Thirty miles away, a black Kiowa gunship chopper tore over the scrub pine treetops of northern Delaware. Delta‑One checked the coordinates locked in the auto navigation system.
Although Rachels shipboard transmission device and Pickerings cellphone were encrypted to protect the contents of their communication, intercepting content had not been the goal when the Delta Force pulse‑snitched Rachels call from sea. Intercepting the callers position had been the goal. Global Positioning Systems and computerized triangulation made pinpointing transmission coordinates a significantly easier task than decrypting the actual content of the call.
Delta‑One was always amused to think that most cellphone users had no idea that every time they made a call, a government listening post, if so inclined, could detect their position to within ten feet anywhere on earth‑a small hitch the cellphone companies failed to advertise. Tonight, once the Delta Force had gained access to the reception frequencies of William Pickerings cellular phone, they could easily trace the coordinates of his incoming calls.
Flying now on a direct course toward their target, Delta‑One closed to within twenty miles. Umbrella primed? he asked, turning to Delta‑Two, who was manning the radar and weapons system.
Affirmative. Awaiting five‑mile range.
Five miles, Delta‑One thought. He had to fly this bird well within his targets radar scopes to get within range to use the Kiowas weapons systems. He had little doubt that someone onboard the Goya was nervously watching the skies, and because the Delta Forces current task was to eliminate the target without giving them a chance to radio for help, Delta‑One now had to advance on his prey without alarming them.
At fifteen miles out, still safely out of radar range, Delta‑One abruptly turned the Kiowa thirty‑five degrees off course to the west. He climbed to three thousand feet‑small airplane range‑and adjusted his speed to 110 knots.
On the deck of the Goya, the Coast Guard helicopters radar scope beeped once as a new contact entered the ten‑mile perimeter. The pilot sat up, studying the screen. The contact appeared to be a small cargo plane headed west up the coast.
Probably for Newark.
Although this planes current trajectory would bring it within four miles of the Goya, the flight path obviously was a matter of chance. Nonetheless, being vigilant, the Coast Guard pilot watched the blinking dot trace a slow‑moving 110‑knot line across the right side of his scope. At its closest point, the plane was about four miles west. As expected, the plane kept moving‑heading away from them now.
4.1 miles. 4.2 miles.
The pilot exhaled, relaxing.
And then the strangest thing happened.
Umbrella now engaged, Delta‑Two called out, giving the thumbs‑up from his weapons control seat on the port side of the Kiowa gunship. Barrage, modulated noise, and cover pulse are all activated and locked.
Delta‑One took his cue and banked hard to the right, putting the craft on a direct course with the Goya. This maneuver would be invisible to the ships radar.
Sure beats bales of tinfoil! Delta‑Two called out.
Delta‑One agreed. Radar jamming had been invented in WWII when a savvy British airman began throwing bales of hay wrapped in tinfoil out of his plane while on bombing runs. The Germans radar spotted so many reflective contacts they had no idea what to shoot. The techniques had been improved on substantially since then.
The Kiowas onboard umbrella radar‑jamming system was one of the militarys most deadly electronic combat weapons. By broadcasting an umbrella of background noise into the atmosphere above a given set of surface coordinates, the Kiowa could erase the eyes, ears, and voice of their target. Moments ago, all radar screens aboard the Goya had most certainly gone blank. By the time the crew realized they needed to call for help, they would be unable to transmit. On a ship, all communications were radio‑or microwave‑based‑no solid phone lines. If the Kiowa got close enough, all of the Goyas communications systems would stop functioning, their carrier signals blotted out by the invisible cloud of thermal noise broadcast in front of the Kiowa like a blinding headlight.
Perfect isolation, Delta‑One thought. They have no defenses.
Their targets had made a fortunate and cunning escape from the Milne Ice Shelf, but it would not be repeated. In choosing to leave shore, Rachel Sexton and Michael Tolland had chosen poorly. It would be the last bad decision they ever made.
Inside the White House, Zach Herney felt dazed as he sat up in bed holding the telephone receiver. Now? Ekstrom wants to speak to me now? Herney squinted again at the bedside clock. 3:17 A.M.
Yes, Mr. President, the communications officer said. He says its an emergency.