Sparks, Nebraska, USA 13 July 2017 0955 Hours CDT I stood on a platform built at the top of the old grain silo outside the barn which served as our safe house, scanning the tree line with a pair of binoculars.
I heard a low pitched chime from the bank of computers behind me, followed by the sound of feet clambering up the ladder below me.
A quick check of the video feeds revealed Michael and Frank ascending the ladder. I slung my carbine behind me, threw the bolt and raised the trapdoor to greet them.
Michael heaved himself through the hole, making way for Frank to join us. I spoke first.
“I’m glad you’re both here. We need to talk about our next step.”
They both nodded. Frank extended a hand and I passed him the binoculars. Michael leaned back against the wall of the silo and propped his arms across his knees.
“We figured we could talk while Frank has watch” he said. I pulled the one point sling over my head, slid down the wall across from him and laid my carbine across my thighs.
“I’m blown. The guys at the plaza were definitely looking for me. The tactical teams came for me in the hotel as well. Someone leaked the op and blew my cover.
But you guys were pretty much clean.”
Michael nodded slowly. “I don’t think George told anyone about assigning us to work with you. Whoever sold you out didn’t know about us, or they would have targeted us too.”
Frank chimed in. “We’ve encountered them twice now. They know that she’s got backup. What’s our exposure now?”
Michael cocked his head to the side and scowled at the wall above my head. I worked it through in my head, but waited until Michael spoke.
Nothing worse than someone talking and ruining your train of thought. He dropped his eyes to mine.
“I picked Claire up at the hotel. We seemed to be clean, but there’s a slim chance that someone got a look at me.
I was in the same café at the plaza and I hit two of their shooters, plus Claire and I were together when they hit us in the car. We have to assume that they got a look at me.
Best case, they have a general description. Worst case, they managed to ID me.
They have to know that she has a shooter, because Frank took out two of their guys in the alley, plus he covered us in the street, but I doubt anyone got a good look at him.”
I jumped in. “Unless they ID’d you and had any reference to you two working together. Or if they got him on camera somewhere around the scene.”
Frank had the binoculars pressed to his eyes. “I checked my infil and exfil routes. There were only two spots with cameras and both cameras… malfunctioned prior to our op.
There weren’t any cameras with a view of that intersection either.”
I raised an eyebrow. Michael nodded in agreement. “You’re right though. If they ID’d me, they could have tagged Frank as the shooter. We did work together in the service, but I tend to doubt it.
I was attached to the MEU’s command element; Frank was assigned to the reconnaissance platoon with the ground combat element.
I went out on missions with Frank’s recon team several times, but those missions were highly classified.
There shouldn’t be any way the opposition could pin down Frank as my partner from military paperwork. Still possible though.”
“How secure are we here?” I asked. “I assume this is your guys’ off the books bolt hole?”
Frank lowered the binoculars and turned towards us. “My great-great-grandpa on my mom’s side got this land way back. Forty acres and a mule thing.
His daughter, my great-grandma married my great-grandpa, but it was a common law marriage, so none of her descendants are legally connected to my great-great-grandpa.
The property got transferred to a company way back, and the deed and company papers passed down through my family to me.
Lawyer takes care of the property taxes from a holding account connected to the company.
Not too long after Michael and I started working in the private intelligence sector, we decided to use this as our emergency safe house in case things went tits up.”
I blinked at him. “So this is the family farm, but nobody knows that it’s the family farm?”
Michael grinned at me. “Pretty much. Confused the hell outa me the first time Frank ran through it, but we checked it all out. Property can’t be traced to us.
We installed the security system and a few upgrades.”
I had been impressed by the scope of their security system and I told them so.
There were motion detectors buried all over the tree line and open area around the house,
an extensive array of cameras and even a number of thermal cameras hooked up to a computer program that looked for human and vehicle shaped heat signatures.
Thinking about the computer program reminded me of the flash drive I’d retrieved from the Asset. I reached down into my boot and pulled it out.
“I got this from the Asset before our meeting was blown. I need to get to a computer and see what’s on this thing.
If we have to stay dark for the next two weeks before we can check in, we can at least spend some of that time analyzing what we got.”
Michael stood and extended a hand to pull me to my feet. “One of the rooms in the barn is a Faraday cage. We can fire up one of the burner laptops in there, make sure no signal can get out.”
I turned towards the trapdoor. “Let’s do it.”