Excerpt From Chapter One of Dragon's Fury - High Tide
Volume Three in the Dragon's Fury Series by JeffHead
Copyright 2002 by Jeff Head, All rights reserved

September 4, 2007, 18:40 PST
2 Miles East of Launch Complex 2E
30th Air Wing Operations, 2nd Space Launch Squadron
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

Johnny Chen watched the lines connecting the gantry to the massive Titan IV B booster sitting on the launch pad as they slowly fell away. Perched atop the booster was America's latest and most advanced KH-12 satellite. Johnny knew that this rocket could not be allowed to successfully launch.

He slid the missile launcher forward from behind and next to him. It was a shoulder launcher for the FIM-92B Stinger missile that he also carried. The launcher had turned up missing from the California National Guard over five years earlier. The American authorities had searched and searched for the launcher and the three FIM-92B Stinger missiles that had disappeared ith it, but had been unable to find any trace of them. Like the several hundred other pieces of ordinance that turned up missing each year from America's domestic arsenal, when no trace was found, the Government Accounting Office (GOA) ultimately wrote it off, thinking its disappearance was due to accounting or other book work error. But, like so many of the hundreds of other pieces of missing ordinance, it wasn't.

Vandenberg Air Force Base was large and it was devoted to Space. There were scores and scores of miles of rough terrain all around its perimeter. All of it was well patrolled and kept under constant surveillance, particularly in wartime. But before the war, Johnny had literally spent years developing his access to the base. He had dug three different entry and escape routes under the perimeter fencing and carefully concealed their entrances and exits, which were all well over two hundred yards away from the perimeter itself. . He had also prepared four observation positions overlooking four of the major launch sites. Each of these observation positions had been dug meticulously with an escape route extending underground for fifty yards, exiting on the opposite side of the hill that they were dug into.

It had all been arduous, painstaking work. It had also been dangerous work with the constant threat of discovery and capture. But Johnny had been trained very well before being "inserted" into America those many years ago in the early 1990's. That training had taught him patience and the art of slow steady progress towards a goal expected to be achieved many years in the future.

Johnny's route into the United States, like many others, had taken him over the southern border as what the Americans termed an "illegal alien". This was as opposed to the use of COSCO container ships delivering personnel directly to American harbors that so many others had used during the years. If he had been caught while crossing, he would have been lumped into the early statistics of what the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) called OTM's, or "Other Than Mexicans" and returned to Taiwan where his meager paperwork indicated he was from. But Johnny had not been caught, and it turned out that getting into the United States had been ridiculously easy. In northern Mexico he had hired the best "Coyote" money could buy by laying down enough "front" dollars to ensure a guided tour across the border for him and him alone. It had been expensive, but it was critical to the overall plan. Johnny thought back to the satisfaction on the Coyote's face as he had been paid in full with hard U.S. currency. Johnny had paid the man after they were well across the border and ready to part. He remembered how the satisfaction on the Coyote's face had turned to shock and brief agony as Johnny had quickly used a concealed ice pick and expertly placed a lightning thrust between the appropriate ribs into the man's heart. That Coyote's body was long since molding in the grave where Johnny had buried it in the desert there on the north side of the border.

From that border area in eastern Arizona, Johnny had made his way to his target, Lompoc, California, and met up with his "family" there. He had been hired to work in the dry cleaning business that they operated. He had worked there ever since, patiently sorting clothes and saving his pay for his own personal needs. The "real" work he had accomplished on Vandenberg Air Base had been completed on weekends and in the evening hours during the week. He had never established any type of pattern and been extremely careful. As progress was made, the status was relayed back to his superiors in Beijing through a carefully established system of blind drops and completely compartmentalized personnel whom he had never met or seen. There had never been a problem, even after China and the United States had gone to war. No suspicion, no apprehension. His cover as a Nationalist Chinese who came over from Taiwan and who was very loyal to America had never been questioned, even to this day. He helped ensure it by attending all of the patriotic events in Lompoc, waving flags and even attaching a bumper sticker to his Toyota pick-up that said, "America, Love it or Leave it!"

Now his long preparations and training were going to be put to the test. His "observation" post was about to turn into an attack position.

"Hopefully, there won't be any complications," he thought. "I'll just fire the missile, retreat through this tunnel and make it to the holding room before they can even respond to the smoke trail that will lead them to this place."

The holding room Johnny thought of was a small earthen room built into each of his escape tunnels that was stocked with enough provisions to maintain Johnny for up to two weeks. He planned to use every bit of it to wait out the intense search he knew would follow the downing of the booster. After that, he would carefully make his way off the base and then return to work after he recovered ftom his "illness". It was a flu-like bug that had suddenly taken him after getting the information and orders regarding the launch. It as an illness from which he would return voicing his own anger and incense at the attack on his beloved and adopted America.

Johnny had practiced his set up, firing and egress countless times. He knew he would fire and forget the Stinger missile and make his way to the back of the tunnel that led to this firing position in seven seconds, only a couple of seconds after the missile hit the rising booster. Then, it would take him another three minutes to get across the small meadow and into the gully that led to the opening to his escape tunnel. Once in the gully, he would have dense coverage to shield him from the view of any helicopters that might have arrived. From there, another four minutes would put him into his escape tunnel of choice where he would pull down the covering and get to his holding room in another three minutes. Less than seven and one half minutes to get to his escape tunnel, less than ten and one half minutes for him to be where he would wait out the search.

To protect him from the very well known American forensic capabilities, Johnny had special, ultra-light sneakers on, with no traction or tread pattern whatsoever. He also wore a single piece, very light synthetic jump suit that was impervious to tearing or snagging while he escaped and would therefore leave no fibers for the Americans to analyze. The suit extended to the gloves he wore. Finally, he would be carrying the launcher with him. All they would have to go on was whatever rocket and exhaust residue they could get from the cave. That residue would have to come from soil samples as Johnny had built a self-destruct cave-in mechanism into each firing position that he would manually activate on his way out. The cave-in mechanism was made entirely of natural materiel.

All of this ran through Johnny's mind as he intently watched the launch pad and the Titan booster sitting on it. His communication had indicated that the launch would come early this evening and he had been here waiting and preparing since just after midnight. As he watched he saw tell tale signs of exhaust begin to rise from underneath the booster. Long before the first deep rumblings of sound reached him, the quantity of exhaust smoke rose dramatically and the booster itself began to rise off the pad. As the rocket rose on a tremendous gout of flame from the Titan IV Bs three massive stage O solid-rocket motors, Johnny brought the Stinger launcher viewer up to his eye and targeted the slowly rising rocket. He held the acquisition dot on the rocket waiting for the tone that would indicate the seeker head on the Stinger missile had locked on.

"Come on, come on," Johnny whispered as he waited first one and then two seconds. "There!," he quietly exclaimed as a very clear tone sounded when the missile acquired the very bright, very hot signature of the Titan IV B.

Immediately Johnny squeezed the trigger and a loud WHOOSH sounded in the confines of Johnny's position as the missile shot forward toward the rising rocket and as exhaust gasses shot behind him down the tunnel. Immediately, carrying the Stinger launcher with him, Johnny began scrambling back out of the tunnel, which he exited in five seconds, already ahead of schedule by two seconds.

September 4, 2007, that same time
30th Air Wing Operations, 2nd Space Launch Squadron
Space Launch Complex 2E
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

In the command facility of Space Launch Complex 2E the launch of the Titan IV B was being monitored by Air Force ground control personnel. As the rocket slowly rose, the ground control officer was going through his standard procedure.

All systems are nominal. Down range tracking has engaged. Stage O separation coming up in, wait ... what the! Hold ... where did that came from?"

Into the view of the slowly rising booster, a small missile flew at a very high rate of speed and impacted the lower portion of the booster, just above the exhaust. A small explosion occurred which quickly spread through the solid fuel of the "O" stage and ignited the liquid fuel of Stage 1. Immediately, the Titan IV B lost momentum and the upper portion of the rocket turned over and began falling to earth.

The ground crew and a number of the security personnel watched in mesmerized shock as the remains of the space craft struck the ground less than one and a half miles to the west of the launch facility and burst into a tremendous explosion. The explosion totally destroyed the booster and its precious cargo, the latest KH-12 satellite. It also totally destroyed the prospect of overall Allied satellite coverage of the Southwest Pacific for the next two months. As the burning pieces of wreckage and burning fuel fell to earth for hundreds of yards all around the impact area, a large brush fire ignited that would hamper all initial recovery and investigative efforts at the crash site for some time.

Not all of the personnel were shocked and mesmerized into immobility by the attack. Some reacted exactly as their training proscribed and had prepared them to do. The duty officer in the security station recognized immediately what was happening and followed the smoke trail of the missile back to where it originated. Upon seeing that point, he immediately reported over the command circuit.

"This is Security One, I have the launch point for the attacking missile identified. That location is approximately two miles to the east of Complex 2E on the side of Hill 345. . I am declaring a stage three security alert. We are under attack, I repeat, we are under attack. Dispatching Monitor-1 and Security Team-2 now."

Within ten seconds of the duty officer's report, an Air Force Bell Ranger patrol helicopter rose from behind a hill to the north of the complex and immediately sped towards the destination reported by the duty officer. A puff of smoke still hung in the air above the end of the smoke trail from the Stinger missile's path. That puff of smoke was clearly visible and made an easy target for the destination of the patrol helicopter. Just over three minutes after the launch of the attack, the Air Force patrol chopper was circling the hill and reporting back.

"Command, this is Monitor-1. I have arrived at the designated area and am circling. No joy on any tango's at this local. I will widen my radius and conduct a Able-2 search."

By the time the first helicopter arrived and began reporting, Johnny Chen had already entered the gully behind and to the North of the hill and was protected from sight by dense brush and tree coverage. In the intervening minutes, he had cut another ten seconds off his anticipated escape time. As a result, he was not observed by the Air Force helicopter, having made it across the small meadow behind the hill and into the gully eight seconds before the helicopter's arrival.

Within another two minutes, a Blackhawk helicopter arrived at the site of the Stinger missile launch. Eight Air Force Special Forces personnel attached to the security detachment for the base quickly rappelled down ropes from the helicopter onto the hilltop. Upon landing, they quickly set up a perimeter around the hill and began searching. All they could see of any consequence was the smoldering smoke coming out of the collapsed launch position and on the other side of the hill from the collapsed escape exit. The team leader immediately deduced the meaning and dispatched three of his personnel to the east on a line away from the position marked by the launch position and the smoldering exit. They were accompanied by one of the helicopters, flying low and scanning the terrain for any sign of an intruder. But they didn't find any trace of the individual who had fired the missile.

As that search was going on, the security team leader radioed in the status of the search, wondering if the attacker had perhaps been buried in a cave-in of his firing position. By that time, Johnny was already in his escape tunnel, had already pulled down the concealed covering and was approaching his "holding room". It was a place he would come to know very well over the next two weeks while the most intensive search ever conducted on Vandenberg Air Force Base was underway above him.