Nadeesha walked the Cairo streets.
Having bought local clothing she tried to blend in. But with her dark skin, people probably thought she was from Southern Egypt. Men jeered at her and made obscene gestures. A few offered to purchase her for a quickie. She was used to having to work in incredibly misogynist cultures, but as one pedestrian grabbed her ass, she hoped the entire country just burned to the ground.
Having completed a close recce of the Egyptian Army compound, she sat down for morning tea near the target and watched the soldiers and officers arrive in twos and threes, wearing their puffy berets with elastic rat tails hanging from the back.
Scrolling through her cell phone, she e-mailed the pictures she had taken of the Army building to Bill and the guys. They were looking for an appropriate vehicle to steal. She was looking for an appropriate officer to steal. Time passed. Her tea grew cold.
The intel they had, she didn’t ask what the source of it was, indicated that the three college students were being held inside the Army installation where prisoners were sometimes kept until they could be transferred to a larger prison. The three Americans were being kept there indefinitely so that the Army chain of command could keep an eye on them. Those kids wouldn’t last long in an Egyptian prison without protection.
All they knew for certain was that the three American students had been detained while on a rooftop overlooking Tahrir Square during the latest mass protest forty-eight hours ago. Over a million Egyptians flooded back into the square in defiance of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military dictatorship that they were slowly coming under the control of. When the Americans were detained, the military also found them with a mysterious device, but that wasn’t her target.
They had to free the Americans. Conducting a surgical raid to rescue hostages was one of the most complicated missions around. They had the most bare-bones intel, no mission planning, and almost nothing for equipment. It was a mess to say the least. She didn’t even know what cell they were being held in or even a confirmation that the Americans, were in fact, inside the Army compound.
Nadeesha spotted an Egyptian soldier, wearing the rank of a Colonel on his epaulettes, leaving the compound.
It was time to rectify some of their intelligence gaps. Paying for her tea, she texted Bill to let him know that she had a mark in sight and began to tail the Colonel. Bill texted back to confirm. He had her location as they were tracking each other’s cellphone’s using Google Latitude. The rest of Liquid Sky had hotwired a mini-van and would be pulling up behind her in a minute.
She hoped the Colonel didn’t get into a car and drive off before they arrived.
Her phone rang.
“We’re on your six,” Bill said. “Is that him in the uniform about twenty meters in front of you?”
“Okay, we’ll ball him up. Run to catch up and help push him in.”
The gray mini-van accelerated, passed, and pulled up alongside the Colonel. Nadeesha broke into a sprint. Paul, Zach, and Rick threw open the sliding door and their hands reached out and grabbed the surprised military officer. They pulled him into the van and dropped a few fists and elbows on him before Nadeesha ran up and flung herself inside the van.
Slamming the door, Bill stepped on the gas.
It was time to get some answers.
Ramon and Deckard had reset. They bought local clothes to wear, plussed up on food and water to get them through the day, and found a new hide site which overlooked their target. The University of Cairo was spread out over several square miles to their front. Their particular target was the engineering department, the electrical engineering department specifically. That was where the device was being kept according to the intelligence information provided by the client.
Taking turns on glass, each of them alternated looking through the Barrett’s sniper scope. Deckard had also bought a suitcase with rollers to transport the sniper rifle and a small backpack to hide his AR-15.
They each used the mil-dot reticule in the scope to estimate range and draw out a range card which would help both of them when Deckard made his infiltration. The electrical engineering building itself was 700 meters away from the building they decided to lay up in, which was empty and still under construction.
They had gotten into position deep inside one of the empty floors near the top of the building. They had good cover and concealment, and with the building lacking walls, just floors and concrete pillars holding them up, they also had 360-degree visibility. The team had also started building their range card early, before the heat mirage would get really bad later in the day and make range estimations difficult if not impossible with the mil-dot reticule.
Deckard had enough on his mind as he was trying to determine an approach path to break into the engineering department where the device he had to steal was being studied. At the same time, he couldn’t forget that this was a Liquid Sky mission, not a Samruk International mission. He had his own objectives to complete.
“Did you know Jon Bellacruz back in 1st Group?” he asked Ramon.
“Yeah, of course. Good dude. We did Baghdad together and then Laos on a JCET back in the day.”
“Just wanted to ask, if you don’t mind. The last time we talked, he told me about a former colleague named Ramon who got blacklisted from contracting.”
Ramon chuckled. Deckard had told him a half truth. He had talked to Jon Bellacruz years ago, but Ramon’s name had never come up. He was using Bellacruz’s name to segue into the information Aghassi had given him about Ramon.
“Yeah, that’s true. The major companies out there won’t touch me. I pissed off some pretty powerful people.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
“What do you want to know?”
“About how you got blacklisted by the Agency.”
It was Deckard’s turn to laugh.
“I tried to kill a Case Officer in Afghanistan.”
“Damn, that will do it.”
“The Agency had me training a platoon of indig on the Iranian border for a contingency operation,” Deckard elaborated. “I would have led them in an unconventional warfare campaign inside Iran. My normal job was going out with the Afghan para-military strike force, but I got tasked out for this special mission. I spent a couple months getting these guys up to speed, got pretty close to some of them. They were a good group of guys.
“Then this Case Officer flies in to our outpost on the Iranian border and tells me that I’m to send the entire para-military unit on a cross-border mission to hit an Iranian Army facility; however, I was explicitly ordered not to go with them. They cited legal reasons, covert action, plausible deniability and all that. On the surface, there was nothing wrong with that. But one kilometer into Iran using the ingress the Case Officer gave us, my guys stumble right into an ambush.
“The ambush was planned well in advance with overlapping sectors of fire, mines were used, and the terrain was well selected. The Iranians had been tipped off that my boys were coming. It was a slaughter. We only found out what happened because two of them somehow managed to break contact and E&E back to Afghanistan.”
“You had a leak?”
“A controlled leak. It took some digging, but using my own sources that I had cultivated in Iran, I was able to find out that it was the CIA itself that passed on the information to the Iranians. It was a big sell out, some kind of quid pro quo on the political level. The Agency got something in return of course, but Iran wanted my para-military unit out of their way because they knew it was a threat.”
“That’s why you went after the Case Officer?”
“Hell yeah. I had a captured 60mm mortar. Drove right up to the firebase he was staying on during the night. I had already measured out the distances and knew where his hooch was. So I dropped a couple rounds down the tube and ran for it.”
“You kill him?”
“I wish, one round was a direct hit and blew his hooch wide open. The problem was that the Case Officer was on the shitter at the time.”
“Yeah, so anyway, the Agency puts two and two together and decides they need to make this problem go away right quick. A few hours later another Ground Branch element storms into my compound and detains me on the spot. Never even had the chance to fight back.”
“That is surprisingly efficient on their part.”
“Never underestimate how fast those fuckers on the 7th floor can work when they want to cover something up. Long story short, I’m shown the door and threatened to never speak of any of it again. They blacklisted me, but didn’t prosecute for obvious reasons.”
“In a court room the whole rest of the story would begin to leak out.”
“What did you do after that?”
“My own thing,” Deckard smiled. “So I showed off my circumcision and all, how about you? What got you blacklisted?”
“I destroyed Mars.”
“I was going through a divorce at the time so I transferred over to one of the National Guard Special Forces units and went over to 20th Group. While there I landed a civilian job working as a security guard with NASA and was assigned to watch the Ames Research Center in California. It wasn’t a bad gig, and since I had a Top Secret clearance and was sniper qualified, I was almost pulling in six figures.”
Deckard’s head was spinning at this turn of events. Had he stolen classified material from the labs? Screwed up and accidentally shot a scientist leaving work late at night?
“So out in the middle of nowhere at the research center is this lone building with all the doors locked. It was just out there, no one ever went in or out, nobody ever checked on it. I talked about it with some of the other security guards and no one knew anything about it. It seemed like it was just some abandoned building.
“Anyhow, one day I decided to go and find out what it was for myself. So I grab a pair of bolt cutters and head out there. I snapped the locks off and opened the door. I felt this suction of air as I walked inside, like the place was sealed off tight. Inside was nothing, just a bunch of dirt and shit on the ground. I walked around for a little bit figuring there had to be something else inside, but it really was empty except for all the dirt on the ground.
“So I finish my shift, get changed, and drive home. That next day the shit hit the fan. Investigators for NASA and even the FBI were called in. They found my footprints in the dirt inside that building and matched them up to the boots I left sitting on top of my locker in the locker room.”
“What the hell?”
“As it turns out, that so-called abandoned building was like some kind of bio-dome where they were replicating the atmosphere on Mars. It was some big science project they were doing to research the feasibility of long term space travel. The whole experiment was kept in total isolation from the outside world. So when I cut the locks and went walking around on the surface of Mars I fucked up a 23 million dollar NASA science project that had been underway for three years.”
“Oh, yeah man. I was looking at some serious fucking jail time for breaking and entering as well as destruction of government property. I denied everything of course and lawyered up but they had my boots with Mars dust on the soles. I was fucked. My lawyer made a big stink to them about me being a war veteran and eventually NASA let me go but completely blackballed me. My name is shit with any major defense company in the United States. They even fucked me from taking security jobs in the UK.”
“That is the most bad ass war story I’ve ever heard,” Deckard deadpanned.
“I’m not sure. Mortaring a CIA Officer is pretty bad ass. But anyhow, that is how we both ended up with this crew I guess. We’re both damaged goods.”
“I don’t see any NASA or CIA pussies on this op, do you?”
“Good point,” Ramon agreed.