The New York contingent of plotters gathered in the Times building so they could use the company’s considerable communications resources to monitor the coup. In Washington, the plotters were spread out – the State Department, the FBI headquarters (the new Director was under arrest and his Obama holdout deputies were overseeing the arrest of key Republicans, conservative Supreme Court justices, and other appointed officials). The Pentagon was paralyzed – the plotters had enlisted enough officers to prevent an effective counter response. And, of course, the NSA had ensured that all comms out of the besieged White House were down.
Elsewhere, the plotters’ plan was proceeding, but not necessarily according to plan. The SecDef was inside the Offutt Air Force Base commander’s quarters having dinner with the commanding general. His security detachment of former Marines and ex-Delta lingered around the three black Blazers parked out front. These were hardcore men, in suits but total pros. That was why one former operator duly stationed himself in the backyard even though they were in the middle of a secure base.
Four other Blazers turned down the street and the detail alerted, their long weapons within reach. The newcomers pulled up and several men piled out.
“There’s a threat. We’re here to secure Mattis,” the leader announced.
“Secretary Mattis. Who are you?” asked the head of Mattis’s detail.
The newcomer drew a weapon, and Mattis’s detail swung into action, laying down a heavy blanket of aimed fire on the attackers. Several went down on each side, and the attackers seemed to have the edge for a moment until the former Delta operator stationed in the rear charged their flank with his HK 416 assault rifle blazing. With the attackers dead, along with a couple of his own people, his security men hustled the SecDef out of the house and into his Blazer.
“Get me to the 595th Command Group,” Mattis ordered.
General Leonard Smith looked at the map from his Pentagon command post. The Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, with two battalions, was heading into DC through the DC Police lines. The roads were clear – there was a curfew order broadcast on all TV stations. A battalion of military police from the DC National Guard has mobilized and surrounding the White House, assisting the coup forces. But the White House was holding on. The attackers launched several pushes and they were driven back. Secret Service snipers on the roof and in upper windows were taking a heavy toll. Casualties were high on both sides.
Regardless, Washington was effectively held by the plotters. The coup-friendly commander had his Marines from the infantry school at Quantico south of the District getting organized into tactical units – by morning they would reinforce the coup forces already in the capital. All the troops were told they were going to “secure the White House from terrorists,” but it was only a matter of time before they discovered they themselves were the enemy. Smith had argued against putting Hillary Clinton on television so soon, but the other plotters were sure her appearance would rally the people. It seemed to in New York – people had come outside to celebrate and it had turned into a riot. Mayor De Blasio had ordered the NYPD into its stations and on the streets it was a bloodbath. But in red America, the response was different. Patriots watched Hillary on their television, then unlocked their gun safes.
The E-4 command and control aircraft took off from Offutt Air Force Base heading east. The networks were broadcasting Hillary Clinton’s awkward speech over and over – but there was no news coverage. More importantly, there was no word from the president other than Hillary’s ambiguous and odd statement that “the Trump is neutralized.” Secretary Mattis could not raise the White House, nor the Pentagon. He did raise several combatant commanders around the globe – some had no idea what was up, some pledged loyalty, and some apologized and told him this was for the best. Some hedged; Mattis would not have it.
“You better decide if you’re a patriot or a traitor, and if you choose wrong so help me, I’ll see you hang,” he told one coup-curious Air Force four star. Mattis heard the officer gulp on the other end of the line before pledging his loyalty.
The commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg refused his call. But the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, part of the corps, was an old friend from Iraq. Mattis called his cell, and the two star answered.
“Dave,” Mattis began. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“Sir, this is an unsecure line.”
“They got the NSA. Everything is unsecured. Now, listen. I need you. The country needs you. Your boss is dodging me. That means he’s dirty. Where do you stand?”
“We’re the All-American Division. Sir, we stand with the elected president, and with you.”
“Okay, Dan, then here’s what you need to do, and you need to do it at dawn. I’ve got an Air Force four star on hold who’s going to help you make it happen.”
“You know, if we keep firing on the White House like this, we’re going to kill the people we’re trying to rescue!” Captain Fuller said to his regimental commander. Fuller’s company was usually doing guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but the 3rd Infantry was a full qualified infantry unit too, on tap for emergencies in the DC area – just like this.
“Secure it. Use all necessary force,” the colonel repeated. “Those are not friendlies! They are terrorists!”
The colonel left, and the captain looked down at his cell phone. No signal. A pair of troops carried a wounded sergeant past him to the aid station set up in Lafayette Park. He shook his head. What the hell was going on?
The XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters at Fort Bragg had about six guards out front – it had not yet been enclosed with concertina wire. The 82nd’s trucks arrived brimming with battle-geared, maroon beret-wearing paratroopers from the 1/325th Infantry. The guards stood stunned as the troops rushed past them into the building with their general, carrying his M4, in the lead. He limped just a bit, having taken a round in the thigh in Mosul before killing the jihadi who shot him.
The corps commander was with his staff when the infantry poured in. His mouth dropped as two dozen guns covered him. The 82nd’s commander pointed to the three star.
“Sir, you are relieved by order of the Secretary of Defense. Sergeant Major, take the commander and his primary staff into custody.” Once the coup plotters were taken out, the new commander turned to the room and said to the stunned assembly, “Okay gentlemen, I am now going to brief you on Operation NIJMEGEN.”
The window glass shattered under fire and the pane fell across the HMS Resolute desk in the Oval Office. General Kelly and the Secret Service agents, clutching long weapons, ducked down. They were outgunned, and the enemy outside – which apparently included Army forces – was closing in across the White House grounds. A couple agents dead lay on the carpet, sprawled across the seal. Down below many meters, the President and his family were secure in the bunker – for now.
A Secret Service agent rose and fired off a burst from an MP5 out the window. Kelly turned and saw a White House staffer, in a gray suit with glasses, moving up the hall.
“Give me a weapon!” he said.
“Get the hell out of here!” shouted the general.
“I was a Marine in the Helmand before I was a government flunky, General! Now give me a weapon!” Kelly nodded and tossed him a M4 whose gut-shot owner had no further use for it.
Nationals Stadium was packed with prisoners. GOP Congressmen were held next to deputy undersecretaries and Fox News reporters. Justices Gorsuch and Alito commiserated near home plate. Steve Scalise talked to Ted Cruz by the dugout. Their guards, mostly garrison troops from the Military District of Washington, had few answers for their furious charges.
In California, the new governor Gavin Newsom – Jerry Brown had resigned to dedicate himself to seeking enlightenment in Tibet – had gone on the air to declare his support for the coup. With the media blackout, Twitter became the prime news source. Congressman Ted Lieu was tweeting his coup support incessantly; he had been an Air Force JAG and fancied himself a great choice for Attorney General now that Jeff Sessions was under arrest for “Treason and Hate Crimes.” Louise Mensch was tweeting that she should be the next Grand Marshall of the Supreme Court. Hollywood stars were ecstatic. Lena Dunham announced on Twitter that now that Trump was deposed, she could achieve climax again.
But other states reacted differently. Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott went on television to mobilize the Texas National Guard and pledge support for the president. He then negotiated the peaceful surrender of Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the United States. Two dozen other governors did the same, assembling forces, while others sat on their hands, eager to be on the winning side.
By now, the people were responding. In New York, and Los Angeles as well, there was chaos in the streets. But in red states, armed citizens began to appear at important sites and buildings, ready to protect them with their weapons. Other citizens used the internet – which the Silicon Valley tech billionaires who were in on the plot had demanded it not be interfered with – to spread the word. The patriotic citizens of the United States would resist #TheResistance. They would not quietly allow their voices to be silenced, their sovereignty stolen. And on the command and control aircraft, as it cruised over Tennessee, Secretary Mattis was listening.
“Son,” he said to the communication NCO beside him. “Get me on-line on this tweeting thing. Here’s my message. I’m coming back to Washington and bringing hell with me.”
The 3rd Infantry had nearly reached the West Wing near dawn and were shooting it out at close range with those inside. With the sun rising in the east, Captain Fuller’s first sergeant approached him with an ancient artifact – a portable radio.
“You gotta hear this, Sir,” the NCO said. He turned on the radio.
“…and again, this is Larry O’Connor on WMAL in Washington. I am going to report as long as I can before the police break down the studio door. We are in the middle of a coup against the president. I’m apparently the only one reporting from inside Washington. There is a massive battle at the White House going on right now but they have not yet taken it. Secretary of Defense Mattis just announced on Twitter that he is returning to Washington and he is calling for the surrender of the coup plotters.”
“Oh damn,” Fuller said. “We’re on the wrong side.”
General Kelly, a half-dozen agents, and the former Marine cross-leveled their ammo. About a mag each. Not enough.
There was a roar, a long grumbling roar of dozens of jet engines overhead.
“Somebody just got air support,” said the bureaucrat, locking and loading. “I hope it’s us.”
Two dozen C-17s flew in over the length of the National Mall at 1600 feet. Not the best drop zone – they anticipated 15% casualties landing – but the best under the circumstances. The 82nd’s commander stood in the door and leapt – perhaps the first All-American general to jump into combat since Operation MARKET GARDEN in 1944, when the division jumped into Holland to seize the bridge at Nijmegen.
“It’s a brigade combat team out of the Eighty-Deuce,” General Smith’s deputy said. “The 3rd Infantry and other forces surrounding the White House have surrendered. They have Capitol Hill. Armed citizens have mobilized in other cities. And the president is going live on Fox. It’s back on the air.”
The general sat down. His phone in the Pentagon had stopped ringing. The plotters were scattering. He reached for the remote and turned the big screen to Fox. Out of the corner of his eye he could see people slipping out of his command post.
President Trump appeared on screen, with a look of seriousness of purpose that he had not displayed before. He announced the coup was crushed, that there were many dead, and that those who committed these crimes would be held accountable.
The deputy appeared with a cell phone. “It’s Secretary Mattis,” he said.
“Sir,” said the general.
“Don’t you ‘sir’ me, you damn traitor,” Mattis said. “It’s over. You’re finished. You give the order to your people to stand down so no one else has to die.”
“And if I do?”
“Maybe I have you shot like a soldier instead of hanged like a dog.”
“I’ll give the order. But a trial will be messy.”
“Then be a man.” Mattis hung up.
“Give the order to all our forces to surrender,” General Smith said to his deputy. The deputy nodded and left. General Smith took the Beretta out of his holster and ensured there was a round in the pipe.
Trump’s general commutation of the death sentences of most of the coup plotters to life in prison was intended to help heal the nation, but the hate and anger was still there. Some wounds won’t heal. The exact number of dead was set at 324, including the vice-president, but the damage to the country was much deeper. The decision to abandon the norms and rules of a democratic republic could not simply be undone. A whole generation of liberal politicians was barred from office and from speaking on political issues. Now, those purporting to “resist” were subject to prosecution. Dissent had morphed into criminality, and it was now to be treated that way.
And it came to pass that the government power abused by the plotters was, in turn, used by the elected government to preserve itself against future threats. Those who had been subject to the failed coup saw no other alternative in order to protect the will of the people. So in a way, the plotters succeeded. They had sought to overturn our Republic. They just weren’t the ones left standing after they did.