9/12/2001: The Days After the Unthinkable Happened
(A serial book excerpt)
In Part 1, Flight 93 has accomplished its goal of smashing into the White House, apparently killing President George W. Bush. Secret Service men are now searching for Dick Cheney who is the new President by default.
Dick Cheney was a very lucky man. The Fates seemed to favor him. He was at the east end of the White House, furthest from the impact point. He had been standing, immersed in the incoming news of planes hitting the World Trade Centers in Manhattan when the impact threw him against a wall of books, then to the ground. Bruised, but not damaged, he lay for a while trying to absorb the shock of it. He was just collecting himself off the floor when the Secret Service Agent found him, lifted him up, grabbed him by the belt and shoulder and exited him out of the room.
“Sir! We have located Vice President Cheney!” the man called into his headpiece. We are en-route to Safe Zone 3. He was caught up in the White House crash but appears to be unhurt. He is now headed to the safe zone location. He has his Insta-pager on for any updates.”
“Copy that!” replied his contact at the other end. “Two Secret Service motorcycles are on their way and will escort him the rest of the way.”
Confusion, screaming and cries could be heard coming from various sections of the Capital Building. Both Cheney and the Secret Service man moved oblivious to them. It seemed that the only focus the Secret service man had was taking care of the Vice President and to get him out of the crumbling White House. He did not in any way acknowledge the other human cries sounding.
He led the Vice President out into the underground parking area to where a limo was waiting. Somehow they had found a driver and gotten him there. The agent literally threw the man inside. He then barked the directions for the safe zone. Cheney’s shaken nerve forgot the social politeness normally extended to those who work for you and he was brusque with his chauffeur when he ordered him to floor it. This always happened with him in moments of unexpected pressure.
As the car sped out into the street Cheney was able to take a backward glance over his shoulder. Smoke and flames billowed from the center of the White House. No one could have been left alive in the chaos that reigned there. A broken piece of the tail of an airplane lying discarded upon the ground testified to what had caused it.
“My God! Is this an invasion?” Cheney bellowed.
“We don’t know any more than you Sir. It has been confirmed that at least three jet airliners have been hijacked on the East Coast. This is perhaps one of them.”
“Perhaps….” repeated Cheney cautiously.
The limo took an eastward path. All along the streets people looked shocked, scared. Stores were locking up and people where scurrying over all not knowing what to to do.
The sweat had broken out upon his brow. The shock of the crash and the break in his well regimented life sent his blood pressure rising. He suddenly remembered his heart medicine. He fumbled in his pockets for his pills, irritably digging through all of them to get the bottle. Finding those and almost spilling half the bottle in his nervousness he finally managed to get two out. He reached into the console between the seats for a bottle of water, then changed his mind and poured out a shot of bourbon to wash the two pills down with. He needed something to calm his nerves.
“God that was close!” he thought to himself. He normally did not get the jitters, but his hand was shaking.
No one knew what was hitting them right now or who. But someone was certainly making a mess of the upper East Coast of the United States. Cheney was well aware of the plane hitting the east tower of the World Trade Center, followed twenty minutes later by one hitting the west tower. That was already too close to home for him. Now this one in D.C. itself. He was a man that did not fly into a panic easily, but this overloaded his nerves.
Bush was probably gone. Cheney was aware of the full implications that this meant. He would now be President. This meant a sudden jump in responsibilities at a time that looked like it was close to being Armageddon. He hoped his heart could handle it. He could handle being the President; he had already been taking care of a lot of the situations himself from behind the stage, but it also meant more exposure to the public and losing a lot of the back room dealing that had made him so effective. He would also, against his grain, have to be more answering to the general public. Lord knew he was not much of a ‘man of the people’.
The emergency phone in the car rang, He grabbed it. “Sir! General Weissfeld here. I need a quick OK Mr. Cheney. With President Bush gone I need an immediate answer from you on something.”
“Go ahead.” said Cheney flatly.
“We are ordering all aircraft save specific military grounded across the whole country. We are hailing all craft in the air and ordering them down. We would like to know what we should do with planes that do not respond.”
Cheney’s response was immediate. “Give them two more calls, then shoot them down. Don’t take any chances.”
The voice at the other end was stilled for a moment in time. “Yes sir…” said the General, not aware of the ominousness tone his voice left hanging in the receiver.
TO BE CONTINUED…