Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

By: Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik


Washington, D.C.

Sunday, 1:55 p.m.

The two middle-aged men sat in leather armchairs in a corner of the wood-paneled library. The room was in a quiet corner of a Massachusetts Avenue mansion. The blinds were drawn to protect the centuries-old art from the direct rays of the early-afternoon sun. The only light came from a dull fire that was smoldering in the fireplace.

The fire gave the old, wood-paneled room a faintly smoky smell.

One of the men was tall, stout, and casually dressed with thinning gray hair and a lean face. He was drinking black coffee from a blue Camp David mug while he studied a single sheet of paper resting in a green folder.

The other individual, seated across from him with his back to the bookcase, was a short bulldog of a man with a three-piece gray suit and buzz-cut red hair. He was holding an empty shot glass that, moments before, had been brimming with scotch. His legs were crossed, his foot was dancing nervously, and his cheek and chin bore the nicks of a quick, unsatisfactory shave.

The taller man shut the folder and smiled.

“These are wonderful comments. Just perfect.”

“Thank you,” said the red-haired man.

“Jen’s a very good writer.” He shifted slowly, uncrossing his legs. He leaned forward, causing the leather seat to groan.

“Along with this afternoon’s briefing, this is really going to accelerate matters. You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course,” the taller man said. He put his coffee mug on a small table, rose, and walked to the fireplace.

He picked up a poker.

“Does that scare you?”

“A little,” the red-haired man admitted.

“Why?” the taller man asked as he threw the folder into the flames. It caught fire quickly.

“Our tracks are covered.”

“It’s not us I’m worried about. There will be a price,” the red-haired man said sadly.

“We’ve discussed this before,” the taller man said.

“Wall Street will love it. The people will recover. And any foreign powers that try to take advantage of the situation will wish they hadn’t.” He jabbed the burning folder.

“Jack ran the psychological profiles. We know where all the potential trouble spots are. The only one who’s going to be hurt is the man who created the problem.

And he’ll recover. Hell, he’ll do better than recover.

He’ll write books, give speeches, make millions.”

The taller man’s words sounded cold, though the redhaired man knew they weren’t. He had known the other man for nearly thirty-five years, ever since they served together in Vietnam. They fought side by side in Hue during the Tet offensive, holding an ammunition depot after the rest of the platoon had been killed. They both loved their country passionately, and what they were doing was a measure of that deep, deep love.

“What’s the news from Azerbaijan?” the taller man asked.

“Everyone’s in place.” The red-haired man looked at his watch.

“They’ll be eyeballing the target close-up, showing the man what he has to do. We don’t expect the next report for another seven hours or so.”

The taller man nodded. There was a short silence broken” only by the crackling of the burning folder.

The red-haired man sighed, put his glass on the table, and rose.

“You’ve got to get ready for the briefing. Is there anything else you need?”

The taller man stabbed the ashes, destroying them.

Then he replaced the poker and faced the red-haired man.

“Yes,” he said.

“I need you to relax. There’s only one thing we have to fear.”

The red-haired man smiled knowingly.

“Fear itself.”

“No,” said the other.

“Panic and doubt. We know what we want, and we know how to get there.

If we stay calm and sure, we’ve got it.”

The red-haired man nodded. Then he picked up the leather briefcase from beside the chair.

“What was it that Benjamin Franklin said? That revolution is always legal in the first person, as in ‘our’ revolution. It’s only illegal in the third person, as in ‘their’ revolution.”

“I never heard that,” said the taller man.

“It’s nice.”

The red-haired man smiled.

“I keep telling myself that what we’re doing is the same thing the founding fathers did. Trading a bad form of government for a better one.”

“That’s correct,” the other man said.

“Now, what I want you to do is go home, relax, and watch a football game. Stop worrying. It’s all going to work out.”

“I wish I could be as confident.”

“Wasn’t it Franklin who also said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’?

We’ve done the best we can, and we’ve done everything we can. We have to put our trust in that.”

The red-haired man nodded.

They shook hands, and the shorter man left.

A young aide was working at a large, mahogany desk outside the library.

She smiled up at the red-haired man as he strode down the long, wide, carpeted corridor toward the outside door.

He believed that this would work out. He truly did.

What he didn’t believe was that the repercussions would be so easy to control.

Not that it matters, he thought as a security guard opened the door for him and he stepped into the sunlight.

He pulled sunglasses from his shirt pocket and slipped them on. This has to be done, and it has to be done now.

As he walked down the paved drive to his car, the red-haired man held tight to the notion that the founding fathers had committed what many considered to be treasonous acts when they forged this nation. He also thought of Jefferson Davis and the Southern leaders who formed the Confederacy to protest what they considered repression. What he and his people were doing now was neither unprecedented nor immoral.

But it was dangerous, not just for themselves but for the nation. And that, more than anything, would continue to scare the hell out of him until the country was firmly under their control.

fiaAu. Azerbaijan Sunday, 11:33 p.m.

David Battat looked impatiently at his watch. They were over three minutes late. Which is nothing to be concerned about, the short, agile American told himself.

A thousand things could have held them up, but they would be here. They would come by launch or motorboat, possibly from another boat, possibly from the wharf four hundred yards to his right. But they would arrive.

They had better, he thought. He couldn’t afford to screw up twice. Not that the first mistake had been his fault.

The forty-three-year-old Battat was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency’s small New York field office, which was located across the street from the United Nations building. Battat and his small team were responsible for electronic SOS activities: spying on spies.

Keeping track of foreign “diplomats” who used their consulates as bases for surveillance and intelligence gathering activities. Battat also had been responsible for overseeing the activities of junior agent Annabelle Hampton.

Ten days before, Battat had come to the American embassy in Moscow. The CIA was running tests in the communications center on an uplink with a new highgain acoustic satellite. If the satellite worked on the Kremlin, the CIA planned on using it in New York to eavesdrop more efficiently on foreign consulates. While Battat was in Moscow, however, Annabelle helped a group of terrorists infiltrate the United Nations.

What made it especially painful was that the young woman did it for pay, not principle. Battat could respect a misguided idealist. He could not respect a common hustler.

Though Battat had not been blamed officially for what Annabelle did, he was the one who had run the background check on her. He was the one who had hired her.

And her “seconding action,” as it was officially classified, had happened during his watch. Psychologically and also politically, Battat needed to atone for that mistake. Otherwise, chances were good that he would get back to the United States and discover that the field agent who had been brought in from Washington to operate the office in his absence was now the permanent New York field director.

Battat might find himself reassigned to Moscow, and he didn’t want that.

The FBI had all the ins with the black marketeers who were running Russia and the Bureau didn’t like to share information or contacts with the CIA. There wouldn’t be anything to do in Moscow but debrief bored aparatchiks who had nothing to say except that they missed the old days and could they please get a visa to anywhere west of the Danube?

Battat looked out over the tall grasses at the dark waters of the Bay of Baku, which led to the Caspian Sea.

He raised his digital camera and studied the Rachel through the telephoto lens. There was no activity on the deck of the sixty-one-foot motor yacht. A few lights were on below deck. They must be waiting. He lowered the camera. He wondered if the passengers were as impatient as he was.

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