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Chapter three

Presidential Briefing, Washington, National Security Council (plus)


National Security Council meetings are chaired by the President. This particular
President was Samuel Arthur Douglass, Republican from the state of Oregon. A fo
rmer US Senator, previously defeated for Governor, Douglass had been elected wit
h strong support from Republican leaders including former Presidents Bush (sorry
, Dan). The Douglass platform centered on an American Industrial Revitalization
plan that would provide tax incentives, not tax increases, for American owned co
mpanies based and providing jobs in America. Legislation presented to Congress b
y the Douglass Administration has to date passed, but only barely. President Dou
glass is an advocate of prudently reduced defense. His primary focus is on stren
gthening and expanding America's home manufacturing base as the only workable me
ans of reducing and controlling the US National debt. His Administration, after
tough and sometimes arm-twisting negotiations with Congressional members, has ce
lebrated the passage of stronger US trade laws. This first of two linked package
s, requires foreign corporations that wish to sell to US consumers to accept dis
tribution and marketing license agreements with
American companies. The licensing agreements are stipulated to be PRO FORMA with
each foreign nation's regulations for the marketing of American products. The s
econd package of laws will assure equal access to corporate ownership and/or con
trol on a similar nation by nation PRO FORMA basis. It also will prohibit unfair
government practices that preclude or disadvantage purchase of American product
s and services by foreign nationals in their own country.
Clearly aimed at Japanese Industry which practices 'Business is War', President
Samuel Arthur Douglass has struck terror and provoked tremendous enmity in the h
earts of Japanese, Chinese and Korean businessmen. A few more ebullient members
of President Douglass's team refer to the whole scenario as the Lime (yellow/gre
en) War.
Most of the persons in the briefing room were functioning now only by force of w
ill, energy long since depleted. The Syrian bombshell had sent State, CIA, FBI a
nd the NSC into overdrive. Defense and the Joint Chiefs were in afterburner. Sam
uel Arthur Douglass was royally pissed - partially because his people were caugh
t napping, but also because since the Syrian outrage, the Soviets and Japanese h
ad made no effort to ease the situation. Nor were
they disavowing the Syrian announcement.
Douglass glared at Horton Timmons, his National Security Advisor, and growled, "
OK, Horton, let's summarize."
"Right, " responded Timmons wearily. "The consensus is we can expect some type o
f terrorist activity directed against De Beers. Our problem is where. De Beers i
s headquartered in London - out of our domain. Major holdings are in South Afric
a, also out of our domain. Primary stone processing is done in Israel and Amster
dam and we see no reason to become involved in either of those two locations. Th
e CIA will keep us abreast of activities in each of the aforementioned."
"Better yet CNN, "popped up Willem Gorse of State.
Douglass fired a threatening glance at Gorse and order restored, motioned Timmon
s to continue.
"Yes, ah, well, our primary concerns are distribution routes and methods and ret
ail offices here in the US. De Beers air-couriers diamonds to New York on
a non-scheduled basis but usually two or three times a week. From there the diam
onds are sent under guard or by courier to retail outlets in New York, Dallas, L
os Angeles and San Francisco. Those are De Beer outlets. Other suppliers buy the
ir product from De Beers in Europe and arrange their own importation and distrib
ution. The FBI has people in and around each of the retail outlets. Our major co
ncern centers on US flag air carriers and airports in and around New York plus t
he armored vehicles used to transport from those locations."
Timmons went on to detail precautions and airport security measures both in the
US and in Europe. Douglass was clearly only half listening and finally interrupt
ed.
"All right! We've got a handle on site securities and all that. Now, what about
locations and movements of terrorist groups?" Samuel was looking at Pieter Zawsl
ewski, CIA director, and Stan Brownell, FBI director for Anti-terrorism.
Pieter spoke first, "Mr. President, we can report no unusual or increased activi
ty from any known international terrorist group. If anything, they are less acti
ve than normal. Interpol plus French, German, English and Israeli
Intel nets report similar findings. We have increased surveillance and are conti
nuing to tap assets around the clock but nothing warrants intervention yet."
"We concur Mr. President, " said Stan Brownell. "Very quiet. Little movement and
definitely nothing alarming. Station chiefs are debriefing in-place assets and
interviewing other sources and so far nada, nothing!"
"So we may be dealing with a bullshit threat, right?" President Douglass canvass
ed each attendee with his eyes. "Wrong people! If that were the case, Moscow and
Tokyo would be ringing a hot line every 45 minutes and I'd have two Ambassadors
in the Oval Office between calls. That means, people, that the Soviets and Japa
nese either knew what the Syrian government was up to or they put the Syrians up
to it. On the off-chance they are as surprised by Syria as we, the Japanese in
particular are probably intrigued by the fallout potential. If so, they will wai
t to see what advantages to Nipponese commerce appear before we see any action f
rom their side. Frankly, I don't think the Soviets give a damn. I think they are
laughing their borscht-filled asses off and toasting how little Syria totally f
lummoxed the Western big shots."
Standing up to let everyone know this session was over, Samuel Douglass finished
, "That's it people. Pieter, I want a full brief on my desk this afternoon on th
is CMR thing. All you've got, everything. Thank you all for your efforts, now ca
tch a few winks and recharge. General DeBliss, you and Horton please stay a few
minutes."
President Douglass hadn't stated in front of the rest why he was detaining the J
oint Chiefs Chairman and the National Security Advisor and that caused a few que
stioning glances. They need not have been concerned. The President only wanted a
n update on the Pacific earthquake situation. He preferred reports a little clos
er to the bone than what the Director of National Emergency Preparedness had pre
sented.
Horton Timmons proceeded to outline civil defense precautions underway in Hawaii
. General DeBliss announced the Army, stationed at Scoffield Barracks, was on al
ert to assist the Governor of Hawaii as he and the President saw fit. Neither we
re adding significantly to the previous report. The air and naval forces were re
ady to redeploy along contingency plans already drawn up. Fleet Admiral Thomas B
ramble was in recall from Houston
and would reroute for Pearl to coordinate said redeployment this afternoon. Hort
on declined to needle General DeBliss. He was exhausted. Even the prospect of hu
mbling the puffed up four-star was not worth an expenditure of effort.
University of Houston, Geology Department, Dr. Miriam Goodman's office
"Admiral, we understand your predicament, but the data you had sent over from th
e National Earthquake Institute simply doesn't analyze at the drop of your hat.
For any degree of certainty, days or even weeks of computer simulations are requ
ired for even basic analyses." Dr. Goodman was speaking to Admiral Bramble for h
erself and also Dr. Neal Palmer. Searching Thomas T.'s eyes, Dr. Goodman was hav
ing difficulty sustaining her professional composure. Thirty-three, divorced (no
children) and since alienated from her parents, Miriam Goodman is darkly attrac
tive. Possessed of full-figured allure, Miriam is entirely unaware of any impact
other than professional she was having on either of the two males in her presen
ce. Jewish but non-practicing, beautiful but without relevance to her lifestyle,
Miriam has shown no interest in romantic attachments or any attachments for tha
t matter for a long time. Dr. Goodman loves her work but she exhibits
little drive or fire behind it. Brilliant and superficially outgoing, Professor
Goodman is a lovely wandering star, spiraling toward a black hole and quietly ac
cepting that fate with only a sometimes nagging sense of desperation. Only now,
looking deeply into Admiral Bramble's brown eyes, did she sense the core of supp
ressed emotion suddenly lurch toward consciousness. "I know you are disappointed
but that is the truth and nothing I know of can change that fact."
Admiral Bramble looked to Dr. Palmer for some mollifying word but received only
a shrug and upheld hands. Thomas T. offered a compromise, "At this juncture I re
ally would appreciate just your feelings about the NEI pronouncements. Nothing i
n concrete, only best guesses." Bramble paused, looking expectantly at each of t
he earth science professors. His tilted, slightly lowered head was disarming to
Miriam but not to the other professor.
Neal Palmer understood what his former commander wanted. In Iraqi planning sessi
ons, Commodore (and then Rear Admiral) Bramble would often place more trust in g
ut feelings than all the official Intel Fleet Command continually dumped on his
desk. Neal had not been a top notch officer in Iraq, seeking promotion only as a
means to avoid most of the crap that
rolled downhill. On the other hand, he had been a hard working member of the Adm
iral's team. Neal remembered several occasions where Thomas T. had come to value
his studious Lt. Commander's opinion. The Admiral wanted that same type of unco
nfirmed insight now.
"Admiral, speaking for myself," Neal began, "I think NEI is probably correct in
their Hawaiian assessment. However, I can't dismiss a gut-call that Japan may ge
t the worst of it. There is nothing convincing that I can point to, but somethin
g is poking at me from that data. My instincts say - watch out Japan, the shit's
going to hit the geisha house!"
Thomas nodded his head and turned fully to Dr. Goodman. "And . . .?"
"I see nothing so far to confirm or deny what Dr. Palmer is speculating about. O
nce a major tectonic plate event manifests itself, the possible domino effects a
re too numerous and complicated to possibly predict. That assumes the first occu
rrence is where NEI has determined is most likely. The numerical progression use
d to describe earthquake event strength is logarithmic, Admiral. That means a Ri
chter rating of six is ten times stronger than a five, a seven is ten times stro
nger than a six and so on. The initial
quake may be stronger or weaker than accompanying events. Small quakes and tremo
rs often precede or follow a major earthquake for days or even weeks, but that's
not a given either. A really big one can occur without any warning at all. What
Dr. Palmer alludes to is possible but so are many other scenarios. An event in
one locale could trigger a larger event in one or more other locales, even dista
nt ones. Many faults lines may appear unconnected to each other when in fact, th
ey all link to one collision of continental plates. A small shift along one faul
t line can dramatically increase pressures in other areas. Such pressure increas
es may or may not cause immediate slippages in other fault lines. Fault line act
ivities in an area tend to interrelate but to presuppose the effect of one on th
e others would be like predicting what your sisters-in-law will feel when you ki
ss your wife."
"My wife died several years ago," Thomas T. said softly.
Miriam flushed deeply at his revelation and, her train of thought completely der
ailed, could only look away and bite her lower lip.
Neal, unaware of anything appropriate to say at such a time, quietly cleared his
throat and suggested he and Dr. Goodman continue their computer
analysis. Meanwhile, the military should act on the advice from NEI. Dr. Goodman
, composed again, seconded those lines of action. Admiral Bramble agreed and sai
d he would convey their recommendations to Washington and implored each of them
to keep him immediately informed of any developments or insights.
"I want to thank you both for you time and efforts. I know you'll be successful,
given enough time. Let's all hope we have that time, " Admiral Bramble conclude
d.
Miriam walked Neal and the Admiral through the inner door and into the outer off
ice. Leigh Roper, dictating notes to herself on a pocket recorder, froze like a
golden Lab on point. Awaiting her own appointment with Dr. Goodman to discuss th
e potential danger to the Hawaiian islandâ s infrastructure, Leigh was caught off g
uard by the Admiral's emergence. This Admiral's identity, however, came quickly
to mind. Besides being a Texas boy, Thomas T. was high enough in rank and visibl
e enough as the "Japanese Bushwhacker" for any reporter without brain damage to
recognize on sight. Thomas T. caught Leigh's calculating stare and his well hone
d media instincts immediately suggested forthwith departure. Formally and silent
ly shaking
hands with Neal and Miriam, a stony-faced Admiral turned and walked briskly towa
rd an open hallway. Leigh was faster.
Stepping lightly and directly in his path, Leigh accosted the Fleet Admiral, "Ad
miral Bramble, I wonder if I could have a few minutes before you leave? My reade
rs would be interested to learn the military's thoughts on the gravity of the pr
edicted Pacific earthquake?"
Noting the recording light illuminated on Leigh's pocket unit, Admiral Bramble s
aid, "Requests of that nature are fielded by the Pentagon press office, Ms. Rope
r. Now if you will excuse me?" Stepping quickly past, Fleet Admiral Thomas T. Br
amble averted further interview possibilities but not a parting query from repor
ter Roper, which he wisely ignored.
Leigh was pleased and motivated by the fact the Admiral had recognized her. "Wha
t's the military doing about Syria's threat to the De Beers organization, Admira
l?"
Expecting and getting no reply, Leigh turned and sweetly smiled at the two stand
ing professors, "And what have we been up to here, hummm? I hope
you have allotted plenty of time for our little meet Dr. Goodman. Perhaps your c
olleague here, Dr., ah, Dr . . .?"
Neal returned Leigh's smile and silently held it just long enough to detect a sl
ight loss of composure in Leigh. "I'm very sorry Ms. Roper but it appears Profes
sor Goodman and I must forego interviews for a time." Handing Leigh one of his b
usiness cards, "Perhaps if you are in Austin sometime, you'll stop by for a chat
. Now we're sorry, but please excuse us too."
"Oh no Professor, ah, " glancing at his card, "Putnam. No put offs and no chats.
We need to talk and now's the moment, sweet pea!" Leigh uttered 'sweet pea' jus
t as Dr. Goodman shut the office door in her face. Lee-Roy grabbed and shook the
doorknob as a bolt slid home on the other side. "You both have to leave sometim
e," Lee-Roy threatened toward the door. Her voice was low and menace filled.
"I hope we don't have to call campus security, Ms. Roper, " whispered back Neal.
Leigh walked quickly down the hall to an end window. Looking down she
caught sight of Admiral Bramble boarding a grey Navy sedan, no Admiral's flag. "
The hunt's afoot now Tommie me lad and this li'l honey's a dead shot."
Admiral Bramble was on the cellular phone to Washington before the driver manage
d to clear the first stop sign. The sedan accelerated rapidly toward I45 South a
nd Ellington Field. It was he learned, going to be a long day - first to D.C. an
d then on to Pearl.
Washington, D.C.
Alger Brighton entered the dimly lighted bar five minutes before the appointed h
our of his meeting. His client would be ten to fifteen minutes late, but that wa
s usual. After selecting a booth in the rear of the bar, Alger ordered a scotch,
neat. Tall, very much on the thin side, made more apparent by his overly-large
ears and nose, he considered again the value of what he was proffering against w
hat his client was willing to pay. The Soviets could be cheap, usually were, but
for a curious reason a few of his more occasional buyers had become much more a
ctive and even more generous. The Soviet gentleman Alger was meeting shortly was
one example. Lost in
contemplation of increasing his asking price either this time or next, Alger Bri
ghton failed to notice one of the two men, standing together at the bar, walk to
ward the restrooms. That was where the pay phone was cubicled. Self-importance i
s a blinding mistress. Alger always failed to notice he was not the first to arr
ive in these arrangements. Five minutes later a patron and admirer (Alger's thou
ghts) slid into the opposite booth seat. "Good evening Mr. Brighton," said a sar
torial hulk known to Alger as Mr. Mueller (real name Dmitry Segorivich). "I trus
t my late arrival did not inconvenience you to any great degree."
Alger responded with a faint upturning at the corners of his mouth and sipped hi
s scotch. Showing one's teeth or stretching one's lips in a smile reminded Alger
of a dog seeking his master's approval. Simply not good form old chap, not good
at all.
Mr. Mueller ordered his usual Vodka martini, very cold, one drop of vermouth pou
red just outside the glass. Admiring the undulations of the retreating waitress,
Mueller sighed and suggested, "Youth always moves in such deliciously tight cir
cles. Not like the flappings of old birds like us, eh?" Dmitryâ s eyes sparkled as
he watched the vain Brighton struggle not to
reveal too much in response. A reaction would eventually emerge either as a snid
e retort or as a silent sneer. It was important that Mr. Brighton showed suffici
ent discomfiture before the agenda could be advantageously commenced.
Alger thought the waitress less than appetizing. Tits pushed up and wobbling ove
r the top of a white peasant blouse. Ass cheeks protruding from the edges of sho
rt black tights. A Disgusting example of provincial appeal, fit for pimply louts
and senile boors to ogle. Envisioning Mueller as both a zitcovered adolescent a
nd as a victim of Alzheimers evoked a sneer that Alger tried to mask with a quic
k sip of scotch. His covering ruse was wasted on Dmitry who had waited patiently
for just such an appearance.
The waitress returned with Mueller's drink. After a small taste, very unlike Alg
er's stereotyped image of Soviets, Mueller began, "Only in America is such wonde
rful Russian vodka so plentiful. We must all give thanks to Pepsi for their bart
ering visionaries. Now, perhaps to another barter?" Dmitry signaled the waitress
for another martini although his first had hardly been touched. As he did so, D
mitryâ s associate - the one who had phoned and subsequently remained just outside
the restroom alcove - turned and walked
into the men's room. Mr. Mueller then suggested Mr. Brighton should freshen up.
Alger, deciding not to press for more at this time, excused himself for a moment
and walked away to wash his hands. Dmitry waited until Brighton entered the alc
ove before rising to leave, taking the newspaper Alger had left on the table. Hi
s associate would reward Mr. Brighton with a key to a locker in Alger's health s
pa. In the locker was $5000 in cash and ten colored magazines of oriental childr
en. These pictorials were not available at any price in most US cities. Dmitry S
egorivich approached the other associate who was now seated adjacent to the wait
ress drink station. Laying Alger's newspaper on the bar for his associate to esc
ape with, Dmitry removed a twenty dollar bill that he offered to the waitress wi
th his apologies and an admiring eye appraisal of her bosom. Sadie recognized po
tential when she saw it. She thanked her benefactor with a generous smile and, r
esting her right hand on his arm for support, bent well over to adjust a trouble
some high heel. When she straightened, Dmitry rewarded Sadie with a wink and ano
ther twenty.
When Alger returned to his seat, Mr. Mueller had already departed. So had
his associates, although one was not far away. The thin swarthy-looking man who
had given Alger the key would accompany an oblivious Brighton to his next destin
ation. Alger would have many unnoticed companions for the next few days. Standar
d Soviet paranoia. The Soviets in turn were observed by discreet Japanese agents
. After all the Japanese were the ones paying for Mr. Brighton's assistance and
it was standard Nipponese practice to receive, at the very least, everything for
which one has paid.