The Americans and Russians crossed the border around 8:30 Eastern European Time, each seeking to establish contact with the lawful government in Minsk. The Belaya Revolutsiya was already in control of most of the corridor between Poland and the capital, but Minsk itself remained a no-man’s-land, too embroiled in chaos to respond militarily to the entry of foreign rapid-insertion forces. Three Spetsnaz and two USMC choppers made their way immediately for the Presidential Palace.
The ad-hoc agreement on Belarus had just been struck in Brussels when it was tested: that military involvement in the explosive conflict – favored by Germany, Greece, Italy, France, and the US but opposed or not actively favored by most of the remainder – would be discretionary until any foreign power made an active effort to militarily expel NATO forces. At 7:48 European time, confirmation arrived that Russian special forces had opened fire on a US task-force sent to secure the President of Belarus.
Lithuania, Norway, and Spain declared neutrality – and were summarily expelled. As of 7:53 EUT, a NATO police action had formally begun in Belarus.
Kaliningrad had become a paranoiac fortress over the course of a little more than an hour. Official confirmation that war on Belarus had begun meant that the Russian exclave would be the first Russian target for NATO operations against Belarus. Worse, direct communication with Russia had been astoundingly difficult.
Surveillance and recon had yet to reveal any aggressive Polish troop movement toward the border; the sea was a more disquieting possibility, as the conquest or isolation of Kaliningrad meant that naval operations would have greatly extended range.
At 9:25 Eastern European time, reconnaisance and surveillance made their worst fears real: a large fleet moving at more than 20 knots directly towards them had cleared Thiessow. By the time closer recon had revealed submarines, extended radar showed cruise missiles heading in at a glancing trajectory.
Communication with main command could not be established permanently, and reconnaisance had positively identified the Barracuda-class Duquesne as the Triomphant-class Terrible – an error which falsely confirmed the feared presence of nuclear weapons in the NATO sea taskforce.
Sarah Palin quietly thanked God that France was under nuclear bombardment rather than the United States, and actually had to be talked into getting onto Marine One to the Stockwell Valley Facility under Spruce Knob. She had expected something like War Games; the facility looked like nothing so much as the top floor of an office building, albeit deep underground. There were even taps for Starbucks and Budweiser, and just above the half-filled red curve streaking from Yakutia to the Mat-Su Valley she could make out a Google copyright.
The President of the United States stumbled arm in arm with Mayo’s best laproscopists; it was as bright as dusk out but not much later than 1 AM. His Secret Service rushed from gurney to gurney rendering assistance as they could, leaving him more helpless than any President in the last century could have been. His head was in the clouds and his chest felt fit to explode, and it seemed the only thing he could do while fully conscious was feel enough searing agony to come close to vomiting. An olive-skinned nurse younger than Bridget passed by, iron-faced, holding a truncheon and pistol. Her scrubs had ‘TRIAGE’ on them in fresh yellow paint. He felt cold, even though it was over a hundred outside and there weren’t enough burn beds on Earth to hold the Phoenix metro’s victims.
People recognized John sitting there in his gown, and eventually they noticed he was crying. There were a thousand reasons they thought of for why. But it was only pain.
It was only pain.