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The CHERENKOV Protocol...a short story

The following is a short story that will be integrated into the Warlock timeline in due time.



Since the first Reagan administration, there had always been a Warlock.  Simply put, the Warlock was a position occupied by a person of special trust and whose name was irrelevant. 

The Warlock was not in command but had immeasurable power and influence.  With that power came equal responsibility, and the position was only filled by someone of unquestionable integrity.  More than anything else, the Warlock made plans, plans that were intended to change the course of the world.

 

Still, the office had to reside in an org chart somewhere, and for now it resided on the roster of a multi-national corporate satellite office in Des Moines.  This office was just one of many corporate proprietaries that fell under the rubric of the Joint Reconnaissance Task Force.  The corporation was merely a wholly owned subsidiary of Allied Signal, and the Warlock’s office was located on the backside of the loading docks further obfuscated by its focus-grouped business function: Global Logistics Integration Branch (GLIB).

 

The JRTF was a waived, unacknowledged special access program comprised of persons detailed from DOD and national intelligence agencies.  JRTF had an extrajudicial charter loosely organized around Title 10 and 50 authorities and was tailored to satisfy intelligence requirements beyond even the covert activities over which Congress had oversight.  Outside of its Crystal City offices, JRTF was known only as ‘the firm’.

 

By the Warlock’s authority, which was nearly infinite, the GLIB had access to any resource required to facilitate a plan.  The Warlock was successful because the plans were finite, the plans were scoped to achieve a single objective, the plans were controlled with no bureaucratic competition.  There had never been an overreach by any Warlock; there would never be corruption.  Only the current Warlock could choose his or her successor.    

 

And so had Lonny been passed the torch when Ryder Beaton had retired right after 9/11.  A veteran of WWII, Ryder had been 75 years old when he stepped down as the Warlock. Lonny had already given well over 35 years of his adult life to serving his country in this nasty, covert world. 

Yet, Lonny had heartily taken the mantle of leadership with an eye toward exploiting opportunities for the next era.  He assumed the burden of the Warlord’s authority, trying his best to navigate finding the right solutions to problems that others wished away. 

 

At the tender age of 65, Lonny Pemberton’s journey south had taken a toll, and this was as far south as south goes. To ensure a level of security was kept foremost, he travelled under the alias of Joe Diamond, an account executive for Allied Signal seeking mining contracts to secure raw materials through partnership with private entities in Chile. 

 

Continuing his journey, Lonny departed on a charter plane full of White Continent enthusiasts from Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile and flew to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. The plane itself was a BAE-146 with 4 turbo propeller engines and reinforced undercarriage for remote airstrips.

 

Under the guise of the United States Office of Polar Programs (OPP), a military officer linked up with Mr. Diamond and escorted him via a Navy C-130 flying above the Ronne Ice Shelf penetrating deep over the interior and landing at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.  When he could peer through the November fog to see the land below, ‘Joe’ only saw white, a world of ceaseless ice and snow.

 

Exhausted and colder than he had ever been, Lonny was further guided to a billeting space normally allotted as dual-occupancy, the only deference to his position as he passed out onto his cot still fully clothed, his dreams solely dominated by a glaze of an empty and vast expanse of hostile white desert.   

 

* * *

 

Dr. Mark Rutherford started the briefing right on time, “Lonny, our paths haven’t really crossed, most of my previous discussions on particle beam theory were contained to your predecessor.”

 

Lonny deferred, “Mark, the BEAR project was Ryder’s domain—he understood the science far more than I, but now that I’m in a different role, I’ll do my best to keep up.  No pun intended, but just bear in mind you’ll have to tailor your coaching to a lower level—I just don’t have the engineering brain to keep up!”

 

Dr. Lisa Morris chimed in, “Lonny, 25 years ago we completed the BEAR neutron saturation particle beam which then led to other, related research.  It’s important to note that even though BEAR wrought devastation in Chernobyl, that particle beam was based on low-order energies.”

Mark continued, “Particle beam theory led to experimental study of the radio signature of showers induced by ultra-high energy cosmic rays.  In crude terms, we graduated from particle beams to particle showers, the implied orders of magnitude involved led to discovering ultrahigh-energy γ radiation.”


Lisa interrupted, “Permit me to quote an article by Zhen Cuo titled, Ultrahigh-energy photons up to 1.4 petaelectronvolts from 12 γ-ray Galactic sources:


‘Charged cosmic rays that impinge on the atmosphere produce particle showers which develop over length scales of several kilometers. Similar showers may be triggered in dense media, such as water ice, by astrophysical neutrinos with energies of the order of petaelectronvolts…These showers are not globally charge neutral and so represent an electric current that leads to the production of electromagnetic radiation…'”


Mark saw Lonny wince and clarified, “Please let me break that down into the important segments worth noting and remembering.  First, cosmic rays assault the earth’s atmosphere every second of every day, a recognition of this has led to the term you just heard, ‘astrophysical’.  Second, a dense medium is needed to capture the particle.  The medium of sufficient purity and density of which Antarctica abounds is that of ice.  That explains why you are here of all places on this planet!”


The Warlock quipped, “And I was beginning to think this was just a boondoggle.”


Lisa smiled and said, “There are two more elements in Zhen Cuo’s quote of grave concern. One is the concept of a neutrino.  Possessing no electric charge, the particle emitted from an irradiated nucleus is called a neutrino.  A neutrino can conserve both energy and momentum.


“A neutrino is similar to the neutron particle on which BEAR was based, yet a major difference being in measuring the magnitudes of mass. Secondly, once a neutrino collides with an ice molecule, it creates charged particles known as Cherenkov light that emit blue to ultraviolet light passing through the ice medium.”


Mark paused for questions; Lonny indicated he was ready for the punch line. 


Mark laconically delivered it, “Expressed as PeV, a single petaelectronvolt exceeds the total energy released by a 20-kiloton nuclear fission device by several orders of magnitude. A very high energy neutrino flux of extraterrestrial origin has been theorized to exceed 2-PeV.”

 

Lonny summarized, “So we’re talking about capturing or converting gamma radiation that could be weaponized?”


Grimly, Mark remarked, “I’m afraid so. And we are not the only one’s aware of that potential. Zhen Cuo is an officer in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.”


* * *


The Warlock absorbed the data as best he could, and pausing for a moment to doublecheck his notes, he queried, “My first thought is this environment down here is so isolated and with a tiny population where everyone on station is going to know what everyone is doing.  How could we leverage the legitimate science ongoing with a side project that could go unnoticed?”


Lisa offered, “We learned so much about tradecraft and misattribution during the BEAR project, but I think we still need that mentoring/coaching that was provided by Max Vachon, the guy from CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, the DS&T. 


“Generally speaking, I think we can establish a protocol exploring adjacencies of neutrinos to neutron particle beams, not in terms of weaponization, but in terms of communications, or how it could be utilized in fiber optic networks.”


Mark endorsed with a sigh, “I hate to try to bring the band together, but I agree, Lisa and I will need to focus on the science and experimentation.  We just won’t have the bandwidth to work on the legitimate neutrino work, then a side, covert project and on top of that, conceal all out efforts from the community down here and at the National Science Foundation in DC.  We’re gonna need help.”


The Warlock glanced upward in recollection, “Well, I happen to know Max retired from the Agency but that is not to say he isn’t a contractor somewhere.  Whether he is an IC, or independent contractor, or working at someplace like Raytheon, he probably has kept his clearances.  Even that is a wave of the pen. The issue is whether he’ll want to join you on this project.”


Lisa replied, “I thought you might be reticent because he definitely has prior association with the Agency.”


Lonny recognized this was not these two PhD’s first rodeo, “The thought crossed my mind, but with some magic juju we can obscure that.  Perfect world, we’ll need to fabricate a story that augment’s his engineering and science resume so he’ll fit into the community down here, but at the same time not stick out as a spook. 


“Let’s table cover for status specifically for Max since he may not be available, but rather focus on what kind of footprint you’ll need to conduct your parallel research.  Again, it has to fit in with the adjacencies of the BEAR particle beam methodologies.  Even that, obviously, we’ll have to obfuscate the true purpose.”


Dr. Rutherford requested, “To be consistent with the particle beam cover for action, I think some of the first things we need to do is move our miniaturized version of the 3.2 km ling Stanford Linear Accelerator built in 1966, the modified Positron Electron Project (PEP). Another main piece of technology we will need to build is a traveling-wave tube amplifier.  The ‘Tweeta’ is a specialized vacuum tube to amplify radio frequency signals in the microwave range.  We’ll use it to direct and encapsulate the Cherenkov light photons.”

 

Lonny whistled, “The more I think about it Mark, the more I think this project has potential for growth and simultaneously needing its own compartmented staff.  I think if I can get Max to sign up, I’ll try to bring on board both VooDoo and Cat from the old BEAR team.  You all have worked together, so there is some team cohesion that I think is necessary to maximize the opportunity.  Agreed?”

 

Lisa ventured, “I really was hoping you’d say that.  We know how each other thinks to a high degree, and we worked well together. I concur and offer my vote!”


Mark opined, “Still, as far as staff at Amundsen, we’ll have to limit it to just Max.  Permanent party beyond that will draw too much attention.”


The Warlock made his decision, “I think we’re all on the same wavelength.  I’ll make arrangements to house the support staff in Punta Arenas for dispersion, but relative access to Antarctica to push logistic packages. We’ll call the project ‘CHERENKOV’.”


* * *


The Warlock called the meeting to order.  Around the table were faces he had not seen for many years, each having earned not only their respective retirements, but more than a few grey hairs and wrinkles.  But their eyes still burned with the intelligence and intensity that brought them back to once again serve.


He began, “Each of you have probably read our old friend Dr. Rutherford’s synopsis of the project.  I’ll reiterate that this Special Access Program (SAP) is eyes-only for those of us in this room, Mark and I’m sure you’ll remember Dr. Lisa Morris.  We don’t really need much more for introductions.


“With that, I’ll be followed by Cat who’s the lead operations officer on this effort.  She’s branched out a bit from just targeting and has found us what I believe is an excellent cover for action for the SAP we will call CHERENKOV.”


Cat Wolden had indeed expanded her skillset as a targeting officer from the BEAR project when she attended a DoD course called Advanced Special Operations Training Level III.  ASOT III was DoD’s answer to absorb the rapidly ascending requirements for case officers after 9/11.  The CIA Directorate of Operations fully endorsed the program of instruction and certified the graduates as collectors at the same level as those who attended the course at Camp Peary.  Being a bit of a masochist, she subsequently went through the Camp Peary program years later and had completed her career at CIA by finishing her 20-year stint by working in the cover shop.


Cat started her brief, “I can’t say how happy I am about this reunion!  The gang’s all here!  I’ll get right down to it; we’ll reminisce and catch up socially later. What I have found out is there has been a multi-country effort including the European Southern Observatory, the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences from both Japan and Taiwan.


This multi-nation effort is called the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).  The main ALMA site is being constructed at a 5000m elevation in the Chajnantor plateau of the Atacama Desert in Chile.  This international astronomy interferometer facility will be eventually comprised of 66 radio telescopes observing electromagnetic radiation at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.”


Mark whistled, “It’s bloody perfect! We can exploit the correlation of the EM radiation with the radio signature of showers induced by ultra-high energy cosmic rays.”


Cat tamped down Mark’s enthusiasm by inquiring, “VooDoo, from a logistical point of view, I’m sure it will present some challenges.”


VooDoo didn’t disappoint, “The cover aspect is fine, I got no problems with that, I can make it work.  From the point of view of distances and geometries, I’m not gonna lie.  This is going to be a pain in the ass if we ever get down to tight schedules.”


The Warlock weighed in, “VooDoo, you’re right.  It will be challenging, especially when we throw in weather as a variable.  Timetable is VERY flexible, not much of a constraint.  Operational Security is the most important aspect of execution.”


VooDoo inquired, “Cat, is the HQ for this thing in Santiago?”


Cat confirmed, “It is. Easiest thing for us to do is carve out some space at the Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico, then establish a foothold in some real estate in Santiago. All packages can start their journey from Socorro, get routed to Santiago, then forwarded down to Punta Arenas and beyond to the Pole.  VooDoo, let me know what you need to build out not only the facility but personnel infrastructure.”


VooDoo replied, “Wilco.  I’m guessing funding is routed through the NSF?”


Mark interjected, “That would be best.  The line items should be obfuscated, but that is consistent with the actual neutrino work being funded by NSF.  As far as they are concerned, our adjacent particle beam work could be all under the larger neutrino umbrella which ultimately will be centered around a collection array called Ice Cube. It all fits.”


The Warlock wrapped the meeting up, “I think I can envision from an OPSEC point of view that this project is workable.  Cat, run it as you see fit.  Mark, as far as the development itself is concerned, we’ll all reconvene as you cross technical milestones along the way.  I will have many other efforts ongoing, but I’ll give you top priority if you encounter problems needing my influence to sweep aside.”


* * *

Time had passed since the Warlock had received a brief on CHERENKOV.  He had read several slide decks or white papers detailing milestones, but Dr. Rutherford insisted the best way to convey some of the recent breakthroughs would be to meet in another face-to-face.  Since he was nearly continuously swamped with supervising overlapping operations or planning future actions, his time was short. 


A trip down to Antarctica was out of the question. Mark had suggested Socorro as perfectly suited, and there is where the meeting took place.


The Warlock walked in and inquired, “OK, Mark. It sounded fairly urgent. What’s up?”


Dr. Rutherford began, “I know you got the brief on the progress of the DOMS.  I’ll start there just as a refresher.


“In 2011, the Ice Cube array was completed and designated as Full Operating Capability or FOC.  Ice Cube is comprised of dozens of spherical optical sensors called Digital Optical Modules or DOMs, each with a photomultiplier tube or PMT and a single-board data acquisition computer.  It’s a massive undertaking, as you can imagine because each string of DOMs is buried beneath the ice at varying depths.  There are 86 strings in the array, with 60 DOMs per string

.

“That milestone is relevant to us as Ice Cube is what will collect the neutrinos and of course send the measurements for the regular NSF research all the way up to the University of Wisconsin.  The neutrinos themselves initially remain in the DOMs and from there we’ll take control of them in our own vault.”


The Warlock raised an eyebrow and asked, “Vault. First time you’ve used that term.  Isn’t that dangerous? Containing them—and how do you contain a neutrino?  I thought they passed through matter pretty indiscriminately?”

 

Dr. Rutherford explained, “That’s one of the developments I wanted to apprise you.  Without getting into all the geeky detail, we have found that neutrinos don’t pass through a mix of cobalt and zinc.  As such, we have been successful ‘caging’ at least 90% of neutrinos stored in our vault.”


The Warlock raised an eyebrow, “Wow.  That’s incredible!”


Mark couldn’t contain his enthusiasm, “It gets even better!  It’s complicated because there is quantum and particle physics involved, but we’ve been fairly successful in building the required traveling-wave tube amplifier.  As you may recall, the ‘Tweeta’ is a specialized vacuum tube to amplify radio frequency signals in the microwave range.”


The Warlock recalled, “This will be the means to transport the photons or Cherenkov light is what I remember.”


Mark corrected, “Yes, but a better way to express this is to say ‘neutrino-infused photons’.  It’s a small distinction, but it distinguishes what we are doing, and how we differ from other projects, like those that transport light over a physical medium, like a ‘glass’ fiber optic cable.  Still, what’s important is we now have a means to contain and move the payload as well as direct or orient it.


“Now that you are caught up, I need to break some new ground.  Two things. One, we need to be able to ‘receive’ the signal at a precise spot.  And two, we have figured out how to weaponize the neutrino infused beam.”


The Warlock patiently waited, “Go on.”


Mark summarized, “I say ‘signal’ because it is important to remember the Tweeta produces a radio signal that encapsulates the photon beam.  That way, we can get our neutrino payload to a specified point.  Here is the last big breakthrough, and fortunately we were working with tiny, nearly singular amounts of neutrinos.  When the normally neutral neutrinos are bombarded with a positive charge and then interact with an element called Hassium, it causes intensive vibrations.”


The Warlock winced, “I’m not familiar with any element called Hassium.  Why this element verses the others on the periodic chart?”


Mark delivered a resounding reply, “Hassium has the highest known charge, a charge of a positive 8 or +8.  The neutrino bombarded with positive charge invokes a destabilization of the Hassium atomic structure.  The interaction is so violent that, with a sizable mass of the element, we could induce earthquakes.”


The Warlock was stoic, but it was obvious he was internally calculating, “One point, Mark.  The whole induce earthquake thing?  Keep that close hold to you, me and Lisa, OK?”


* * *


Although Cat had not attended the meeting in Socorro to discuss the Tweeta signal to bombard the Hassium mass, the Warlock felt it was time to bring her in to build the personnel end of the infrastructure in the target area.  As always, these things took a great deal of time, but he had some ideas on how to solve the problem.


He had returned to his Flight Concepts office and opened a secure line, “Hey, Cat.  Just got back from New Mexico.  Things on the technical side of CHERENKOV are progressing nicely, but now it’s time to think about implementation.


“You can get a bit more of the science from Mark, but basically what we have to worry about is one, getting a ‘box’ to receive a signal designed and developed.  And, two, getting that box into country.”


Cat inquired, “OK.  What’s the timeline and what’s the country?”


All business, the Warlock answered curtly, “China, for now.  I may also want to get a ‘box’ into Russia, I haven’t decided. Timeline is dependent on the development of the larger system.  I think the ‘box’ is a relatively easy lift; that should only take a few months.  But getting into China is going to require vetted assets, and I have some ideas.”


Cat whistled, “China.  That is going to be tough. Hard target.  Might take time, and I mean years.”


The Warlock deferred, “Let’s discuss the ‘box’ development first.  Falling under a broader operation called QUAGMIRE, I have a CIA engineer named Hank Tierney already working on a different project called GRINDER.  Bottom line: the ‘box’ is just a microwave processor tied to the appropriate antennas and hitched to direct the stream of neutrinos to a chunk of a metal called Hassium.  Should be an easy build; talk to Mark for more info if you like.”


Cat smiled, “We ought to call it something other than the ‘box’.  How about something like TOASTER.”


The Warlock waved his hand, “Fine. Now the hard part—personnel we can trust to move the ‘box’, or, TOASTER and get it to the desired location.  Here is my general thought—since it is so hard for us to find people that can penetrate China, maybe we can double task some folks I have been setting up for an operation I am calling BOOMSLANG.


“I have a few: a CIA paramilitary officer true name Robert ‘Pak Fai’ Chan with an identity formed as Wěi qí Liu.  He is already partnered with a military guy name Jimmy ‘Pong’ Zhao whose cover identity is Yuàn bó Zhao.  Pong and Pak Fi will transport the package and then flow to their BOOMSLANG assignment.


“Lastly, I have a case officer in Macau who was born in Honk Kong.  He has a legit job and can probably receive TOASTER at the port.  I hate to use a diplomatic pouch out of the US Consulate in Hong Kong or Macau, but that would be a last resort contingency.  Your call.”


Cat brightened considerably, “Having people already inserted with the skills and a seasoned cover story makes things much, much easier.  I’ll also work on some alternates, but this sounds very promising.  Oh, the guy in Macau—what’s his name?”


The Warlock didn’t skip a beat, “Oh, yeah.  That’d be helpful, wouldn’t it?  His cover identity is Li Wu Liang, he works at Checkpoint.  Let’s discuss compartmentation.  You’ll have to bring VooDoo in as far as the logistics.  TOASTER will have to get from Macau to an abandoned granite quarry in Hubei province.  You’ll not discuss the installation location with Mark or Lisa, OK?”


Cat summarized, “OK.  I’ll start working on the plan first to infiltrate the package into country using Li as my post man.  Second stage will be transporting and installing the item in the quarry.  Methods will be up to VooDoo, so we’ll need to know the size and weight of the item soonest.  I’ll also need to know a stop date as far as if it would interfere with BOOMSLANG or if you’ll need to make a decision to abort one operation or the other.  Hopefully, we won’t cross over and interfere with either timeline, but something to be aware of.”

* * *


Hank Tierney had dispatched the manufacture of the TOASTER device with relative ease.  The hardest part was acquiring a 20-kilogram chunk of processed Hassium, but the loggies at DS&T had their sources across the network of University laboratories nationwide.  The subterranean microwave antenna array proved to be the most technically challenging aspect and to the overall apparatus he added a means for command and control: an above-ground antenna to receive radar impulses from ‘weather’ satellites.


TOASTER was enclosed in a concealment device constructed to mimic a Cummins Commercial 5KW Diesel Generator.  Due to the battery pack needed to operate the neutrino beam waveguide and the two radio processors, the overall weight matched the Cummins design of 400 pounds.  Into a single 10-foot container, TOASTER accompanied another actual 5KW generator and was shipped to the embassy in South Africa.

 

The diplomatic pouch was processed by a State Department mail room drone and after sterilization, eventually forklifted off the shipping loading bay platform onto a flatbed headed for the quay alongside the bulk iron ore Panamax-sized ship chosen by the Kumba Iron Ore Company.  On the dock itself there was the usual pandemonium: cranes, grabs and conveyors seized ton after ton of the ore that was loaded into the specially ballasted holds, the air thick with dust flung into the wind and coating every surface that would subsequently need to be washed down to ameliorate its abrasive qualities. 

 

The Ubuntu Harmony made its way to the ports of Macau where the chaotic unloading process reversed the choreography of the cranes, grabs and conveyors seen back in Cape Town.  Amongst all that confusion, a single 10-foot container was set onto the backside of the dock and loaded onto a flatbed.  The truck moved to a line of other trucks heading to the Customs inspector’s shack.

 

Here, from a vantage point far enough away to create separation if the Port were locked down for a security breach, through binoculars Li Wu Liang watched his asset with some trepidation. Li had no idea what was inside the container, he knew only that it had to pass through Customs and trundle on to a small Kumba Iron Ore warehouse that was used to store off-loading machinery and odds and ends.

 

For now, he held his breath and waited.

 

* * *

 

When Wěi qí Liu and Yuàn bó Zhao travelled alone, as they were now, they could to some degree relax and call each other by their respective code names, ‘Pak Fai’ and ‘Pong’.  At any point where they thought they might be overheard, each resolved immediately to ‘snap back’ into character. They had already ingrained this habit in a pre-deployment train up ‘out West’ at a special CIA training center in Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and then polished it a bit further in another scenario placing them within an indigenous Chinese population in Vancouver to season their cover identities.

 

For four days, each had taken turns driving the flatbed Isuzu cargo truck along the rustic, curving unimproved roads leading into the heartland of Hubei province.  Finally, they had reached the outer rim of their objective: the super-elevated terminal bend of the haul road leading down to an abandoned sandstone quarry.  In the lowest level of the floodplain of the Yangtze River and the middle part of the alluvial plain and basin bordered by the eastern extension of the axis of the Qin, Tongbai, and Dabie mountains, therein lie the rotting skeleton of the quarry well, barracks and mine operations shack.

 

According to their instructions, down the well they dropped the subterranean antenna array then they buried the connecting coaxial cable in a trench leading to the ops shack.  To the shack roof, Pak Fai attached a microstrip patch antenna, the substrate of which was colored to blend in with the roofing shingles and the ground plane tilted to face the anticipated orbit of the ‘weather’ satellite radar’s emission. 


Inside the shack, Pong used a heavy-duty hand truck to emplace the TOASTER concealment device.  After Pak Fai routed the roof antenna coax through a hole he had punched in the rafter, he attached both antenna wires to their respective receiver screw terminals.  He then grounded each antenna lead at separate points on the chassis.

 

They had been provided a purpose-made diagnostic device to test the system’s connections and viability.  At a specified time that matched the satellite’s overpass, Pong turned one switch to observe that the satellite’s radar pulse had indeed been received at the rooftop antenna and was providing the receiver programming instructions, in this case to activate the battery back that powered the traveling-wave tube amplifier, the microwave receiver and the Hassium photon interface.  All lights on the diagnostic device indicated all systems were functioning.  When the diagnostic device was shut down, TOASTER itself shut down and was put into a dormant, stand-by state. 

 

Each man looked around the remote activation site to ensure they left nothing behind.  As Pong drove away from the quarry, he paused on a bridge that spanned a deep gorge.  Pak Fai rolled the window down and tossed out the diagnostic device.  Each smiled to have gotten out of the way what they thought was only a vetting operational act; they continued onto their actual operational area vicinity of Urumqi where they would settle in as field workers as cover for status to support the BOOMSLANG operation.

 

* * *

 

Glashow Resonance Neutrino para placeholder.

 

* * *

 

Alone, the Warlock tensed with his hand poised over the phone handset connecting him to Dr. Rutherford at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.

 

Jack and Xander were managing the triggering and the effects of the QUOHOG operation.  Having been apprised of the status of 10 Chinese PLAN ships having entered the constricting throat of the Malaccan Strait, the Warlock made his decision.  The time to unleash the potential of the TOASTER neutrino-photon infused inciter beam was now.  He had left this decision solely to himself, fully knowing the potential of the destruction the earthquake might wreak. 

 

He had severed breadcrumbs linking the target and the overall system; Mark Rutherford and Lisa Morris both knew that enormous energy would be released by bombarding the Hassium mass with the neutrino beam—but they didn’t know the target, not even the country for which it was intended; Cat Wolden and Li Wu Liang knew only that a device of some sort would be delivered to Macau; Pak Fi and Pong knew only a device capable of receiving signals from both space and subterranean sources was delivered to and tested at an abandoned quarry in Hubei; Obl*sk had constructed the targeting algorithm directing the vector of the neutronium beam towards its destination—a geodetic point in space for which separately the Warlock had subcontracted via cutouts with no context.

 

Only the Warlock knew what all the pieces together enabled a system capable of inducing an earthquake at a particular point on the ground.

 

He felt the crush of Command, the solitude of having the responsibility to take thousands of lives, for that, he knew, was inevitable.  He had chosen the site in Hubei quite deliberately, and he justified its choice knowing the economic impact would strategically erase China as a competitor for likely decades.  He had been clear minded in assessing damage to the Three Gorges Dam would be catastrophic to China’s industrial base.

 

The Three Gorges Dam lie along a seismic zone where far below the crust of the earth several tectonic plates converge: the Yangtze plate, the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate.  The Indian and Eurasion plates had already collided and resulted in the Sumatra earthquake of 2004 as measured as 9.1 on the Richter scale.  Only a gentle nudge would bring the three colossal plates together to grate and clash on a scale evocative of a Titans grudge match.  

 

The Warlock called Dr. Rutherford and with no preamble spoke one word only, “Now!”       Dutifully, Mark Rutherford approached the computer console and entered the code sequence to initiate the transfer of neutrinos from storage in the Vault.  Far beneath the Antarctic ice, the dielectric absorption fully leveraged, the transmitter silently vomited its payload: a stream of neutrinos artificially impregnated with a positive charge that hurtled through the earth’s outer core. 

 

The Tweeter signal pierced the mantle of the Earth unimpressed by the heat or gravitational forces implied within; onward it sped, the microwave ‘tube’ encapsulating the photon beam bending the payload to meet the antenna array suspended below the quarry; in mere milliseconds its target was reached.  Here, the payload was dumped, the 20-kilogram chunk of Hassium receiving the offering, its natural charge engorged. 

 

The Hassium mass was over stimulated, it’s normal +8 protons supercharged, the atomic excitation reaching an unstable state, all matter within proximity vibrating, expanding or contracting, a cacophony of chaos where particles were jostling for equalization.  These efforts were rendered impossible by the manipulated neutrino bombardment.   The realm of quantum physics itself was challenged to retain order and failed. 

 

The intended consequence of proton immersion took flight well beyond anticipated measure, the deluge of molecular imbalance spun far out of control, beyond a terminal cascade of flux distributions or void incompatibilities.  On X, Y and Z axes, the targeted tectonic plates ground a discordant refrain, where incalculable masses of continental crusts abraded, sending shock waves to the surface.

 

To the west of Three Gorges Dam, the earth split right along the subterranean faultline bordering the Tongbai mountain range.  Into the chasm the Yangtze plummeted, a fume of mist erupting like a whale’s blowhole when the fish decided to ascend to the surface and expel the contents of its lungs.  Whole towns and villages were engulfed by the rising waters or sucked deep down into the greedy, sucking maw of sinkholes miles across.  Buildings crumbled instantly, the dust of cement and bricks thrown high into the air, a plume of pulverized glass and steel hung suspended in an arc of magnificent color. 

 

The dam itself split directly down the exact middle; the 403 square miles of pent-up liquid rage spewed through the widening crack like a crazed pressure hose.  The crack widened slowly at first, the reinforced concrete striving valiantly to contain the breech but failing conclusively as the torrent of water propelled by tidal waves probed violently and with vigor, many powers of magnitude beyond the structural design.   

 

Downstream lie Wuhan and Nunjing, previously vibrant cities where Wuhan was utterly destroyed and Nunjing partially submerged.  The Chinese government had taken great care to move the occupants of 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages and the entirety of Chongqing Municipality's 31.44 million people to make room for the reservoir’s displacement when full.   Many of those lives had likely been saved, but millions still fell to the river’s wrath. 

 

What the Warlock cared about most was destroying capacity of the 101.6 TWh of hydroelectric power generated by the Three Gorges Dam.  For some context, that output is 20 times more than the Hoover Dam.   The over 100 trillion-watt hours of hydroelectricity powered nearly all the industry in Shanghai, as well as Wuhan and Nunjing whose industrial contributions were either obliterated or severely diminished due to flood damage. 

 

Overtime, the Chinese would fire up coal generators in Shanghai to make up for the 32 generators comprising the dam’s underground power station that fed the grid.  Each of those generators produced 700MW of economy-fueling juice; combined, they were the largest hydroelectric plant in the world.  Most coal-fired plants were in the 500 MW range; it would take years of planning to redistribute capacity to make up for the loss of the Three Gorges Dam. 

 

* * *

 

Integrate TOASTER into epilogue of ‘Brine of War’.

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