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CI: Mission LibertyAn Army Counterintelligence Novel
By David DeBatto Pete Nelson
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2006 David DeBatto and Pete Nelson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE CAR BOMB HEADING FOR THE U.S. EMBASSY, a fifteen-year-old Isuzu passenger van carrying two sixty-four-gallon drums marked "ammonium nitrate," enough to sink an aircraft carrier, was driven by a young man wearing a vest that appeared to be packed with C4 explosives. He was joined on his mission by four men in ski masks carrying AK-47s and glancing nervously at the mobs that were throwing stones and looting stores and burning everything that had the taint of "foreigners." A fifth man rode on the roof, grabbing the roof rack for support whenever the vehicle hit a pothole or crossed one of the open sewers.
Down an alley, they saw a group of men with machetes chasing three boys who slipped through a hole in a fence. At the next corner, they were slowed in their progress when four women with babies strapped to their backs crossed in front of them, carrying portable stereos still in their boxes. The palm-lined avenue called Presidential Way was strewn with debris, the smoking shells of burned and overturned cars, the blackened armor from what used to be a military half-track with two burned bodies falling from the back, one corpse with its head intact and one without. Groups of childrendressed in cast-off clothing donated by American charities, wearing T-shirts bearing logos for Georgetown University or faded images of Britney Spears, huddled in doorways, aiming toy rifles and broomsticks at the passing vehicles and laughing. Mixed with smoke and cordite and the pungent aroma of raw sewage flowing in the gutters was the faint smell of tear gas in the air, lingering in the areas where government troops had beaten a retreat in the face of the onslaught. Uncontrollable mobs now surged through the streets of Port Ivory, driven forward by rebel troops in green forest camo uniforms and red berets. Many of the regular rebel forces hadn't been paid in weeks and now took their compensation in the traditional way of conflict, seizing whatever they could load into their Jeeps and trucks or carry in their arms, and in whatever pleasures could be gained along the way.
The driver of the Isuzu, an Arab man in his early twenties, slowed as they passed the British embassy, where thick black clouds of smoke poured from the former colonial governor's mansion beyond the cast iron fence, the fire not enough to deter the gangs of looters darting in and out of the building, braving the flames in search of treasure.
The Isuzu slowed again as it approached the American embassy, on the opposite side of Presidential Way from the British embassy. Their target was Ambassador Arthur Ellis, but they feared they were too late, the grounds of the American compound overrun by Ligerians and rebel troops, the top corner of the building blown away where a shell from a seized Ligerian tank had detonated, the windows all broken, pieces of roof tile scattered across the yard. A thick black plume of smoke poured from inside the embassy, the image captured by a film crew with Belgian flags taped to their shirts. There was a large U.S.-made M-113 military transport parked in front of the gates, where six men in green uniforms and red berets fired their rifles in the air in celebration, a response that was returned by the man on the roof of the van, raising his AK-47 in the air in a gesture of victory.
A man whose uniform bore the insignia of a captain approached the van, smiling, his eyes hidden behind his wraparound sunglasses, his machine gun hanging casually from a strap over his shoulder.
"Where is the ambassador?" the driver of the van asked the captain in accented English. "We come for the ambassador."
"They moved him," the captain said. "I don't know when."
"Where did they move him?" the driver asked, at which point the captain pointed down the road with his gun.
"To the castle," he said. "They could not defend this place. We were too many. Too strong! They have their Marines, but not so many. We have them up a tree, man."
"I will see," the terrorist leader said. He made a brief inspection of the embassy. In the ambassador's office, he found shredded papers, a wastebasket in which documents had been used to light a fire, and atop the fire, burned and melted CDs and videotapes. All had been destroyed. He returned to the van. The massive Castle of St. James loomed at the far end of Presidential Way, at the opposite end of the esplanade from the presidential palace, which was also under siege.
"Can you take us there?" he asked the captain. "To the castle?" The captain nodded, glancing inside the van at the drums of explosives in the back. He ran to the transport and ordered his men to take their guns and get in. The troops moved slowly, too drunk to move any faster. The leader of the car bombers saw a man dump a half dozen empty beer cans out the rear of the truck in front of them.
"We have an escort," the man in the front seat said.
"Praise Allah," a voice from the backseat added. "God is great."
They heard machine-gun fire from inside the soccer stadium, an open-roofed ring of concentric concrete risers where the banks of lights already blazed white as the twilight approached. There was no telling who was being killed inside the stadium or how many, though the men in the van saw a half dozen orange school buses parked just inside the gates, as well as another dozen military transports. Throngs of barefoot onlookers pressed up against the fence that enclosed the parking lot to see if they could get a glimpse of what was going on inside, with mothers crying out for their sons and wives crying out for their husbands.
The Castle of St. James loomed immense above the town, originally a trading outpost built in 1534 by the Portuguese and later captured by the Dutch and then by the British, both powers adding to its original fortifications, though in each case, the main defenses were focused inland, to protect the occupants of the castle from attack by Africans, and not toward the sea where an attack could come from rival colonial powers. It stood on a natural mount, its outer bastions and casements forming a wall that girded the fortress on three sides, its fourth side backed against the sea atop a natural rock precipice where the wild surf from the Bight of Benin pounded on the foundation and the rocks below. A barbican village had grown up around the castle, where Fasori traders did their business with the Europeans, first in ivory, then in gold, then in human beings, and now it formed the oldest part of the city. Cannons from inside the fortress had destroyed the town of Port Ivory, or parts of it, on three separate occasions over the centuries, but the city was always rebuilt, brown and gray houses of wattle and daub and cinder block with red tile and corrugated tin roofs, open stalls, street vendors, shops, and merchants, the air hazy and stinking of kerosene cook fires and curry, car exhausts and the open sewers that ran down both sides of the streets in shallow gutters, and everywhere, chickens, goats, sheep, donkeys, and mangy short-haired dogs with curly tails. And rats. Several shops near the castle were on fire, filling the air with black smoke and an acrid stench.
The M-113 parted the crowds, the soldiers in it occasionally firing their rifles in the air in warning. Some who saw the Isuzu van behind the transport, filled with men in masks, seemed bewildered, while others cheered and blew kisses. The truck stopped at the base of a long curving stone ramp leading uphill for fifty yards to the castle's main portcullis. The gatehouse forming an outwork at the base of the ramp had been seized, with loudspeakers set up atop one of the turrets, from which Radio Liger blared, inciting the crowd, a voice saying, "Kill them, kill them all, you have much work to do ..."
The captain walked from the transport back to the van. He was smoking a cigar. When he offered one to the man in the van's passenger seat, the man refused.
"We have machine guns and RPGs on the roofs surrounding the castle," the captain said, "and many SAM-7s hidden. SAM-9s. We think they will send their helicopters, and when they do, we will shoot them all down."
"Where are your SAMs?" the Arab in the passenger seat said in Arabic. The captain looked confused, so the man repeated the question in accented English.
"We have one in the church steeple, there," the captain said, pointing with his cigar, "and one is in the mayor's office, right there. And we have another in the red truck over there. That one. Yes. I chose the locations myself."
"And the men firing them, they've been trained? They're not your children warriors-they're actual soldiers?"
"Oh, yes," the captain said. "They are my finest. Handpicked."
"You've done well," the Arab said. "Keep them there. Now move your truck, please."
"What will you do?" the captain asked.
"We came for the ambassador," the Arab said. "We have his family. He has said if we release them, he will take their place. Move the truck now."
The captain gave orders, and the M-113 was moved. The man atop the van attached a large white flag to the barrel of his rifle, and then the Isuzu began to inch forward up the ramp. The curtain wall forming the outer bailey was lower than the bulwark inside, allowing the American soldiers visible at the rampart's embrasures to shoot over it, if they chose to, but they held their fire. The crowd below watched in anticipation. Many backed away, expecting a massive explosion as word spread that a car bomb had penetrated the American defenses. The Arab in the passenger seat saw a pair of fifty-millimeter guns mounted atop the parapet guarding the main gate and told the driver to slow down. When the gates opened, the van drove slowly through, and then the gates closed behind it.
The driver parked in the inner ward, just in front of the castle keep, and then the men got out of the van. They were met by a pair of Marines, who escorted them into the historical museum's main exhibit room. Ambassador Ellis, wearing a helmet and a flak jacket, accompanied by a half dozen Marine bodyguards, stood in front of a large glass exhibit case, inside which was displayed a long flowing garment called, according to the brass plaque at the top, the Royal Sun Robe, worn, historically, by a succession of Fasori kings. The man who'd been riding in the passenger seat took off his ski mask, saluted, and extended his hand to the ambassador.
"Special Agent David DeLuca, U.S. Army counterintelligence, Team Red," he said. Some of the soldiers looking on were surprised to notice that one of the "men" in the ski masks was in fact a woman. "Thanks for not shooting us. I wasn't sure you got our message. My driver is Agent Zoulalian. This is Agent Sykes, Agent Vasquez, and Agent MacKenzie. Sorry we weren't able to visit you under happier circumstances. Your wife and kids are fine, by the way, but the cover story is that we're swapping them for you, so they've been kept out of sight on the carrier."
"This is Captain Allen, in charge of my security detail," Ambassador Ellis said. "Sorry we had to leave the embassy. What's the plan? They've been jamming my goddamn SATphone."
"Who do you have here for staff?" DeLuca asked, scanning the massive stone walls. It was the kind of place where a few Marines with machine guns could hold off an entire army, for a while, anyway. He could hear the staccato stutter of gunfire beyond the castle walls, the voice from the loudspeakers at the gatehouse muffled, as if coming from a pair of headphones left on a pillow.
"Just my secretary," Ellis said. "Everybody else got out. What's the situation at the embassy?"
DeLuca shook his head.
"How about the British embassy?"
Again DeLuca shook his head.
"The British pulled out yesterday and lost seven men trying."
"I'm blind here, DeLuca-fill me in. Why can't I use my phone?"
"We believe they're using U.S. jamming equipment we sold the government," DeLuca said. "Where do you want me to start?"
"Where's General Ngwema? What's Osman doing? Where's LeClerc?"
"LeClerc can't move until the Security Council says he can," DeLuca said. "Osman's AU forces are waiting to hear from Addis Ababa, but I don't think they have what they need, even if they get clearance. Most of the city's Christians have fled. Ngwema's holding the ground west of town. We think the majority of the refugees are behind him."
"Why isn't he moving?" Ambassador Ellis said. "What's he waiting for?"
"He might not be waiting for anything. He might be protecting the oil fields and letting the city fall. We're not sure just what his mind is."
"President Bo is in the presidential compound, which, from the looks of it, is more strongly fortified than this place," DeLuca said. "We can debrief on the carrier if you want, sir, but I'm not sure I'm the person to do it, and I'm quite sure this isn't the best time or place."
"Why did they send you?" the ambassador said. "No offense, but there are only four of you."
"Five," DeLuca said. "We couldn't do anything until we had more intel." He turned to the Marine captain. "We want to fly in a couple of jollies for you and your men with CAS and AI but we weren't sure what your ADOCS were," DeLuca told Captain Allen.
"We lost prepositioning along with our APS grids when the embassy fell," Captain Allen said. "I have a lieutenant who served with a COLT in Kabul as the 'lino' and a sergeant who spent a week with a FIST team, but we could use an artillery intelligence officer for the DISE. We took a G/VLDD (he pronounced it "gee-vlad") off a Hummer and mounted it at the top of the turret but it's not going to be much use without the pulse codes."
"Agent Zoulalian has the codes," DeLuca said, turning to his driver. "Run upstairs and program the laser. Number one is the church steeple, two is the mayor's office, and three is the red truck parked across from the gatehouse."
Zoulalian took off on the double. Captain Allen looked at DeLuca quizzically.
"We found a rebel captain who was only too eager to brag about where he put his SAMs," DeLuca explained. "I think the intel is good, but my worry is that he wasn't telling me everything. That and the RPGs-what's your sense there?"
"We haven't seen much, but I'm sure they have 'em," Allen said. "The question's what we can suppress."
"Shock and awe," DeLuca said. "Works for me."
"Plain English, gentlemen," the ambassador said. "I know I'm a civilian, but I'm still in charge here."
DeLuca's orders had been to take charge if he had to, but for now he could let Ellis continue under the illusion that he was in control.
"I was asking Captain Allen if he had any deep ops coordination system," DeLuca said. "He told me he has a man who served as a liaison officer with a combat ops laser team and another man who served with a fire support team. A gee-vlad is a ground/vehicular laser locator designator-that's the laser we use to paint targets for the smart bombs. He took one off a Humvee and mounted it on a tripod on the tower. The rebels have three Soviet shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, in the steeple, the mayor's office, and the red truck parked by the gates. The lasers emit a pulsed code to tell the bombs where to go. My sergeant is upstairs programming the codes into the laser. What we're going to do is blow those three things up and then fly in a couple of helicopters ..."
"Yes, sir," DeLuca continued, "under close air support and air interdiction. Noise and smoke. With minimal collateral, if we're lucky. They're going to get the Marines out, but what we don't know about are rocket-propelled grenades, which can still down a helicopter."
Excerpted from CI: Mission Liberty by David DeBatto Pete Nelson Copyright © 2006 by David DeBatto and Pete Nelson. Excerpted by permission.
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