THE THREAT: WELL-FUNDED IRANIAN TERRORISTS
THE TARGET: AIR FORCE ONE
America's first Hispanic president is determined to unite the nation and its allies by the bonds of Christianity. The Shiite rival to al-Qaeda and its vindictive leader are hell-bent on disrupting the president's plans. Marine Corps Captain J.D. Simon is part of a top-secret intelligence team feverishly unraveling the scheme. The impetuous young officer must rely on his Bostonian street smarts and aviation expertise if he is to survive long enough to accomplish his mission. He successfully unearths a plot to assassinate the first lady during her visit to Rio de Janeiro. But the terrorists are a step ahead - the president is to be murdered in New Orleans the next day as the culmination of THE CARNIVAL DIVERSION.
Hold on for the ride as Simon and his teammates race around the globe and against the clock to prevent the loss of America's presidential icon: Air Force One.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Carnival DiversionA NOVEL
By Thomas Humann
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Thomas Humann
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWASHINGTON, D.C.
I lurched upright, heart palpitating. My unfamiliar bed was a pool of sweat tucked snugly into the corner of my one bedroom apartment. That damn dream was the only one I could ever remember, and I remember having it since - well, forever. The job must be getting to me.
I took a moment to catch my breath before rinsing off my body and dusting off my service C uniform. The walk out onto T Street brought welcome refreshment. I inhaled the crisp air deeply as I reacquainted myself with Adams Morgan.
I'd been away long enough that the Euro-influenced Washington, D.C. neighborhood reminded me as much of Vienna and Prague as it did of anywhere in the United States. Extensive international travel was my way of life. I relished orders to the next unexpected locale. The time away provided excitement, and made me appreciate what I had back home. It kept life fresh - like an otherwise dull marriage kept hot by the satisfaction in the arms of another.
Briefcase growing heavy, my upbeat mood slipped as I remembered how far away my car was. Available parking was one thing this neighborhood lacked.
The long walk to the car complete, it was time to sit in some D.C. traffic. That's alright. It gave me time to prepare my thoughts on my way to brief my boss. I'd justreturned from a mission to South America, and had little to report. I was hoping to spin this apparent lack of work into a positive: no news is good news, right? There really wasn't much to the recent chatter emanating from Suriname. I was okay with that, but feared my boss would not share my contentment. Colonel Joe Kingman's type A personality always demanded more information.
Kingman hadn't accelerated to his position by being a slacker. While I was always impressed with my own accomplishments - honor graduate from the Basic School and intelligence school, along with numerous personal awards - I was no Kingman. He was the poster-boy Marine officer with an extensive combat resume. Multiple trips to Iraq and Afghanistan were interrupted only by excursions to other lesser known garden spots in need of U.S. military attention. As an intelligence guru, he worked both with high-speed ground units and on solo operations. Regardless of the mission, Kingman brought relentless intensity and unmatched professionalism. As far as I was concerned, his combat boots were far too big for anybody to fill.
Having slugged my way through downtown and across the Capital Street Bridge into Southeast D.C., I was rewarded with a long stack-up at the Bolling Air Force Base gate. I'd had more than enough time to think. I was ready to get off the goddamn road.
I returned the airman's half-hearted salute and cruised onto the base, along the east bank of the Potomac River, to the parking garage. Finally.
Helicopter noise roared as I entered the Defense Intelligence Agency. The presidential helicopters flew low and loud overhead while they readied to carry the leader of the free world. I always swelled with pride at the sight of the regal white-topped Marine Corps birds. Screw the noise complainers - open your ears to the sound of freedom.
My office at the DIA was as vaguely familiar as my apartment. Pursuant the obligatory ID check, biometric verification, and removal of all personal devices, I was granted access to my office - okay, cubicle. I had no sooner powered up my laptop and begun the encrypted logon process when Kingman cast a shadow over me.
"Welcome back, Simon. Did you miss the helicopters?" Kingman asked as an H-3 passed by the window.
"It's always good to be back and see your smiling face, sir."
"Good answer. So how was the trip?"
"Great," I started, hoping to turn on the spin. "Turns out it's just the normal drug trafficking and corruption - business as usual."
Kingman seemed less than impressed. "Simon, you were down there for over a month. That's what I get?"
"Well, sir, of course there's more. I have my full report on the computer. Let's see, the DEA has solid leads on the Carazo Cartel and their involvement with government officials in both Suriname and Colombia-"
"Okay, okay. I can read that shit later. I have more important things I want to talk to you about. As fate may have it, I will be providing you with another opportunity to succeed."
"I can't wait, sir."
"Outstanding, come with me," Kingman ordered.
"Okay if I take a leak first?"
"Oh yeah, take your time. Take a leak; get a cup of Joe, whatever. I'll see you at my car in five minutes."
Colonel Kingman was in the back seat of the already running government sedan, a baby-faced Army lance corporal at the wheel.
"Let's go, gents. We're burning daylight here," Kingman barked. We sped out of the parking lot, inched onto I-295, and sat still by the time we hit the Wilson Bridge. Kingman didn't mind. He wanted to bring me up to speed. "Lance Corporal Peete, you cleared yet?" Kingman asked the driver.
"Good. Shut your ears anyway," Kingman responded. "Okay Simon, here's the deal. The chatter we sent you to investigate was legit, but we were looking in the wrong spot. May have been unclear transmission, bad interpretation, who knows? Doesn't matter now. What matters is that we have stories that are starting to collaborate, with increasing clarity. Remember how I told you the next big thing we'd find would not be al- Qaeda? Well, I guess the Shiites didn't want the Sunnis to have the only big show in town. They've decided to step up to the world stage. We think the same folks that have been backing Hezbollah have now found a new implement of mayhem."
"Iran and Syria?" I asked.
"Yes and yes," Kingman answered. "Only now it appears that instead of just being a bunch of common thugs, they have true leadership - their own bin Laden. The NSA broke some code coming out of southern Iran, near Shiraz. It displayed advanced technology we've not seen before from terror groups. It appears their leader is a guy by the name of Asad, a former agent during the revolutionary movement back in the late 70's. He got his start as a nuclear physicist working for the Shah's regime, before following the preaching of then outlawed Imam Khomeini. We don't know too much yet about his subversive activity back then, but we're pretty sure he played a heavy hand in both the overthrow of the Shah and the installation of the Shiite regime that followed. He must have gotten frustrated when Iran became more moderate in the mid 90's, because he started to spout off and build his own army of religious fanatics. He'd never been a spiritual leader before, but seemed to be able to market himself pretty well. His message resonated with a large contingent, and pissed off the government that was trying desperately to get itself out of sanctions from the West. When the pressure got too high, Asad went underground."
"Where'd he go?" I asked.
"Most of his time can be tracked to Lebanon and Syria. He cut his militant teeth with Hezbollah, learned a great deal about weapons and tactics with them. However, he didn't see eye to eye with their leadership, and had bigger plans. Sure, he hated Israel as much as the next radical Muslim, but his hatred had global span. It seems that as al-Qaeda had successes in East Africa and Yemen, Asad was inspired, challenged. His whereabouts become a little murky in the months following 9/11. I guess he took that as his final motivation to rival bin Laden."
"A competition to become the world's biggest moral degenerate. Sounds like Hitler and Mussolini - any chance of them joining forces?"
"Not likely," Kingman responded. "It's more like Hitler and Hirohito - two guys looking to achieve their own twisted goals, the fall of the West being the common one. As long as their efforts don't interfere with each other's, all the better for both of them."
"So where does that leave us now?" I asked.
"At the NCTC," Kingman replied.
Chapter TwoHidden in plain view in suburban northern Virginia, the National Counterterrorism Center appeared from the outside like an office supply headquarters or a regional bank. On the inside, however, was the government's attempt to remove the stovepipes that had prevented the information sharing necessary to prevent major terrorist attacks. This intelligencenervecenterwasabyproductoftheintelligencefailurespreceding the 9/11 attacks. Where small bits of information had existed separately and were seemingly worthless, those pieces could now be assembled into the completed puzzle. The top secret facility brought together reports from the FBI, CIA, NSA, and a variety of military intelligence sources. The center's personnel could assimilate the data, making the intelligence actionable.
Only months earlier, the NCTC had gained some public notoriety by heading off a terrorist attempt in large U.S. cities. Al-Qaeda operatives had planned a coordinated attack in the Washington Metro, Chicago CTA, and San Francisco BART. The FBI traced movements of money from suspicious bank accounts in Brussels to individuals in the three U.S. cities. The NSA wire-tapping program had produced cell phone calls placed from a source in Monterrey, Mexico to the same individuals. The callers spoke in Arabic, and discussed plans only in vague generalities. Detailed plans were in place, awaiting only official clearance to proceed.
Customs and Border Patrol was informed of the plot, and they took it from there. Inserting a team of undercover agents into Monterrey, they set their trap in place. They discovered that an additional al-Qaeda operative had chartered a plane to fly his destructive cargo across the border to an isolated airstrip in southern Texas. While the operative and his Mexican pilot were inside their North Monterrey airport office discussing final flight plans, the CBP agents were on the airport ramp hiding a remote control cartridge-actuated device. The pilot and passenger boarded and departed, none the wiser of their additional cargo.
The night flight was uneventful through landing on the long dirt strip, where the plane was met by three vans. Each van carried an individual operative designated to carry out the attacks. The CBP agents observing with night vision goggles from the nearby hills could not have asked for a cleaner scenario. They had the entire operation inside the blast zone of the explosives, and they did not hesitate. With a silent nod of concurrence and the push of a button, the plane, terrorists, vans, and one unfortunate pilot were ripped to pieces by flying shrapnel, and burned by jet fuel and their own explosives. The publicly released version of the story said something about an attempted apprehension and shootout leading to the inadvertent explosion.
"Peete, be back here at 1100 for the drive back. I'll buy lunch," Colonel Kingman dismissed the driver as we walked toward the building.
After standard security verification, we were inside. The main room of the NCTC was a wide open space peppered with large work stations. Each oval desk was flanked by flat-screen computer monitors and plasma televisions. At each station sat a mix of civilians and military analysts. The room had an audible hum, the by-product of high activity level conducted at low volumes. It had been designed without internal walls so as to induce intercommunication - a literal interpretation of a psychologist's recommendation when aiding relationships. The images taken as a whole were as overwhelming as trying to drink from a fire hose.
It was the job of the center's director, retired Air Force Major General Kevin Moore, to orchestrate the room's cacophony into a symphony. General Moore brought a diverse career experience to this high level post: Vietnam-era fighter pilot, defense attaché, wing commander, and a variety of Pentagon intelligence and manpower duties. He was both well respected and well known inside the Beltway as a no-nonsense leader who was capable of bringing ideas and personalities together - traits essential to such a diverse operation. He had the look of an aged warrior, a former tough guy who finally accepted his fate as congenial grandfather type.
"Good morning, General," Kingman greeted.
"Good to see you, Joe," Moore responded. "Who do we have here?"
"This is J.D. Simon, sir."
"Good morning, sir," I extended for a firm handshake.
"Joe has told me a lot of great things about you, Captain. He tells me you're one of his go-to guys when DAO shops needs extra assistance. Do you know why you're here today?" the general inquired.
"Colonel Kingman gave me some background on the way over."
"Good. Why don't you gents follow me and I'll give you the nickel tour. Joe's already heard it enough times that I ought to have him give it. Think of this room as representing the globe, with the stations nearest each other focusing on similar spheres of influence." Moore began to point around the room. "Over there you've got Europe, to its right Asia, to the left are the Americas, and right in front of us is Africa. You get the idea. The information is all linked electronically, but it helps people like me get the personal interface without wandering around like a fucking idiot. I get enough old man jokes without any help from random desk arrangement."
"Where are we traveling to today?" I asked.
"You like Brazilian women, J.D.? I hope so, because I think you may be winning an all expenses paid trip to heaven, or hell - maybe both. I did a stint in the embassy in Brasilia a lifetime ago, and I could tell stories - but they're all highly classified. At least that's what I tell Mrs. Moore," the general said with a wink and arm-slap. "Maybe when you return, we'll share war stories over a caipirinha. Well, before I get too far down memory lane, let me introduce you to someone."
The three of us walked to a desk in the Americas section, its seat occupied by a man diligently observing computer screens and perusing paperwork. He looked to be in his late twenties, with a disciplined and earnest demeanor.
"Vinny, I want you to meet someone," General Moore interrupted. "This is Captain Simon from DIA. He works for Colonel Kingman in their Defense Attaché Intelligence Augmentation Division. As you may know, DAIAD is a small support unit utilized to provide extra HUMINT and on site analysis when the attaché needs a little extra oomph. These guys work in conjunction with the DAO folks, but aren't easily recognized by the locals. Therefore, they can do sneaky shit the permanent attachés would never be able to get away with. Colonel Kingman's got a few of these gurus crawling around the globe at any given time, but you may not hear about it too much. They typically send their reports directly back to DIA, who then forward the pertinent shit to us. So, to me and you, they just look like any other military intel report."
Vinny popped up from his seat, nearing a position of attention. "Good to meet you, sir. Vinny Girardi." Despite his civilian attire, Girardi had an obvious military background. "Good to see you too, Colonel."
"Always a pleasure, Vinny," Kingman replied.
The general continued, "Vinny here is one of our newest hotshot computer whizzes. He'd been breaking code over at NSA for the past four years, and just got out. He's not bad for an Army man."
"Thank you, sir," Vinny responded with a stoic voice and a roll of his eyes.
"Vinny had a heavy hand in working with the British a couple years back when they unearthed that plot to hijack the airliners bound for U.S. airports. He's a regular cryptological fucking hero. We're proud to have him on the team."
"Where did you do your time in?" I asked the former soldier.
"I did my first tour with the infantry and was over in Afghanistan for a year. I guess I must have done okay with our field computers, because my squad leader recommended to the platoon commander that I get a transfer to something more technical when we got home. Either that or he wanted me off his front line - I prefer to think the former. I got some IT classes and got a transfer to an intel unit. I really took to it; I guess it was my calling. I got lucky when they needed a guy over at NSA to do some code-breaking work. Not only did it keep me at home with my family, but it was pretty rewarding too."
"You got kids?" I asked.
"Yes sir, I've been married to my high school sweetheart for eight years, and we have three girls. These are their pictures on my desk."
"Okay, so now I know you're better than I am at two things - computers and relationships," I said. "While I would love to sit here all day and exchange family histories, why don't you show me what you've got."
Excerpted from The Carnival Diversion by Thomas Humann Copyright © 2009 by Thomas Humann. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I very much enjoyed the story, but found the writing a little stiff. I think this is a first time novel? If so I'm sure future novel from Mr Humann will be great! Having an insiders look, he puts true realism to his story. If you aren't aware, check out his biography!