10 Apr

Just had this idea going through my head…

Chapter One

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur was a city of contrasts.

Modern buildings, gleaming impressively in the bright sunlight, contrasted oddly with a monorail that gave Jacob the willies every time he rode on it. Immense wealth coexisted with poverty on a scale that gave the impression of permanent conflict. Fancy dining palaces and expensive shops were there for the tourists, the visitors from overseas, while the locals ate at street vendors and swallowed down unsavoury meat and dubious vegetables. A man could eat all he wanted for a dollar in Kuala Lumpur, provided that he was willing to risk stomach cramps – or worse. And, everywhere, there were half-naked girls walking beside modest women wearing headscarves or veils. And there was the ever-present heat.

Jacob walked through the crowd, keeping himself mentally apart even though he looked like a wealthy local resident. Four years in Malaysia had tanned his skin and enhanced his vaguely Arabic features, features that he had used to pass himself off as an Arab with dubious motives – but that was long in the past. Behind his sunglasses, he scanned for familiar faces, even though he knew that it was stupid. If his past had finally caught up with him, the Company wouldn’t have sent anyone who he’d known before he’d told them where to shove their attitude and disappeared. They probably wouldn’t have bothered to use his old dead drops either, merely hired a team of local assassins to kill him. The thought wasn’t particularly reassuring. He’d known plenty of skilled field agents in his time, but the people who ran the show were more concerned with PowerPoint briefings and promotion than actually understanding what their underlings did for a living.

He shook his head as he caught sight of a rich foreigner, almost certainly American, with his hand around the waist of a local girl. It wasn’t unknown for sugar daddies from the states to find a local girl to show them around – and share their beds. Sometimes they made good money, if they survived the disapproval of their male relatives. Like most deeply conservative countries, Malaysia had its dark underside, where money spoke louder than religion. But then, there were so many religions jammed together in Malaysia that Jacob feared that one day there would be an explosion. And he’d be on the ground when that happened.

Old habits drove him onwards as he approached the hotel. It was a fairly discreet place to meet a contact, close enough to the city centre for westerners to find it easily, without the swank and glitter of the truly expensive hotels. Malaysians were very friendly and rich tourists had no trouble finding people who would direct them from place to place, in exchange for a small gratuity. He walked around the building twice, searching for observers lurking in nearby coffee shops or chatting with the locals at roadside stalls selling pirated DVDs, but saw nothing. Maybe it was completely legit, without any plans for double-dealing, or maybe his skills had rusted with age. God knew he hadn’t been doing any intelligence work since he’d left the States and found his way to Malaysia.

A sign on the hotel door – NO DURIANS – made him smile as he entered, watching for his contact. Durians were surprisingly tasty, but they stank so badly that Westerners were reluctant to risk eating them. Rotting flesh smelled better, in Jacob’s rather biased opinion; the locals sometimes joked about using them as interrogation tools. It might just have worked if the victim didn’t know what they were, or how they tasted.

His contact was seated in the lobby, reading a copy of an American newspaper. Jacob studied him for a long moment, noting the bland face, the expensive suit and the secure briefcase between his legs. Probably not much of a field agent, he decided, although it could be a cunning bluff. God knew that there were plenty of crass American businessmen visiting Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. Jacob strode over to the man, sat down next to him, and smiled, wondering if the visitor would recognise him. His official photographic in the Company’s records was nearly seven years out of date.

“A pleasure to meet you,” his contact said, stiffly. He folded away his newspaper and picked up the briefcase. “If you will come along with me…”

Jacob let him get into the elevator and push the button before he reached out and pushed a different button. “I took the liberty of booking a second room,” he said, watching the man carefully. “I wouldn’t want something unfortunate to happen in yours.”

The contact shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said. “My name is Peter, by the way.”

It wouldn’t be, of course. The Company was extremely skilled at producing false identity papers – and when it came to American documents, the false identity papers were literally real. A few weeks of careful work could devise a legend so perfect that no amount of data-mining could pick holes in it, at least as long as the user was competent. Breaking cover under the wrong circumstances could tear a disguise so completely as to be beyond hope of recovery.

“Suit yourself,” Jacob agreed. The lift doors opened, revealing a darkened corridor and a maid vacuuming the floor. Jacob had checked her and the rest of the hotel’s staff out long before the meeting day, confirming that she was the eldest daughter of the owner, working for him without pay until she married and left to stay with her husband. “If you’ll step into my parlour…?”

He allowed Peter to precede him into the bedroom and closed the door. The maid would probably think that they were homosexuals, if she bothered to think at all. It didn’t bother Jacob enough for him to care. Inside, the room was mercifully cool and nondescript. The hotel provided a bed, a weak shower and very little else.

“The bottles of water are an extra expense,” he said, as he took the sole chair. “But believe me – you’ll need them if you want to live here.”

Peter sat down on the bed and removed his jacket, revealing sweat stains on his shirt. “I have no intention of living here,” he said, shortly. “I…”

“…Intended to punch a ticket or two on my way to the higher levels of management,” Jacob interrupted, dryly. Peter definitely wasn’t a field agent. Oddly, that felt slightly reassuring. “I don’t have to listen to a word you say, so cut the gab and get on with it.”

Peter smiled, a smile that looked forced and unnatural. “Why did you answer the message if you didn’t want to listen to me?”

“I was curious,” Jacob admitted. He didn’t mention that he’d spent hours trying to decide if he should burn his dead drops and run, or brazen it out. The Company had good reason to dislike him, even if he hadn’t turned into a Russian spy. They’d probably have found that somewhat more acceptable. “And besides, you still owe me money.”

He smiled and swung his legs up on the bed. “Get on with it,” he added. “I don’t have all day.”

“Victor,” Peter said.

Jacob stared at him. Victor! There were no doubt millions of people named Victor in the world, but only one of them meant anything to him. Victor, the man who had ruined his life and career – by accident. Seemingly. Victor had learned from the KGB, an organisation of ruthless competence with a reputation for doing whatever it took to gather intelligence and advance Russian aims. It was quite possible that Victor had known precisely what he was doing when he’d ruined Jacob’s life.

Peter took his silence for an instruction to continue. “I’ve read your file,” he said. “It’s really quite interesting, even though there are a great many holes in it. Your father was a Marine, as was your Grandfather; your mother was a nurse before she retired to bring up you and your sisters. You must have wanted to be a Marine, because you joined up in 2002 and served in Iraq and Afghanistan…”

“And along the line I got pushed into Intelligence and then the Company,” Jacob cut him off. “I know my own story, thank you.”

“You were one of the most successful field agents the Company ever had,” Peter said, remorselessly. “There’s a whole string of reports saying that you never listened to a word from higher authority beyond the actual mission objective. You had too many political enemies, really – far too many for your own good.”

“And then it all went to shit,” Jacob said, sharply. “Get to the point or get out.”

Peter opened his briefcase, pushing one thumb against the concealed sensor. An unauthorised person attempting to open the case would result in everything inside being incinerated long before they managed to break the locks. The Company had probably managed to improve the design since Jacob had worked for them, but technology had never really been one of their weak points. It was human intelligence and field operations that they screwed up on a regular basis. Jacob put the file to one side for later study. Peter’s words would be more important at the start.

“We don’t have that many sources inside Russia these days,” Peter said, which was technically accurate. The KGB had been hellishly good at counter-intelligence. There were people in the CIA who suspected that many of their ‘successes’ had actually been orchestrated by the Russians for their own ends. But with the current interest in the Middle East and Central Asia, the Company had probably placed the Russians on the backburner. “A report did manage to cross our desks, however, about Victor. Rumour has it that he’s gone rogue.”

Jacob shrugged. The collapse of the Soviet Union had left hundreds of thousands of trained military and intelligence personnel out of work. Elite paratroopers had found work with the Russian Mafia; former intelligence officers had run blackmail and kidnapping rings. One of the Company’s greatest fears – even after 9/11 – was that a Russian biological or nuclear warfare expert would hand Iran or North Korea – or terrorists like Bin Laden – the plans and materials for unleashing a holocaust on the West. No one was quite sure if the North Koreans had built their nukes with Russian help or not, or just how much material had fallen into Iranian hands. There was a big question mark over Iran’s nuclear program…

…And Bin Laden might be dead, but his legacy remained.

“He’s left it a bit late,” Jacob said, after a moment. “I thought Putin really clamped down on this sort of shit. Or did someone find him with his hand in the till?”

“We’re not sure,” Peter admitted. That meant they probably didn’t know anything beyond rumours. The desk jockeys in Langley would be happy to dress up a rumour as fact as long as their projects got funded. “It’s distantly possible that he’s still working for the Russians.”

“Cloak and dagger bullshit,” Jacob said, in disgust. “Tell the President to ask his buddy in the Kremlin, man to man, what’s really going down in the hood. We’re such great friends these days, aren’t we?”

The sarcasm and mock street lingo washed off Peter like water from a duck’s back. “There are diplomatic issues involved,” he said, sternly. “The President, I am told, does not wish to push the Russians too hard when we need their cooperation on Iran and Afghanistan. A public demand for answers would embarrass the Russian leaders.”

Jacob snorted. “Did Langley come up with that burst of appeasement crap on its own, or did the State Department help?”

“You know as well as I do that we need the Russians, or we might as well forget Afghanistan and let the Taliban regain a country,” Peter said, tiredly. “With the Pakis playing their usual games…”

“You mean supporting the Taliban for fun and profit,” Jacob interrupted. “I see your point. Where does Victor come into all of this?”

“We didn’t pay much attention to the rumour at first until we accidentally picked up Victor in a meeting with Sheikh Al-Bata, in Jeddah,” Peter said. “You may have heard of the name.”

Jacob sucked in his breath sharply. After Bin Laden’s death, the organisation he had founded had fragmented – which, confusingly, had made it much more dangerous. The old guard had either learned to survive or had been hunted down and killed. Twelve years of war had left the USSC extremely good at capitalising on a chance discovery and hunting down other terrorist cells before they could scatter. But those who survived were careful, patient, and deadly dangerous.

Sheikh Al-Bata had been almost unknown in the West before Operation Geronimo had killed his leader – and even now, few outside of military and intelligence circles had heard of him. His real name was unknown; the only details of his life that were known for certain was that he’d been born in Saudi Arabia, served with Osama in Afghanistan, and eventually ended up running the terrorist’s rolodex. He wasn’t a fighter, although he’d supposedly seen combat against both the Russians and the Americans; his real role lay in supporting terrorist cells across the world and providing them with men and equipment they could use to lash out at their host countries. Killing him would put more of a crimp in enemy operations than picking off a hundred illiterate street thugs who felt that an AK-47 in their hands made them dangerous.

“Tell me you dropped a Hellfire on his head,” he said, even though he knew the answer. A drone strike in Jeddah would have opened up a hornet’s nest of repercussions and the President didn’t have the nerve. “Or at least you tracked him down to his lair.”

“I’m afraid not,” Peter admitted. “The bastard is very good at covering his tracks. We didn’t even dare risking bringing him to Saudi attention…”

Jacob knew what he meant. The Saudi Royal Family had as much reason to fear the terrorists as the West – more, perhaps – but their country was riddled with people who sympathised with the goals of Radical Islam. Asking the Saudis to hunt down a man like Sheikh Al-Bata, who had been careful not to commit any terrorist attacks in Saudi itself, might result in the bastard getting a midnight call warning him to flee the country. No one could be considered fully reliable in the poisoned stew that was Saudi society.

“We believe that Victor is working directly with Sheikh Al-Bata,” Peter said. “There is some evidence to indicate that terrorist cells in Algeria and Yemen received SA-24 Grinch man-portable air-defence weapons from a supplier in the Russian Federation, as well as some basic training in their use. It is impossible to be sure, but we think that Victor was the supplier and Sheikh Al-Bata the middleman – if the terrorists hadn’t been aiming at military aircraft, they might have caused a disaster. Since then, we’ve been data-mining and we’ve linked Victor to cells in France, Britain and possibly America itself.”

“So tip off the Europeans and get them to deal with him,” Jacob said, shortly. “What does this have to do with me?”

“We haven’t been able to dig up any specific location, or even identities,” Peter admitted. “Victor is a pro, with experience and resources – and contacts – most terrorists can never match. And he’s a goddamn invisible to boot. We can’t tip off the Europeans without hard data and you know how reluctant they are to act if someone is merely acting foreign…and…it is not beyond possibility that Victor has contacts in the Agency. Even compartmentalised, information moves from department to department without permission.”

“I suppose it wouldn’t be beyond possibility,” Jacob agreed. The KGB used to have an entire department of beautiful ladies skilled in the arts of pleasure – and of convincing unwary Americans to pose for the cameras in a wide variety of compromising positions. Once the American was back home, the Russians would approach their victim, pass over copies of the photographs and threaten to send them to the victim’s wife unless the victim slipped them information under the table. After a couple of transactions, the victim had no choice, but to keep spying – or face the consequences for espionage. Victor might have kept a list of sources when he deserted Mother Russia – assuming, of course, that he had deserted.

“The Director has authorised me to…hire you to terminate Victor and destroy his network,” Peter said. “I can offer money and support…”

“People who work for the Company as mercenaries tend to find themselves abandoned when they become too politically hot to handle,” Jacob said. He should run, he knew, and find a new home somewhere else…but a chance at Victor was something he’d wanted for years. “I have terms. Take them or leave them.”

Peter lifted a single eyebrow. “You pay me five million dollars for the hit,” Jacob said. “Half up-front; half in escrow somewhere you vultures can’t snatch it back when the shit hits the fan. Whatever incidental expenses I encounter along the way, you pay up – and no demanding receipts from arms merchants either. You give me access to everything you have on Victor and his current whereabouts and you set up a dead drop so you can update me if you pick up anything new. And I don’t want to engage in a pissing contest with some dick-head from Analysis who thinks that he knows better than me – I get clearance to everything and no quibbling about what you think I need or don’t need.”

He met Peter’s eyes, holding them firmly. “And if you think those conditions are unacceptable, screw you,” he added. “I am not going to let you butt-fuck me without lube like so many other mercenaries. You decided you didn’t want me any longer, so I went away…”

“I quite understand,” Peter said. He reached into his case and produced a second file. “This is everything we have on him at the moment – updated yesterday in the Station House in Taiwan. I shall see to the transfer of your funds the moment you nominate an account – and if you wish I will operate as your direct contact. All we ask is you succeed.”

Jacob kept his face expressionless, thinking hard. The Company was tight-fisted with field agents, let alone independent contractors – or mercenaries. And their representative had agreed without an argument. Five million bucks was a hell of a lot…

And that suggested that Langley hadn’t told him everything.


4 Responses to “Double-Dealing–Snippet”

  1. The Deposed King April 13, 2012 at 3:59 am #

    Double Dealing Snippet:

    Okay this is much better than I expected it to be. That said, if I hadn’t been determined to read this thing I probably would have stopped the first paragraph. Could just be me. But I think the writing got much better when he met Peter the Agency contact.

    While I was reading this, I got the idea for Aliens abducting an entire city. Like in 3rd world malasia. It would be interesting to see the results.

    Especially if a dozen cities were taken, and then the rest of earth was given galactic technology.

    Anyway keep on keeping on.

    The Deposed King

  2. Guillermo November 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Hey there, You have done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site.

    • chrishanger November 2, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

      Thank you!


      Sent from my iPad


  1. First Strike! - Page 8 - April 12, 2012

    […] […]

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