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denylistianto > Eileen Reed - Ground Zero > Part 39
A very tough-looking Russian soldier slid down the rope like a circus acrobat, facefirst, a wicked-looking rifle at the ready. He landed on his feet and bounced like a tiger. His eyes darted everywhere.

"You okay?" he asked Anna.

"We are okay," Anna said, wiping at her face with her ap.r.o.n. "The terrorists? You have killed them?"

"Some of them," the soldier admitted. "We need to get you out of here as quickly as possible. Do any of you need a doctor?"

"No," Anna said, and bit her lips to keep from laughing aloud. Was it wrong to feel this joyful when Dmitri lay dead so close by? But she could not help it. She had survived, and so had her children. "Tell us what to do."

Moscow, Russian Republic.

"They have the women and children," Colonel Kalashnikov shouted. This turned the gloom of the Command Center into sudden excitement. Losing twenty men and three a.s.sault helicopters was a terrible blow. The silo covers had blown without warning. Now that twenty trained soldiers were dead, it was easy to see how stupid they had been not to plan for such an event. Now that the covers had blown, that is.

Cherepovitch was still a mottled shade of purple. Major Paxton was white with anxiety. He'd received more information from his superiors in Was.h.i.+ngton, and none of it was good. Muallah hated America, it seemed. The Russian Republic was not a likely target if Muallah got a missile off after all.

"We will succeed, Major," Kalashnikov said softly. "We have half our force left, after all. We will kill them."

"I hope so, sir," Paxton said woodenly.

Gaming Center, Schriever Air Force Base.

Joe slapped the commander's console and the siren stopped in midwhoop. He bent over the console, fingers waving in the air uncertainly, then punched the access keys to NORAD.

"Get in here!" he roared in the direction of the doorway. Then he keyed the microphone to NORAD.

"This is Joe Tanner?' he said. "War Game Center? What-"

"Oh my G.o.d," a voice burst from the console. "General, we've got someone! We've got someone!"

"This is Major General Kelton," another voice said calmly. Joe barely noticed Eileen and Lucy and Stillwell joining him at the console. "We are unable to release the Missile Defense system from NORAD. We have a possible launch event. Is this clear?"

"That is clear," Joe said with lips as pale as Lucy's. "Uh, sir."

"The system has to be enabled from the War Game Center. We predict-" There was a brief pause. "Perhaps twenty minutes to launch. Can you get the system enabled and released?"

"Yes, I can," Joe said slowly. He looked around the Center uncertainly, looking bewildered, then focused on Lucy and Stillwell and Eileen. He nodded. "I have enough people to run the consoles."

"Who is this?" the General's voice asked. But Joe was already gone, leaping from floor tile to floor tile on his way to the Truth Team room.

"I've got to start it from here!" he shouted. "Follow me!"

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