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Stony Man Farm, Virginia
Mack Bolan leaned back from examining the spread of photographs on the conference table. He had no words to express what he was feeling at that precise moment. At the head of the table Hal Brognola remained silent. There was no need for words. The stark reality of the images said it all. Men, women, and especially the children, spelled out the sheer horror that had been visited on them. Bolan forced his gaze from the photographs to look at the wall screens where video footage of the first three attacks was playing. Aaron Kurtzman, Stony Man's chief of cybernetics, had obtained official footage taken by the FBI, CIA and HS. It was distressing video, not sanitized for TV news channels. The silent viewers in the War Room steeled themselves as the presentations rolled across the screens. This was not the first time Bolan and Brognola had watched this kind of graphic horror. They were both experienced in seeing the results of human atrocities, yet each new experience hit hard. Professionals they might have been, but foremost they were caring human beings, and the suffering inflicted on the dead and the injured would not be dismissed lightly, if at all.
"Aaron is still collating intel he's gathered from various agency databases," Brognola said. He was forced to clear his throat and repeat the latter part of his sentence as he was still affected by what he had been watching. "Jesus, Mack, who are these bastards?"
"We'll find out, Hal." Bolan was scanning the spread of images on the table.
"I can tell the Man you're on board."
Bolan nodded. "You can tell him that whoever these people are they're the walking dead men. No compromises on this, Hal."
"Amen tothat," Brognola said. "I got the distinct feeling that under all the protocol the President is well and truly pissed off."
"TELL ME you've got something for me, Aaron."
Kurtzman swung his wheelchair away from his workstation and rolled it across the Computer Room to his steaming coffeepot. He topped up his mug, taking a swallow of the rich brew before he spoke.
"You do realize just how much data I've had to go through to get your break? CIA. FBI. HS. Local PDs. Every damned security and law department offer different views. There's more speculation than Imelda Marcus had shoes. And all I have to do is pick you somewhere to start."
Bolan absorbed the minor rant with good grace. Aaron Kurtzman's sardonic nature was ingrained. It was as much a part of the man as the coffee he imbibed in vast quantities. Grouchy he might be, but Kurtzman was the most skilled and professional cybertech Mack Bolan had ever known. He ran his department and his cyberteam 24/7 with consummate ease, though he liked to make out he was understaffed and denied access to quality equipment. The truth was, he had the best electronic data gathering and analytical setup in existence. On top of that he was the most accomplished computer expert around. He proved it each time he went to work, employing his own programs to take sneak-and-peek looks into data systems operated by the CIA, FBI, NSA and just about any agency that employed electronic systems. Kurtzman's backdoor incursions were strictly illegal in the lawful world. That did not deter him in the slightest. Missions often depended on having up-to-the-minute data. Lives depended on Kurtzman accessing certain information, so his systems-breaking programs were vital.
"I couldn't find much on the MO of the attackers. They did as much as they could to stay anonymous. No released statements claiming responsibility, which is highly unusual. One of the things these dirtbags love is saying who they are and why they did the deed. This is new. Publicity-shy terrorists."
"There has to be a reason for that."
"I wish I knew what."
Kurtzman grunted. He spun his chair to face his workstation, placed his coffee mug on its spot and ran his fingers over his keyboard.
"This," he said.
On one of the larger monitors Bolan saw a blowup of a photograph that had been taken at some gathering in a large hall. On a raised platform a group of men were semi-posed as the picture was taken.
"We are looking at Jerome Gantz. Officially he's a suspected bomb maker. Four or five years ago he was mixed up with various radical groups. The FBI tried to tie him in with a couple of bombings, but there was no real evidence and then someone handling the case screwed up and Gantz walked. Then he fell off the map. Most likely he hired out his skills but stayed out of sight. I was running some checks on current home-grown antiestablishment groups. I came across some press photographs, and there was Gantz. That's him. The one losing his hair and talking to the tall guy in the business suit with the eye patch and limp arm."
"Who is he?"
"The one who could make this our clincher," Kurtzman said. "Liam Seeger." He waited for Bolan to make a connection.
"Should I know Seeger?"
"If you're into militia groups. Seeger is head honcho of "
"Give the man a prize."
"How old is the photo?"
"Two months," Kurtzman said. "Taken at a Brethren rally in Jersey City. Seeger made one hell of a speech tearing into the administration. He accused the government of being more concerned about interfering with foreign regimes than problems at home. He threatened a wakeup call that would show how ineffective the administration is. Something that would show Americans they needed to rethink who should be governing the country."
"Gantz at Seeger's rally. You tie that in to the recent attacks?"
"It was Gantz's early bomb construction detail I remembered. Same mix as now. It was stated in FBI files that Gantz liked to make his own explosives. Ammonium nitrate and nitromethane. Designated ANFO. And background detail said he preferred to construct his own detonators. The FBI believed it was his signature."
Bolan studied the images.
It read like an unholy Trinity.
Or was it a coincidence?
Bolan was not a great believer in chance favoring such a coming together. He did believe that the combination needed to be checked out, if only to eliminate them or to prove they were tied together.
"I'll need everything you can get me on them," Bolan said. "This is too much to ignore, Aaron. Have any of the other agencies flagged this yet?"
Kurtzman shook his head. "I pulled this together from different sources. Nobody picked it up because the agency types are playing true to form and not sharing information."
"Keep it in-house for now. Give me a chance to go in without having to look over my shoulder. And in the meantime keep looking."
"You've got it, Mack. Give me an hour to pin down locations and numbers. I'll give you names to go with the faces in the picture, as well."
IN HIS QUARTERS Bolan geared up, packing clothing in one bag and his weapons in a larger, leather holdall. He phoned Barbara Price and she set in motion orders for paperwork and credentials that would identify Matt Cooper as a Justice Department special agent. With Bolan's alter ego already in the system it took only a short time for his package to be produced. He was on his way back from the armory, with extra clips of ammunition for his weapons, when Price intercepted him. She held a manila envelope out to him.
"Your secret agent kit, Mr. Cooper," she said, falling in step beside him. "Tell me somethingdo you live up to your cover qualifications?"
Bolan smiled. "Miss Price, what do you think?"
"Me? Oh, above and beyond the call of duty from what I can recall."
"Personal recommendations always welcome." Brognola was approaching from the other end of the corridor. "You two better come with me," he said without a trace of humor.
Bolan fell in beside the big fed, Price close behind. Brognola was fumbling in the pocket of his jacket, pulling out a pack of antacid tablets. He eased one from the pack and put it in his mouth, which meant he was fretting. He led them to Kurtzman's Computer Room where the cyberteam was gathered at their boss's workstation. There was someone else Bolan recognized Carl Lyons, commander of Able Team.
As Bolan stepped up to the workstation Lyons glanced up.
"Looks like I called in on a bad day," Lyons said.
"This came in a short time ago," Kurtzman told them. On the wall monitor was a replay of an earlier TV report. The picture was of a fenced compound, identified by the rolling text at the bottom of the picture. It was a National Guard depot in southwest Arizona. The metal mesh gates had been breached and when the camera panned around it showed smoking buildings and bodies lying on the ground.
"Two of our anonymous panel trucks," Brognola said, "drove in through the gates and up to the buildings. Only a four-man squad of National Guardsmen manned the site. When they confronted the trucks they were cut down by autofire. The panel trucks must have been left outside each of the storage buildings and set off remotely. Vehicles were stored inside one building. The second was the armory. Both were razed to the ground by the truck bombs. It's already been established that the explosive used was the same as the previous attacks."
"Makes you wonder where they'll hit next," Huntington Wethers said.
"Hard to figure," Carmen Delahunt replied.
"Is there a deliberate plan to show they can go for anything they choose," Brognola asked, "or are these just random hits?"
"Hey, look at this."
They all turned at Akira Tokaido's call. He indicated a TV news flash. Two more attacks had taken place at National Guard bases. One in Oregon, the next in Nevada. The strikes had the same MOs as the Arizona site.
"The only difference here is the fact they gunned down their victims rather than letting the bombs kill them," Bolan said.
He turned to Price. "Is transport ready?"
"Mack," Lyons said, "you got room for a partner?"
"Barbara, can you organize some more cover documents?" Bolan queried. "For both of us in case we need to stop anyone being nosy."
"Go to it," Brognola said. "Carl, you up for this?"
"Able's on stand-down. I've nothing that can't wait."
"This could be a hot one."
Lyons smiled. "You know how I hate the cold, Hal."