The landscape changed from the time they had left Seattle and arrived in Tri-Cities Washington. Seattle with its rain and lush greenery seemed like a distant memory in the desert; complete with tumbleweeds, barren hills, cattle fencing and irrigated farms.
Arriving at the Tri-Cities Airport, the soldiers parked the Camry and gathered their bags. General Hua looked around as he locked up the sedan. Noticing his pick-up, the General waved him over. The solidly built and smiling man strode over, his walk exuding confidence and power.
“Good afternoon…Husian.” The man shook Husian’s hand “How was your drive?”
“Excellent…” the General smiled and slapped the man on his back. “Kang, I’d like for you to meet my friend and associate, Jing Li.”
Kang turned to Jing. “Pleasure to meet you, my name is Kang.” Kang spoke perfect English, smiled and gave a slight bow.
“Jing…Pleasure to meet you too.”
“From now on we will only speak English.” General Hua said to both.
Kang took both Husian’s and Jing’s baggage and started into the airport terminal ahead of them.
“Don’t let Kang’s appearance fool you Jing. Kang is one of the North Koreans I told you about previously. The most difficult part of his training wasn’t the English language, it was teaching him to smile and to be comfortable in this American environment…” Husian paused “…Kang is my bodyguard and is a highly trained, coldly efficient soldier.”
The small regional airport in Pasco serviced only a few flights each day. General Husian, Colonel Li and Lieutenant Kang of the North Korean Special Services were on the late afternoon connection to Portland. They passed through security without a hitch and boarded the twin engine turbo-prop commuter for the thirty minute flight to Portland International Airport. Jing nervously looked out the window at the unfolding carpet of circular farms below as the small aircraft bounced along in the unstable lower air. The trio had a two hour layover in Portland as they waited for their connection to Salt Lake City and then to Omaha’s Eppley Airport. Jing caught a few naps as they waited, flew, landed and did it all over again until reaching Omaha late that evening.
Arriving on the last flight of the evening, the trio walked through the nearly empty airport, and met their driver at the turnstile. This man could pass for Kang’s twin; smiling, energetic and well trained. Everyone loaded into a late model domestic mini-van and left Omaha for the 220 kilometer drive to the small farming community outside Cotesfield, Nebraska. Cotesfield was little more than a wide spot along a narrow road. The farm, TLC Farms Ltd, sat approximately three kilometers outside town and off of State Road 11. TLC Farms was far enough from Omaha and Offutt Air Force Base to avoid any over-flights from military aircraft.
The five hundred and fifty acre farm was broken into three parcels and for this area wasn’t as large as most of the other farms. The dark green van pulled into the graveled drive and blinked its lights twice as they approached the closed chain link front gate. Moving from the shadows of the van’s headlights, two armed North Korean guards, walked to the driver’s window, nodded, and opened the gate. The van made its way along the drive to a large metal rectangular out-building, illuminated by a bluish white area light. Another armed guard acknowledged the group and stood to the side as they quickly entered the building.
The buildings interior was brightly illuminated with fluorescent lights and sectioned off floor to ceiling with plastic tarps. Technicians wearing white lab coats moved from computer terminal to equipment, check lists in hand, running tests.
“Well Jing, here we are…let me introduce you to Dr. Kwan.” General Hua said proudly.
A slight middle aged man, Dr Kwan walked over to the group and introduced himself. “You must be Colonel Li…Dr. Jiang Kwan.” The nuclear weapons engineer said extending his hand.
“Pleasure to meet you, Doctor.” Jiang said shaking his hand.
“The Doctor arrived two days ago.” The General commented and continued the introduction, “Colonel Li supervised the DF-15 program and will be building the launcher for us.”
“Excellent…Colonel Li let me show you around.” Kwan said with pride as he turned, walking towards the partitioned off area.
Jing and the General followed, glancing around at the activity.
He opened and walked through an overlapping gap in the opaque plastic, which he held open for Colonel Li. Inside the makeshift room Jing saw the DF-15. The missile lay on its side on top of a flat-bed trailer, cradled with wood which allowed other technicians to examine the inner workings. “Doctor Kwan, where is the warhead?” Jing asked, noticing that the DF-15 was missing its needle nosed reentry weapon.
“We are finishing it now…” Kwan said, pointing to two engineers working separately from the missile, “…this weapon is substantially different than what you are used to Colonel.”
“First of all the bomb itself is a modified version of the W-88 we are using for a ground attack. Here, let me show you.” Dr Kwan took a sheet of paper from the clipboard he was carrying and drew an egg shaped ellipse. Inside the top of the ellipse he drew a circle and directly below that drew a rectangle with the narrow end pointed at the circle. “Here is the W-88 core, or what we call the ‘Peanut’. The circle is a hollow sphere of plutonium surrounded by an explosive charge.”
“I am familiar with this design.” Jing commented.
“Good, before the launch we inject tritium gas into the core, the implosion creates a fission explosion…the cylinder below is made of uranium and plutonium. The entire package is filled with polystyrene foam. What happens is this, the plutonium sphere implodes creating fission, the resultant heat and pressure converts the polystyrene to super heated plasma which in turn fuses the uranium and plutonium cylinder, making the entire package thermonuclear. This design will create approximately 450 Kilotons of explosive power.”
“Ok, that is what is on the ground based truck weapons, right?” Jing asked.
“Yes, now what we have for the DF-15 is the same type of weapon but we have designed two of the cylinders, one on each end. Our ‘Peanut’ is now a ‘Bowtie’.” The Doctor said smiling.
“You’re sure this will work?”
Kwan laughed “Yes it will work…we have designed and tested it on the best computer available…a Cray Supercomputer, which the Americans sold to us a few years ago.”
Jing also chuckled. “The Cray and the design for the W-88, it seems that the Americans have given us everything necessary to destroy them. What do you expect the yield for this one to be?”
“The computer indicates approximately 980 kilotons…close enough to call it 1 megaton. The explosive effect isn’t what we are really after, it’s the massive amount of Gamma rays that are produced within the explosion…it’s the Gamma rays that will give us the EMP effect that we need.”
Jing looked at the ‘Bowtie’ and the polished metal cylinder attached to it. “I see that we have a booster rocket.”
“Yes, the first stage should give us 150 kilometers in vertical flight and the second stage will lift the weapon to 350 to 500 kilometers before detonation. This second stage doesn’t burn for very long, maybe five or six seconds. It is powerful, however at that altitude the amount of power needed to reach our deSired height isn’t as great as what’s required for lift-off.”
“How much time do you need to complete the second stage and to attach it to the Dongfeng?” General Hua interjected
Dr, Kwan looked at his watch “We should be finished in less than eight hours, and another four to attach it to the missile and run tests.”
Jing thought about his time needed. “I’ll need at least that to complete the launcher, and then another two to raise it to launch condition.”
General Hua looked at his watch and nodded “I want to make sure this goes off perfectly, the launch window is very narrow and has to be at a very specific time. The ground ‘packages’ will be pre-positioned over the next twenty-four hours.”
Both Jing and Dr. Kwan nodded, as they had plenty of time to do their respective jobs correctly.
“Colonel Li, come over here, I want to show you something.” General Hua said and walked outside of the hanging opaque plastic walls. At the front of the building was a white and red Office Depot delivery truck. “This is our ground weapon.” The General walked to the rear of the truck and opened the heavy lead-laden rear gate.
Jing peered inside and saw cases of ordinary photocopier paper, palleted and wrapped in clear plastic sheeting which secured them together. In the midst of the paper was a large Canon color copier in its factory carton. “Is this…it?” He said, amazed at the normalcy of the interior.
“That’s it…this one is going to Offutt Air Force Base. Offutt is a major base for their Intelligence, Electronic Surveillance and Command and Control. This base and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where NORAD has been relocated to, are primary Command and Control centers…” General Hua smiled “We learned from their own tactics in Iraq…take out their Command and Control Centers and they will be disorganized and vulnerable to everything else we have planned.”
Closing the rear gate of the truck and walking to the large vertical door, the General led Jing outside to the loading area. From the dim light Jing saw his equipment. “Do you have everything that I need?” Jing asked
“I think so; we leased a single boom crane and have the metal I-beams for manufacturing the support base for the Docking Station. Inside are the acetylene tanks for cutting and a portable electric welder, along with the Docking Station for the Dongfeng.”
“Very good. I should get started immediately.”
“Everyone is stopping their work now, why don’t you get some rest Jing and start in the morning…when you are fresh.” General Hua led Jing to the improvised barracks on the other side of the out-building, leaving him to find an empty bunk.
* * * * *
Dawn broke over the Nebraska farm, the sky glowed a bright orange horizon which chased away the dark blue and purple night.
The engineers and technicians woke up to the smell of cooking food. Starting their day with tea and sweet steamed dough balls, everyone headed to the out-building. Jing walked through the building and began the task of positioning his equipment to begin the assembly of the improvised launcher. Within an hour he began cutting the steel beams with the acetylene torch. The launching base was taking shape by noon, and by mid-afternoon it was completed.
The second stage warhead assembly was attached to the DF-15 and more tests were run, the missile was ready later that afternoon.
The General nervously paced around the technicians, not saying much, just observing and making marks on his clip board checklist.
Colonel Li, blackened with grit and grime from his day spent cutting, welding and grinding steel, approached. “General, the base assembly is complete. Shall we load the missile on the launcher now?”
“No. We will do that right before our launch window. I don’t want our weapon to be outside any longer than necessary. You say that it will take two hours to raise the missile on its launcher, right?”
Dr Kwan stood off to the side. “Once the missile is raised then we will need to run a few more checks, and then…launch.”
The General looked at his watch “Our launch window is at 1100 hours, exactly seventeen hours from now.” Husian left the technicians and Jing inside to finish up the preparations. Walking outside with his laptop computer and a small folding satellite dish, he set up on the concrete pad. Opening the dish and pointing it in the general direction of the satellite, the system gave him a green light for a strong downlink connection. Opening a program he saw multiple moving red circles across the US. The packages were moving towards their pre-positioning areas. General Hua smiled as everything was coming together as planned.
* * * * *
The silver late model Honda sport utility vehicle pulled into the parking space and shut down. It was the end of another long day and Rick was tired. Just when he thought that business couldn’t get any tougher, it did. The hours spent at work grew each month until it wasn’t out of the ordinary to go from daylight to night each work day.
Rick locked the CR-V and with his workbag slung over his shoulder, stepped through the front door into a barrage of noise. He was home and the sounds and smells hit him from every angle. Jake, his two year old son was concentrating on a toddler cartoon show, and was oblivious to his entrance. Rick rubbed his son’s short haired head and gave him a kiss. Jake looked up and with his pacifier filled mouth uttered, “Da-Daa.”
Linda, his wife, was reclined on the brown leather sofa reading a magazine. Looking up and not showing any interest, she unemotionally said “Hello.”
‘Damn, she was still mad.’ Rick set his things down and went upstairs to change clothes, avoiding the long silence over their latest argument. Changing from his work dress clothes to the more comfortable jeans and t-shirt, Rick went back downstairs, stopping briefly to give Linda a quick peck on the lips. “How was your day?”
“The same as it is every day.” she stated uncommunicatively.
Rick didn’t take the negative bait; he was off work and home. Dealing with his wife was nothing compared to dealing with the cranky, funky and weird public. Noise from the cellar filtered to the upstairs kitchen. The basement family room was boisterous and cluttered with stuffed animals and toy cars strewn about the floor. The television and computer were both on with volumes turned up, which made normal conversation difficult. Six year old daughter Laci lay on the day bed watching another cartoon show.
“Hi Daddy. How was your day…did you bring me anything?” She said hoping that ‘something’ was in store for her, especially in the form of chocolate.
“Hi sweetie, no I didn’t bring you anything, it was a long day.”
“Oh…” she commented dejectedly “…Daddy, do you want to watch Scooby-Doo with me?”
“Sure, give me minute, ok?” Rick went over to the computer, setting his cell phone next to the monitor, quickly checked his email. “Spam…I can’t believe there is so much crap on here.” He said out-loud to himself.
“What’s spam Dad?” Laci asked, hearing his comments through the noise of the TV show and walking over to see what he was talking about.
“Spam is junk email that some idiots send out thinking that we are stupid enough to actually buy something from them.” Closing off his program, Rick climbed onto the day bed and snuggled up with his first grade daughter.
“So what are we watching Laci?”
“Scooby-Doo and The Haunted House.” Laci said, not taking her eyes off of the show. “Hey Dad, do you know why Ghosts have green eyes?”
“No, why do they?”
“It’s Goo…” she said looking over at her father “…Ghosts eyes are filled with green Goo.”
“Goo?” Rick chuckled and knew that he would get a one-of-a-kind explanation that only a kid could give. “Ok, so just what is Goo?”
“I don’t know what it is…I just know that they it get from eating trees and at the bottom of lakes.” She said authoritatively.
Rick laughed; his daughter gave him very few dull moments with the glimpses into her young mind.
“Dad, why don’t you share with Mommy?” she asked seriously
“What do you mean?”
“Mommy says you’re selfish. Whenever I don’t share my toys with Jake, she says I’m being selfish.”
Rick grimaced at the comment “Mommy is mad that I am not going with you on your field trip tomorrow.”
“Why don’t you want to go?”
“Why? Well, I have tomorrow off, and my friend Steve and I are going shooting. It’s something that we planned a long time ago and I need some time for myself.”
“Well, I think that the Smithson Museum would be more fun.”
“It’s called the ‘Smithsonian’ Museum, and it is a really neat place…you’ll have a lot of fun there and see really cool stuff.”
“My teacher said that they have a Whale…is that for-reals?”
“Sure is, and it’s pretty big too. They have a lot of animals that are extinct now and tons of other things…you’ll love it.” Rick said as his cell phone next to the computer started buzzing. Rolling off the day-bed and seeing the unidentified incoming number, he opened the phone and answered “Hi, this is Rick.”
“Hey Rick, this is Steve.”
“Hey Steve, are we still on for tomorrow?”
“I am, are you?” His shooting partner asked
“You bet…Linda is having a fit about it, but I need some range time.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Yeah I know, I really should go with them on Laci’s field trip, but right now I’m worn out from work.”
“I hear that…” Steve paused “…look, I want to do something different tomorrow.”
Rick paused before asking about ‘different.’ “And that would be?”
“I’d like to shoot while wearing a full pack.” Steve said excitedly.
“A full pack? You’re serious?”
“Yeah…when was the last time you shot while wearing a pack?”
“I thought so…bring your full seventy-two hour bag and we’ll see how you do with it.”
Rick took a breath “Alright…see you at 10:00 ok?” he said closing the connection and shaking his head. He liked Steve, but sometimes his ideas certainly were out of the box…all Rick wanted to do was to spend an hour shooting pistols, not running some sort of quasi-para-military exercise.
Climbing back onto the day-bed with Laci, she snuggled up next to him. “Who was that Dad?”
“My friend Steve.”
Laci had listened to their conversation, like any good child spy. “Are you taking your camping back-pack?”
“Yeah, we’re going to practice with them on.”
“Can we go camping this year?”
“You bet…that is unless you’re afraid of something getting you at night.” Rick said needling his daughter
“I’m not afraid…but I do want to make s’mores.”
“You are the chocolate queen, aren’t you?” Rick said as he hugged her. A commercial had interrupted Scooby-Doo and Rick thought of the many things that he had to take care of before tomorrow. Getting up and heading into his work area, Rick pulled out his pistols, he would take three tomorrow. Turning on music from his iPod with its external speakers stereo to classic rock, he began to disassemble, clean and reassemble his weapons. After cleaning his pistols and making sure he had enough ammunition, he dusted off and unzipped the pack. Looking inside of the filled pack, Rick zipped it back up and filled the internal water bladder from the sink. ‘Now it was full’ he thought to himself, struggling to put it on.
It was later than he realized, the kids and Linda were in bed and asleep as he quietly crept up the stairs to bed.
* * * * *
Three tractor-trailer transports, each with two Office Depot trucks on the flat beds pulled into the storage area outside of Frederick Maryland. There wasn’t any indication to the drivers of the cargo; it was just another delivery in their lives of picking up and delivering goods. The six red and white trucks were off-loaded with the help of the smiling and efficient North Koreans who had waited patiently for their delivery. This was repeated all throughout the United States.