Denver, Colorado, USA 11 July 2017 1937 Hours MDT I sat across the table from my contact in the organization. I knew him only as George and he knew me as Claire.
The organization keeps its operatives compartmentalized as much as possible, and any contact between us is guided by strict operational security.
Only on rare occasions were members assigned to work together, and then only on matters of the utmost importance to our cause.
“So what happened George? We hadn’t even gone truly operational yet. We’d laid our escape plans and set up the office space for the backup team, but that was it.
There was no way we triggered that kind of response.” I was fuming.
If the tactical teams hadn’t arrived at the hotel when they did, I would have left the hotel on foot just twenty minutes later to begin a long SDR.
If I had been clean after my run, I was scheduled to have met a high level asset later this evening.
George shrugged. “I don’t know Claire. There could have been a random event outside our control, they could have penetrated us or our comms somehow."
His forehead wrinkled in concern as he continued. “Or someone on our side betrayed us.” We both sat silent as we considered the possibilities.
I broke the silence. “If it was random, we can just proceed with the alternate contact plan. If it was a penetration, they shouldn’t know about the alternate, and we can proceed too."
I heaved a heavy breath. “But if we were betrayed, then we need to tweak our plan for tomorrow night.”
George nodded in agreement. “My assessment as well. Leadership wants you to retain your security team. Use them for counter-surveillance and for extraction if needed.
We have two other cells working on a diversion if we have to pull our asset out as well. Speaking of which, let me see your tablet."
I handed it over, and George connected a cable and tapped a few keys on his laptop. He stood and crooked a finger at me. I followed.
We passed through the kitchen where a stocky man in jeans and a Carhartt jacket stood sentinel at the back window.
A short barreled AR-15 carbine was slung across his chest and a tablet running camera feeds of the house’s exterior was propped on the counter in front of him.
He paid us no attention whatsoever as we moved down the hallway and entered the bathroom.
George turned on the shower and the faucet, flipped switches on several electronic devices arranged around the room, and then picked up a large blanket.
“I call this the cone of silence” he said with a smile. I rolled my eyes, but stepped close to him as he draped the blanket over both our heads.
He leaned close to my ear and whispered into my ear. “This is from me. Not from leadership.” He looked at me with a grave expression. I nodded and he continued.
“The two cells I activated for the distraction were on my own authority. No one knows about them except us. If we were betrayed, we have to operate even farther under the radar.
You are to act autonomously from this point forward. If anything goes wrong at the alternate meeting tomorrow night, you should go dark. No contact for at least two weeks.”
“My thoughts exactly. I was thinking about doing that already.” George nodded.
“Good. Just be careful.”
We left the bathroom and returned to the office. “What can you tell me about the two I worked with today? I was impressed, both of them were top notch.”
George leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers under his chin. “I don’t know much about them. For this job I was just given the bare background information.
Frank is a former Scout-Sniper with the Marines. Served with one of their MEU’s overseas. Michael is a former Naval Intelligence Officer. They have a reputation for carrying a lot of firepower.”
I grinned at George. “I like them. They rolled very heavy during the extraction.
Michael had a Steyr carbine and Frank had a shorty AR-10, and they were sweet enough to bring me a Scorpion Evo.”
George chuckled. “I knew you’d fit right in with those two, the way you start drooling anytime you get around guns.” He unplugged my tablet and returned it.
“I changed the details of the diversion app. The tablet will sync with the remote detonators on four small explosive devices.
The two cells I told you about will drop them into trash cans about two hundred yards to the east of your meeting location. Once the tablet syncs up, the buttons will turn green.
Pressing both together at that point will detonate all four devices.”
I frowned. “Bombs, George?”
He waved his hands dismissively. “Hardly. A couple ounces of C4 designed to make a lot of noise, a decent flash and plenty of smoke.
Like a massive flashbang grenade with a smoke grenade built in. Nothing more than a distraction device to cover you if you have to run.
If you don’t use them, the two cells will return posing as homeless men and remove them later that night.” He glanced down as his laptop chimed. “Ah, Michael is back.”
We both stood. “Good luck Claire. Be careful”
I slid into the passenger seat of a tan Ford Fusion and Michael pulled away from the curb. His eyes never left the road as he spoke. “Your Scorpion’s in a duffel on the back seat."
I checked, and sure enough a black duffel rested there next to a brown leather rucksack. “I noticed how much you seemed to like it earlier” he chuckled.
I grinned impishly at him. “Anyone who says that diamonds are a girl’s best friend has clearly never owned a gun or a dog. Now, what’s the plan?”
“Frank is setting up the new safe house as we speak. We split after we dumped the Tahoe and picked up new wheels.”
“Perfect. Let’s grab food on the way, we can plan everything out over dinner.”
Michael parked the Fusion in a small parking lot behind an equally minuscule office building. As we approached the rear entrance, Michael pointed to the alley on our left.
“Frank parked in the big parking lot across the street. Grey Toyota Camry, three rows in and twelve spaces from the east side.” We entered the building and climbed a small flight of stairs.
Michael stopped at a door with a frosted window and tapped twice, paused and tapped twice again. I heard the lock click, but the door remained closed.
Michael opened it slowly and stuck his head inside. “Just us. All clear."
He entered the office and I followed in time to see Frank stepping out from behind a metal filing cabinet with a Benelli M4 in his hands.
Michael closed and locked the door behind us, and Frank tossed him a small notecard. Michael glanced at it and punched a series of numbers into the alarm panel before handing me the card.
I memorized the numbers and handed it back to Frank who was waiting with a zippo in hand.
“We may have a mole” I said to them. Michael pinched the bridge of his nose and Frank groaned.
“We’ll proceed with the alternate meet tomorrow night, but we’ll need to work up some extraction plans to supplement it.”
Frank flopped into a camp chair. “Fill us in on the plan for the meet.”
Michael leaned against the filing cabinet as I sat in another camp chair. “If tonight’s meet falls through, the asset will make a second attempt at nineteen hundred hours at the plaza.
I’ll initiate contact as the asset makes a circuit.”
Frank jumped up. “Wait a sec” he called over his shoulder as he walked into the second room.
He returned a moment later with a large sheet of paper which turned out to be a detailed map of downtown, including the plaza. He pinned it up on the wall and we gathered around.
“My handler is having several distraction devices placed in trash cans along here” I said, running my finger along the plaza’s eastern periphery. “I’d like to make contact here.”
Frank and Michael studied the spot my finger rested on. They nodded.
Frank spoke up first. “We’ll need coverage of the location. I think I can provide cover from here” he said, indicating a building near the plaza’s northwest corner.
“I’ll check it out and make sure, but it looks to be around two hundred yards.”
Michael chimed in. “We should set up some extraction options along your SDR route as well.”
I nodded in agreement. “If things go bad, we’re supposed to go dark for at least two weeks.”
Michael and Frank looked at each other, seemingly communicating telepathically. I raised an eyebrow.
Michael answered the unspoken question. “We might have a location for that.”