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Globall War of Terror: Equal and Opposite Critical Analysis

The meeting was scheduled for the executive conference room at 1600. Both the location and the time were unusual. But then again, EVERYTHING was unusual.

I usually didn't get to see this five story view of San Jose. It had been made clear to us, as with all contractors, that Executive Country was strictly off limits for us hoi polloi unless we had a strong, legitimate business reason - and not always then.

I keyed my radio.

"Golf 18, Control, I am unavailable to radio except for sitewide emergency. In sitewide emergency only call me on CMF-1."

"Control, Golf 18, copy unavailable except sitewide emergency, monitoring CMF-1."

For some reason the dispatchers had gotten a heck of a lot crisper with radio traffic over the last twenty-four hours.

I changed frequencies to CMF-1 and holstered the radio. I was carrying a laptop - a little unusual, but not in recent days.

When I reached the door, the conference room attendant standing by it put a hand up.

"I can't let you in here with that," she said. By her appearance, clearly she'd had a rough week, but then again, so had we all.

Well, I had to have the radio. I could see past her shoulder that the Senior Executive (gulp!) had his radio by his laptop, while typing furiously and talking into a cell phone in his ear. Not that the public cell network was up or anything, but IT with heroic effort had patched people's phones to use WiFi on the corporate network to make phone calls, at least on the internal company network.

I saw nothing objectionable about the laptop, either. It was more normal than not for regular employees to bring laptops to meetings, although it was admittedly unusual for a contractor to do so.

I saw what she was glaring at. The holstered handgun. One of the first things I'd done after the horrible events of the prior day, after the wounded had been triaged and stabilized, after the police had briefly come and gone, after I'd swiftly beefed up security with the limited means at our immediate disposal, had been to borrow a table in the Facilities group area and clean it. Even before bothering to clean up myself.

"Let him in," called another manager from inside.

I stepped in and a chair was clearly reserved for me at the foot of the conference room table. (Double gulp!) It even had a bottle of water, a notepad and a pen. These simple items were getting harder to come by, day by day.

I took it, set up laptop and charger (from the agenda, it looked to be a long meeting), took off the radio and set it to the side, volume high as I expected.

"Let's get started," the Senior Executive said as he hung up and (triple gulp!) closed his laptop.

"First of all, Mr. [Name], we all know the extraordinary events of yesterday. What has been done to keep that or something similar from happening again?"

I'd been working on that question at my highest priority, with a three hour cat nap between 2 and 5 AM, ever since.

"The North gate has been closed and barricaded with abandoned personal vehicles. The Facilities team has used our one backhoe to trench either side of both the North Gate and South Gate to make either side impassible to vehicles. This work continues. We have installed all available J barriers to create a serpentine approach and departure to South Gate which is required for all vehicles entering and exiting the site. We are staffing three guards at the South Gate at all times, one to halt, search and verify traffic, two to overwatch from a more protected position. The overwatch is armed with rifles. The lead position rotates every fifteen minutes."

"Why?" one of the managers interrupted.

Another manager answered, "Because if there's another attack, the lead guard is dead."

"Correct," I stated. "We are also rotating officers between the gate, two additional overwatch positions -- one on the hillside, one on the roof of the damaged shipping and receiving building, and the security control center downstairs in this building. We are staffed with a total of thirty six personnel, which gives us 9 positions around the clock. I have personally verified with each guard that they are willing to continue to work for at least the next three days."

"Can the guard company supply more guards?"

"I have had no success in getting contact with local guard force management." Actually, a week prior I'd led a team to the company offices. They were abandoned and unsecured. We'd carried the live personnel files and remaining computers down three flights of stairs, and I'd stripped everything else of value, except the safe which someone else had gotten to first. No one had interfered. Looting was still rampant and the appearance of legitimacy was enough.

"Also, I've verified with our corporate office via E-mail that they are still direct depositing pay to employee accounts, but the only place to draw cash is the on site ATM machine in $20 bills, and it ran out of cash last week. There are no safe places to spend it anyway with most stores closed. Right now most of my guards are working for two reasons: they can get food here from the cafeteria, which is still taking cash at the old prices, and they have families and friends in an encampment adjacent to the west perimeter. Long term we will need better incentives, but they are working now.

"As for a return event, our intelligence indicates that the attack was motivated by the desire to loot the site and punish the company for its defense related contracts, because of the Firecracker War. We have power because the main grid is still up to our location and defense priority, when most places don't, so people mistakenly think there is considerable wealth here as well. This is in the context of literally hundreds of what the media is calling terrorist attacks, but are more along the line of armed looters and/or bandit raids."

"How was this intelligence gathered?"

"Documents found on the bodies of attackers, and interrogation of a prisoner."

"Where is this prisoner now?"

Oh, this was going to be awkward.

"Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack while questioning him."

"While _you_ questioned him."

"Yes," I said, and met the eyes of everyone in the room.

Yeah, this was going to be very awkward. But I knew I had done the right thing then, and I knew I was doing the right thing now.

"What ... equipment ... does your team need in the immediate future to keep this site secure?"

"Sir, the site can be secured. The employees are another story. A lot of people are staying here and a lot of people brought their families. They are living in the cars, in some cases under tents and tarps and whatever we can spare. Some of the offices are being used as apartments. People try to go home to get stuff, or to find family members, and they don't always come back. We are running out of fuel for escorted trips, despite heroic measures."

Heroic measures including the flagrant abuse of fleet fuel cards, individual bank cards and credit cards, the 'borrowing' of a gasoline tanker (the driver and his family were now happy to help and be part of the team), people in Facilities who were both creative and crazy in their use of company equipment, and an employee who had been a POL specialist in the Navy Reserve who knew how to get at underground storage tanks at damaged gas stations. (Active gas stations were now guarded by heavily armed friends and family of the owner.)

"What we need most, the entire site, is to restore access to basic goods. The cafeteria has two days of food left, and that is despite resupply runs escorted..." [read: looting conducted] "... by Security. We need to establish what the military calls a PX, or a food and goods store, to supply the site population. A normal employee population is about 1,500 people. At last count, and Security has been very careful to hold everyone accountable for entries to the site, we have 2,327 people authorized for site access as employees, contractors and immediate family of same, and another 732 in the perimeter encampment."

"We are good for water for now, but I have a continuing concern about access to water supply. Once our fire water tanks are gone, they are GONE, and at current rate of consumption we have about a month left. I'd like to impose immediate emergency sanitary measures."

"What do you mean by emergency sanitary measures?"

"Shutting down the toilets and restroom sinks because they are using potable water. Facilities has a plan for separated outdoor facilities by gender. We have enough landscaping chips for at least three months of alternative sanitation. The break room sinks will stay up for potable water use but under stringent restrictions. Dishwashing only by trained persons to minimize water use while keeping clean."

"I see the plan here. Buckets? Really?"

"Yes, sir, although I should let Facilities speak to that part. Each flush is 1-2 gallons, that is one to two days survival for someone, if we lose water to the site. The water mains have been intermittent. I don't want to think about fire protection water, but that is the next big concern. Fire safety. We have had two people start warming fires inside the building. We have a single flatbed Diesel pickup truck with a gasoline pump as a fire protection engine. We need to train everyone in basic fire safety and evacuations and organize a fire brigade. Security had been doing it but we are not enough."

"These are important points, but I think I missed my phrasing on the main question. What _security_ equipment do you need to keep the site safe?"

Oh.

"We need more IP cameras. We really need DVRs, digital video recorders. Facilities needs light bulbs, we have had issues with perimeter lights being shot out. Fuel if we lose power, especially Diesel. Generators for the gates, we tried but were unable to obtain..." [read: loot] "... portables. More construction equipment: bulldozers, backhoes, dump trucks. A rough field forklift is especially vital, we can unload trucks by hand but then we have to hand-over-hand the items up the stairs with the elevators out of order..."

He interrupted.

"Weapons. Ammunition. Support gear."

"That really depends. We have required all employees, contractors and tenants to register all firearms and turn them in to Security as a condition of entry. They can have them back whenever they leave. This means that we have guns but our ammunition needs are all over the place. We have a room full of .22 long rifle and 12 gauge. We are down to two cases of 5.56mm but that would be adequate to resist at least one more attack. As horrible as yesterday's events were, we gained numerous firearms and more ammunition from the attackers. We have found ammunition to be especially unobtainable. Facilities is starting on a reloading shop for 12 gauge shotgun, we are standardizing on that for the reaction force weapon. If we could get anything we wanted, it would be in order - any and all 12 gauge reloading supplies including especially powder and primers, 12 gauge slugs, 5.56 ammunition, and any rifle caliber you can get: 7.62, .308, even odd calibers like .303 Then and only then other shotgun and pistol ammunition.

"The biggest support item we need but don't have is ballistic armor and helmets. We are wearing hard hats which is better than nothing but useless against a bullet. Military helmets are expensive and impossible to come by. We have several sets of hard body armor, mostly from military who couldn't make it to their units and reported here instead, and about twenty sets of soft armor. If we could, I would put body armor on all Security, all reaction force and everyone who leaves the wire..."

"The wire?" someone exclaimed?

"The perimeter, ma'am. At least once a day we send out a convoy to try to get supplies, recover employees and check on critical infrastructure. If we could I'd love to have armor for all those folks, but we just don't have it. Kevlar isn't something we can make."

The Human Resources Director asked, "Earlier we had an employee count. Are there still employees out there, unaccounted for?"

"Yes, sir. Of 2,208 Company employees in the Bay Area, we have 1,309 accounted for and present on site. Of them, 57 are injured and in the infirmary. Another 238 are confirmed to be dead, by credible eyewitness report, or by found bodies and effects. That means almost seven hundred are still out there, we hope. We are spreading the word - but we are having increasing problems with imposters. People are figuring out that they can get in if they can successfully impersonate..."

Interruption, "What are you doing about it?"

"If we catch an imposter, and we've caught four, we strip them naked and send them out the South Gate. Tends to discourage others. In two cases the impersonated employee's manager did not survive. In one case, an employee was trying to get a friend in as if they were an employee. We sent the friend to the outer encampment. In the last case, the manager vetted the employee but we determined..." [don't ask! please don't ask!] "... that the manager had been deceived."

The Senior Executive cleared his throat. "We're getting off topic. So for the short term, the next two or three days, the situation as we have it now is fairly stable. Would you agree?"

"Yes, sir."

"That is an enormous achievement for which a lot of people would be commended if we had time, which we don't. Next agenda item, clarification of reporting chains. I am the Senior Executive. That means that like the Captain of a ship or the Principal of a school, I am supposed to be in charge of this madhouse. I have department heads that have been reporting to me throughout this crisis. I have been getting my reports from Security through Site Operations. But where is the Company Security representative?"

"He was killed on Day 5, sir." He had died in my arms, as a matter of fact.

One of the first things I had removed from the shattered Security Office and hung up on the new control center wall, for everyone to see, was a letter that I'd insisted on having the Company Security representative print and sign, on the 2nd day of the Firecracker War. It instructed my Employer to take any actions necessary to preserve the lives of Company employees and protect Company property and assets under extraordinary circumstances.

It was now splattered with blood from the murdered guard who had been microwaving his lunch when the satchel charge came through the window. I'd framed it over the bloodstains and put it up where everyone could see it.

This is what we do. This is also what happens when you fail. Avoid it.

"Security needs direct access to me. Site Ops is too busy. I am appointing Mr. Pritchard in Legal ..." [aw shit!] "... as my department head for Security reporting directly to me. As the contract security, you report to him."

"Yes, sir."

"Now we need to discuss the workplace violence incidents yesterday and earlier today."

I belatedly realized that the meeting was as much tactical as operational, and that two of the men sitting behind me were employees who also happened to have been police officers. That probably meant they were armed. I'd been fairly liberal in authorizing firearms to anyone who had indicators of trustworthiness, and that was one of them.

I had run out of gulps.

"I am asking no questions and you are giving no answers. This is a statement. The use of force by Security, reaction team members or Company managers inside ... the wire ... or against a Company employee will be strictly in self defense, by California law _before_ the Firecracker, and the highest traditions of the law and of our Company will be upheld. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"Outside the wire, you do what you need to do. I consider the gate area 'outside the wire' for this purpose. But I do not want any more 'heart attacks' on this site. Am I clearly understood?"

"Absolutely, sir." Drag them off campus before you kill them.

He met my gaze and neither of us flinched. Everyone else in the room did.

The Captain of this tiny ship of order in the sea of chaos had established his authority.

I drew enormous comfort from it.

"I want Finances involved in future supply expeditions. I would like to resume purchasing what we need whenever possible. We have arranged for a very large convoy of supplies from our Utah offices. We need them to get our wish lists ASAP, as in within the next two hours, so they can pack tomorrow and head out at first light the next day.

"We are continuing operations. I have had two Generals and three Admirals call me today, to ask if we were still in business and if we could help them with their problems. This nation is at war and we are supporting those who fight that war. Code wins wars. We are coders. Having a safe and secure working environment is essential, but it is only the first step."

"I am telling everyone in this room. If you have a problem with Security, you take it to that man," pointing to me. [Quadruple gulp.] "If you still have a problem, you take it to Mr. Prichard. But if Mr. Prichard feels he has to, he can recommend to me I _terminate_ someone. And you had all better bet your last dollar, your last meal, and your last gallon of water that I can and will fire someone who interferes in the mission of this site. Anyone."

And in this apocalyptic nightmare, being fired was about the same as a death sentence, but with no last meal, no chance of a pardon from the Governor, and no guarantee that it would be either swift or painless.

"The Security part of this meeting is over. Contractors are excused. Next up, Customer Commitments."

I got up and stepped out. Mr. Pritchard followed and stopped me in the corridor.

"I am carrying a radio on CMF-1. My callsign is Legal-1. If you need me, call me on radio."

"Yes, sir."

"This is my instruction, which I discussed with the Executive first thing this morning. Carry on exactly as you have been doing. You are doing great and your team is working miracles. I'd like a meeting with you twice a day, 7 AM and 7 PM, my office. Let me carry the water and wood trying to get what you need. You just tell me what you need. The government really needs us up and running and that gives us some leverage."

"Sir, with respect, we have five people _dead_ yesterday. Two of them were Employees. That's not great."

"If you hadn't insisted on the film on the cafeteria windows, it would have been a lot more than that. You are saving lives every day, just by doing what you do. For God's sake don't stop. That's an order."

He clapped me on the shoulder.

"You just keep ahead of the curve, just like you've been doing. See you at 1900."

As I walked away, something struck me. I needed to check Mr. Prichard's resume.

Army? Or Marine?

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