Home > Never Cry Werewolf (Crimson Moon #5)(2)

Never Cry Werewolf (Crimson Moon #5)(2)
Author: L.A. Banks

Now she understood what Doc had meant: A politi­cal schmooze trip on Air Force One to meet the presi­dent and the first lady had nothing to do with what was about to go down. The military was, in essence, its own government and its own country. It didn't matter if a civilian president was the commander in chief, there would always be things known by the Pentagon and the military intelligence community that flew under the radar. This meeting was obviously one of them.

What the president knew and understood was so far removed from the tactical realities of what the Joint Chiefs had cooked up that Sasha felt numb. The new president had been excited to talk to her, curious, and awed by the knowledge that the supernatural existed. They'd met at his insistence. His wife had warmly em­braced her, and Sasha had vowed to never wash the shirt that had the first lady's elegant touch on it. Never in Sasha's life had she been so proud to serve as in that moment when she was told "job well done" by two people who seemed to have it all. .. intelligence, honor, love for each other, their children, and their country. They were world leaders in her opinion, had respect for other nations, and yet kept it all together as a couple and a family despite the stress that went along with that leadership. Simply being in their presence had instilled hope. Maybe she and Hunter could have that, she'd thought for all of two days .. . until now.

She hated these sessions. Sasha's mind had latched on to the positive, clinging to it in military silence as her entire mission was lambasted as a complete failure. Talking heads on the video teleconference made her swallow a snarl. She hated VTCs. Old bastards. What did they know about this kind of war? The Cold War didn't have jack on a confrontation with the super­natural, if the Unseelie or Vampires decided to retaliate.

Sasha looked at the stern expressions that appeared on the huge screen at the end of the war room. The broadcast was coming from multiple sources—the Pen­tagon and USSOCOM at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida—and everything that was being said made the hair on the nape of her neck bristle as she cut Doc a side­long glance. He never returned it. That was probably best. One didn't blink or stutter in the face of U.S. Spe­cial Ops Command.

Before the inflexible scrutiny today, she'd been com­plimented by the president on her brave handling of the situation in New Orleans, despite the human casu­alties that couldn't be avoided. The president, a man of reason, had spoken to her frankly, openly, asking her opinion about how they could address potential future threats, as well as her best guess at how they could do PR damage control—knowing the public would freak out.

Down here in the bowels of NORAD was another world. The Pentagon was broadcasting from the tank, their situation room. The whole array of brass was on the teleconference—the freaking secretary of de­fense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the vice chair­man, the army, as well as the air force chiefs of staff, plus the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the marine corps. Sheesh. All of her general's chain of command was present—starting with the U.S. Army Special Ops Com commander from Fort Bragg. This was so not good. She wouldn't be surprised if General Westford didn't just retire after this fiasco. Her gen­eral was getting his ass chewed out by the secretary of defense . .. and as always, the shit would roll downhill.

But the next words spoken drew Sasha's full atten­tion to the screen. Disbelief made her slack-jawed.

"This is why we've always had a backup team in wait­ing," the bulldog-jowled General Rumsford said, glaring into the screen. "Ever since the tragic death of General Donald Wilkerson, we knew there was potential for this project to get out of control, and it finally did."

Sasha felt her lip beginning to curl but took a slow, steady inhale to keep her cool. Is this the same cleanup squad that mowed down Rod Butler's entire squad in Afghanistan? Same SOBs that tried to drop Woods and Fisher!

"Now, wait just a minute," General Westford said, the crimson spreading up his neck to begin to color his ruddy face. He dragged his fingers through his damp blond crew cut and narrowed his hard blue gaze as he leaned forward, slapping a meaty palm down on the polished mahogany. "Yes, there were civilian casual­ties during this particular operation—but as you well know, and have all experienced in any battle theater, that is bound to happen when dealing with urban war­fare. Collateral damage is regrettable but often un­avoidable. That is the price of urban warfare. So don't act like this is some new outcome! With all due respect, each of us in our long careers has experienced this. I stand by my Paranormal Containment Unit. These men and women did an outstanding job in keeping this en­tire thing from escalating to a level that might have otherwise been catastrophic."

"Paranormal Containment Unit," the bulldog reiter­ated with disdain. "It wasn't contained, Westford."

"And neither was Iraq or Afghanistan!" General Westford shot back. "I've only got Trudeau, Holland, plus a biotech crew of three hired civil service special­ists backing her up, with two soldiers, Lieutenants Fisher and Woods, to keep a lid on a threat that is bigger than all the bull going on in the Middle East and Paki­stan combined! Give me more resources, and we'll have the threat contained."

"That's precisely what we intend to do—Colonel Madison and his squad will be the new boots on the ground. This time out we want an all-human squad on this, one that cannot be compromised by potential inter-species affiliations or that we have to worry might flip out under duress—or given the phase of the moon ... no offense to Captain Trudeau. We would like to offer you an opportunity to continue your fine work in an army staff position, General... while Colonel Madison takes over command of PCU."

"You're burying me in the army bureaucracy," General Westford said, pushing back from the table. "You might as well draw up my retirement papers, then. This is an outrage."

"General," the secretary of defense said in a conciliatory tone. "Let's allow cooler heads to prevail be-fore you make such a monumental decision. We value you. Know that. You are not being buried. We need a man of your skill and knowledge on the policy end of this very new threat—because, believe me, the president wants smart people making smart decisions about how to handle all of this. We need a military liaison to the secretary of state, given the potential international issues this paranormal problem raises."

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