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excerpt from Chapter 22 of the novel Public

Chapter 22 Excerpt

Chapter 22 (Excerpt)

Operation Skull Fracture

North American Federation Homeland Security Secretary Roger Sarner gazed contentedly at the holoscreen in front of him. It showed a revolving timetable of raids in progress, raids completed, and raids scheduled to begin. Hundreds of them, all over the North American continent, in major cities, obscure towns, even unlikely spots out in the boondocks. The logistical planning and coordination that had gone into this was prodigious. Especially given that the final mobilization and implementation had had to be done with little more than three days' lead time. Sarner was proud to bursting of his people: his planners, his coordinators, his team leaders, his aides, the supply and communications folks, hell even the KOJ commandos who supplemented his raid forces. It was all working so perfectly it gave him a lump in his throat. This was what humans could do, by God! Good old-fashioned biological ingenuity and get-her-done creativity and discipline.

He glanced at the chronometer. It showed 03/03/45 03:27 PST. The third hour of the third day of the third month of 2045. The repeated threes and the 3-4-5 seemed pregnant with significance. This was surely a history-shaping hour, one which would be long remembered. Operation Skull Fracture was bound to cast a long, grand shadow into the future.


He touched a control and brought up a casualty report. Looked good. So far, only a few fools who got careless and fell down ladders or something, no serious injuries or fatalities reported. There was no way to estimate possible collateral casualties, people in the brain houses, that sort of thing. Standard orders were to subdue and arrest anyone found at a target scene, but there was to be no account taken of any civvies who might happen to be inside a ground zero location when it went boom. Goddamned Sings would start playing human shield games if they did that. Those whom they couldn't arrest quickly on the scene were headed straight for a permanent spot on the missing persons list.

The Operation had to be about halfway through, he reckoned. East coast teams would be moving to their second or third string targets by now. No team would do more than four, and most not more than three. So far, there was negligible resistance. One or two sysadmin types working on servers had chosen to draw weapons, but had been subdued or killed without anyone getting hurt.

One of his aides handed him a fresh communique. Glancing at it, for a moment his eyes got big, until he looked at the timestamp. It was from Senator Robert Reynolds in Spokane. The senator was dutifully reporting to the Homeland Security Secretary that there were "suspicious fires and explosions" going off all over his district, and possibly continent-wide. Reynolds expressed his deep concern that this widespread pattern of destruction of property could be "the work of a terrorist network as yet unknown, aimed at our vital infrastructure," and appealed to Sarner to undertake immediate investigative action and deploy appropriate countermeasures as needed to safeguard people and property.

"Yeah," he said aloud to the datapad containing Reynolds' message. "Bit slow on the uptake there, aren't you, Senator?" Damn fool always was. No backbone, and only half a brain. Guy was a clueless ditz who only knew how to shake hands and kiss babies. Message was sent about two hours ago. So, that would have been roughly one hour before Reynolds had gotten arrested. Or rather, taken into protective custody. It was the same for all fifteen Federation senators, except for one who was out of the country on vacation. The President and her staff and family were locked down in a posh bunker somewhere in New Mexico, where they'd been diverted for their safety as soon as the Operation had begun.


Still, he had to thank Reynolds for being so considerate as to send this note asking him to do whatever it took to keep the Federation safe. That kind of appeal implied real confidence in Sarner's ability to do his job. Couple of these bits here, those were downright quotable. Sarner circled the sentences he thought might be useful, and handed the pad back to his aide, who was still hovering nearby. "Public relations department," he directed laconically. They'd know what to do without any further instructions.

A well-oiled machine, that's what he'd created. That's what government was when it really got going. A good crisis cranked everybody up, got the adrenaline flowing, brought out the best in dedicated men and women. There really hadn't been any big crises in meatspace in recent years, but there was now. Heh heh, be a helluva big crisis in cyberspace too come to think of it. He couldn't help grinning.

Sarner got up to stretch and pace around his command center. He paused to offer some kindly encouragement and verbal back patting to the staff as he moved from station to station. Command should always look confident, somebody once said. And pleased, when things were going as well as all this was going. By dawn more than half a thousand major brain houses would be slag and ashes. Which was a pretty fair night's work, no doubt about it.


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