What Lies Beneath – Chapters 1-10

Posted: February 3, 2017 in Books

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What Lies Beneath

By

M. E. Smith

*****

A Michael Scott/American Mandarin Thriller

 

Kindle Edition

 

*****

 

Published By:

M. E. Smith

What Lies Beneath

Copyright © 2018 M. E. Smith

*****

Kindle Edition License Notes:

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. Real events and locations have been used to create an aura of realism but no connection or causation is implied.

*****

*****

 

Prologue

 

Latitude 28.736628°N

Longitude 88.365997°W

Gulf of Mexico

 

On April 20th, 2010, at 9:45 p.m., a small explosion detonated at the base of the Macondo wellhead in Block 252 of the Mississippi Canyon formation of the Gulf of Mexico. The blast wasn’t much of an explosion as explosions go, but it was enough to fracture the concrete around the the well casing deep enough to allow the casing and wellhead to rise from the seabed like a straw in a tall glass of Coke. Shortly thereafter, with the wellhead protruding far above the seabed, natural gas pressures overcame the damaged safety devices and a methane gas surge raced its way up to the drill rig floating on the surface.

 

Like evil incarnate, the methane raced up the drill column from the hellish depths of the earth, some 23,000 feet below the sea surface. Under pressures over 6,000 pounds per square inch, it quickly reached the topside of the drill rig, the Deepwater Horizon. After purging the drilling fluids from the tubing, aided by the ventilation system, the gas rapidly expanded and engulfed the platform, traveling through every nook and cranny, searching for an ignition source. Like a hungry viper searching for its next victim, the gas slithering and probed the rig for any spark or open flame. Shortly after the overpressure began, it found an enabling source and roared to life in a disastrous and deadly explosion.

 

Immediately after the alarm sounded, an inferno completely engulfed the vessel. One hundred fifteen of the workers escaped the rig by lifeboat and were subsequently evacuated for medical treatment. They were the lucky ones. Despite an extensive Coast Guard search operation, eleven workers were missing and were presumed to have died in the explosion. Industry insiders say that it is likely that they were vaporized instantly in the plasma blast and thankfully, it is also likely that they were spared the terror and the pain of the explosion.

 

A mile below the ocean surface, the blow-out preventer (BOP) had failed, the shear rams were not able to activate to crush the casings and shut in the well. Without a way to staunch the flow of the gas and crude, the fire continued to rage. Multiple firefighting vessels attempted to quell the flames to no avail and after burning for approximately thirty-six hours; the Deepwater Horizon lost the battle to survive and sank silently to the seabed. Sunset on the evening of April 22 would find the dead rig lying quietly on its side among a tangle of broken riser pipe near a wellhead now violently out of control, vomiting a column of crude oil and natural gas into the claustrophobic, cold, dark expanse of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Eleven good men died that day. They were oil men, most from families of oil men.  It may well be that future generations of oil men will recognize this day, not only to memorialize the deaths of these good men, but also as the date that marked the beginning of a slow and painful death of the deep-water oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Within hours, a fleet of recovery vessels were on station around the site where the Deepwater Horizon went down. A mile beneath the surface, there was a swarm of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) circling around the tangled mess. Lurking in the dark, beyond the visible carnage, was another unseen, undetected presence, one just watching and waiting.

 

April 20th, 2010 was truly a day of days.

 

For America, it marked the first casualties a clandestine economic war, one unprecedented in world history.

 

 

Chapter One

 

December 2008

Washington, DC

 

Part 2.11 of Executive Order #12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan, states the following: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination…”

 

Thomas Markay had often wondered about the real effectiveness of that EO that had handcuffed the CIA’s ability to operate. Even though Markay was a lifelong Democrat, he often thought that the blame went back to 1975, when the media, Senator from Idaho and his committee put the National Clandestine Service of the CIA in handcuffs and shoved them in the back of a patrol car.

 

In 1975, the United States Senate created the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities in response to a raft of media allegations of wrongdoing. The panel – better known by the name of its chairman, Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) – interpreted its charter as a mandate to “determine what secret governmental activities are necessary and how they best can be conducted under the rule of law.” While Church and his colleagues prepared one of the most detailed public appraisals of any nation’s intelligence structure, proposing changes to the organization and management of the Intelligence Community, the committee also draped the clandestine operations in chains.

 

Markay wondered how in God’s green earth the Church’s definition of the committee’s charter became the last refuge of the liberal mind when wrestling over the distasteful side of clandestine operations. Markay was no bleeding-heart liberal. His eyes and mind were opened in 1989 when a sitting President, Warren Jefferson, was willing to delay critical medical treatment and the protection of the United States of America to Michael and Catherine Scott, two innocent people caught in between two massive geopolitical millstones – United States and China.

 

Markay wondered why it was so hard to understand that freedoms to exercise clandestine operations were needed. “Were the explosions that targeted innocent civilians, who were attending a public sporting event, “conducted under the rule of law”? Was either of the two Twin Towers attacks conducted under the rule of law? Was the Beirut Marine Barracks bombing? The USS Cole?”

 

“Of course not,” He thought. “Terrorism has no concept of the rule of law…and neither should the defense against it.”

 

“I want to believe that every president gets it, including the new one,” Markay thought, “…maybe she doesn’t understand it as much as everybody would like to think.” Marshall’s campaign promises to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay worried him – a concern shared by many like him who knew the true nature of the men detained there. For the President-Elect to keep the prison open would be to stand against her base on a promise she made on the first day of her campaign – that seemed an impossibility – no matter that the minute Marie Marshall became the President-Elect, she was briefed on the people being held there and the things that they had done. Surely it must have increased her understanding that these people can never be allowed to walk free again – or they will keep trying to kill Americans.

 

At least Markay could take solace in the fact that no matter what happened politically, he and his team had developed a promising response to these situations. In 1994, President Floyd Cooper had given the Clandestine Service the charter and the resources to field a NOC (non-official cover) team under the guidance of Michael Scott and Markay’s son, Jeff, to conduct counter-terrorism operations using the rules of the terrorists. This team was created to level the playing field and if that meant slitting a few throats and conducting a few assassinations to generally scare the crap out of people like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number one and two leaders, then so be it.

 

Thomas Markay chuckled to himself as he recalled the questions he had posed to President Cooper: “What if every terrorist in the world was afraid to go to sleep because a clandestine team could be watching? What if the terrorists knew from experience that we meant it when we said that we would track down every terrorist, terrorist supporter and terrorist funding agent, shove a K-Bar in their right eye-socket and scramble their brains with the tip?”

 

“Do that and we don’t need Gitmo, drones, or military tribunals,” thought Markay. “The modern conventional wisdom is that we can’t stop terrorism, that we must try to manage it through minimizing the attacks and then follow impossible rules of evidence, hopefully capturing and then prosecuting the terrorists as we would any routine criminal…but these are not regular criminals and because of that fact, we simply are doing it wrong.”

 

Markay had little patience for the liberal leaning members of his own party. His anger over the approach of some in his party regarding the Global War on Terror was the same as the maddening liberal push for “gun control”. Tying the hands of a law-abiding person does nothing to stop a murderer and preventing the clandestine service from doing bad things to bad people only makes America more vulnerable.

 

“You want to blame someone,” he thought, “Don’t blame the field operatives. Blame Senator Frank Church, the Church Committee, and the liberal media. It was they who started this process by which we can’t even keep the names of the members of SEAL Team 6 a secret and where outing crucial NSA foreign surveillance programs is a ticket to a Pulitzer Prize.”

 

For that reason, after the 1992 elections, the then Attorney General Markay had convinced the new President-Elect Floyd Cooper there had to be a special team, consisting of and led by, special people who were ready, willing and able to answer the call to join in and win an unseen war.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

“Epigenetics concerns the inheritance of gene expression through the passing on of DNA. A chemical tag, known as an epigenetic mark, is attached to DNA that subsequently tells a cell to use or ignore a specific gene. This is science that is concerned with things like how young migratory birds know where to go without being trained or having ever flown before and how range mammals like bison or elk, go to the same places every season without so much as a map…There is a branch of scientific inquiry that has developed data that seems to indicate that humans possess that same potential to pass actual knowledge through generations at a genetic level, that things learned by our ancestors are encoded in their genes and then passed on to us. Epigenetics is helping us find out how exactly that works.”

 

~ Colonel Bart Masters, M.D. (1990)

 

Driven by an enhanced sense of right and wrong, and a strong internal need to restore balance between the two, Michael Scott followed the advice of his friend, Supervisory Special Agent Jeff Markay, and volunteered for the clandestine operations of the CIA after returning to the United States. Motivated by a debt of gratitude to Frank Dunlap, the man who saved his life and helped him to escape a Chinese prison, Scott was intent on paying him back any way he could. Along with Dunlap and another close friend, Jake Gibbs, Scott had been kidnapped during a work assignment in Hong Kong in late 1988. Scott was the primary target, he was to be taken for the harvest of his unique genetic material. Dunlap and Gibbs we collateral damage in the process and Michael Scott felt responsible for the loss of his friends.

 

Malcolm Scott, Michael’s aviator father, had been shot down during the Vietnam War and had spent time imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton. As were all guests of this “hotel”, the North Vietnamese made the prisoners available the Chinese. Red Army scientists just happened to be developing biological weapon that attacked humans at the genetic level and they needed subjects to use a guinea pigs. It was during the preparation for one such test that the Chinese scientists discovered the senior Scott’s unique genetic profile.

 

Years after the US had abandoned Saigon, the Chinese lost control of that genetic material years after a mysterious fire at the “secret” laboratory in Mainland China where the genetic research was being conducted. MI-6 was suspected to have had a hand in the destruction of the laboratory but that was never confirmed – regardless, absent the stored data and genetic material and now without direct access to Malcolm Scott, the only choice was to go after Michael in hopes he shared the genetic mutation.

 

The circumstances around the kidnapping of Scott, Dunlap and Gibbs by the Sun Ye On Triad and rogue elements within the Chinese government had largely been kept out of the public eye. The Chinese leadership was interested in avoiding an international scandal that would affect their drive to integrate in the world economy and America was quickly becoming their primary path to get there. The corrupt and complicit Warren Jefferson administration had deeply downplayed the Scott kidnapping. Jim Davis, Jefferson’s campaign chairman and the eventual White House Chief of Staff had engineered a quid pro quo where Scott would be “presented” to the Sun Ye On for the taking in exchange for critical funding of Jefferson’s flagging 1988 presidential campaign. While Jefferson himself never was directly implicated, there was a failed impeachment attempt based on mostly circumstantial evidence…the hoopla generated by the media surrounding the impeachment attempt also overshadowed certain events in China.

 

There had been a deal cut to keep certain things out of the headlines. In exchange for the US keeping this incident under the radar, China would purge any sensitive information from their systems and physically dismantle the Cray computer copies that had been built at the University of Beijing. They were to capture and punish the government officials responsible for the top-secret technology breach and for Michael Scott’s kidnapping…and they did just that. Several military officers were detained, and government and party officials were imprisoned and or executed – but there was one person who was conspicuously missing – the beautiful and deadly Grand Dragon of the Sun Ye On Triad, Madame Wei Shu Zhao. Wei had disappeared without a trace the night the DEVGRU team led by Todd Masters liberated Michael Scott. The assumption was that elements in the SYO had killed her. The SYO had lost much of its influence and power after Wei’s collaboration with the Chinese government had been exposed and the CIA shut down the SWIFT money skimming operation they were running. It was thought this was enough to have her killed – or so the authorities told themselves.

 

General Secretary Jiang Zemin had given his word to Vice President Floyd Cooper and after Zemin became President of China in 1993, the agreement held. It was when Zemin relinquished his post to the more nationalist and aggressive Hu Jintao in 2003 that indications started to surface that maybe things weren’t all on the up and up after all. China made rapid progress in the areas of computers and military technology, aided by the climate of commerce. In 2004, President George Prescott had been badgered into supporting the 1.78 billion dollar sale of IBM’s personal computer business to the Lenovo Group, a Chinese owned company. While not notable on the surface, it did give the Chinese access to top notch processor and circuit designs and supply chains out of Indonesia and Malaysia, designs and operations which of course, they immediately set about duplicating. Flush with cash, China was expanding in every direction, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was actively courting joint-ventures, mergers and outright purchases of international companies and resources. Chinese companies were rapidly learning how to innovate rather than just duplicate by sending students to renowned universities all over the world – including America. China was beginning to understand its role in the world and just how much power and money their flirtation with capitalism was giving them.

 

The Chinese Dragon had now been loosed and seemed intent upon devouring the world.

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Frank Dunlap was one of Michael Scott’s closest friends and before he died, he was the first cyber-warrior for the CIA. Frank was a brilliant computer scientist, going to work for the Agency immediately out of college. He had created software capable of detecting criminal penetrations into international financial transfer systems while working in a summer internship with a Silicon Valley company, Transformative Technologies, Incorporated. This work ultimately led to the creation of the cybercrime unit at the CIA. The algorithms Frank created had resulted in the detection and collapse of a massive financial “skimming” operation run by the largest Chinese Triad, the Sun Ye On, and was the basis for the software that detected a major breach in national security when the Chinese gained access to ARPANET via a doomed American universal healthcare database project.

 

Michael Scott’s wife, Catherine, was the federal prosecutor in charge of prosecuting Charlie Zhang, a major Triad boss. The case against Zhang exposed the corruption of President Warren Jefferson’s 1988 campaign and laid bare an administration under the influence of millions of dollars in illegal contributions flowing from China. Catherine was alleged to have accepted a 30-million-dollar bribe to allow Zhang to escape to China after his indictment. These patently false allegations were designed by the Jefferson administration to prevent her from uncovering the depths of extreme corruption in the American political process. Of course, the Jefferson team kept the necessary distance, feeding the allegations to the media where they could be “broken” on a national news show. Doing so gave the charges a patina of legitimacy that could not be overcome without direct evidence. The information discovered after and as a result of Dunlap’s death exonerated Michael Scott’s wife, Catherine.

 

After Catherine’s exoneration, Scott returned to America with a burning need avenge his wife and his friends. His desire to volunteer gave the American government a unique opportunity. He was very different from the average human in many ways. The Sun Ye On had tried to kill him with the very genetic material that they were weaponizing. Thanks to Colonel Bart Masters and research conducted in the 1960’s at the US Army’s Fort Detrick Biological Warfare Laboratories and at a top-secret facility in Seoul, Korea (under the auspices of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Research and Development Command), Scott was saved by a serum that had been derived from his father’s blood.

 

In the process, Scott was fundamentally altered at the genetic level – his abilities, both physical and mental, were increased far beyond the normal ranges of even the best human performance – and these abilities and capabilities continued to increase over time. Scott’s “genetic memory” was also triggered. In the same way predators intuitively know how to hunt, he found he could access information that had been “learned” by his ancestors. He was faster, smarter, and stronger than almost any other human and had the ability to absorb massive amounts of data in unbelievably short periods of time. He didn’t just recall facts, he could assemble them and use the information to achieve an objective. If he was taught something once, he could immediately repeat it. He found that he could easily replicate physical movements, languages, attitudes, and personalities. He could become any character at any time for any purpose. If he saw something, he not only remembered it – he knew it. It was then that the CIA realized that he was a perfect blank canvas to paint covert identities on.

 

Scott also presented some other interesting traits the psychologists at Langley had to teach him to control. For decades, the FBI had studied serial killers and had amassed a tremendous amount of data down to the genetic level. They had isolated several sections of the serial killer brain that were essentially “switched off” allowing them to kill without guilt or remorse – once they selected a victim. Scott shared some of the genetic characteristics of a serial killer with two very important exceptions – he had a rigid and hyperdeveloped sense of ethics and he could turn the killer instinct on or off. Through extensive training supplemented by brain scans, the CIA scientists taught Scott to manage his condition and by doing so, isolated the ability for Scott to become a very high functioning predator. He was most certainly mortal and human, but now was a precision weapon.

 

Through extensive batteries of psychological tests, it was noticed that sections of Scott’s brain toggled on and off depending on the stimuli applied to them. When shown images of terrorist attacks and the resulting bodies of innocent men, women and children strewn about, Scott had registered feelings of extreme empathy, turning to anger. This resulted in the scans of his amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex lighting up like a Christmas tree – the scientists deduced that Scott’s empathy and anger were being filtered through the ethical center of the brain – he was making moral judgements. Scott’s brain scan changed dramatically when he was shown pictures of the terrorists who committed the acts. When faced with these pictures, the cerebral cortex, the logic center of his brain, lit up and the amygdala and the low orbitofrontal cortex cooled – the scientists validated Scott was deducing that these men had broken his ethical code and he would have no remorse in killing them. This was true scientific evidence of the Biblical command of “an eye for an eye”.

 

Scott breezed through an accelerated CIA program designed for clandestine operators. He mastered every bit of tradecraft that he was shown. He underwent extensive weapons training and under the guise of being sent to teach a semester at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland, he was sent through SEAL training at Camp Pendleton under an assumed name, mastering the rigors and challenges as if he was some sort of superman.

 

There was another thing about Scott – he had changed, and the changes were not limited to the physical. Scott always possessed leadership traits, but the activation of his genetic enhancements caused behavioral changes. Along with the increases in intelligence and heightened sense of right and wrong that prevented a descent into evil, his situational awareness, strategic and tactical abilities, and primordial instincts advanced with every consecutive challenge he faced. Within a few years, Scott transformed from a strong-willed, intelligent “everyman” into a uniquely deadly and cunning “apex predator”, a human animal at the very top of the food chain. He became a ruthlessly effective hunter – and his prey consisted of other men.

 

It took a little over a year to complete the training program. While he was becoming the CIA’s new weapon, the Agency was working to develop a backstory, a legend, for him. Based on his former career with GE, it was decided that it was best to seem to “wash” him out of the training program and then through him, set up a consulting business. Scott would establish the business, hire legitimate employees and in the background, select his own small covert team. Scott’s first choice was Jay Hawkins, the man who had discovered the Chinese hack of the US government data system as his technology guru. Next came Samuel Eason, a counter-terrorism operator who had been part of the DEVGRU team (SEAL Team 6) that had rescued Scott in Shenzhen. Eason was a fine choice but wasn’t Scott’s first pick. That was Lt. Commander Todd Masters – but Scott knew Masters had his eyes on making Admiral and Scott knew that it was never a bad thing to have friends in high places…

 

The idea was to keep the group small, off the grid, and able to move about the world without suspicion. For that reason, choosing the energy business for Scott’s consulting company was the perfect cover. Wind, wave, solar, oil and gas were all energy technologies familiar all over the world, especially in trouble spots like the Middle East, South America, Africa, and South Asia. China’s emerging economy was also beginning to gobble up energy like a fat man at a $5 all-you-can-eat buffet, so a consultant could travel there without question as well. It also gave an effective excuse for the team to base their daily operations in the friendlier climes of the US, Scotland, Australia, and the Mediterranean – the world was essentially open to them. Anywhere there was a base for oil or energy companies, there was a base for the team.

 

This new group began operating under the new director of the National Clandestine Service, Jeffrey Markay (Thomas Markay’s son and the former Special Agent who had helped Michael and Catherine Scott escape the Chinese Triads) and was code named “Raguel” – the name of angel referred to in Hebrew tradition as the archangel of justice, fairness, harmony, and vengeance. Established by the senior intelligence officials of the US, the UK and France as a collaborative effort to fight terrorism on the terrorist’s own terms and funded off the books by all three countries, the group was responsible only to the Director of the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence and the President of the United States.

 

Raguel was an appropriate moniker. Mentioned parenthetically in the Christian Holy Bible but specifically in the ancient Hebrew text of the Book of Enoch, Raguel is identified as one of the seven archangels, his function was to wreak vengeance on the world and any of its luminaries who transgress God’s laws. So far, Scott’s team had lived up to the Archangel’s reputation, having been quite successful in meting out retribution and justice while remaining virtually invisible…but DNI Thomas Markay knew that condition was not a given, especially in the current anti-war, anti-CIA political environment.

 

Thomas Markay had seen this movie once before. He survived the cultural upheaval of the 1960’s – but this time something was different -the hippy “make love not war” ethos was missing. This was hipster time – it was not about liberation and freedom, it was about power and domination. The very people who had condemned and fought against the “Man” and the “Establishment” were now using their membership in both groups to destroy American culture and weaken its stature in the world. Radicals were now college professors. Cop killers were venerated as “freedom fighters” and “political prisoners”. Potential members of the President-elect Marshall’s cabinet had openly praised communist leaders like Mao and Stalin and were openly supportive of socialist dictators around the world. The radical Islamist president of Iran had even been invited to speak at the UN. Journalists and editorialists openly wished that the American Republic was more like Communist China, and the President-elect, the titular head of Markay’s own party, was treated as somewhat of a deity.

 

No, this wasn’t the 60’s at all – this was mean and dirty and it was corrosive – bordering on vengeful. It was also being done on purpose and Markay knew if it was not contained, difficult and deadly times were ahead.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

The 2008 presidential election had proven to be historic for the American Republic. For the first time in 232 years of history, a female president would lead America. Marie Evette Marshall’s campaign was based on the proposition that she would be a new kind of leader, a president who promised to put all the partisanship aside and heal the country after what was perhaps the nastiest election season since Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams crawled through the mud on the way to the Oval Office in 1828.

 

Marshall was an enigma – charismatic and intriguing as she was beautiful, the 45-year-old candidate had a perfect backstory – she was a true political “rags to riches” story, born an only child into a disgraced political family in Louisiana, overcoming a childhood that included the imprisonment of her father and the suicide of her mother – all before the age of four. That she had been able to overcome so many obstacles in her life was a major factor in her popularity. Her remarkable story began even before she was borne and became public news at the tender age of two when her father, Ezekiel Hezekiah “Zeke” Long, a long-time Democratic Party operative and financier – and distant cousin of Huey P. Long many times removed – was arrested and charged with masterminding a massive Ponzi scheme based on south Louisiana oil leases that never actually existed.

 

Anna Marie Sullivan Long, Marie’s mother, had lived a life of privilege. The oldest child and only granddaughter daughter of William Brice “Wild Bill” Sullivan, Sr., the patriarch of the Sullivan family of New Orleans, Anna had known opulence few would ever experience. Her grandfather had risen to great wealth after oil was discovered in 1920 underneath the swamplands her family had owned for generations. Appreciating hard work and believing experience was the best teacher, Wild Bill sent his son, William Brice Sullivan, Jr. (known as Little Billy) to LSU to study geology. Immediately after graduation, Little Billy was sent to work on a drill rig on the fringes of the Mississippi River delta, just north of Port Fourchon. For the next year, Little Billy was employed doing the dirtiest menial jobs in the company, experiencing the oil business at the most visceral level. Over the next twenty years, Little Billy earned his way up the Sullivan Oil Company food chain to become its president and CEO, succeeding his father.

 

Anna was not an only child, she had three younger brothers, but as the only granddaughter and daughter she was spoiled and doted on by her father and grandfather. She shared their Louisiana plantation home with her brothers, Brice (William Brice Sullivan III), Ford (Allen Ford Sullivan) and the baby of the family, Donnie (Donald Jackson Sullivan). Anna was close to all three but perhaps closest to Donnie. She had a special love for little Donnie. Little Donnie was a bit of a late in life surprise for the family, a happy accident as Anna’s mother used to say. On Anna’s fourteenth birthday – September 28th of 1954, Donnie was born. The fate a shared birthday inexorably linked Anna and Donnie but more than that, she enjoyed spending time caring for baby Donnie – so much so, she often thought of him as more of her child than her brother.

 

Anna’s young life was idyllic. As the only girl in a family of rough and tumble oil men, she was treated like the world’s most valuable and fragile china doll. Possessed of a dark haired, brown eyed, Cajun beauty, Anna was the “it girl” of New Orleans – cotillions and debutante balls followed as she matured and orbited the New Orleans social scene. Anna chose to go to the University of Alabama and was the first choice of every one of the finest sororities there, eventually choosing to become a member of Phi Mu. Anna’s doting father granted every whim, her life was so much of a fairy tale, she was ultimately lost in her own world of self-indulgence. She had the world by the tail and like manna from heaven, she grew to expect it would simply give her things when she wanted them.

 

Then, on a September night, the fairy tale ended. In a matter of seconds, Anna’s perfect world came crashing down around her.

 

Young Donnie loved three things. Anna first, Alabama Crimson Tide football second and hunting last. His love for Tide football had some to do with Coach Bear Bryant who had come to Tuscaloosa in 1958 and was in the process of turning Alabama into a national football powerhouse – but Donnie mostly loved the Tide because Anna loved them. About to turn 21, Anna was in her second year as an Alabama cheerleader and on September 28th of Anna’s junior year, the Crimson Tide was set to play the Tulane Green Wave in New Orleans. Since this was the last time in Anna’s college career Bama was playing that close to their home (next year, the game would be in Tuscaloosa), she arranged for the newly seven-year-old Donnie to attend the game, meet Coach Bryant and after the game, they would make the hour drive to their duck hunting camp over by Donaldsonville to join the rest of the family and share a birthday celebration.

 

The Tide beat the Green Wave 44-6 that day on the way to a 10-1 record and a season ending #5 national ranking, missing an undefeated season by a single extra point, losing to the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets 7 to 6 in November. The day was beautiful, and Donnie was now the proud owner of a game program signed by Coach Bryant. Ebullient and basking in the glow of a big win, Anna and Donnie set out for Donaldsonville along Highway 61 in her 1961 Jaguar XK-E. A typical moonlit late September night in New Orleans, it was in the low 70’s and the south Louisiana humidity was in full effect, so at Donnie’s request, Anna had the top down as they raced toward the welcoming family and the anticipated celebration. Donnie was fiddling with the radio as usual, trying to find a decent station while Anna was admonishing him to leave it alone and sit back in his seat.

 

About twenty miles from the turn onto Highway 22 at Sorrento, Highway 61 bends from an east to west alignment, taking a north/northwestern tack toward its terminus in Wyoming, Minnesota. As the Jaguar approached this sweeping curve, Anna took her eyes off the road and looked down to fix whatever Donnie had done to the radio. In the blink an eye everything changed, she heard Donnie scream, “Anna! Look out! It’s a deer!” As Anna yanked her head up, she saw three large deer standing in the middle of the highway, she immediately slammed on the brakes and swerved hard to the left to avoid them – but she couldn’t. It was too late.

 

At sixty miles per hour, the Jag skidded sideways before hitting the largest deer broadside, sending the car airborne, spinning it along its long axis as it flew over the asphalt, rolling down the center of the darkened highway. After the energy of the crash was expended, the car came to rest in an upright position. It took a few seconds for Anna to process what had just happened. She was stunned and badly injured but because she had somehow managed to stay in the driver’s seat, she was alive. As she fought to clear her head of the pain, she parted her blood-soaked hair and reached over for Donnie. Only then she realized the passenger seat was empty.

 

Anna began to panic – Donnie was not in the car!

 

Anna started screaming Donnie’s name but there was no reply, here cries were met with silence. Anna was on the verge of hysteria, she was desperate to know he was OK. As Anna crawled out of the wreckage and struggled to stand among the scattered debris, through the steam and smoke pouring from the wreck she saw him. Illuminated by a bright September Louisiana moon, a flash of Alabama crimson caught Anna’s eye. She immediately recognized it as the red shirt Donnie had worn to the game and there, directly on top of the centerline of deserted Highway 61, lay Donnie Sullivan’s lifeless, seven-year-old body.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Anna never really recovered from Donnie’s death.

 

The family certainly didn’t blame her and even though the investigators from the Louisiana State Police said it was a tragic accident and nothing could have been done – she certainly blamed herself. After taking a year off to recover from her physical injuries, she went on to finish college and returned to New Orleans a completely different person. The energetic, full of life, outgoing Anna that left was replaced by a despondent, angry and reclusive Anna.

 

A short few months after returning to New Orleans, Anna met Ezekiel Hezekiah Long and immediately fell for him. A Tulane law school graduate, Long was 10 years Anna’s senior and he cut quite the handsome, charming, dashing man-about-town figure. Zeke Long was polished, erudite and a bit of a scoundrel but by all appearances, he made Anna happy. When they were together, she could put Donnie’s tragic death away for a little while and be her old self. To the consternation of the family but the surprise of no one, a whirlwind courtship and marriage soon followed.

 

Anna’s family knew that Long didn’t really love her, his personality and ego demanded that he truly loved only himself, and they were very open in their warnings to her. She fought them with a passion, refusing to see Zeke’s flawed character and his thirst for her money. Anna’s blind love for Zeke finally drove a wedge between she and her family. She accused her father and remaining brothers of disowning her when in truth, it was mostly Anna’s choice to disown the family. In her mind, she was doing so to protect her new husband. Zeke knew he didn’t care for Anna, but he decided to give it a try anyway – he assumed sooner or later she would patch things up with the Sullivan clan and her family money and connections were certainly an upside for him. It was no small consolation prize that Anna was truly still one of the most beautiful women in New Orleans.

 

Zeke Long was a predator, the kind of man who could sense weakness in a person. He intuitively knew that to fill the void by playing to that weakness would give him total control over people. Like a Ninth Ward drug dealer, Zeke gravitated to damaged people because he could tap into their inadequacies and then use them for his purposes. It was obvious to anyone who knew her that Anna was still wracked with guilt over her little brother’s death and after getting her to open up about the accident, Anna admitted to Zeke what her family already knew – that she viewed Donnie as more of a lost child than her dead sibling. Seizing on this admission, Long convinced Anna that they should have a child as quickly as possible and that a new baby would help fill the void in her heart left when Donnie died.

Of course, Long also saw a child as a path to a faster reconciliation with the family and a way to cement a larger share of the Sullivan oil fortune for himself, so he figured it was a win-win situation.

 

Nine months later, Marie Evette Long was born.

 

For all external appearances, Zeke Long was a true Southern gentleman but that was a total charade. Unfortunately for his victims, he was also a fantastic con man and as his partners in an oil lease based Ponzi scheme would soon find out, gentlemanly loyalty meant little to him. As part of a plea deal, Zeke sang like a proverbial canary, resulting in the arrest of a dozen of his compatriots. In exchange for this assistance, he plead to only four counts of securities fraud instead of the twenty or so he was charged with, meaning he would be able to do four consecutive five year terms in the Louisiana State Prison at Angola. Long was also ordered to pay almost fifty million dollars in restitution.

 

For Anna Long, the public embarrassment, the impoverishment, and the guilt of having a husband who had destroyed so many people were too great a burden to bear. She saw herself as a failure, a disowned social outcast and a pariah – so it was a bit of a surprise when Anna called her brother Brice and asked for a meeting. Brice loved Anna and especially little Marie and agreed immediately, thinking that Anna had finally come to her senses and wanted to return to the family. Anna arrived late one Sunday afternoon with little Marie in tow.

 

Looking like something out of a Shirley Temple movie, little Marie had just turned three and was wrapped in her best Sunday go-to-meeting finery, clutching a Raggedy Ann doll her grandfather had surreptitiously sent her for her birthday. Brice greeted them in the foyer of his home with equal parts of joy and tears, smothering the giggling Marie with hugs and kisses. Not wanting to interrupt Brice’s joy, Anna looked to Brice’s wife Kelly, politely apologized and asked if she could use Brice’s study for a quick private call to her lawyers. Kelly agreed, and Anna smiled sweetly and waved to Brice and Marie as she walked the few paces across the great room and into the walnut paneled study.

 

Anna calmly closed the heavy double doors to the office and then the plantation shutters. Taking in the warm and calming aromas of leather, wood, fine cigars, and exquisite bourbon that permeating the room, she sat down behind the oversized desk. The massive leather chair squeaked as she carefully checked her makeup and neatly arranged her dress. She reached into her purse, lovingly retrieving her grandmother’s Bible, some pictures of Marie and a handwritten note. Tears began to stream down her cheeks as she carefully arranged the Bible, the pictures and the note on the top of the desk. She removed her rings, her locket with Marie’s picture in it, the diamond encrusted watch her father had given her for graduation, neatly arranging them on top of the Bible.

 

At shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon, Anna Marie Sullivan Long slid open the top right drawer of the desk and retrieved the .45 caliber Colt revolver she knew Brice kept there.

 

Anna whispered aloud, “Most Merciful God, please forgive me. I love you Marie and I’m so very sorry, but this is best for all of us.”

 

She grabbed the gun with both hands, pulled back the hammer, twisted it to rest the end of the barrel directly over her heart and with her thumb, calmly pulled the trigger.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

Marie Evette Long matriculated at Barnard College, one of the Seven Sisters of the Northeast, then on to Harvard Law where she met her future husband, Franklin Marshall. After graduation, Franklin and Marie were married and moved to a high-rise apartment in Franklin’s hometown of Chicago with a view of Lake Michigan off Lakeshore Drive. Franklin went to work for his father’s law firm, Marshall, Atkins and Donnelly (the couple always joked that Franklin was MAD to work there!). Franklin’s family was close to the Dailey political machine in heavily Democrat Chicago and almost immediately upon their arrival, Marie was hired as a junior counsel in the Chicago office of the Democratic US Senator from Illinois, Adlai Stevenson III. Over the next few years, she rose in in influence within the Illinois Democratic Party. Through her husband’s connections and her own skillful navigation, Marie’s political career blossomed. She secured key policy positions with Senator Paul Simon and then as Chief of Staff for Senator Carol Richards-Brown.

 

Marie and Franklin were workaholics and their careers took precedence over everything except each other. They had never even discussed the idea of children as both were too busy building careers, Franklin in the world of investment law and Marie in the world of politics and policy. It was not that they were opposed to children, they were just so busy, and it simply never came up. Perhaps it was Marie’s tragic family history that prevented her from thinking about children, but it was just easier to let work take the blame. Franklin loved Marie deeply and was sensitive to her family history, so he didn’t push, and she didn’t volunteer.

 

While they clearly loved each other, they both made sacrifices to make their lives work, carving out time in the middle of Franklin’s 80-hour weeks and Marie’s shuttling back and forth between Chicago and DC was nearly impossible. They might go weeks with little more than a phone call or two between them but when they could, they would get out of town for a few days or simply tell their friends and bosses they were out of town, then barricade themselves in their apartment, unplug the phones and order pizza. It was the most uncomplicated complicated relationship two people could ever have but miraculously, it worked for them.

 

The power couples carefully ordered (and meticulously scheduled) lives began to change when Richards-Brown lost her reelection bid to Republican Peter Fitzgerald in 1998. Shortly after the dust settled, Richards-Brown was appointed Ambassador to New Zealand by President Floyd Cooper. Marie chose to join the Chicago office of the Washington lobbying firm of Strauss Burkhart and leave electoral politics behind – or so she thought. In July of 2001 and after yet another flight from the home office in DC, Marie was greeted the arrival gate at O’Hare by Franklin’s older brother, Mark. Mark bore the catastrophic news that Franklin had experienced a massive heart attack at the office almost at the same time as she had boarded her flight at Reagan National. Tragically, Franklin could not be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Marie was devastated. She had spoken to Franklin just as she was boarding. They were finalizing plans for one of their “lock in” weekends with beer, pizza and a televised Cubs three game homestand marathon and now he was gone. Instead of talking about baseball with her husband, she now was condemned to an agonizingly lonely weekend planning his funeral. Suddenly, she felt an immense abyss forming in her life. As dark thoughts swirled in her head, a sense of panic and desperation began setting in.

 

“What will happen now?” she thought. “I wonder if this is how alone my mother felt?”

 

Franklin Marshall’s funeral was attended by everybody who was anybody in Chicago politics. The powerful recognize the powerful and the Marshall family was connected to all of them in one way or the other. The Dailey’s, the Pritzker’s, even US Senator Dick Durbin and national political figures like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were there. It was a gathering more akin to a political rally than a funeral, but Marie supposed everyone mourned in their own way.

 

Carol Richards-Brown flew in from New Zealand to comfort her friend and former Chief of Staff. A few weeks after the funeral, Richards-Brown as was on the way back to her post in New Zealand, she called Marie from Washington before she boarded her flight to Chicago and asked Marie to lunch. Marie really didn’t want to go but to honor their friendship and since Carol was going out of her way, Marie agreed. Richards-Brown knew Marie very well and at the funeral, had sensed that she was searching for meaning in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. Marie was clearly struggling for solid footing as she looked toward a future without her beloved Franklin.

 

Cautiously but confidently, Braun probed Marie’s state of mind, “Marie, what is next for you? You are the one person I know who never lets anything stop her, no matter what. As long as I’ve known you, you have always had a plan.”

 

“I’ll be honest, Carol. I have no idea. For the first time in my life, I’m lost. I’ve temporarily transferred my clients to junior partners in the firm and taken a leave of absence from Strauss Burkhart to sort things out – but right now – I just don’t know.”

 

“Well,” said Richards-Brown, “I know somewhere you are needed. You may think it is too early to think about something like this but there is a clock running on us.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“I’ve been talking to the Party leadership about you. The fact is, I have been talking with them about you for over four years now. I believe you have the skills, the experience and the temperament to run for office and the Party believes you do as well,” said Richards-Brown. “We are hearing that Fitzgerald is not going to run again, that he is planning to “retire” after he stirred the shit about corruption. The Republican establishment isn’t going to support him. We know the guy they are talking about running in Fitzgerald’s place has some…well, let’s just say he has some private proclivities that will become public issues at the appropriate time. We believe this is a perfect time for a strong candidate like you to take back my old seat.”

 

“Wow. Are you serious? I’ve never run for office – well at least not since I ran for Cookie Chairman in Girl Scouts when I was a kid. Isn’t that going to be a problem?” Marie blurted out, still in shock at the direction the discussion was taking.

 

“Not at all. You are well known in the Chicago political scene, you have both Franklin’s family and your connections through Strauss Burkhart to set up a fund-raising machine and the Party will back you 110%. You are a very smart, politically astute woman who has built a high-profile career in a man’s world, you have a backstory our media friends will eat up and you have taken all the right policy stances on the key issues Democrat voters in Illinois care about. You are an “outsider” who has never held elected office in an election cycle where outsiders are favored…and on top of that, you will have a weakened and very beatable opponent on the Republican side. The next thing you know, you will be sworn in as the junior Senator for the Great State of Illinois!”

 

The idea of throwing herself back into work she enjoyed and cared about was pleasing to Marie. It should help her get past the pain of losing Franklin and maybe do some good in the process. He would have wanted her to do this, she thought to herself.

 

Richards-Brown continued, “If you need some time to think it over, take some – but not too much! As I said, we are almost into 2002 and the election is only two years out. I know that seems a long way off but as they say, a month is a lifetime in politics. Things move fast and the ground changes under your feet. The clock really is running. The Party will need an answer soon.”

 

“I don’t need time,” a smiling Marie Marshall said. “Sign me up. Let’s do this!”

 

 

Chapter Seven

December 2008

Xichang Launch Center

 

 

“All systems are functioning, Flight Commander.”

 

“Affirmative. Proceed with countdown.”

 

“Ignition, we have main engine start.”

 

“15…14…13…12…11…all systems are green, Flight Commander.”

 

“Continue countdown.”

 

“9…8…7…6…5…release tower…3…2…1…”

“Liftoff. We have liftoff!”

 

And with a press of a button on the master control panel, from the Xichang launch center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province an advanced technology satellite designated Feng Yun 2E blasted off aboard a fifty-three-meter-tall Long March 3A booster at 0054 GMT (8:54 a.m. local time). This success marked the eleventh successful launch for the Xichang facility in 2008, roughly one launch per month. The eleven launches broke the prior record for successful orbital insertions for China set in 2007.

 

According to China’s state owned Xinhua News Agency, the booster successfully flew east from Xichang and deployed the 3,064-pound spacecraft about 24 minutes after liftoff. The Feng Yun 2E replaces the Feng Yun 2C, which was launched in 2004 and is stationed along the equator at 105 degrees east longitude. It will join a fleet of geostationary weather satellites operated by the China Meteorological Administration. Xinhua reported this satellite – and others like it already in orbit – would collect real-time weather imagery for forecasters in China and neighboring countries. Xinhua noted that China also operated a constellation of weather satellites in polar orbit. A new craft was added to that group during a launch earlier in 2008.

 

In development for ten years, the Feng Yun 2E carried advanced command, control and communication technology designed by China’s premier chip design companies, the crudely named Best Microchip Devices, Ltd. of Shenzhen. BMD was created in the early 1990’s by a faction of the Red Army (with rumored involvement from the Sun Ye On Triad) to copy chip designs stolen from National Semiconductor, Northern Telecom, Motorola, Intel and Texas Instruments being manufactured in the rapidly expanding microchip contract manufacturing facilities in Malaysia and Indonesia.

 

Under the leadership of its president, Song Li Peng, BMD had moved past being a replicator of designs and with a new wave of Chinese, Pakistani and Indian engineers and circuit designers educated in the universities of the United States and aided by the technology companies of America’s Silicon Valley, BMD began to design its own unique microchips and digital systems.

 

Madam Song Li Peng had long been a key figure in the development of Chinese computing capabilities. In the late 1980’s, she had been the project manager for the ill-fated MonicaCare initiative but somehow had avoided notice during the collapse of the partnership between China, Larry Ellsworth’s company, Transformative Technologies, Inc. of California, and the corruption of President Warren Jefferson’s administration. Some speculated it had to do with her key role in the nascent digital revolution in China, some said it was her PhD in in Computer Science from UC Berkeley, some thought it was her connections within the Chinese government (her biological father was Lt. General Cheung-Yan Tsang and her half-brother was a colonel in the Peoples Liberation Army working for its intelligence services). Bits and pieces of all that were true but mostly it was her brilliant work in the field of artificial intelligence

 

In 2001, BMD cooperated with Vietnam’s newly formed Integrated Circuit Design Research and Education Centre (ICDREC) to fund and establish the Sino-Viet Electronics Manufacturing Company, Ltd. (SVEMC), the first integrated circuit production facility in Vietnam. Located Quang Trung Software City (QTSC) just outside Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and based on designs of Texas Instruments facilities in Malaysia, this shop was capable of both mass production and research and development. Conceived in 1999 by the Ho Chi Minh City Peoples Committee, QTSC was the largest technology center and heavily dependent on Chinese investment.

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

The presidential election of 2000 was a hotly contested and ultimately controversial contest. After several legal challenges over vote counting in a few counties in Florida, America had narrowly elected George Prescott, a Republican. A short seven months after his inauguration, President Prescott would suffer with America through the most damaging domestic terrorism event in the history of the American Republic, the destruction of New York’s Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Prescott retaliated against the radical Islamic terrorist groups with two subsequent wars, one each in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the wars raged on, casualties mounted and the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden continually avoided capture, the country grew tired of the Global War on Terror.

 

Setting the capture or killing of bin Laden as a primary goal was a huge mistake for the Prescott administration. It was far easier to fight over a defined territory with uniformed enemies than to track down a single individual who had the run of the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The result was a country tired of the long hunt and one that was subsequently roiled in bitter partisanship as the fair-weather patriots on both sides of the aisle sensed the fading support for the wars and sought to claim political advantage.

 

Rabid partisanship was the order of the day and partisanship was getting in the way of success in the Middle East. It was one thing to be loyal to a political party – but when people let that get in the way of their oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States – that was where many drew the line. Those people were no friends of the United States.

 

If America thought 2000 election year was strange, the 2008 presidential election was even more unusual.

 

The 2008 presidential election pitted a relatively unknown junior Senator from Illinois, Marie Long Marshall, against a loyal Republican foot soldier and longtime Senator from the State of Arizona, Tom Peterson. Peterson was a military hero from the Vietnam and Korea eras and was expected to win in a walkover of a political neophyte with very little experience in elected office. His campaign was well funded, and he had the best political consultants – but unfortunately for Peterson, none of that mattered – unpredictability proved to be the most constant aspect of this race.

 

Marie Marshall, the junior Senator from Illinois, as a boost to her initial Senate bid had been given a prime speaking role, the keynote address, at the Democrat Convection in late summer of 2004, smack dab in the middle of her campaign. Marshall had surprised everyone by crushing her Democrat primary opponents the months preceding the national convention, and as the election season careened toward November, the polls revealed she was leading by an almost three to one margin over Albert Reeves, a last-minute candidate chosen to replace John Wright, a Republican who withdrew just weeks before the election due to a very nasty, very public, sex scandal.

 

Launched into the national political stratosphere by her keynote speech, Marie Marshall spent less than 13 months in the Senate before she began a run for the Democratic Party nomination and then the Presidency. The sheer arrogance of a move like that was something many applauded even as some found it dangerous. Many thought the Democrats were crazy until the news broke about Peterson’s long-term relationship with a young and beautiful Russian woman named Valeria Tazelaar. Now that Valeria had “repatriated” to Mother Russia and was claiming to be a “sleeper agent” for the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) – the successor to USSR’s KGB), Peterson’s political stock was worthless.

 

Documents were leaked by an opposition research firm and subsequently published online by Julian Assange’s outfit, WikiLeaks. These documents were authenticated and seemed to confirm the beautiful Tazelaar’s story. The more Petersen’s campaign and the GOP denied it, the more people came to believe that Peterson was a sad and dirty old man, one who could not be trusted and not fit to lead a one-man parade, much less a country.

 

Marshall quickly became a very sympathetic figure once her backstory began to make the rounds in the media. The more Peterson wailed about her inexperience and incompetence, the more people sought to defend her. Going into the Democratic Convention in July, the Marshall campaign announced its pick for Vice President. It was Congressman Larry Culberson, a highly respected, experienced, and plain spoken twelve term Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Texas. Having served for over two decades as either the Chairman or Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee and sixteen years on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, plus being an outspoken critic of the Veterans Administration, Culberson had enough military and foreign policy bone fides to cover both he and Marie. Thanks to the addition of Culberson to the ticket, the GOP’s charges of inexperience were immediately rendered moot.

 

Marie’s lack of a political track record and a scandal-free personal background made for a less than a target rich environment. In absence of ammunition on her and with nothing to lose, the Peterson campaign went for broke, going after her dead husband and his family, they dredged up her late father’s fraud conviction and incarceration, her mother’s suicide and counterintuitively, attacked her mother’s family and their interests in Sullivan Oil Company, now the third largest oil company in the world and the only 100% American owned major oil company remaining.

 

Besides the fact Petersen was a dead man walking due to the Russian sex/spy scandal, any remaining support base was completely confused by Peterson’s anti-business stance and was seething with disgust over the personal attacks against Marshall. The bursting of the mortgage bubble was focusing people on Wall Street and reminding them of Peterson’s alleged role in the Keating Five scandal from decades before, that he had been one of five Senators who protected Charles Keating after the three-billion-dollar collapse of his Lincoln Savings and Loan in the late eighties, did not play well.

 

Day by day, Peterson’s early lead evaporated until the question switched from “Does Marshall have a path to 270 electoral votes?” to “Does Peterson still have a path to 270?” It became increasingly clear that the answer to the former was “yes” and the latter, was not just “no”, but “Hell no.”

 

America awoke on a chilly November 5th morning to a new reality. They would have to get used to saying, “Madam President”. America had her first ever female President-Elect.

 

President-Elect Marshall’s transition team had no shortage of challenges. Since it was not apparent until mere weeks before the election that she had a real chance to win, post-election planning had not been a high priority. Some thought had been given to key posts – but no real conversations had taken place as no high-profile people wanted to be associated with a losing campaign. For fear of damage to their own aspirations, many had kept a layer of insulation between themselves and the Marshall campaign, but that distance narrowed quickly after Marshall’s epic victory. It was expected that Reyna Garrett, Marshall’s most senior advisor and confidant would become the White House Chief of Staff if the Marshall ticket won but beyond that, there was a sort of organized chaos.

 

Due to President-Elect Marshall’s lack of executive experience, her handlers and advisors in the Party leadership were scrambling to field the most experienced team possible to surround her. That was why the 66-year-old Thomas Markay had been asked to return to government service one more time – for what he termed his “final hurrah”. He was to be named as the Director of National Intelligence, leading the intelligence service that kept America safe from foreign enemies. Expected to be a shoe-in for confirmation, Markay was well respected by both parties as a man who could be trusted with America’s secrets. He had served the Warren Jefferson administration as Attorney General and had spent 8 years with Floyd Cooper, first as the AG and then as his Vice-President after Christopher Nance, Cooper’s first term VP, inexplicably decided to retire from government service two months before the election in 1996.

 

President-Elect Marshall had become a very adept politician in her own right after the death of her husband, Franklin. Franklin was part of a kingmaking Chicago Democrat Machine family, but the fact remained Marie had been elected with almost no national political experience, much less any significant foreign policy experience. Her prime qualification was based on her compelling backstory and the promise and potential voters saw in her. Another powerful aspect impossible to ignore was her ability to convince people that he wasn’t George Prescott – and she was aided by the fact that Prescott and his party’s approval percentages were in the low teens in every poll – mostly due to war fatigue and a blooming recession that had taken hold in the spring before the election.

 

It wasn’t an inexperienced president that bothered Thomas Markay. Hell, Floyd Cooper was a young and inexperienced president during his first term – he could deal with that – but something was eating at him, though. Markay could only settle on one thing – he simply did not truly know Marie Marshall well enough to trust her. Both the Cooper and Prescott administrations had fought hard against Islamic terrorism…and largely were winning until the Congressional “oversight” kicked in in the post-Abu Ghraib era when the threats to de-fund the troops started. The War on Terror had perhaps gone too well. The hidden successes had prevented any major terror attacks and America had grown complacent again. Even the former hawks were lying down with doves.

 

Maybe it was the recession and the subsequent financial crisis that caused the focus to change…but the gnawingly painful regret that Thomas Markay could not overcome was who America had turned to in its hour of need…China. China was sucking up US debt like a massive yellow communist sponge and had become our largest trading partner – while at the same time gobbling up our real estate, competing with us for oil and other natural resources, stealing our technology and funding our enemies. Hell, over the past 10 years, China just about bought the entire continent of Africa in one way or another

 

“The thought processes of politicians are shorter than their dicks,” Markay thought, “if they even have dicks…but both those who do and those who don’t have the attention span of a goldfish – about three seconds.” Markey lamented an accepted truth in Washington, that the first order of an elected official was to get elected again. They only wanted to fight the battles coinciding with their own election cycle and had no interest in the long war – so they fought the Islamic terrorists because they simply didn’t have the guts to take on the eight-hundred-pound gorilla (or in this case the eight-hundred-pound dragon) in the room.

 

Few outside a very small circle knew what Markay knew – the CIA had dug up evidence that tied Chinese money and influence to radical Islamic terrorist organizations. There were also threads that ran to Iran’s and North Korea’s nukes, 9/11 and a myriad of other terrorist activities all over the world – but these threads were not invisible, there were many signs for those willing to see them. One president in the past fifteen years, Warren Jefferson, had nearly been impeached due to Chinese involvement and that entanglement had cost several lives – the First Lady of the United States, the CEO of a major technology company, a decorated CIA agent and even the White House Chief of Staff at the time had committed suicide over it.

 

China was quickly replacing Russia as the greatest geo-political foe of the United States…and America had helped them get there.

 

There was the fact that incidents involving China were starting to pile up – in less than 20 years, China had gone from a backwater, third-world nation using cast off Soviet weaponry to one with military technology that was quickly reaching parity with that of the US.

 

In 2004, the Chinese had launched their first Jin Class, Type 094 nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. In the fall of 2006, a stealth modified diesel-electric Chinese Song class submarine had slipped smack into the middle of a massive American Navy exercise off Hawaii without detection – within five nautical miles (easy missile and torpedo range) of the American carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk. Early in January of 2007, the Chinese had successfully fired an anti-satellite missile from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, hitting a small moving satellite orbiting at over 500 miles up. Needless to say, these events shocked the West. None were predicted to be within China’s capability in this timeframe.

 

The most disturbing was the incident was the Song class sub of Hawaii. That sub class was notorious for its “Led Zeppelin on 11” auditory signature – the Song class subs were built on an old Soviet design that was so inherently noisy, American submariners had never experienced difficulty in detecting and identifying these boats from hundreds of nautical miles away – and yet this one got inside the perimeter of a full-fledged Navy exercise without so much as a sonar ping. This shocked the American, British and French military/intelligence complexes into a state of vigilance. The intelligence work completed after the incident indicated the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy had retrofitted all the existing Song class boats with a new equipment package that included active noise cancellation technology, new sonar absorbing hull material and a new propulsion system that included anti-cavitation screws that, at the time, were only included in the American arsenal…and were thought to be a carefully guarded secret.

 

The startling advancements in their missile technology were a close second. The People’s Liberation Army had progressed from what could charitably be called fireworks to the computing power and hardware capable of hitting a moving target in geo-synchronous orbit, 500 miles up and moving at 18,500 miles per hour. On top of this, their booster technology had become robust and reliable enough to launch their own spy satellites into orbit.

 

The evidence of the increase in Chinese military power was mounting…and Markay was one of the few who suspected the reason for the rapid advance. It was like everything else that the Chinese had “developed” – except they didn’t “develop” it at all, they had stolen it. The Chinese had become master replicators – give them an idea and they could copy it and have it in production in weeks. The electronics, textile and entertainment industry had painfully learned this lesson. DVD’s were on the street and for sale on every street corner for five Yuan (about 85 cents) – often before movies even opened in America or Europe. The old joke of “how many copies of Microsoft Word are there in China?” was answered with faux humor – “One”. Markay knew that this all went back to the security breach caused by the greed and blindness of the deceased Larry Ellsworth, the head of Transformative Technologies, Inc. and pure, unadulterated corruption of Monica Bruce-Jefferson, the wife of President Warren Jefferson.

 

It was long postulated there might have been more people involved – but before Jefferson’s role could be fully investigated, he fell victim to an undiagnosed heart condition and died shortly after leaving office. Without him, the investigation faltered and different political winds blew America’s attention in a different direction.

 

Fast-forward to 2008 and America, proving it had learned nothing, was right back in bed with the Chinese Communists. The ruling ChiComs had become blinded by the commercial success of their country and seemed not to be bothered by the opposing forces of a Chinese government that was communist at home and capitalist abroad. China Incorporated had seemingly forgotten the pledges that were made back in 1989 and due to profligate government spending in the US under both Republican and Democratic administrations; America was in hock up to its national eyeballs to the Chinese government.

 

“How can this not affect our policies is mystery,” Markay thought, “…and on top of that, this new President-Elect was very, very deferential and conciliatory toward the Chinese. That could spell trouble.” Markay had tried to warn this and previous administrations – there is no one in the world who understood capitalism and how to pervert it to their benefit better than a Chinese Communist Party official.

 

“We need to be careful,” thought Markay. “More to the point, I need to be careful.”

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

Christmas Day, 2008

Hainan Island, South China Sea

 

Rumors and rudimentary intelligence reports of China’s military activities had started flowing into the West around 2002, but a fact that was consistently missed was that China had been working on a new underground submarine base at the Yulin Naval Installation since 1990. They had been able to shroud the project in secrecy due to their public government pronouncements about redeveloping the entire of Hainan Island and its pristine beaches as a tourist destination. To the outside world, China was just building a commercial paradise in the South China Sea to rival other exotic locations.

 

The Yulin base was near the port city of Sanya, so construction in and around the port facilities were nothing notable – then the first images of the base started to filter in. These images were not captured by an intelligence agency – they were captured by DigitalGlobe, a public company providing commercial high-resolution earth observation and advanced geospatial data. An overflight of the area by their QuickBird satellite in late November of 2007 had captured the first image of China’s first Type 094 ballistic missile sub docked at the facility. Shortly after these pictures were made public, more specific were detailed in an article published in Jane’s Intelligence Review. The article detailed the size and capabilities of the base, its suspected subterranean facilities, and that it gave the Chinese subs the ability to exit the facility directly into very deep water. That meant that they no longer had to exit the port on the surface and therefore could avoid visual detection of their coming and going.

 

China’s newest and most advanced Jin Class nuclear sub, the Guo Ziyi slipped quietly from the now not-so-secret submarine base on the southern tip of the island. This sub was technically designated as People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Submarine Number 335, but the crew had returned to an old tradition from past centuries of dynastic rule and named her after the fifth century general who was widely regarded as the greatest military leader in the world at the time. Somewhat curiously, the launch of the vessel was not completely secret; the Chinese allowed the vessel to be photographed and was immediately tracked by USS North Carolina, on patrol out of her berth in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Designated SSN 777 and launched in May of 2008, the North Carolina was the newest Virginia class nuclear attack sub in the US Naval inventory. She and her crew had successfully completed the initial shakedown cruise and were in the second week of a three-month patrol of the South China Sea when they were ordered to acquire the Guo Ziyi.

 

The rules of engagement were slightly different since the incident in March when five Chinese ships harassed the U.S. submarine surveillance vessel USNS Impeccable about 75 miles south of the Yulin submarine base. Due to increased activity in the region, the US Navy had sent the Impeccable, a civilian manned vessel operating under the auspices of the Military Sealift Command, to monitor naval activity in the area. The Impeccable was equipped with the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS), a passive linear underwater surveillance array attached to a tow cable. SURTASS was developed as a floating submarine detection system for deep waters, and to which the Navy added an innovation, an active Low Frequency Array (LFA) to improve long-range detection of submarines in shallow waters.

 

What was important about this event was not what was detected, it was what wasn’t.

 

Thirty minutes after the Guo Ziyi disembarked, another sub left via the deepest channel radiating from the base. This was a something significantly different, the prototype for the new Type 095 submarine. Designed as the replacement for the older and noisier Shang and Han class, the Type 095 was slightly longer than the Shang at 120 meters but that bulk was offset by a new hyper-streamlined shape, improved active noise cancellation, anti-cavitation screws and a greatly improved sonar absorbing hull coating. It was much bigger, faster and quieter than the Song class sub that had surfaced in the middle of an American Naval exercise in 2006 – and doing so absolutely and completely undetected prior to breaking the surface.

 

Christened the Yǐnshēn (the Chinese word for “stealth”), this boat was outfitted with a new nuclear propulsion system, a massive electronic suite and two large aft port and starboard doors covering watertight bays. In each of these bays were berthed autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), designated the Lìyú kēyú I and II, were capable of being deployed to depth of over three thousand meters – roughly eleven thousand five hundred feet and greatly extending the effective reach of Yǐnshēn far beyond its four hundred meter, thirteen hundred foot, maximum depth limit.

 

The Guo Ziyi exited the Yulin base and assumed a due east heading, readying to run the gap between Taiwan to the north and the Philippine island of Luzon to the south and then into the South Pacific Ocean. The Yǐnshēn was then to chart a course due south to the Java Sea, planning to run the narrow straight between the islands of Bali and Lombok and then into the Indian Ocean. The true objective of the Guo Ziyi was to be noticed and followed in circles by the Americans – it was to be the mouse to the American cat. The Guo Ziyi had no mission other than to be a diversion for the southward tack of the Yǐnshēn.

 

The Yǐnshēn was headed for the old Soviet era submarine base near Cienfuegos, Cuba.

 

In 1976, Cuba and the Soviet Union signed an agreement to construct two 440-megawatt nuclear power reactors to generate electricity for Castro’s prison island, to be christened Planta Nuclear de Juraguá – the Juragua Nuclear Power Plant – but as with every deal between the Castro brothers and the Kremlin since the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was more. Under the guise of constructing the reactors, underneath and immediately adjacent to the surface construction, an extensive submarine base was constructed. This base had 3 sub pens and one dry dock and a facility capable of housing sub crews, refueling and support staff numbering slightly over a thousand men. While the power plant was easily detectable from above, the submarine base was safe from the prying eyes of satellites. The Juragua reactor site was perfect camouflage, it would also provide the necessary materials and skills to refuel the reactors on Soviet submarines. With all the shielding and massive amounts of concrete above, the activities of the submarine base would be all but impossible to detect. All perfectly planned save one thing – the complete collapse of the Soviet Union brought about by an actor turned President and the crazy idea of the US implementing space based weapons.

 

With the collapse of the USSR in 1992, work was halted on the Juragua reactors and power plant structures above ground – but the submarine base was essentially complete. Intelligence services in the US considered it dead since the Cubans had no money or need to complete it. It was assumed to have been left as incomplete as the reactors above – but that was not the case. Hungry for aid after the Berlin Wall fell, Castro reached out to his communist comrades in China. Chinese aid money to Castro soon replaced support from the USSR and consequently bought access to many old Soviet installations, including the old Soviet Submarine Base Number 237.

 

The Yǐnshēn was about to be the first Chinese submarine to operate in the Caribbean Sea and the first foreign navy sub to enter the Gulf of Mexico since the German U-boats, the U-166 and the U-171, patrolled there in 1942.

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

Friday, January 23, 2009

Edinburgh, Scotland

 

The sleek silhouette of the Gulfstream G550 arced like a dart over the walls of Edinburgh Castle as it descended to meet the tarmac at Edinburgh International Airport. Michael Scott peered out of the window and into the gray Scottish sky as droplets of rain traced horizontal lines across the window.

 

“Mind your seat belt, Mr. Scott. We’ve a wee bit of a crosswind,” crackled the voice of the pilot over the intercom.

 

Scott felt a soft jolt as the landing gear reached for the ground as if it was caressing long lost lover.

 

“Rain again, Wullie?” Scott sarcastically commented to his pilot and bodyguard, William “Wullie” Rankin.

 

“Aye, sir. You know what they say – you can tell the seasons in Scotland by the temperature of the rain, if it is warm, tis summer. If it is a wee bit cold, tis winter!” drawled the rugged former SAS pilot.

 

“Yeah…but the two days of summer each year are grand, aren’t they?!” Scott joked.

 

“Aye!” Yelled Rankin. “There’s a car waiting for you when you clear customs, sir.”

 

“Thanks, Wullie. I must go to Paris on Wednesday, so don’t hit the pub too hard tonight – give yourself a couple of days to get over it. Try not to drink all the whisky in Edinburgh!”

 

“Aye, sir. That be Raguel business, will it?

 

“Assume that it is, Wullie but I don’t know at this point. I’m sure we will have mission parameters to you before we leave Paris,” Scott replied.

 

“Heavy or light, sir?”

 

“Light – I’m just going for a chat. Don’t expect any issues.”

 

“Well enough, sir. I’ll pack accordingly…and by the way, Happy Birthday!”

 

“Been talking to my wife again, have we, Mr. Rankin?” replied Scott.

 

“Aye, sir. She said that you would ignore it and that I should make sure you tipped a few with us to celebrate.”

 

“I’ll do that – I assume you will be manning your usual barstool at the St. Vincent Pub – the one just up the street from Saint Stephens Church? I’ll be there for supper tomorrow night and you can buy me a pint!”

 

Wullie Rankin had served in Afghanistan with an elite SAS unit working with the Americans in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. He was a true Scot but with an added touch of Viking in him. He had let his appearance slide to the casual side to better fit in with the civilians but under a mop of unruly auburn hair burned intense blue eyes that never missed anything that was out of place. He was a hard drinking, stocky lad with a backbone of spring steel and muscles like steel cables. Scott had run into him on a trip to the Waziri region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border when he was called in to interrogate an interesting character the SAS had “acquired” and who claimed to know where Osama bin Laden was hiding.

 

Being ex-SAS, Wullie was always alert and expecting trouble. Scott knew “packing light” for Rankin likely meant a Beretta 92FS tucked in a shoulder holster, a Sig P224 in an ankle holster, a half dozen magazines, a razor sharp tactical knife and assorted other hand tools of the trade. Heavy meant long guns and explosive ordnance.

 

Scott breezed through the immigration checkpoint quickly. He had been to the Energy Consulting Partners offices in Edinburgh with such frequency over the past year he knew the immigration agents on a first name basis. Minutes later, he was ducking into a waiting car for the 30-minute drive to the center of Edinburgh.

 

Scott’s company, Energy Consulting Partners or ECP for short, had taken offices on the second and third floors at the north corner of George and Hanover Streets in Edinburgh – over the All Bar One and across from the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Scott’s office was just blocks from his flat at 86 Great King Street in New Town – a short walk. Scott chuckled as the thought Edinburgh might be one of the only cities where a section called “New Town” was old enough to have been standing since the early 1700’s – older than America itself – but in the grand scheme of time, three centuries was relatively new in an ancient land like Scotland.

 

Scott loved the city of Edinburgh and his office there – from his windows he could see Edinburgh Castle rising above Princes Street Gardens, the castle resting on a prehistoric granite plinth. He had chosen Edinburgh over Aberdeen, the accepted center of the energy business in Scotland and the industrial capital of Glasgow. Aberdeen is known as the Granite City – almost all the buildings are made of that monotonous gray stone. Scott found the grayness of the Aberdeen combined with the harshness of the Scottish winters to be too depressing. Glasgow was simply too “new” and too gritty – plus, when a Glaswegian was angry or excited, they spoke in such a rapid-fire pattern, it was unintelligible to anyone other than a fellow Glaswegian. Edinburgh was just a better fit, it was alive and vibrant compared to the other two – it was seat of Scotland’s Parliament and the financial and legal center of the country. Scotland was not large by American standards, Scott could get to Aberdeen or Glasgow in less than 2 hours via express train.

 

The symmetry of the Royal Society being across the street suited his idea of the partnership between the Americans and the UK in the fight against terror. America was born of English colonies and was the beneficiary of Scotland’s greatest export – her people. Alan Stevenson, an old friend from MI-6 had once joked that the Scots never could defeat the English in Britain, so the all went to America where they could. Scotland’s ties to America were strong. Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding fellows of the Royal Society, side by side with the father of capitalism, Adam Smith. Former presidents of the Society included Sir Walter Scott and Lord Kelvin – these were men of enlightenment, knowledge, and human advancement, not like the dual enemies the western world now fought who wanted to return the world to seventh century barbarism and those who were providing the money for them to do it.

 

Scott was taken in by Scottish history, its landscape, and people. Perhaps the reason he and his wife Catherine felt so comfortable there was that both of their families traced their history to Scotland. Catherine was part of the Royal Line of Scots – and that of Norway as well – and had even traced her lineage all the way back to Charlemagne. Michael’s family line ran back through that of the early kings of Scotland to House of Dunkeld – Kings Malcolm, Alexander, and David and even to the House of Bruce. Through historical documents like the Declaration of Arbroath (a document that closely parallels the American Declaration of Independence), Scott came to know and love the fierce independent streak of his ancestors.

Edinburgh just felt right. It was as if his very DNA was telling him he was home – and if there was one thing Scott knew, it was that it was likely that was exactly what was happening.

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