The Ultimatum

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The following are excerpts from this engrossing book:

Suddenly, a loud bleating sound erupted from the television and words "We interrupt this program to bring you an important announcement" scrolled across the screen.

"What the hell…..damn! Not now. Damn!" Jack quickly grabbed the remote control and switched from the high definition digital channel to the regular analog channel, hoping it was a problem only with the high definition channel of their Dish TV. It was the same announcement. Click, click, click. Every channel was the same. Jack had no choice but to listen. As he waited for the "Important Announcement," Jack sent an arrow prayer that the announcement would be quick and something benign.

With his trademark handful of papers, Wolfe Blitzer at CNN stood in front of a translucent table where guests often stand to discuss the news of the day. He exuded his usual journalistic stone-face, however, this day he was clearly confounded at the news he was about to report. He scratched his full silver beard and adjusted his black rimmed glasses, then began hesitantly in his usual slow and deliberate delivery, to include his trademark hesitation in the middle of a sentence. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have just…gotten news that an enormous explosion has taken place in a remote area of the Oregon desert. Information is…sketchy, but we'll tell you what we know so far: This explosion is of such enormous…proportions that it has been heard and felt hundreds of miles away. Fortunately, this explosion has taken…place in one of the most remote areas of the United States with a very sparse population. Our sources have pinpointed it to be in the southeast quadrant of Oregon, as seen here…on this map behind me," Wolfe added, stepping aside the monitor a little and pointing with his laser pen. "More specifically, it is in the vicinity of the junction of Interstate 95 and Highway 78, surrounded by nothing but desert and sparse vegetation."

"My wife is very concerned about the bomb," Sharif noted, as he and Kasana stood and began walking toward the study.

"That's all my wife has been talking about," Kasana concurred. "Unfortunately, she has become a little too "Westernized" and enjoys the lack of strict religious and political customs of Pakistan."

"Yes," Sharif acknowledged, "My wife has also gotten spoiled with the freedom, opportunities, and luxury afforded here in America, but she will soon realize the hedonism of America is about to come to an end. Western liberties will soon yield to the caliphate of Islam."

"But our wives will be blessed by Allah," Kasana avowed, "as they submit to our authority and the standards of Islam."

"And our alliance is blessed by Allah," Sharif beamed. "And I am blessed to have you as my loyal friend. We have been friends since childhood, and I recall our many struggles up the ladder of success; me in the political arena and you in the business world."

"Yes, my friend, here we are many years later living in the United States making decisions and influencing American policies all the way up to the leaders of both the United States and Pakistan."

"Our sky-rocket ascension to power is nothing short of miraculous—an abundant blessing from Allah," Sharif confirmed. "And you and I are to be congratulated for our stealth ambitions that fully evaded American intelligence which allowed us to enrich ourselves through the naivety of the American people to include the President and Congress."

"And of course, to develop our American Jihad," Kasana emphasized.

"Allah is great!"

"Why are you so certain this is not al Qaeda?" the President asked.

"Generally speaking, sir, al Qaeda's motivations are annihilation, not conversion. In my opinion, if this were al Qaeda, the bomb would have been detonated in New York, Chicago, or any other high population area for maximum casualties and disruption—not unlike the magnitude of impact we felt on 9/11."

"Why wouldn't this group—The Sons of Allah—do just that?" The President asked.

"We will always have the radical and ruthless Islamic jihadists," Winston replied, "but there are also Islam zealots who attempt to convert by less brutal means. Some countries in Europe are getting perilously close to Muslim populations levels that may eventually dominate the elections in those countries and thus impose their beliefs legislatively. That; however, takes generations of Muslim population growth."

"What about any current political adversaries?" the President asked.

"Well, of course there are many like the ayatollahs of Iran or the Hamas of Palestine, but none of them have ever showed such a sincere passion for promoting Islam. There are, however, some powerful Islamic groups like the Muslim Brotherhood who toe the line between radical and peaceful influence, and use both effectively as the circumstances dictate. The Arab Spring, which began in 2011, is a result of one of those strategies which led to the election of Mohamed Morsi as President of Egypt. That success met an ignominious end when the Army deposed Morsi, most likely because his true agenda to make Islam the state religion and eventually a mandatory adherence became patently obvious. Perhaps this bomb is just a different strategy by a different ideology to utilize a more methodical intimidation strategy for furthering the Islamic agenda."

"Are you suggesting this bomb is simply a way of accelerating their ambition to convert the world to Islam?" the President asked.

"Yes, sir, exactly. Some zealots have become impatient. They don't want to wait for decades or even centuries. They would like to see this take place in their lifetime so that when they die, they will be welcomed into the bosom of Allah, and will have earned martyrdom and the 72 virgins promised for their personal jihad. To be clear, our threat is not just from people flying jets into buildings, or running into crowds with bombs strapped around their waist—or even nuclear bombs. The threat is a world-wide movement from the grassroots demonstrations of the Arab Spring to the tremendous influx of Muslims into non-Islamic countries, spurred by the host country's idealistic and humanitarian policies welcoming Muslims with the expectation they will assimilate into their cultures. The problem is Muslims do not assimilate; they instead reject Western ideals and form their own little enclaves where Westerners are frankly not welcome. Long term, this is problematic; the population growth among Muslims is 4-5 times that of western European countries, thus it will only be another decade or so before their sheer population numbers can influence government policies, and begin the transformation from Western ideals to Islamic ideals—to include Sharia Law.

"So," the President asked, "you believe the impetus for this ultimatum is a simple case of impatience; that all of Islam is conducting a jihad to convert the world, but some zealous Islamic group believes the use of nuclear bombs will speed up the conversion of a stubborn, hedonistic America by changing the governance and laws to be more acceptable to Islam?"

"That is a good summation, Mr. President."

"This is Tim Manning from KTIM TV," he began calmly in spite of the disaster surrounding him. "I have just emerged from the basement of my home, which as you can see is no longer here," as he panned his head GoPro around his yard. "I have no idea what just happened—not more than five minutes ago—but as I look around, all I see is total destruction."

Tim's GoPro scanned the 180 degrees in a westerly direction. "I'm looking west right now. Oh my God! There are so many houses…just gone…some of them burning…debris everywhere. This must have been an enormous tornado. I see a few people staggering from their homes. People are falling down, then getting back up…helping each other…screaming! There are many casualties! I've got to call 911." Tim pulled out his cell phone and punched in 911. Nothing! He looked at his signal strength. Nothing. He continued recording; "The cell tower on top of the water tank south of town must also have been destroyed by the tornado."

Tim turned east toward downtown. "Oh…my...God! There's nothing left. I see absolutely nothing standing…only a few stone structures here and there! The Jackson's house at the end of the block is still standing, but all the windows are blown out and the roof is gone! The chimney next door appears to be the only thing left of the Fournier's house!"

Tim continued to be stunned and mystified at the disappearance of the community as he scanned left and right. "I see lots of foundations and lots of burning debris everywhere. The few structures still standing have no windows…all blown out. Most of the wooden structures are nothing but twisted wreckage—most in flames. Trees are bent and broken, many on fire! What the hell happened? Where are all the people? I see nothing but devastation! This must be the apocalypse! Oh, God!" Tim broke down and began to sob. A long tortuous minute elapsed with his camera recording an audio of loud sobbing, and a video of the ground trembling from Tim's quivering shoulders. He finally composed himself and continued haltingly, "The damage gets increasingly more devastating as I look into the distance toward downtown!"

Then reality struck. "Dad!" he screamed, realizing that the town, almost a mile away, seemed to have disappeared. "I've got to get to town and check on my farther…I can't see anything of the city…there's a lot of smoke. He scanned around him as he began running toward downtown. "The streets are full of debris. It's hard to recognize anything. There are no homes standing between me and town—they're all gone! My God, this is awful! Fires are burning everywhere. Cars are scattered helter-skelter all over the place. Many are piled against trees…each other…against raised concrete foundations…they are all twisted and mangled like everything else. Oh my God! There are bodies…mostly naked. What the…they look like they've been boiled—their flesh is bright red!"

"That's the irony," Rogers agreed. "Religious wars have been with us almost since the beginning of mankind. The awareness of an Islamic threat has been mounting in the minds of Americans for nearly two decades, but not until it came to our shores on 9/11, has the anti-Islamic sentiment been growing exponentially, in spite of a sincere and determined attempt by the Muslim tolerance-mongers, to embrace the peaceful Islamic religion and conservative way of life."

"But where does this stop?" Hannity asked sincerely. "Americans have been paying close attention to the oppressive realities of Sharia Law and reports of women being executed or stoned to death for the smallest of infractions. They've heard of many honor-killings—right here in this country—of young women killed by their fathers or brothers for not adhering to the strict religious mandates of their family—to include the unforgiveable depravity of falling in love with a Christian man!"

"It needs to stop right now with America!" Rogers vowed. "We are the last bastions of freedom in the world. We must find a way!"

"But," Hannity countered, "democracy and freedom is losing! The Muslim population stands at over a billion people with fervent religious beliefs. That is a formidable force! And they have incorporated a two-pronged attack; the brutal killing sprees of radicals like ISIS, or the charade of political groups like the Muslim Brotherhood who quickly fill the leadership vacuum when restless revolutionaries drive leaders from office. Their motive, ostensibly, is to remove tyrannical governments and replace them with democratic leaders, but paradoxically the country ends up with even less independence as Sharia Law and strict Islamic governments reverse the years of peace and prosperity that had been slowly spreading through a country."

"But," Rogers noted, "Egyptians have rejected the Muslim Brotherhood, so I still have hope that people will never lose their hunger for freedom."

"Not with radical leadership," countered Hannity. "We now have the emergence of even more radical groups like the ISIS and Boka Haram joining literally hundreds of other terrorist groups in the world who have taken the expansion of Islam to new levels.

"Yeah?" Brian asked.

"We're from the CIA," Scott said showing his badge.

"Whooo, what do you want?" Brian stammered.

"We would like to talk to you and your roommate about the gardener next door."

"We don't know nothing about him," Brian lied with quivering voice.

"May we come in?" Scott asked.

"I don't know…I'll be right back," Brian muttered while closing the door.

Max took one lunge and put his muscled shoulder and 260 pound weight into the door. The chain and door frame easily gave way with a loud crash, stopping Brian in his tracks just as Randy entered the room. Randy turned to run, but stopped dead when Max's thundering voice yelled, "Stop!"

Randy began shaking and Brian started crying.

"Please sirs," Brian begged. "We didn't do nothing wrong."

"Let's sit down and talk," Scott suggested. "And we also have a couple of other guys who want to talk to you."

While the four other team members cleared the house, Max radioed Jack, who was outside and gave him the all-clear sign. Jack joined Max and the boys at the kitchen table without introducing himself, just to add to the intimidation. He also was dressed in full assault team gear which added to his menacing look.

"Gentlemen," Jack addressed Brian and Randy, "what do you know about the gardener next door?"

"Nothing," Brian and Randy said in tandem while glancing at each other with faces turning white.

"Don't give me that bull shit," Max yelled, pounding the table with his fist. "We have video of you calling our tip-line from the railroad station. We know more about you than you can possibly imagine. Now listen! We don't care squat about your lifestyle or whether you have been shoplifting Twinkies at the local Seven-Eleven. We only want to find out who this gardener really is. And we'll turn you guys upside down and torture you to death if you don't tell us everything we want to know right now! Do you understand?"

Brian and Randy were now both shaking so violently they couldn't talk. They only nodded with sweat running down their faces. Jack picked up the good guy-role following Max's expert display of his bad-guy routine, while Scott stood close by, arms crossed, badge and gun clearly visible, and playing the intimidating CIA role to the hilt.

"Gentlemen," Jack began, "we think the gardener next door may have some connection with the two nuclear bombs that have exploded in Oregon and Jonathan City, and it is only through your diligent observations and willingness to call the tip line, that we have our first reliable lead. We need your help. If this leads to the capture of the terrorists and cessation of the bombing, you guys are going to be heroes. Tell me what else you have observed?"

Brian was the first to relax a little, wiped his tears with the back of his hand, and began breathing again. He wholeheartedly bought Jack's good-guy approach, and warmed to the possibility of trading his socially bankrupt life for a "hero" label.

"We cracked his code and found he was using the Homeland Security satellite for his encoded transmissions," Brian boasted proudly.

"Yeah," Randy joined, also caught up in the new-found recognition of their central role in this national crisis. "Our software program has deciphered most of the last message. He is definitely one of the terrorists; no doubt about it! Brian saw a van delivering the bomb to him!"

Jack, Max, and Scott were big-eyed speechless as they exchanged dumbfounded glances. They were expecting, at best, some nosy neighbor ease-dropping—not unlike thousands of neighbors reporting innocuous, but to them, suspicious activity of their Muslim neighbors. But encoded transmissions? Homeland Security's satellite? Cracking codes? What the hell?

"Trinity at altitude," the voice of Colonel Martin crackled over the speakers in Potter's office. ("Trinity" was the code word for this mission.) "Permission to proceed?"

"Proceed as planned," Potter commanded, his voice cracking slightly with the full recognition of what he had set in motion, and now willfully waiving his last chance to abort.

"Jay plus thirty," Martin advised with the abbreviated code meaning "Jumping in 30 seconds."

"How many troops are involved in this raid?" Jack asked just to get the real scope of this operation.

"The primary raid is conducted by six Seal teams who will parachute in aided by GPS guided thrusters with pin-point accuracy—even on a moonless night like tonight."

"Phew!" Peter whistled. "That's a lot of Seals!"

"You're right," Potter answered defensively. "Six Seal teams on any other mission would have been excessive, but I wanted to ensure plenty of backup for any unexpected glitches."

"Good idea. This raid cannot fail!" Jack added firmly.

"This is it!" Potter whispered, as though he were part of the team himself and maintaining silence. Then one by one in six-second intervals, each of the team leader's camera bounced violently as he hit the ground. A few grunts, a few indistinguishable whispers and the screen filled with men hitting the ground, discarding their chutes, and running toward their assigned objectives.

Fortunately Kasana was not a dog lover due to an allergic reaction to canines of all types—another bit of good intelligence essential to this mission, so there were no dogs with hyper-senses of sound and smell barking the announcement of intruders.

Seal Team Alpha had orders to land at the rear of the small storage building concealing the stairway and freight elevator to an underground bunker, code named Chicago, which reconnaissance showed holding the bombs. One of Kasana's mercenary guards walked a routine circle around the building, stopping every ten minutes or so to light a cigarette. The Seals knew the guard's routine and came suddenly out of the black sky silently and undetected. The guard at the bunker, his back to the camera, came into view on Potter's monitor, fully unaware of his imminent surprise. A "pop" was heard from the tranquilizer gun, followed a second later with an image of a Seal jumping the guard, their bodies hitting the ground with a thud. Another second later, a second Seal immediately disarmed the guard while a third Seal injected him with a knock-out serum to supplement the effects of the tranquilizer shot a few seconds earlier. Stealth, surprise, and redundancy were the names of this game, and the entire process took less than 5 seconds without shots fired or alarms triggered.

The entire operation was to be as stealth as possible—no gunshots, no broken windows, no flash grenades—nothing to alert the nearly four dozen employees on the compound. Fortunately, all but a few employees resided in bungalows and barracks a couple hundred yards from the main residence.

"Mission accomplished at Chicago," Alpha team leader announced in a hushed voice to Colonel Martin.

"Roger that," Martin acknowledged. "Maintain your positions until further orders."

"Roger," Alpha One acknowledged.

Potter, Jack and Peter gave each other a double thumbs-up. Then Potter flashed crossed-fingers with both hands, a reminder that this mission was far from over.

While Seal teams Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot scattered in predesignated directions to secure the entire compound including the bungalows and dormitories, the attention switched to Seal Team Charlie at the main house who quickly repeated the perfectly executed take-down of the guard. Charlie team then took up guard positions around the residence.

"The President will see you now," the attractive, but all-business secretary to the President said to General Potter.

"Thank you, Marci," Potter said with a broad smile. Even after many visits to the Oval Office, Potter had never seen Marci smile.

Marci closed the door behind him without a word or expression.

Potter made his way into the Oval Office and took the right-hand chair in front of the President's desk as directed by a wave of the President's hand.

"General Potter," the President began with all the intimidation he could muster, "do you have any idea what you have done? Do you know the protocol you have violated, not to mention the laws? Do you understand the enormity of the insurrection and violations you have committed? Do you understand that I could squash you like a bug with one phone call?"

"Yes, sir!" Potter answered with a bit of sarcasm and not-so-subtle disrespect.

The President then quickly switched from questions to declaration.

"You have screwed with the wrong person, Potter. I want your resignation immediately, and will be consulting with the Attorney General about filing charges against you. In addition to breaking protocol and many laws, you disregarded every ethical and professional rule on the books, the least of them in overstepping your authority."

"Mr. President," Potter responded defiantly, "we have effectively saved the country from a very ambitious and destructive Islamic Caliphate. Two of the operatives are dead, two more operatives are in custody, plus we have two of the prime architects of this nuclear ultimatum in custody. We successfully disrupted their entire operation, and there is no doubt we have saved thousands—maybe tens of thousands of lives with our arrests and the confiscation of two nuclear bombs. We still have to find another bomb, and we believe there are still some operatives out there, so this threat is all but over, but we are in the wrapping-up stage and will continue what has been called ‘rogue' and ‘maverick' tactics. This is one time when the means justified the end, so, I make no apologies for my actions."

"Hey, you arrogant fool!" Fitzgerald yelled, leaning his body as far as he could over his desk and as close as he could get into Potter's face. "Who do you think you are? A sheriff in a one-horse town of the wild, wild, west? We could have World War III on our hands because of your cowboy antics. This isn't about catching a criminal or stopping an attack; this is about trampling all over chain-of-command procedures, ethics, decorum and diplomacy."

"This is certainly about catching the criminals and stopping the attack!" Potter yelled as he jumped to his feet. "Screw all that crap about chain-of-command and protocol. I've been in combat. I've watched men die. I've had to make life and death decisions on-the-fly. I was a great leader because I got the job done without losing critical time asking some desk-jockey at the Pentagon for permission. I also saw men die waiting to get permission from some nit-wit superior who was on the golf course and couldn't be disturbed. We lost a key operative of this attack within minutes of my conversation with you about the gardener in Kansas City. It may have been one of your staff, a bug in your office, or a snitch somewhere in the White House who warned the gardener. I decided then to tell as few people as possible about our methods and tactics. My obligation was to America and not to anyone else, including your office."

There was a long and deafening silence as the President's face morphed from shock to red-faced anger, then finally to a realization that Potter was not intimidated. He waved Potter to sit down again.

"General Potter, you are a pompous ass and totally out of line, but frankly I don't want to go to war with you, especially now when we still have a bomb unaccounted for. I also don't want to play my obviously superior hand as the President, but let's understand the ground rules here: I am the president and like it or not, you answer to me. I have ultimate authority of the executive branch and wield tremendous power. Unfortunately, that authority also has the burden of responsibility and blame for those things that go wrong. As Truman said, ‘The buck stops here.' I take the heat while you waltz away in glory as the hero who ‘saved the country' as you said. I am then left to pick up the diplomatic pieces. Most of the Muslim world is yelling ‘foul,' and sabers are rattling all over the world. They simply do not believe our account of a terrorist plot by their esteemed Ambassador Sharif and the well-respected and decorated Colonel Kasana. They believe that we—you and me and the entire United States of American—concocted this elaborate hoax to defile Islam and disparage the Muslim image. In just 24 hours, we have had riots taking place all over the world. Four embassies have been bombed, dozens of Americans have been murdered, and even neutral countries' leaders are dubious of our claims. And, the Muslim world has all but declared war on America…"

"The Muslim radicals declared war on us infidels a long time ago," Potter interrupted. "This is evidenced all over the world, most dramatically demonstrated with the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11. Muslims have been at war with America for centuries. To them we are nothing but infidels who need to be eradicated by their jihadist crusades. They will always spin our defense against their attacks with lies and religious fanaticism. We can't reason with fanatics. We can't play nice either. We have to be strong and stop them before they destroy us. And, Sir, just to be clear, I don't want any glory. You can have it all."