“Operation Thunderclap,” by Joseth Moore. Smashwords. Copyright @ 2015.
SYNOPSIS: Phyllis Lund is a lawyer with her own firm out of Minneapolis. She also has a night job, as it were, fighting for environmental causes.
This time around, she and her retired investigative reporter friend have found a story much bigger than they’re used to…one that involves a military secret, and a trap they can’t see. A trap built specifically for them.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. Present Day. Lund & Associates law firm…
“Phyllis, you have a call from some guy from DC,” Erin, Phyllis’ secretary intern, called out to her as the young woman walked by Phyllis’ office. It was the start of the day and the small law firm was expecting some new clients to stop by. Lund & Assoc had to put on a show for them.
Phyllis frowned to herself. She didn’t do a lot of business with people out East.
“Did he say he was looking for someone to represent him in court,” she asked the disembodied Erin–she was, now, somewhere in the back of the small office; getting things set up for those new clients coming in. “I have to focus on the Hapshaw account! I won’t have time to do it…have Ed take it.”
Phyllis could hear Erin talking to the person from Washington, DC as she tried to pass him onto one of Phyllis’ junior partners. For a short while, Erin went quiet–listening to the person on the phone.
“Something about the Yucca project? And something about those bastards did it?” By that time, Erin had walked into Phyllis’ office; the cordless phone yet up to her ear. Apparently she was waiting to see if the man on the line had anything else to say and whether or not Phyllis would even take the call!
For a while, the middle-aged Phyllis just sat at her big, modern desk; trying to figure out the message…then it hit her!
“Oh, my god! I’ll take it,” she said to Erin as she actually got up and snatched the cordless from her. She then gently pushed her intern toward her office door. “Get Deborah, too, will you? Have her take over for me today.”
Erin shot an agitated look her way before Phyllis shut the door to her office.
“Yeah, it’s me, kiddo,” an elderly man’s voice affirmed.
“Oh, my god…so they actually did it?”
“Yep, I’m afraid so…only, these days, now we have fracking to complicate it!”
Phyllis’ eyes were searching her executive office; more out of feeling helpless than for a need. “How bad?”
“Mmm, something like a two-pointer. May be bigger!”
“Oh, god…” Now Phyllis froze on the spot. “Where?”
“Several miles south of Kingman, Arizona–”
“Might as well be across the street!”
“Yep…The governor gave the fracking industry the green light to drill all they want, and this is what happens.”
“We told everybody this,” Phyllis said tersely; more to herself.
“Yeah, we did, Phyl…don’t blame yourself. You were just a law student at the time. Besides, they would’ve found some other legal martial arts to get around whatever environmental roadblocks we put up anyway!”
Silence, as the two thought.
“How much did they put into Yucca so far,” Phyllis’ finally asked.
“That I’m not sure about. But according to some tv news reports and an article I read online, the media suspect something like a couple of thousand tons–so far.”
“I knew those idiots in Congress would slip Yucca through some congressional rider or something!”
“Besides telling you about this, there’s another reason why I called…the Team is going to get together again and try to tell everyone in Nevada. In fact, some of our hacktivists are already on it on social media right now!”
“Good,” Phyllis said with a determined nod. “We may have to help some of the citizens out there relocate.”
“Yeah,” Andrew said with some pain, “we were hoping to avoid that. But it sure sounds like we may have to consider it. With this new crop of ideologues in DC and their allies in the governor mansions throughout the US, I don’t see those poor people getting help from our very own government!”
A short, silent spot.
“This shit’s getting deep, Phyl. Things may get a little–dirty. We’ll need some good lawyers to cover for us…you interested?”
“Andy, you know better than to even ask me that!”
A chuckle from the older man. “Great…well, I’m at Baltimore-Washington right now. I should be landing in Vegas by afternoon. Think we could meet you out there today? I know you’ve been busy with your firm and all–”
“No, I’ll be there. I just need to reschedule a bit here…I do think it’s important that we’re both there, though. You never know, it could just be more disinformation from DC–”
“Or the corporate boards that get the federal contracts on these projects,” Andrew interjected. Indeed, Phyllis had forgotten about that angle.
She had a sudden thought. “Think we’re being bugged?”
Another pause. Then Phyllis’ connection to Andrew was cut.
Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Exploratory Studies Facility, for the proposed national spent nuclear waste dump project…
Phyllis and Andrew watched as the maintenance crew packed up their gear and hopped into the white, government truck and drove off from the North Portal of the Exploratory Facility. Since both had driven down from Las Vegas several hours ago in one of Andrew’s local friend’s car, it was the best shot they had to go into the facility–but not through the North Portal, but by following the maintenance crew! Surprisingly, there were actual tours given at the Yucca Mountain facility, but not in the evenings. So the subversive lawyer and her retired, black listed reporter friend had to think of more creative ways to get inside. They figured every facility will always have some kind of maintenance crew on the clock–even after the US Congress halted the Yucca project due to political pressures and priorities.
The duo had gone on foot. They were able to keep up with the maintenance workers, as their truck slowly made its rounds and frequent stops for checkups. Being dark on a Fall evening helped cloak Phyllis and Andrew. Finally, the workers drove up to one of the Exploratory’s twenty-five foot, gaping boreholes that had two giant conduits poking out of it…and that was their break!
After both ran into the shadowy entryway, Phyllis and Andrew found hiding spots against the facility’s support structures. Looking down the house-sized tunnel, they were able to see those two same conduits running the entire length of the system, but on the ceiling. They waited until the maintenance crew were completely gone before they made their move.
That same friend of Andrew whom lived in Las Vegas that had supplied the car also gave Phyllis and Andrew a set of night-vision goggles for both of them. He was one of those so-called survivalists. Phyllis was not comfortable around him. For his types of politics were the total opposite of her Progressive views. But Andrew Stahlman had a lot of connections from his old days as an investigative reporter. He tended to make a lot of friends during those days, and they ran the entire political spectrum.
Finally, after nearly an hour of sneaking around in the same stretch of tunnel, they saw a hallway that connected to other areas of the Exploratory facility. The two had split up by this time, should one or the other get caught, that person could always claim they acted alone.
Phyllis was using her own smartphone to record her experience in the facility. Andrew was a bit too old school for that, so he left the recording to her. He did have a smartphone, but Andrew brought it along mainly to text Phyllis whatever it was he found or some other information. He had already gone down one of the other industrial hall way, so Phyllis had to act as her own watch and pointperson…
Still recording as she went on another fifteen minutes or so, Phyllis saw a small room just off of the main hallway. It looked like a spot for visitors, but she ventured there anyway; not expecting to see much. And not surprising, the basic door was unlocked…what would be the need to lock a tourist cove?
‘NOT SEEING ANY EVIDENCE OF A NUCLEAR FALLOUT OR EMERGENCY FROM THE EARTHQUAKE IN ARIZONA! ARE YOU?’ was Andrew’s text to Phyllis.
‘SAME HERE! WERE WE FED DISINFO TO TRAP US?’ she texted back to him, as she slid into the small room; panic slowly starting to bubble in her!
‘GOING DARK FOR A BIT,’ Phyllis informed.
There was nothing but the large windows to parts of the facility in that visitor cove, so she left it after a few minutes. While waiting in the shadows of one of the Exploratory facility’s other sections, Phyllis saw a worker exit from what appeared to be some type of control room…she made a break for it!
…and saw the director of the facility!
“I was wondering when you’d finally make it here,” the young thirty-something said to Phyllis. She wore a white coat that so many of those industrial complexes tend to have. She was not wearing a hard hat like every other person Phyllis had seen wear the whole time she was in the facility. Probably her outward way of saying to everyone else, ‘I’m in control and don’t have to wear a hard hat if I don’t want to.’
Phyllis didn’t even try to play it off. She had the look of defeat on her countenance. There was no one else around in the modern control room. It was an indicator that the director knew about her and Andrew and figured they were no threat to anyone.
“I’m –” the young woman started, until Phyllis jumped in.
“Tanya Ash, the director of the facility…one of those genius kids who got their doctorate in their twenties, blah, blah, blah…”
The director smirked, more for the way Phyllis expressed herself. “Well, you’re not so dumb yourself, Ms. Lund. Top of your class at Yale, started your own practice without any money from rich parents…I only question your judgement and politics.”
“So where do you keep it all,” Phyllis asked; helping herself to a nearby office chair.
“You mean the spent nuclear materials?”
Director Ash sighed. “Ms. Lund, what we are doing is not evil, nor is it illegal.”
“Guess not; the energy industry paid off some of those in Congress so they would blow holes into environmental laws, just so they could justify opening up Yucca Mountain to all your radioactive filth!”
Just then, the door opened and a security guard escorted old man Andrew into the room. The guard nodded and left after a look from the director.
“Sorry I’m late to the party,” he said as he, too, helped himself to a seat next to Phyllis.
Surprisingly, the young woman grabbed some papers from one of the consoles and handed them to the duo. Phyllis and Andrew took some time to read through them–government papers on the re-vamped Yucca Mountain project. It was filled with diagrams, outlines, budgets, and paragraphs upon paragraphs of info.
In a couple of minutes, both Phyllis and Andrew looked up from the papers and stared at each other…then back at Director Ash.
“Yes,” the director said as she found her own chair, now, “Operation Thunderclap actually works! No one in Vegas felt a thing!”
“They sure as hell felt it in Kingman,” Andrew threw back.
“They were supposed to–they were the test subjects…no one was killed; no buildings fell. We achieved our goal of pinpointing the weapon to one particular building in Kingman. You see the results in that report from a couple of days ago.”
Indeed, there were several photographs of a razed structure that had a before and after profile. The five storied, abandoned farm structure was a heap of bricks and concrete.
“Now,” Director Ash continued; her voice in victory, “imagine doing that to ISIS, or Al-Qaeda operatives hiding in cities, using civilians as human shields…all we’d have to do is zero in on the very ground each man stood on and zap them! No more worries–or excuses, I might add–about not sending in our military to conflict zones and have to deal with collateral damages!”
“So…” Phyllis was, now, thinking out loud, “all this–the focus on Yucca Mountain, the fracking…all that was –”
“Just a cover story. Yes, I don’t mind telling you.” Now the director got up from her chair and went over to one of the terminals and turned on one of the wall-sized computer monitors. She logged on and brought up more pictures, graphs, and info on Operation Thunderclap.
“All this…all this is legal, per the US federal government. We are not obligated to tell the public when national security is at risk or is the main objective,” she said while highlighting various government official signatures captured in the video. “And you know what that means for you, don’t you?”
Phyllis, the lawyer of the duo, dejectedly nodded her head. Furious, Andrew threw the papers he had in his hands onto the floor.
“We’re citizens and pay for all this with our taxes, like everyone else! We have every right to be here!”
“Then why did you sneak in here without permission, Mr. Stahlman,” Director Ash put to him.
“Andy…” Phyllis gave a look of, ‘Stand down.’
Indeed, the old school investigative reporter leaned back in his chair and looked toward the floor; barely able to stand to look at the government official.
“Now…you two have actually trespassed on federal property but have done no damages. As you can guess, I did my homework on both of you and I think we can all come out of this without anyone going to jail.”
That got the attention of Phyllis and Andrew. Both sat quietly, waiting for the director. She nodded with satisfaction and walked over to the same console she had gotten the other papers. This time, she brought with her two folders; one having Phyllis’ name on it and the other having Andrew’s. Director Ash leaned against a nearby ledge and waited for them to open and read the files.
Again, after a few minutes, the duo looked up from the papers and glanced at one another.
“You’re crazy,” Phyllis simply said.
Ash shrugged. “Either that or you go to prison for several years with no early let-out. Makes no difference to me; I’ll continue Thunderclap while you’d both be in prison for years…oh, and that little ‘Team’ of yours–all those hackers and enviro-vigilantes? We know about them, too.”
Phyllis and Andrew looked at each other somberly, and back at their folders.
“You both either work for us from now on–Mr. Stahlman, we could use you on the tv news shows; Ms. Lund, you can go to court for our cause–or you both retire in federal prison…what’s it going to be?”