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Two SEAL platoons from SEAL Team 1 out of Coronado, California, had been conducting training exercises on the small island of Kahoolawe during the first wave of attacks. One of those platoons arrived in Pearl Harbor hours before the second wave of attacks. The two men who stayed on the boat, Trigger and Twix, were the only survivors from that platoon.

The other SEAL platoon uniformly stood behind their leader, Captain Kevin Baker—definitely the loudest voice in the room—when he declared their intent to fight Qi Jia. Dad and I could hardly contain our disbelief. He actually wanted to leave Hawaii and go fight them? With who? With what?

Baker had vocally challenged any military personnel to defy him in considering otherwise. He wanted to take a team to California—convinced that more of the Coronado SEALs—from teams 1, 3, 5, and 7—were still alive somewhere. “They wouldn’t be just sitting on their asses like we are,” Baker said.

I couldn’t imagine there were survivors there—especially there—but Baker didn’t appreciate it at all when a couple of Army Rangers agreed with me and basically called him stupid. Fortunately, Danny had stepped in and broke up that fight before it could start.

The governor singled Danny out as his personal intelligence officer—and someone worth listening to. As Danny was only twenty-one, that didn’t sit well with many in the room, in particular Captain Baker—fifteen years his senior in age and military experience. “Who are you going to listen to?” he’d roared. “Who are you going to follow? A man who was gifted his rank for surviving with luck, or a soldier who earned my rank after more than a decade of war and personal sacrifice.” He looked around the room. “I’m a SEAL captain. You all know what I’m made of.” Then he pointed at Danny. “What do we even know about you? Other than you were really, really lucky.”

“He can shoot,” Blake had offered, understating Danny’s sniper qualifications considerably.

“Well whoop-de-doo,” Captain Baker scoffed. “The boy can shoot.”

Danny casually put his hand on Blake’s arm. “Let it go.” Blake bit his lower lip and nodded. Nothing they could say would help. Danny understood the captain’s disdain and didn’t take it personally. The captain wanted a pissing contest, but Danny was content to let him stand there and piss all over himself.

Army Ranger Deacon, on the other hand, didn’t like Baker’s arrogance. “Why don’t you sit down and shut up?” His steely eyes glared up at the captain from under the brim of his weathered red Oklahoma ball cap.

Baker’s reaction revealed his surprise. The big burly officer clearly wasn’t used to being challenged. “Excuse me? What the hell did you just say to me?”

He made his way toward Deacon, who remained seated and didn’t move an inch, even as the captain walked directly up to him and deliberately stepped on his cowboy boots. Royce stood and placed himself between Deacon and the captain, cutting him off before he could get any closer. “Captain, what he said was that not all of us agree with you on this. That’s all.”

“Stay out of this, Tea Biscuit,” the captain’s first lieutenant, Brock Schmidt, retorted, shoving Royce back. “Irish asshole.”

Deacon started to stand, but Royce held him down. “Easy.”

Captain Baker pulled Brock back. “The hell that’s what he—”

“Well, then maybe that’s what he meant,” Royce replied. “Look, you’re entitled to your opinion, but if Danny, or I, or any of these people don’t see it your way, we’re—”

“Idiots,” Brock cut him off. “Or f—”

“Again, you’re entitled to feel that way,” Royce interrupted. “And I’ll let that go. But…” He locked eyes with Brock. “You mix up England and Ireland again, and I’ll have to kick your ass.”

Brock started to object but shut up when Baker cut him off. The captain hadn’t stopped glaring at Deacon, who had yet to look up at him. But Deacon and Royce projected a vibe that kept Baker from taking this “conversation” any further. The captain was otherwise ready to throw down with—and against—anyone, friend or foe. His attitude divided the room, leaving no gray area. You were clearly either with him or against him.

Danny could see plenty of others agreed with Baker. Even after his run-in with the Rangers, the captain’s platoon was strutting around the room, flexing, crowing, and intimidating the undecided. But there were also many more like Deacon and Royce who clearly remained unconvinced. Danny looked at the two SEALs—Trigger and Twix—from the lost platoon, and even they didn’t seem enthusiastic about rushing off to fight. They’d already lost a lot and understood the magnitude of the threat.

The governor tried to rationalize patience and waiting until they knew more. With the satellite and technology capabilities from Hawaii, he was confident they could connect to the enemy’s communication grid and learn a great deal more about them in a matter of months. It took some convincing but—amazingly—Captain Baker eventually agreed to wait six months before making a move.

“But not a day more!”

As if he had the last word.

“Officially” it took almost the entire six months to finally connect to the Qi Jia communication grid. In truth, a handful of the governor’s covert operatives in the Hexagon had been connected for some time already—which officially only Governor Barnes and Danny were aware of—but they weren’t about to share that intel with Baker. Sensing the captain’s patience was approaching its explosive end, the first week of April the governor allowed his technology experts to announce they had a few satellites positioned just right, to where they had almost continuous coverage of all transmissions into and out of Denver from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. From here on out, Captain Baker would know what the governor and Danny knew. Well, almost.

Incidentally, at that time they picked up another signal from Colorado, unlike any they’d heard to that point. It played music fifty-nine minutes and fifty seconds out of every hour—always the same ten songs, same sequence, over and over. Then every hour, on the hour, a robotic voice would say the date and a number. That first day the message said, “Four… ten… twenty-two… forty-seven”—April 10, 2022, and the number 47. They had pinned the transmission source to Colorado Springs, likely inside NORAD’s bunker in Cheyenne Mountain. And given that the number changed, always decreasing, the best guess was that it was a head count of American survivors there. A handful of military veterans wrote down the names of every song that was played and tried to decipher whatever message was being sent out.

On May 18, a thirteen-year-old grandson of one of the military vets broke the code, associating specific letters with numbers. He came up with a ten-digit number—a phone number with a Colorado Springs area code. The only phone in Hawaii with an active dial tone was the emergency line in the Hexagon’s bunker, and not a single call out had worked thus far. Supposedly it was a direct line to the bunker in the White House, but no one had ever answered, and no outgoing calls elsewhere had connected. The governor picked up the red phone in Hawaii’s defense center and dialed the ten digits. This time—after two rings—someone picked up. “About damn time,” the voice on the other end said.

The governor’s technicians were right about the source—they were now connected to NORAD—and about the number after the time stamp. There were still thirty-nine people alive in the Cheyenne Mountain bunker today—mostly military, including an Air Force general and a major. Danny listened on speakerphone in a room with the governor and a dozen other officers, as General Niles filled them in on what they were up against.

Supplies were dwindling in Cheyenne Mountain. At best they had another six months of food rations for thirty-nine people, and the general expected the survivor count to be half that by that time. None of them would make it another year, of that he was certain. On October 12, 2020, 103 people had been alive and well in there. Seventy-four had died since then. They’d battled several severe flu outbreaks, and one officer had lost his mind and killed a dozen people before shooting himself. The general was tired, frustrated, and angry and wanted someone to come get them out. Now.