Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

The second explosion, plus the impact of the derrick, would shatter the platform and cause it to collapse inward. Everything would slide to the center and tumble into the sea. The Harpooner would not need the third harpoon to destroy the rig, though he did not tell his people that. The terrorist donned night-vision glasses and lay on his back. The spear gun had terrific recoil, equivalent to a twelve-gauge shotgun. That would give him quite a bump. But his shoulder could take it. He aimed the weapon and fired. There was a sound like a metallic cough and the spear flew through the dark. It hit the target with a faint thunk. The Harpooner quickly repositioned himself to fire the second shaft. It, too, struck its target. He motioned the men to start back. As soon as the others ducked underwater, the Harpooner pulled the tape from the spear, grabbed one of the equipment bags, and slipped the water gel sticks inside. Then he slid into the water and followed his men back to the boat. Upon boarding the vessel, the men dropped the remains of Sergei Cherkassov into the sea. On the way over, they had burned the body. It would look as though he had been killed in the blast. The photographs that had been taken from the airplane were already in his pocket. As far as the Iranians on board knew, the Russians and the Azerbaijanis would be blamed for the attack. The Harpooner knew differently. When Cherkassov was in the water, the boat departed. They were nearly out of visual range when the oil rig exploded. The Harpooner was watching through high-powered binoculars. He saw the puff of yellow red smoke under the platform. He saw the tower shudder and then do a slow pirouette drop toward the center. A moment later, the muted pop of the first explosion reached the boat. The Iranians on the deck all cheered. Which was odd, the Harpooner thought. Even though they thought they were doing this for the national good, they were happy about the deaths of at least one hundred of their countrymen.

A moment before the derrick hit, the second water gel packet exploded.

The Harpooner had positioned the two to go off nearly at the same time.

It would not have done for the derrick to crash, knock the spear from the rubber padding, and drop it into the sea. A second cloud of red and yellow smoke began to form, but it was flattened and disbursed when the derrick struck the platform. It hit with a small-sounding crunch. Debris flew into the morning sky, chasing away the distant gulls. The entire rig shuddered. The whole thing reminded the Harpooner of a vignette he had seen as a child. A poplar tree had been split during a storm and fell across power lines. It hit them, bounced, then hit them again. The lines hung there for a moment before sagging and then ripping from the poles on the left and right. That was what happened here. The platform stood for a moment after the derrick struck. Then, slowly, the steel and concrete sagged where the second blast had weakened them. The platform bent inward. Sheds, cranes, tanks, and even the helicopter began sliding toward the crease. Their weight caused additional strain.

The Harpooner could hear the ugly collisions in the distance, see the smoke and shattered pieces of wood and metal fly into the air. And then it happened. The added weight was too much for the platform to bear. It cracked and dumped everything into the sea. The boat was now too far away for the Harpooner to make everything out. The collapse looked like a waterfall from this distance, especially when the cascade of white and silver debris hit the sea, sending up waves and spray. As the rig disappeared beyond the horizon, all the Harpooner could see was a large ball of mist hanging in the new day. He turned away, accepting the congratulations of the team. They were treating him like a football hero, but he felt more like an artist. Using the medium of explosives and a canvas of steel and concrete, the Harpooner had created a perfect destruction. He went below to wash up. He always needed to wash after creation. It was a symbolic act of completion and of getting ready for the next work. Which would be soon. Very soon. When the boat reached the docks, the Harpooner told the crew he wanted to go ashore. He told the Iranians he wanted to make certain that the Azerbaijani police had not already learned of the blast. If they had, the police might be checking incoming vessels. They might be looking for possible terrorists and also for eyewitnesses to the explosion. The men thought that was a good idea. The Harpooner told them that if he did not come back in five minutes, they should leave the dock and head to the open sea. The Harpooner said that if the police were talking to people, stopping them from leaving the area, he would figure out a way to elude them. The men agreed. The Harpooner went ashore. Six minutes later, there was a massive explosion in the harbor. The Harpooner had stuck a timed detonator into one of the sticks of water gel He had set it and then left it below, under one of the bunks. Evidence from the attack was still on board. It would take a while, but eventually the authorities would find traces of the water gel on the boat and on the rig and realize that the Iranians, aided by a Russian terrorist, had attacked their own operation. The Iranians would dispute that, of course, and tensions would rise even higher. The United States would suspect that the Russians and Iranians were working together to seize the Caspian oil wells. There would be no way to avoid what was coming. The Harpooner got in the repainted van and drove it from the harbor. There were no police there. Not yet. At this hour, the Baku police force was involved primarily in traffic management and accident investigation.

Besides, there was no indication that a boat had attacked the rig or that it had come to Baku. That would come later, when they found the Russian and the Americans had sent over satellite photographs of the region. The Harpooner headed toward the Old City. There, he drove up Inshaatchilar Prospekti toward the hotels on Bakihanov Kuchasi. Two days before, he had taken a hotel room under an assumed name. Here he was Ivan Ganiev, a telecommunications consultant. It was a name and profession he had chosen with care. If he were ever stopped by customs agents or police, he could explain why he was traveling with high-tech equipment. And being Russian had another advantage, especially here.

One that would help him get out of the country when the time came. He had left clothing, gear, and cash in the room and a do not disturb sign on the door. He would clean himself up, dye his hair, and then take a long nap. When he woke, he would apply a fake mustache, slip colored contact lenses into his eyes, and call a cab to take him to the train station. A cabdriver was always a good hostage in case he was discovered and surrounded. He would use his fake passport to leave the city. He parked the van in an alley near the hospital. Then he pulled a packet of dental floss from his pocket. He rubbed it deeply between two teeth until his mouth filled with blood. Then he spat on the floor, dashboard, and seat cushion. It was the fastest way to draw blood. It also left no scars, in case anyone decided to stop him and check for wounds. He did not need a lot of blood. Just traces for the forensics people to find. When he was finished with that, he slipped a plastic mircochip in the gas tank. Then he replaced the cap. When he was finished dressing the van, the Harpooner took the backpack containing the Zed-4 phone and left. When the authorities found the vehicle, they would also find evidence inside tying it to the Iranians in the boat.

That would include their fingerprints on the wheel, glove compartment, and handles. They would assume that one or more of the men got away.

The blood would suggest that he was injured. The police would waste time looking through hospital records for a possible perpetrator. The Harpooner would return to Moscow. Then he would leave Russia and permit himself a rest. Possibly a vacation in some country where he had never committed terrorism. Some place where they would not be looking out for him. Some place where he could sit back and read the newspapers. Enjoy once again the impact his art had had on the world.

Washington, D.C. Monday, 11:11 p.m.

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