick turned back to the group, “Greg is one of the most dedicated men I have ever met. His history with the SEAL teams and from being inside Raven Rock brings in a totally different perspective on things. I really am glad that General Barker sent him here.”
“What have you heard from Hal?” Karen asked, changing the topic.
“I spoke with Hal for an hour last night. The nuclear plant is a long way from powering us or anyone else, except the local area. There were a couple of issues, first was where the plant itself was situated.” Rick said and then pulled out a map from beneath the pile of reports in front of him. He opened the map and turned it around for all to see. “The North Anna was a river, which was dammed up to create Lake Anna. Now, there isn’t a town per se in the area, it’s mainly a recreational area with lakefront properties and that sort of thing.” He said and then exhaled audibly, “Due to the drought, the lake was nothing more than a muddy stream. The issue is that the nuclear plant needs water for cooling. Even though the plant itself isn’t generating electricity, water was a critical factor.”
“You say ‘was a critical factor.’?” Karen asked.
Rick nodded as he took a sip from his now lukewarm coffee, “When Hal and the Marines arrived; some of the local people came over and asked for their help…and of course we accepted. Hal said that as soon as they shook hands on it, the sky clouded up and it began to rain.” He said with a smile, “He told me that brought him down to his knees…he was overwhelmed with emotion.” Rick chuckled and took a deep breath. “So, the lake is now starting to fill. From what I understand it could take over a year for the lake to be completely filled up, however the nuclear plant is now getting some cool water. Hal said that from what he’s read about the plant, it was just a matter of days before there could have been a major malfunction from the lack of cooling water.”
Everyone around the table audibly exhaled a sigh of relief.
“So what’s the other problem?” Gunny Winters asked.
“It’s the same issue that we have with the wind turbines. The electronic components which do the switching and all of that type thing, were damaged from the EMP. So as far as the nuclear plant is concerned, it’s back to square one in delivering their power.” Rick replied and then added, “When the sailors from the Bush get here, I’m going to send a bunch of them over to North Anna to see if they can help. Maybe they can take some of that stuff back to the ships and make some repairs.”
The sliding glass door from the Martins home opened as Brenda and the girls came outside. Emmy ran over to her Daddy and plopped herself on his lap. “Good morning baby.” He said to the tiny curly haired waif.
Emmy put her arms around Ricks’ neck, hugging him tightly, too tightly.
“Ugh, you’re choking me.” He said with a smile. “Do you have school today?” He asked.
“No Daddy, it’s Saturday…you know that.” Emmy replied.
“Sorry, sometimes I forget what day it is.”
Brenda came over and kissed Rick. Before she could say anything, their attention was diverted to the sky above. A large dark olive green four engine aircraft flew low, passing over the Martins home and then headed towards the air base outside of Martinsburg.
“Hey.” Greg called from his perch to the crowed below, “Looks like today’s the day.” He said and then pointed off in the distance.