Ahmad checked his watch as he listened to the American baseball game on his earpiece. It was about an hour past sunset, with growing darkness as he watched from his vantage point, and listened to the announcer describing Game 6 of the World Series. Ahmad didn't understand the details of the game, just enough to plan the mission, but he knew he had at least another hour before it would end, more than enough for his purposes. From where he was situated, he could see down into Chavez Ravine, a couple of the nearby freeways, and the panorama of lights glistening in the growing nighttime scene of downtown Los Angeles.
In various places throughout the city, his teams waited. They were all his men, though few of them knew that, and he was the only one that knew all of them. His subordinates were all cutouts, few knowing anyone but him and their 2-4 teammates.
Ahmad had arrived some time prior to the operation, but was the necessary link to get it off the ground - so to speak. He chuckled at the memory. He had been delivered to America by the Americans themselves. He was actually Pakistani, and his real name wasn't even Ahmad, but that had been the Afghani name he'd adopted as an officer in the Afghan Army, shortly before he'd been selected to lead this operation in the heart of the Great Satan. The stupid Americans, he'd thought, had flown him to the United States for training. Once his contact was in place, he'd gone out one weekend on leave, and never come back. Even in this he blended with a hundred others, most economic opportunists, but more than a few, like himself, hand-picked to infiltrate and run operations like this one. The Americans hadn't been eager to broadcast that fact, which made his further movements all the easier to undertake.
His phone buzzed; the message let him know the game was back on live TV.
On his other phone he texted the codeword inshallah, which set in motion all that followed. Within a minute or two, motorcycle pairs entered all the surrounding freeways in both directions, dumping several pounds of metal caltrops on the freeways. In short order, tires were deflated or blown out, accidents ensued, and the legendary Los Angeles rush hour traffic snarl began an inexorable descent into a biblical amount of gridlock.
Simultaneously, four small drones lifted off east of downtown. They approached from different directions, but all were to converge on Piper Technical Center, a drab block arising several stories above and apart from the downtown skyline, upon the roof of which sat a dozen LAPD helicopters, at their otherwise-safe HQ high above the surrounding streets. When the drones arrived over their targets, they began their bombing drops. Two had homemade napalm: half aviation gasoline, half liquid dish soap, blended with aluminum flakes, contained in a pint glass bottle, and with a simple wick on the outside.
Ahmad recalled their maker pleased with himself for devising a way to re-purpose a simple automobile cigarette lighter to ignite the wicks, which were threaded under rubber bands holding the bottles, placed over foil-protected legs on the drones. The operator flipped a switch, and the igniters clicked on. When the wicks ignited, the bands would burn through and the bottles would drop; when they impacted, they'd create little fireballs that would stick to whatever they splashed, creating an instant inferno. Targeting was fairly simple on a windless night, requiring only hitting within a few feet of straight down for the helicopters, from a near motionless drone.
The other two had pint-sized soda cans, containing a mixture of iron oxide (essentially simple rust powder) and elemental aluminum powder. When the igniter set off a magnesium ribbon fuse, just like the napalm the payload would freefall. Once the magnesium ignited the thermite, oxygen bound in the rust would provide the air for the combustion that would take place. Its normal use was to weld railroad rails, and in the military to destroy things like howitzers, tanks, and radios. Once ignited, it burned hot enough to do either, at a temperature of around 4,000 degrees F., and the liquid molten metal produced would burn through anything as fragile as a fuselage in seconds.
Which they did, working exactly as they had when tested in the desert some weeks earlier, and helped along by fuel tanks with aviation gasoline on the parked aircraft.
The two napalm drops splashed all over the two target helos, setting them aflame immediately, as did one of the thermite drops. The other missed, but the ensuing plume of molten metal consuming itself on the concrete threw a shower of flaming embers that would prove hard to corral, even as the other targets combusted spectacularly.
They had bought all the drones and all the payload materials for less than $10,000, over the internet, using cash cards, over a span of some months, and sent to places in several states all vacated months before they operation began. And nothing they bought, and nothing they did, was illegal per se until the payloads ignited and began dropping.
As soon as the first four drones had dropped, a second wave was launched in seconds, and approximately a minute later two more helicopters were gloriously aflame. By the time the third wave struck a minute after that, nine helicopters and some ancillary equipment were fully-involved flaming junk heaps, and though there were several units airborne throughout the city, the LAPD's Astro Division would be hard-pressed to do much for the next few months, as several millions of dollars worth of high-priced ashes consumed themselves in plain view of the stranded commuters on the 101 freeway through downtown.
As he watched the second wave begin its attack on the police department's airbase, Ahmad texted the main attack to commence. Another dozen drones lifted off from all points of the compass, headed for the sellout crowd in Dodger Stadium watching the game. Each man had a section of the stadium assigned, including both outfield pavilions. All of them carried the napalm bottles. The drone bodies had been painted black so as to be far less visible to those on the ground, and with the blaze of nighttime lights illuminating the game, no one would see anything until their flaming payloads began to fall. They fell randomly, hither and yon all around the seats, bursting immediately into flaming gasoline balls, the stuff of nightmares, and sending more than 65,000 people fleeing in all directions in a stampeding panic to escape. One, by design, was dropped in front of each of the team dugouts, sending players scrambling onto the field or down the tunnels to escape the conflagrations. All of it was captured on live TV and broadcast around the world in seconds.
Originally, the plan had been to use a football game as the target, but dwindling audiences for those, and the draw of a World Series broadcast had led Ahmad and the planners to select the baseball game instead.
As soon as the first wave of drones dropped its payload, they were program recalled to a central spot, and landed in an industrial park, next to a garbage truck driven by one of two teams also organized for the purpose. Their only job was to collect the surviving drones, load them into the truck, and depart. All useable data and serial numbers had been meticulously removed long before the missions, and given their cost, the drones themselves weren't critical. But Ahmad had learned, just as some of his former colleagues, not to underestimate the thoroughness of American investigations and intelligence gathering after the fact. The less they were left to work with, the better.
His pilots each rode in on motorcycles and scooters, the better to thread their way through traffic and exfiltrate afterwards. Each had pulled up to one of several vans, or vice versa, some hours beforehand, been handed his drones and controllers, and the empty vans departed. Once they had launched their second waves and dropped, they plunked controllers into backpacks or saddlebags, and drove off, helmeted, invisible, and nondescript.
The second wave of drops went as well as the first, with several set to land amongst the main exits, surveyed beforehand, and now awash in a sea of people. Now, with no small number of flaming people, furiously trying to roll, or batter the flames out, and in a few cases, running faster, which only intensified the flames for the few seconds before they succumbed amidst hundreds of their fellows in screaming agony, and a horrible gasoline and flesh-stenched barbeque from hell. This last was mainly for effect, but the bulk of the second wave was still directed inside the stadium at alternate points not already hit, because that's where the TV cameras would be focused. And were, as millions of people across the country watched in speechless horror the spectacle before them.
Ahmad waited until a minute or so after the second wave had completed, then texted the signal for all his teams to depart, which they did. The cell monitoring the television broadcast and internet news sent him the best news of all: the response was off the charts, both on TV, and internationally. He whispered a brief thanks to Allah, then kicked his motorcycle into life, and rode off sedately into the night.
He had given the infidel Americans a Halloween to remember with dread for decades.
On Wednesday at 3AM they did the same thing over the refineries near the harbor, mainly with thermite bombs. 30 giant fuel and oil tanks, widely dispersed, had set 24 more adjoining ones on fire, in an inferno that would take two weeks to extinguish, and send the price of gasoline locally to the moon.
On Friday night, they hit crowds at Disneyland with napalm during the nighttime fireworks.
The exodus out of state began with a vengeance.
Early Sunday morning, they hit 25 separate power distribution complexes, and blacked out most of the state of California, and parts of Arizona and Nevada for a week and a half.
On Monday morning, martial law was declared in all three states.
"There." thought Ahmad.
"See how you like fighting a war in your country for a change."