Demands and Retribution
The Blessings of Liberty
Location: President's private and secure office, White House, Washington DC
Timeline: Late afternoon, Sunday, 01/22/17
Surprisingly, Cade, J.D., and London were not shown into the Oval Office, the private conference room, but to the President's private office. This was a smaller, less imposing room than the Oval Office where the President got his real work done. Like the Oval Office, it was swept daily for electronic listening devices and was even hardened against outside attacks - as much as it could be. Dalton had gone one step further. He had had all electronic devices removed from the room. It was bare of televisions, computers, telephones, or any other item that could be infiltrated.
A large cherry wood desk stood at the rear of the room, its top littered with files and papers. Behind the desk was a low credenza that held a Keurig coffee maker and a few personal photos of Dalton's family. A couple of sofas, upholstered in a soft brown bomber-jacket leather, faced each other with a dark blue and cream carpet on the floor between them. The walls, above the dark chair-rail high paneling, was painted in a cream color that matched the pattern on the rug. The other walls were lined with bookshelves.
There was no sign of the President's Secret Service detail but seated on the sofa, clad in civilian clothes rather than his uniform, was General Jack Kelly, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Seeing Cade look around the room, Dalton said, "I trust Jack." Cade didn't respond. Instead, he looked at J.D. for his reaction.
J.D. looked back at Cade. "Well, to be honest, If General Kelly is on their side, we may as well blow our brains out now and avoid the show..." The ex-agent stepped around and extended a hand to Kelly. "How have you been, Sir?"
"I think I've aged a thousand years since I saw you boys at the briefing in the wee hours of yesterday morning. Glad you were able to secure the Vice President," Jack responded, gripping J.D.'s hand in a warm shake. He'd risen to his feet to politely greet everyone but now subsided on the sofa once again.
The President also looked as if he'd not rested since before the Inauguration. He gave a tired nod toward the new arrivals, "Settle in, and I'll tell you what has happened while you were running around the Maine woods looking for Mike."
Cade settled on one end of the sofa and stretched his long legs out, "We have little information to share from our independent lines of investigation, but nothing that won't keep, sir.
J.D. nodded as he dropped into an armchair. "Nothing earthshaking is putting it mildly. All we did was rescue Mike. We didn't gain much information besides what we already had."
Nodding toward London, Cade added, "We brought Doc along to see if what you have for us might add to the profile she's building on our bad guys. I take it, the demands are as unreasonable as most of these things are?"
The President offered drinks to everyone, beer for Cade and Jack, soda for J.D. and various choices for London to choose from. Dalton grabbed a bottle of beer and took a seat on the sofa. The demands are ludicrous, of course. But, I'm not sure these guys will negotiate." He pulled out a pocket voice recorder, hit play, and laid it on the coffee table, "This came to my private mobile phone line..."
A voice, electronically masked, but perfect clear spoke, "Dalton, here are our requirements. If you do not want to see the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico reduced to a smoldering ruin, you will accede without hesitation. We will give you time to think about your response and how many more deaths you want on your conscience."
The voice continued, "None of these requests are negotiable. A new president will be appointed. We will reveal his identity in due time.
Dalton, you and your entire staff and cabinet will resign and step down. You will launch Operation Annihilation: declarations of war and launch of nuclear attacks against Russia, China, the UK, Germany, North Korea, and most Middle Eastern and African nations. Your final act will be to surrender yourself to the new authorities to be executed for treason." The recorder went silent.
Cade let out a whistle, "Mr. President..." he began only to have the President wave him to silence.
"In private, it's Frank. Let's not stand on ceremony," POTUS smiled and sipped his beer.
"Frank," Cade nodded his head, acknowledging the man's request. "Forgive me, but those demands sound personal. They are completely outrageous and, to my way of thinking, outside the normal types of things your average terrorist demands."
So much of what was happening was overwhelming, and London was struggling to make heads or tails of much of it, but on Cade's particular point, she had to agree. "I can't help but wonder if the demands are just a smokescreen. Whoever these people are, they have to know the demands are ridiculous and impossible to implement. Perhaps that's the point. Maybe this isn't about getting demands met, maybe it's about the fallout that's created when you fail to meet them."
J.D. sat up a little straighter. "I think she might have the main goal figured out..." He sat up straighter and gathered his thoughts, ".It makes a twisted kind of sense. They may not really want to blow up the country, so to speak. They just want you out of power and locked away somewhere...or dead." J.D. smiled at the expression that washed across his father's face. "Oh, come on...you knew this wasn't just a political statement." The ex-agent then turned to look at the others again. "That's not to say that these people might not pull the trigger to save their own skins...maybe escape in all the chaos."
Jack Kelly tapped his fingers against his beer bottle, "In my experience, Frank, terrorists only pussyfoot around with demands when it's leading up to negotiating a monetary settlement. These guys are delaying things way too much."
"Another good point, sir," Cade said. "This reads more like the beginnings of a ransom or hostage negotiation than a planned act of terrorism. In most kidnappings, for example, there's often an initial contact that threatens the vilest and horrendous acts anyone can imagine against the hostage. This is then followed by an outlandish monetary demand, but it's such a relief after the threats of physical violence, it gives the kidnappers a leg-up on the negotiations. It's one of many reasons to always use a neutral mediator."
J.D. arched an eyebrow at Cade. "These nut jobs are threatening to destroy the country...neutral parties might be hard to find."
"Not what I meant, J.D.," Cade replied affably, "I was only pointing out why such negotiations usually include a skilled neutral party." The soft buzz of his cell phone interrupted Cade. He pulled it out and looked at the screen. "It's Vashti. I need to take this." He rose and exited the room.
Frank waited until the big Montanan left the room before speaking again, "If it is what Cade suggests, they are bludgeoning us with the most horrific threats and demands possible so that anything else seems like a relief - what are they really after?"
Jack Kelly shook his head, "Frank, even though MacLeod and his team are right about how these things operate - which you know from your years as the CIA Director - we have to proceed on the facts we have..." He broke off as the door opened and Cade returned.
"The Beta Key has been found. He was a mid-level CIA analyst named Howard Kuff. Vashti just pulled the name out of a fragment. Unfortunately, a search of news and police reports also listed him as the victim of a home invasion gone bad. Claire is dispatching BOSI personnel to take over the autopsy," Cade made his report, his voice was clipped and precise with no evidence of his usual cowboy drawl. "That leaves the Gamma Key and the Kill Switch. It's more vital than ever that we protect the Vice-President."
Cade resumed his seat and looked at each person in the room, "I think it's time to switch gears. Someone else is able to data mine the Camulus fragments for the keys far better than we are. We need to find and secure the Camulus launch device."
Jack Kelly pursed his lips as he thought about the new information. He finally nodded, "Frank, I think Cade is right. You have BOSI on the job too. Let them do what they can to find the Gamma Key."
Frank Dalton took longer to respond. The last thing he wanted to do was put his son in harm's way. He wasn't sure he could withstand another loss of that kind. His sigh was audible to the other four people in the room, "Do your best to find and secure Camulus. That and the Vice President's safety are your team's priorities. I will inform BOSI of my decision." The President rose to his feet, "I will do everything I can to delay the negotiations on the demands. Keep me, Jack, and Claire Cameron in the loop."
Cade and his team also rose to take their leave. It was time to update his people and reorganize their priorities.