The Juggernaut — Chapter 6
Marine One, New Jersey & Pennsylvania
As the group of Marine One helicopters continued on their way to Camp David, Captain Louise “Barbie” Roberts of the USAF and Julie Winchester, leader of the lower house and future First Lady, renewed their friendship, catching up on years of gossip.
“They hung the call-sign ‘Barbie’ on me, Ju,” Louise was telling her old friend. “They considered calling me ‘Pagan,’ but some said that was a little too politically incorrect, and they also considered calling me ‘SLABS,’ which I might have preferred…”
“‘SLABS’?” Julie asked.
“Short for ‘Stacked Like A Brick Shithouse,’” Louise explained.
Julie understood immediately without needing an explanation, as did Rich, who was overhearing this conversation while he was talking to his military aides — Captain Roberts was a very busty woman, after all.
“But then, since I have the same surname as Barbie, and they said I look just like the doll, they chose that instead,” Louise continued. “It didn’t help that the guy I was banging at the time was called ‘Ken’ either.”
“Couldn’t you ask them to call you something else?” Julie asked.
“No, that’s against the rules,” Louise replied. “Do that and they will change it — to something even worse. The guy who mentioned that my surname was the same as Barbie’s got what he deserved, though — while they accepted his suggestion, they also said that no man ought to know that sort of thing, and they changed his call sign to ‘Dollboy’ at the same dinner…”
Julie laughed at the justice of it, then stopped as she noticed that tears were beginning to run down her friend’s cheeks. “What…?” she began to ask.
“They’re all dead, Ju,” Louise said with a catch in her voice. “Dollboy, ‘Pecker, Dingbat, Klingon, Mary-Sue, Ejector, Buzzer and the rest… They’re all dead. Jormungandr blew them all away, like it was swatting flies.”
“Maybe they ejected…” Julie started.
“Did you miss what I was saying?” Louise snapped with uncharacteristic anger “Jormungandr shot down the aircraft… fair enough, they’re legitimate targets, but the fucker also shot down pilots in their ‘chutes! I flew through a cloud of Klingon’s blood — I think it was Klingon — and his goddamn ear landed on my canopy!”
Julie reached out and hugged her friend. Louise resisted for a moment, then gave in and hugged her friend back. “Tell me about them, Lou,” Julie murmured in her friend’s ear.
“Okay… Dollboy… Stuart O’Halloran… you know how he got his callsign — he has… had three sisters, two older, one younger, and all three were obsessed with Barbies, so he could hardly help picking up what he knew about them. He hated being called Dollboy, you know.
“Then there’s Brian Smithson, who we called ‘Pecker, short for ‘woodpecker’, since his laugh sounded like one. He was married, with twin girls and his wife’s expecting their third any time now.
“Charles Dern got called ‘Klingon’ because he speaks it fluently, and that’s one language that you gotta be pretty obsessed to learn, you don’t just pick it up.
“We called Rupinder Joshi ‘Mary-Sue’ because she seemed annoyingly perfect all the time. She never screwed up, never lost her temper, was always perfectly polite, always had everything squared away, and it seemed like she could do anything. I found out a couple of months ago that she’s a single mom, though, and estranged from her Sikh family because she refused to marry her son’s father. It was one of those arranged matches, and when she was getting to know him, they took things a bit further than was strictly appropriate, y’know. She found out a little later that he’s really irresponsible and was in debt up to his eyeballs to some loan-sharks, but when she called off the wedding, her family gave her an ultimatum — He’s from a very well respected Sikh family, so go through with it anyway, or be cast out…
“Dingbat — David Golan — got his call sign for no other reason than the fact that he knew that a bunch of symbols were from the ‘Dingbats’ font on a PC, and said so in a pub quiz shortly after joining the squadron.
“Simon Rowntree got called ‘Ejector’ after he punched out of a perfectly good aircraft during training. He always said that the ejector mechanism malfunctioned and it booted him out spontaneously, but no-one really believed him.
“Buzzer — Dwight King — has got I don’t know how many black marks in his folder for unauthorised flybys. It’s a wonder that they haven’t revoked his flight status…” At this point, Louise stopped and began to sob onto her friend’s shoulder, while Julie stroked her friend’s blond hair.
Some time later, when Louise stopped crying, Julie asked obliquely, “Did you… you know…?”
“Yeah,” Louise sniffed, understanding immediately. “A few. Dollboy, Klingon and Buzzer. I’d have jumped into the sack with ‘Pecker in a heartbeat too, but his wife wouldn’t’ve understood, and I wouldn’t do that to her, since she’s so nice. Ejector… was too Christian to approach, y’know, even though he was a total stud.”
“Do you ever regret being a member of the club?” Julie asked.
“Hell, no, Ju,” Louise answered immediately. “I couldn’t give up the freedom. If a guy can’t accept that this is how I am, then that’s his problem. Ken was a great guy, but when he started getting possessive, I had to ditch him, y’know.”
“Yeah, I know,” Julie agreed.
“So, does that mean that…?” Louise raised an eyebrow and glanced toward Rich.
“Yeah, it does. I’m afraid that I’m a wicked temptress and a corrupter of the innocent,” Julie confirmed.
Louise laughed, then sniffed.
“Come to us, if you want,” Julie said then.
“Really? Are you sure?”
“Yeah. If you need it…”
“I don’t know…”
“Just keep it in mind, OK,” Julie said. “It’d do you good to live again, rather than dwell on the past.”
“I’ll keep it in mind, all right,” Louise promised. “You know that I won’t be able forget it, you wicked woman…”
Julie chuckled quietly.
Jormungandr continued to roll its way northward up Manhattan and the surrounding districts, leaving a swath of destruction over five miles wide in its wake. Many New Yorkers, unable to flee the city given the combination of the snow and the volume of people clogging the already overloaded road network, took the President’s advice and swarmed into Central Park in the hope that Jormungandr would indeed spare it.
The hope of the President and the residents of New York was largely fulfilled when Jormungandr lifted its vast midsection off the ground so as to pass mere yards above the park’s trees. Buildings around the park were knocked down and ground into the soil, and debris landed within the Central Park precinct, yet the park and the people cowering within it were largely spared, though Jormungandr dipped its massive body several times so as to pulverise structures such as the Central Park Zoo, the Restaurant on the Green, the Loeb Boathouse, Belvedere Castle, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the tennis centre building and the parks patrol building, turning those structures and the people who had taken refuge within them into pits filled with blood-soaked rubble.
After the zoo and the Restaurant on the Green had been demolished by Jormungandr, it seemed inevitable that the Met would suffer the same fate. While the Met wouldn’t have opened for hours, there were a few staff present even this early, and they threw open the doors and called for the mob of people to come in and carry out everything they could. It would have previously been unthinkable to ask people to simply come in and help themselves to the Met’s treasures, yet had the conservators who had decided to make an early-morning start not made that decision, many irreplaceable works would have been lost. Many members of the crowd streamed into the Met, seized whatever they could carry, and ran back out. Display cases were smashed open, paintings torn from the walls, statues toppled and lugged out by groups of people, and the staff didn’t just stand by and watch, but actively encouraged and directed the looting. Most of the museum’s contents ended up in the middle of the park in various states of repair, though some of the items — typically the smaller items — vanished into the pockets of people who could still think of their personal enrichment despite the millions of tons of the juggernaut rolling toward them, or who simply forgot that they had stuffed their pockets with small items before carrying out larger ones.
The President’s Fifth Avenue apartment building was crushed flat beneath Jormungandr’s incredible bulk along with almost every other structure in New York City. The last VH-60N Marine One helicopter was still in Jormungandr’s path, having been declared un-airworthy as a result of storm damage to its main rotor, but in the face of the vast bulk steamrolling its way toward them, its crew packed it as full of people as they could, fired up its engines and took off just before Jormungandr arrived.
The aircraft was overloaded even for its undamaged state, and the pilot opened its throttle all the way and pulled the collective all the way up, yet it struggled to gain altitude, shuddering a bit in a manner that didn’t really bother its panicky passengers, but concerned the crew deeply.
Jormungandr rolled toward — and then beneath — the slowly rising helicopter and the pilot and co-pilot alike breathed a sigh of relief as it appeared that they wouldn’t hit the rolling leviathan. Jormungandr passed just yards beneath the helicopter, the heat from its body causing an updraft that buoyed the struggling aircraft upwards. The crew’s relief was short-lived, however, as the damaged blade failed entirely, broken off half-way along its length and flying off down the length of Jormungandr’s body and bouncing off its scales before falling to the ground in front of the automaton.
The massive imbalance in the main rotor resulted in the aircraft beginning to literally shake itself apart, yet it was close enough to Jormungandr that it fell only a few yards, impacted violently and tipped to the side, the main rotor completing its self-destruction against Jormungandr’s massive black scales, the aircraft sliding down the rising side of Jormungandr’s body almost to the point where gravity would pull it and its passengers to their deaths. The eighteen passengers and the crew all survived, though not without injuries, and they sat or lay stunned for a long moment at the sudden violence of the event, before the more severely injured passengers began to cry out in pain.
The helicopter’s crew were members of the US’ most elite helicopter squadron, and had been trained extensively in evacuation procedures, and the pilot, co-pilot and crew chief were the first to recover from their crash-induced shock, and immediately began to muster their impromptu passengers toward the exits as best they could given that the aircraft was on its side. It worked in their favour that the main doors had been sprung loose by the violent shaking imparted by the unbalanced rotor.
As the pilots had been lifting off, they had been — as most good helicopter pilots did — considering where they might land should their engines fail. As they also flew the US President, they had also been considering how their passengers might leave whatever environment they might find themselves in after leaving the aircraft in such a situation. To try to climb directly down Jormungandr’s sides was unthinkable, but its tapering tail was passing over Long Island, and it was rolling slowly enough that running to the tail was not entirely impossible.
As most of the passengers climbed out and perched on the uppermost side of the fuselage — even this soon after the crash the waves of heat emanating from Jormungandr was immediately noticeable — the crew and one of the passengers who happened to be a doctor checked the two passengers who hadn’t been able to move.
“We’ve got to get outta here stat, ma’am,” the crew chief said to the doctor, having looked out the shattered cockpit windows to see that Jormungandr’s movement had already carried them beyond its apex and they were descending again, toward the point where the wreck would fall from the descending side of the automaton.
The doctor could see the broken end of the male passenger’s femur poking through his blood-stained pants immediately, and it took only a moment for her to ascertain that the immobile female passenger had a collapsed lung. She looked up at the crew chief, and shook her head almost imperceptibly; neither would be able to travel under their own power, and trying to rescue them could doom anyone who tried. “We’ll get help,” the doctor lied to her two patients. “Wait here for a few minutes.”
The marines assisted the doctor onto the upper side of the aircraft before climbing up themselves. The doctor didn’t notice the tears streaming down her own dusty cheeks in her haste.
“What are you lazy assholes doing, perching up here like a bunch of dumb chooks?!” the crew chief roared over the sound of Jormungandr crushing the buildings of New York. “Run toward the tail!” he pointed. “Go! Go! GO!”
The passengers slid down from the stricken helicopter onto the boiling hot scales beneath it and ran as best they could given their injuries. The heat emanating from the automaton was stifling, almost like being in a sauna, save that the occasional breeze blew a welcome wave of cold air across the people struggling to find their way down.
Few of the survivors of the helicopter crash survived the trip to Jormungandr’s tail. One man was bleeding internally, and collapsed. Some of the other survivors tried to help him, but his weight combined with their own and the terrible heat emanating from Jormungandr’s scaly armour made it impossible for him to be carried, and they fell from Jormungandr’s falling edge. Others fell on the uneven terrain provided by the scales, and found that rising again when those scales were boiling hot was a difficult proposition, but helped by the heavy clothing that some wore. Then, by the time that they had recovered sufficiently from the shock of the crash and had evacuated it, their stricken helicopter had been carried over the top of Jormungandr’s side and was descending toward the point at which it would slide down and fall to earth in front of Jormungandr, and the survivors had to not only run for the tail, but climb up Jormungandr’s moving body in order to avoid a similar fate to that of the stricken machine and its unfortunate occupants who had been too badly injured to evacuate. The demands of this exertion took its toll on the least fit members of the survivors, who lost ground against Jormungandr’s rolling motion and were carried beyond the point where they could maintain their grip and slid and fell to their deaths.
Once the survivors reached the top of Jormungandr’s body and began to descend to the rising side, the journey became easier, as it was effectively downhill from there, but while the half-metre height of Jormungandr’s scales didn’t seem much at first, the chance of leg injury from such jumps was high enough that sprains claimed other victims, one such victim carrying two healthy individuals to their deaths with her as her injury slowed all three. The other two victims of this type of injury were reluctantly left to their fate.
Then, the sauna-like heat of Jormungandr’s body, combined with the winter clothes that many of the survivors wore added to the stress that was placed upon the running survivors, and the icy breeze was all too infrequent to cool the running people, and many more fell and died as heat stress took its own toll.
Jormungandr’s tail proved not to be the escape that it was expected to be, as it was relatively stiff, and its tip didn’t touch the ground normally, hanging dozens of yards above the ground. However, Jormungandr’s nanites, following their instructions to spare local life-forms whenever it didn’t conflict with its primary mission, flexed the automaton’s vast body, lowering the tip of the tail to ground level just long enough for the survivors to escape.
Of the eighteen passengers and three crew, only four survived to reach safety; the co-pilot, the crew chief, the doctor and another very fit man who had been picked up essentially at random. Five people leaped from Jormungandr’s tail into the snow over ten yards beneath it, despite Jormungandr’s nanites having helped as much as their instructions allowed, but the last hit her head upon a solid object beneath the snow, and died from the massive head injury soon thereafter. The last four lay in the snow long enough that their overheated bodies cooled back to a reasonable temperature and their bodies recovered from their exertions.
The doctor rose from her snowy pit first, and struggled through the snow to the other survivors, exhorting each to rise despite their fatigue; it would be all too easy to relax too long and succumb to hypothermia. Reaching the fifth person, the deep red-stained pit in the snow beneath that woman’s injury-misshapen head told her all she needed to know — that the woman was as good as dead even if she still had a heartbeat.
“I don’t think we were properly introduced,” the doctor said to the other three survivors. “I’m Doctor Marja Ivanova.”
“Major Stuart Donnelly,” the co-pilot introduced himself.
“Sergeant Clyde Greer,” the crew chief added.
“I seem to be the only one here without a title,” the lean, lanky young man said. “I’m just Bill Clinton…” he paused, then added in a somewhat weary tone when he saw the look on the other people’s faces, “Yes, just like the former President, but please don’t call me ‘Mister President’.”
The thought might have passed through the Marines’ minds, but they were too disciplined to ever let it go further than that. The Major and the Sergeant looked at each other. “We wouldn’t think of it, Sir,” the Major said.
“Didn’t you notice that we were on Marine One, Mister Clinton?” the Doctor asked.
“No… Really?” Bill asked. “I didn’t notice under all the dust.”
“Well, given that we all work for the real President, we wouldn’t joke about such things.”
“Oh… The President is in New York? I’m not all that interested in politics…”
The Major rolled his eyes and the doctor gave a short snort of laughter.
The Sergeant was looking back at Jormungandr as it continued to roll up New York. “Did anyone notice that that… thing deliberately let us get off?” he asked, not directing his question to anyone in particular.
“Yeah,” Bill said. “The tail was far too high to jump from, but it lowered it as we got there. It wouldn’t have helped much if there hadn’t been all this snow, though.”
“I wonder what that was all about,” the doctor mused, glancing across the bay and the flattened rubble at the strip of trees still standing at the centre of Manhattan. “It didn’t have to help us, and neither did it have to spare Central Park…”
As Jormungandr reached the end of Central Park, the arch of its massive body began to descend in order to properly destroy the buildings there. People were still streaming into the park from the north, running frantically in order to make it to the park before that escape route was cut off. Many people were able — or were forced — to touch Jormungandr’s hot skin as they passed beneath it, having to duck or even crawl to safety. As it continued to descend, the cries of those who failed to pass safely beneath its raised body could be heard, as the latecomers were maimed and killed by its remorseless progress. The worst thing for those who had already made it to safety was to witness the plight of those who hadn’t been killed; many were horribly burned, with bones crushed into fragments, and while many of the injured would die from their injuries or infections, some would also survive despite them. The blood and pulverised corpses of those who hadn’t turned back to try to run ahead of Jormungandr were also horrifying, yet to a populace that had witnessed — sometimes at quite close range — similar incidents to either side of Central Park, these had begun to become commonplace. Corpses couldn’t cry out in pain or beg for assistance — or a merciful death — after all.
The 174th Infantry Brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 314th Regiment from Fort Dix, New Jersey arrived in the vicinity of New York, and began to set up their tracked M109A7 mobile howitzers and truck-towed M777A2 light howitzers in the Losen Slote Creek Park, an area of woodland near Moonachie, NJ, between that district and the Hackensack river and the Vince Lombardi Service Area across the river, directed by a soldier who lived nearby and was familiar with the area. The gun crews worked with a speed that could be achieved only by dint of long and recent practice — theirs was a training regiment, after all — and within a short space of time, the regimental commander gave the order to open fire upon Jormungandr, which was between 4 and 14 miles distant, as its tail was approaching Hunts Point Wastewater Treatment Plant and its head was approaching Washington Heights, while its midsection was flattening Melrose, Concourse Village and was approaching Yankee Stadium.
All the activity in Losen Slote Creek Park had been watched and reported by the many beady eyes of Jormungandr’s nanite-bugged birds, and in less than a second after the first round was fired, Jormungandr opened up on the park and the 155mm artillery rounds still in flight with all the rail guns it could bring to bear, light and medium alike. Given the angle at which the artillery stood with respect to Jormungandr, this amounted to perhaps ten percent of its total number of weapons, however, this was considered sufficient. The artillery rounds all exploded well short of the vast black juggernaut, and then thousands of steel flechettes flailed at the park at five kilometres per second, mowing down everything — trees, birds, the nearby houses, soldiers and their weapons alike — indiscriminately. Within less than two seconds, the 174th’s 3–314 regiment effectively ceased to exist, and the section of the park that the soldiers had occupied had been turned into a blasted wasteland akin to that of a WWI no-man’s land.
To the people in New York City, it was as if Jormungandr growled briefly, deafeningly, with a barely audible hum so low pitched that it was felt more than heard, and streaks of silver-golden light sped toward New Jersey, leaving behind them the smell of sparklers or steel being machined.
Marine One, Pennsylvania & Maryland
The President, aboard his particular Marine One helicopter, had been watching the drone footage from New York while only peripherally aware of the conversation between his fiancée and the attractive fighter pilot who had turned out to be one of her childhood friends. He had seen the crash of the last Marine One on Jormungandr’s side, the flight — and deaths — of its survivors as they tried to escape off its tail, had seen that Jormungandr had actually deliberately lowered its tail to allow the few survivors to leap to safety with a reasonable chance of survival.
His observation of the situation in New York was interrupted by Marine One’s arrival at Camp David. While not currently the first helicopter in the presidential shell game, his was the first to land. He was greeted on his arrival by the naval officer in charge of the facility, as Camp David is officially a US Naval base.
The peaceful rustic charm of Camp David was interrupted by the arrival of the Presidential party and the personnel required to conduct the minimal government to which the US had been reduced in the wake of Jormungandr’s attacks. Deep snow hindered movement around the President’s woodland retreat, as the US Navy and US Marine personnel who ran the facility had not finished clearing the snow from the camp’s pathways after the previous night’s blizzard, and the golf carts that were the primary method of transportation within the facility were inadequate to deal with the snow cover.
However, a fully functional command bunker lurked beneath the rustic-seeming cabins, fully capable of serving as the US President’s headquarters, even more so than the temporary headquarters set up in Rich and Julie’s 5th Avenue apartment, though further from the American people than might always be preferable.
Not long after his arrival at Camp David and entering the command bunker, Rich had had seen the arrival of the 174th’s 3–314 regiment and its subsequent abrupt destruction by Jormungandr via the medium of the reconnaissance drones that were following it.
To an airborne observer, it had become apparent that Jormungandr’s rapid-firing railguns weren’t simply autofiring individually, since each round was fired synchronously — with a precision measurable in microseconds — with those of the other railguns, with waves of projectiles clearly visible on the overhead footage.
In less than two seconds of fire, Jormungandr had shot down the first wave of 155mm projectiles and had then annihilated the entire contingent of soldiers and their weapons. Its counter-attack was over so fast that some of the debris thrown into the air by its first rounds didn’t land back on the ground until seconds after its counterattack had ceased. Unlike its counter-attack against the airborne attack, this counter-attack had reduced the entire area to a wasteland. Rich took it as a clear sign that Jormungandr was escalating the violence of its responses to attacks upon it, though in fact Jormungandr had levelled the area simply because of the trees in the area which would have interfered with the effectiveness of a more moderate response.
“I really think that we need to stop and think before we send more people to die pointlessly trying to stop this thing,” Rich said, trying not to gag from the nausea of his emotional reaction to seeing so many American soldiers shredded into a red mist or roasted within burning vehicles, even via the distant medium of an airborne reconnaissance platform. His military aides took this as an order, and passed it on down the chain of command.
Jormungandr continued on undeterred, speeding up a bit as the waterside location and the city’s towers gave way to smaller buildings and open country, and after flattening Bronxville at around 3:45 PM, about eight hours after it reached land, finally stopped. Its nanites had decided that no further structures in its path were of immediate importance, and its internal modifications were nearly complete, so it turned its head back toward the ruins of New York City and commenced moving back in that direction in a serpentine fashion at over twenty miles per hour.
The people of New York screamed and fled as Jormungandr slithered back toward the ruins of the city, but it passed through the area it had already steamrolled, to the east of Central Park, and paused with its head in the area where some of the city’s largest buildings had been destroyed. It raised both its massive tail and head, and while tentacles that would dwarf a subway train emerged from its throat and began to probe at the compacted ground, pulling up tangled masses of structural steel and drawing them into the gaping maw, its tail rose high above the city and pointed roughly south-west, though swinging about as it opened fire once more, this time with six heavy rail-guns, firing them sequentially at a combined rate of around four rounds per second.
This time, Jormungandr was targeting land-based US ballistic missile sites. It was able to make a true simultaneous time-on-target strike, by varying the launch attitude and velocity of each of its projectiles independently, between about 4.6 and 5 kilometres per second.
The US land-based ICBM arsenal had 450 Minuteman III missiles organised in nine squadrons of 50, each squadron being divided into five flights of 10. Each missile was sited in its own unmanned launch facility, an underground silo with a protective lid made from steel and concrete, and each flight had its own physically separated underground launch control centre. The five LCCs in each squadron were interconnected, allowing any one to control the whole squadron, but no control existed between different squadrons. The launch facilities were physically separated so that an enemy nuclear weapon might be able to destroy one facility, but warhead fratricide would prevent anything other than a staggered attack or a true, effectively unachievable, simultaneous time-on-target attack from being able to destroy all of them.
Jormungandr was targeting not only the missile launch facilities and the missiles inside them, but also the launch control centres. This made for 495 targets in total. At about 4 rounds per second, it would take it just over two minutes to launch its entire attack, allowing one round per target.
The President, his military aides and the generals with whom he was communicating electronically for the most part all saw Jormungandr open fire via the reconnaissance drones that were observing it, but it wasn’t immediately obvious what it was firing at. After the loss of Vandenberg AFB, the US’ ability to track ballistic objects such as those Jormungandr was firing had been reduced, and Jormungandr’s nanite-guided large railgun rounds were also negating radar returns, and it took several precious minutes to determine their likely targets from the direction, speed and elevation of the launches: the ICBM squadrons in North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, and that the first of Jormungandr’s missiles would arrive in a little over ten minutes.
“Can we launch the missiles against Jormungandr before they’re destroyed?” the President asked.
“No, Mister President,” Major Taggleton, who was still carrying the suitcase known as the Nuclear Football, replied. “These missiles have fixed targets, and to re-target them would require that a new program be written, then physically copied into their guidance systems. It doesn’t take long to code the new coordinates, but someone then has to go to each launch facility, open up the missile and swap out the appropriate components. That takes longer than we have, I’m afraid.”
“Can you show me the facilities, gentlemen?” Rich asked.
“Yes, Mister President,” the female African-American naval Captain in charge of the Camp David situation room replied. “This will take a minute…” She concentrated on her computer for a few moments, then windows began appearing on the room’s main monitor, each showing a top-down image of a missile regiment’s reservation. The images changed slowly as the platform observing them — apparently a reconnaissance satellite in low-earth-orbit — moved.
Rich read the name tag on the Captain’s dress uniform. “Thank you, Captain King,” he said. “Is there anything we can do?” Rich asked his military advisors.
“No, Sir” an USAF four-star general with the surname ‘Laurent’ replied over the conference system. “Our analysis of the initial strikes is that the projectiles are probably too small and fast to target, even if we could get a radar lock on them, which is highly improbable, given Jormungandr’s ECM capabilities.”
“We might need those nukes,” Rich groused. “Nothing else seems able to stop that thing.”
“Actually, sir,” Major Taggleton interjected, “The 450 Minuteman-IIIs in these fields are both outdated and have been deMIRVed to one warhead each. The majority of our long-range ballistic nuclear warheads are sub-based now. Losing these squadrons won’t be a particularly great loss when you consider that we still have most of our missile subs at sea — only a couple that were in port at the time were lost in the initial attacks.”
“Can we nuke Jormungandr using sub-based missiles?” Rich asked.
“Yes, Mister President,” Major Taggleton replied immediately. “However, Jormungandr is still in New York City — or what’s left of it — and there are still a lot of American citizens there. You will have to decide if their deaths are an acceptable price to pay, Sir.”
“Mister President, please don’t forget that Jormungandr has demonstrated an extremely effective point-defence system,” three-star Admiral Sneddon added over the conference system. “We can’t be certain that we could get our MIRVs close enough to be effective without a mass launch, which would cause a hell of a lot of fallout and contamination, and any warheads it downed would also be a source of radioactive contamination.”
“How bad would it be?”
“Pretty bad, sir,” Major Taggleton replied. “With all our warheads targeting New York… it’d be like another Chernobyl. It might be safe for people to live there again in twenty thousand years.”
“Oh, fabulous,” the President said sarcastically, and sighed deeply. “Before I’d be prepared to authorise something like that, I need to know, just what does Jormungandr want, and are any more of them going to raise their ugly heads out of the sea and begin flattening other places?”
“We have been discussing that already, Mister President,” a female US Army four-star general with the name tag ‘Levin’ replied. “Our analysis is ongoing, of course, but we have some preliminary conclusions that you may find useful.
“Given its actions so far,” General Levin continued, “in destroying sites of strategic and military importance in the continental US even before it showed itself this morning, and — we can presume — nuking the capitols and some other significant sites of all the members of the Nuclear Club a week ago, we can presume that it is capable of strategic analysis and planning. That requires a human level of brainpower, and the precision of its strategic strikes requires a pretty good intelligence-gathering capability, though I’ll discuss that in more depth later.
“Then we have its actions today. It ate a container ship, which — along with the fact that the projectiles used in the strategic strikes this morning appear to have been made from steel — suggests that it may have been a measure taken to provide the raw materials for resupplying its ammunition bunkerage.
“It then rolled over New York City and reduced every building of any significance in its path into compacted rubble, but — significantly — avoided contact with large areas of parkland such as Liberty Park and Central Park. From the reports we have been getting, New Yorkers have been shooting their pistols and rifles at it, and some military personnel on leave with their personal firearms — and unauthorised supplies of 40-millimetre grenades — have been firing them at Jormungandr too, and it has apparently completely ignored them. When that VH-60 crashed on its side earlier today, it didn’t even seem to notice, but when the survivors of the crash — those few that managed to get that far — reached its tail, it moved its tail to let them get off, since otherwise they’d have been unlikely to have survived the jump. That is suggestive that its goal isn’t to kill people, or anything else for that matter, unless they get in its way.
“Then there are the results of the two attacks our forces have made against Jormungandr. The air strike was neutralised as soon as it released weapons, and any ejected pilots were killed. They were the best pilots we had available for the aircraft we had left, and their loss is more injurious to the US than the loss of the aircraft. Then there…”
Rich cleared his throat pointedly. “How so, General Levin?” he interrupted her.
“Sir?” she didn’t understand what he was asking.
“How is it that the pilots are more important — in a military sense?”
“Oh, Okay,” the general replied. “It takes time to build aircraft, but it takes more time to train the pilots to the degree these pilots were trained. We have lots of pilots, but only a few can fly our military aircraft, Sir.”
“Thank you, General. Please continue.”
“Yes, Mister President. “The artillery regiment that opened fire on Jormungandr earlier today was also destroyed the instant it opened fire too. The fact that these attacks were answered while the other attacks against it have gone unanswered is suggestive that it is performing a threat analysis for every attack and is conserving its resources by only responding to attacks which have the potential to cause it harm.
“Then we have to consider that Jormungandr has flattened New York City by simply rolling over it. That provides us with two important pieces of intelligence: the first is that its skin must be thick enough that it can roll over a modern high-rise city without being harmed, and given that we’ve estimated the thing’s weight to be on the order of one and a half billion tons — give or take a few hundred million tons — that ought to give it a skin that can just shrug off most conventional weapons simply so that its weight doesn’t cause it damage when it moves. The second point is that the destruction of human structures appears to be one of its goals, possibly even its primary goal, given that it hasn’t — so far — conducted preemptive strikes against any mobile military units. Our analysts differ on whether this is a primary or a secondary goal, but the majority opinion by about sixty percent is that it is a primary goal.”
“So, it wants to destroy our cities?” Rich asked when the general paused. “Not just New York?”
“Yes, Mister President, we believe so. Its current actions suggest that it is planning further actions that we will also oppose. We can say with a high degree of certainty that it wants to destroy cities in the USA. What is less certain at this time is precisely what else it wants to destroy — whether this is an attack on America or the beginning of a global attack — and to what level of detail it intends to destroy human structures.”
“What do you mean by ‘level of detail’, General?” the President asked.
“Jormungandr has effectively destroyed one high-rise city,” she replied. “We can extrapolate that it will want to destroy other similar cities. However, New York is… well… was the largest city on Earth, so the question is, to what level of detail is it interested in causing further destruction? Large or small Cities? Towns? Houses? Vehicles? Tents? We just don’t know. Nor do we know what will happen when it has finished, whether it will hang around and make sure that we don’t rebuild, if it won’t care after that, or even if something else that we’ll like even less will happen afterwards.
“That brings me to another point of uncertainty — where the hell this thing came from. We know that it came from the North Atlantic Ocean, but we don’t know if it launched the nuclear strike itself, or if the nukes came from another source that we haven’t seen yet, though the consensus is that it’s certainly big enough to have been able to carry the ordnance. However, regardless of where it came from, whether the North Atlantic or further afield, we haven’t seen any clues that would suggest who could build such a thing or why they would do it.
“Occam’s Razor suggests that we don’t go looking for a more complex answer where a simple one exists, but that doesn’t necessarily hold true for military action — in military circumstances, complexity is introduced in order to lengthen the enemy’s decision-making loop and induce him to drawing incorrect conclusions.”
“So, we don’t know where it came from, who made it — assuming it was made — or why,” Rich concluded. “Right?”