Part One Mack, the psuedo-president of FREE, walked slowly downhill back to the heavily armored converted fighting vehicle, hidden in the hills around Freehand. The once vibrant city was now a festering sore of radiation-poisoned land and water. The mushroom cloud had been gone for days now but the smoke of the burning city was visible for miles around. The mining that had been a large part of Freehand's economy was now in ruins. The main roads that led into the city were impassable due to vehicle accidents and the lack of emergency responders. The hospitals that served Freehand had been engulfed in the initial fireball, since they were all clustered together near the city of the city. Freehand had been an expirement in city design, with a centralized hospital district and a major medical training/teaching/research facility in the middle of the hospital district. Most of the production of Freehand was medical related, with the mines serving mostly as testing labs for the more esoteric research done in the city. But now the brains of that research were dead. The lucky ones were dead, Mack thought to himself, the unlucky one will die of radiation poisining in the next week and the real unlucky ones will fight cancers for years on end and wish they were dead. As he approached the special vehicle that was built to protect him, his bodyguard fanned their way around him. His night vision / light enhancing gear was not a good as their's but it allowed him to navigate without falling down and getting his britches dirty. Their's could identify animals from the heat signature and shape and provide range and distance to each animal, especially two legged animals with long range weapons (rifles) or short range weapons (pitchforks) combined with bad attitude. Determining attitude was not an exact science, so every effort was made to avoid these two legged animals whilst on nocturnal excursions and this one was no exception. Tonight they had walked up a hill and down that same hill and seen no one, a perfect event. Inside the vehicle he gropped to remove the goggles and breathing apparatus. He did this in the dark since the inside lights were turned off. A figure inside the car gave him a piece of paper. Mack took out a small penlight and cupped his hands around the lense as he read the note. 15 Level D Research Labs - primed was all it said. Which was good news for Free, but not for anyone inside those Level D locations. The doors had been sealed, a knock-out gas had been released, followed by a nerve gas a few minutes later and finally a small thermonuclear device had been armed. Small meant that the fireball was only 200 yards in diameter, more than enough to eradicate a an underground area that was no more than 150 yards across. Level D labs produced very nasty bugs and viruses. If containment failed, the results to the world could be grisly. Thus the small suitcases packages hidden in the duct work in the middle of each lab. Primed meant that someone had verified the doors were fastened shut and the gasses has been released. All that was left was to detonate the bombs. Mack leaned forward and rapped twice on the bulletproof glass between him and the driver. The driver started the engine and the whole amored convey began to move slowly towards Vista-Free, arriving in a few hours while it was still dark. From Vista-Free Free Force One flew Mack and a few others SE towards Freehand and then due south to Kazgungudom. As they neared Freehand Mack walked aft to the Communciations Center and donned a headset. He listened idlely as the comm tech patched him through to the military on the ground below. 'Mr. President, I am General Felix Travis and I have been briefed on Operation Denial.' 'Thank you General. Can you confirm that the devices are still active?' 'Yes, sir. All 15 show armed and ready.' 'General Travis, it is my order to you to finalize Operation Denial. The responsiblity is mine and you are to follow these lawfully given orders. Is that clear?' 'Yes, sir, it is. Finalize Operation Denial. Finalizing...now!' 'Thank you, General. Well done. Now get your forces home and get cleaned up. You had a thankless task but you did it well and now it is over. Goodnight, General.' Without waiting for a reply Mack slipped off the headset and walked quietly forward to his cabin, where he picked up the briefing papers on Operation Denial. The documentation was old, dating back before he had become the defacto leader of the FREE. He could not agrue with the logic that had created the need Operation Denial, but he was still staggered by the human cost. Upwards to 20,000 people could be working in the Level D labs during normal working hours, dropping to around 2,500 to 3,000 during the night. The attack on Freehand had been early on a Monday morning, so 20,000 had not died as a result of this plan, but undoubtedly a few early birds had gotten to work before Freehand had been flatten. Perhaps as few as 5,000 had been at work when the early stages of the plan were triggered. So, I've just incinerated 5,000 corpses for the greater good of mankind. He loosened his tie and sat down in the overstuffed leather chair. It was the proper thing to do, he told himself, even if it wasn't my plan or my idea. Then why do I feel like a heel instead of a hero? Before he faded off to sleep, he gleaned the answer. Though the final part of Operation Denial protected the living, it desecrated the remains of the dead, who could not defend themselves.