Storm Surge (Alternate Dies The Fire)

Prologue

18:14 17 March 1998 (Change minus 1 Minute)

Fort Lewis, Washington

Headquarters 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Mechanized), I Corps, US Army

Brigadier General Anthony Hopkins strode into the conference room and returned the salutes from his assembled staff. "Sitrep on exercise preparations? Jackson?"

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Jackson, Brigade Operations Officer, walked over to a display board. "All component units of the 2nd Brigade are ready and waiting, sir. The only problem, if I can call it that, is that the delivery of extra MREs from the bean counters at the Pentagon arrived yesterday, and we're trying to figure out where to put them all. Right now they are sitting in the Brigade supply dump on base, although we expect to share them out with the other units over the next few days. Tomorrow morning at 08:00 we move out for the Yakima Training Center to meet up with 3rd Brigade. Until then…"

There came a blinding flash of light, prompting gasps and screams from the men in the staff room. Brigadier General Hopkins regained his senses almost immediately, however. "Someone get the lights back on." This was soon realized to be futile, and the assembled staff poured out of the building. "Major Matthews, have we had any intel, however uncertain and from any source, regarding an imminent nuclear attack?"

"No sir. I just tried to radio the rest of my people but the device is… dead, sir. None of our equipment is working at all. I have a runner on the way to the hardened stuff in the staff basement, but… I've got a funny feeling about this."

Seeing his normally stone calm intelligence officer out of his depth gave General Hopkins pause. "I take it we've had no word from Division HQ, the Governor's Office, or anyone else in local government?"

Everything was dead. Communications, electronics of any sort, even an ancient 1969 Ford Mustang raised not a peep when its owner, a furious Combat Engineering Captain, tried to start it. As dusk fell, improvised lanterns and firelights soon lit the Brigade staff room. There was planning to do.

11:23 18 March 1998 (Change plus 18 Hours)

Governor's Mansion, Olympia, Washington

Governor Locke shook the State Patrol Chief's hand. "Thanks Ed, for all you and your men are doing. Your suggestion to lock down the grocery stores was a good one, but frankly the City Police don't have the manpower. I've declared a state of emergency, and for all intents and purposes the State Patrolmen we have in Olympia are now answering to the City Police Commissioner, who in turn is answering directly to me. No one knows where the Mayor is; I heard he went to some conference in Portland, but right now that is not important."

"What I think we need to do now is send a runner, on a bike, to Fort Lewis. If anyone knows what's going on, the Military will."

Locke was interrupted by a knock on the door. "Come in."

"Mr. Governor, a delegation from Fort Lewis just arrived, a whole bunch of troops; guns and everything." The State Patrol Chief snorted at this. The aide shrugged. "They have bayonets, so I guess that's some good at any rate."

Governor Locke sighed. It had been a long night, the day was proving to be even longer, and it wasn't even midday yet. "Show their representative in."

A tall man in Woodland Battle Dress Uniform came into the Governor's Office, went to attention, and then saluted. "Governor Locke, I am Major Taylor Watson, Commanding Officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis. As for the 1st Brigade, Korea is the last of our problems right now. Hopkins and the 2nd Brigade will be moving out at dawn on the 20th, two days from now. I am here with two infantry companies as a courtesy from the General; my orders are to assist you and your people in preparing those mobile elements of the Olympia population for evacuation to the Pacific Coast."

Locke narrowed his eyes, thinking quickly. "Your General seems to have… responded… to this remarkably quickly, Major. Hasn't he heard from I Corps HQ up at the Yakima Training Center? For that matter, why should I prepare to kick the entire population of Olympia out of their homes?"

Major Watson nodded to a sergeant, who proceeded to set up a map of Washington State on an easel. It was heavily marked in felt tip pen. "Governor, these are our best estimates on refugee lines of drift, with best case scenario dates of expansion. As you can see, Olympia is right on I5, which we expect to see heavy foot and bicycle traffic within days. Our Psy-Ops people are going to try to stall movement out of the Seattle Metro area in our direction for a while, but we don't think it will work for long."

The Governor of Washington gasped. "So you're… you're writing off Seattle already? They still have weeks of food if it's rationed carefully. Why aren't you deploying every unit you have to the city now in support of the Mayor? Your forces could keep order for that long, surely?"

Major Watson nodded. "Right, until the Navy shows up with disaster aid shipments from Canada and Mexico?" Seeing Locke's eyes light up with hope, Watson chuckled. "Governor, the Navy is gone. Comms are gone. The Air Force is gone. Apart from the 2nd Brigade and whatever National Guard and Joint scraps we can piece together, the whole US Army is also gone. The world as we know it is over. We're offering you and elements of the State Government a chance at long-term survival at Checkpoint Alpha, which is to say, Aberdeen. One of my two companies is ready to mount up and make like hell for the coast. Their captain has written orders from the General to get the local population ready to receive us; spread out to the farmland, secure food supplies, and so forth. We'd like to add your signature to that order, sir."

Governor Locke closed his eyes. "What about the State Legislature, our families…?"

"Majority and Minority legislative leadership, you and your Lieutenant Governor, your essential staff, and immediate families only, sir. Aberdeen is going to be swamped enough as it is."

"God save us." The Governor ran his hands through his hair in agitation.

"Welcome to Operation Storm Surge, sir."