Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

“No, Mr. President,” Gotten would say softly, seemingly embarrassed for the confusion of the president, “there was never a Pentagon report that Russia and China exchanged artillery fire over the Amur River. Sir, we had not heard that the FBI director had threatened to resign. When did this happen? Mr. President, don’t you recall? We had agreed that Mr.

Fenwick would share this new intelligence with Iran.” The question of sharing intelligence with Iran had been important to the final stage of the operation. Jack Fenwick had told the Iranian ambassador that according to United States intelligence sources, an attack would come from Azerbaijan. They weren’t sure what the target would be, but it would probably be a terrorist attack in the heart of Teheran. Fenwick had assured Iran that if they retaliated, the United States would stay out of it. This nation wanted to nurture closer ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, not stand in the way of its self-defense. Lawrence, of course, would be pushed to behave in a less accommodating manner. And when he realized where his confused perceptions had taken the nation, he would be forced to resign. The fact that Lawrence had known nothing about the meeting was irrelevant. At tonight’s meeting with the so-called “Eyes Only Group”–Gable, Fenwick, and the vice president–the men would convince the president that he had been kept informed. They would show him memos that he had seen and signed. They would show him the calendar his secretary kept on the computer. The appointment had been added after she left for the day. Then they would jump right into the current crisis. They would trust and the president would lead. By morning, Michael Lawrence would be publicly committed to a path of confrontation with two of the most volatile nations on earth. The following morning, with the help of unnamed NSA sources, the Washington Post would run a frontpage, above-the-fold article about the president’s mental health. Though the newspaper piece would be hooked to the UN fiasco, it would also contain exclusive details about some of the president’s increasingly dramatic and fully documented lapses. The nation would not tolerate instability from the commander-in-chief.

Especially as he was about to send the nation to war. Things would happen very quickly after that. There was no constitutional provision for the president to take a leave of absence. And there was no short-term cure for mental illness. Lawrence would be forced to resign, if not by public pressure then by act of congress. Gotten would become president. The United States military would immediately back down in the Caspian Sea to avoid a confrontation with Iran and Russia. Instead, through intelligence operations, they would prove that Iran had masterminded the entire operation in the first place. Teheran would protest, but the government’s credibility would be seriously compromised. Then, through diplomacy, the United States would find ways to encourage moderates in Iran to seize more power. Meanwhile, spared a pounding from Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan would be in America’s debt.

After the clouds of war drifted away. President Cotten would make certain of something else. That Azerbaijan and America shared in the oil reserves of the Caspian Sea. The Middle East would never again hold the United States hostage. Not in their embassies nor at the gas pump.

With order restored and American influence and credibility at its peak.

President Charles Gotten would reach out to the nations of the world.

They would be invited to join us in a permanent peace and prosperity.

When their people experienced freedom and economic reward for the first time, they would cast those governments out. Eventually, even China would follow suit. They had to. People were greedy, and the old-line Communists would not live forever. If the United States stopped provoking them, providing the government with a public enemy, Beijing would weaken and evolve. This was the world that Charles Gotten wanted for America. It was the world he wanted for his own children. He had thought about it for years. He had worked to achieve it. He had prayed for it. And very soon, he would have it.

Baku, Azerbaijan Tuesday 8:09 a.m.

David Battat was lying on a hard twin bed in the small, sparsely furnished studio apartment. There was a window to his left. Though the blinds were drawn, the room brightened as light leaked through the slats. Battat was shivering but alert. His abductor, hostess, or savior–he had not yet decided which–was in the kitchenette off to the right. She had been making eggs, sausage, and tea when the phone rang.

Battat hoped the call was brief. The food smelled good, but the thought of tea was even better. He needed to warm himself inside. Do something to stop the trembling. He felt as though he had the flu. He was weak and everything he saw or heard seemed dreamlike. But his head and chest were also very tight. More than from any sickness he could remember.

Hopefully, once he had tea and something to eat, he would be able to focus a little better, try to understand what had happened back at the hospital. The woman walked over to the bed. She was carrying the phone.

She stood about five-foot-nine and had a lean, dark face framed by thick, black, shoulder-length hair. Her cheekbones were pronounced, and her eyes were blue. Battat was willing to bet there was Lithuanian blood in her. She handed the receiver to Battat.

“There is someone who wishes to speak with you,” she said in thickly accented English.

“Thank you,” said Battat. His own voice was a weak croak. He accepted the cordless phone. He did not bother to ask her who it was. He would find out soon enough.


“David Battat?” said the caller.


“David, this is Paul Hood, the director of Op-Center.”

“Paul Hood?” Battat was confused. Op-Center found him here and was calling him now to ask about–that?

“Sir, I’m sorry about what happened,” Battat said, “but I didn’t know that Annabelle Hampton was working with–”

“This isn’t about the United Nations siege,” Hood interrupted.

“David, listen to me. We have reason to believe that the NSA set you and your colleagues up.” It took a moment for Battat to process what Hood had said.

“They set us up to be murdered? Why?”

“I can’t tell you that now,” Hood replied.

“What’s important is that for the present, you’re out of danger.” The young woman walked over with a cup of tea. She set it on the night table beside the bed. Battat used an elbow to drag himself into a sitting position. She helped him by putting strong hands under his arm and literally lifting him from the bed.

“What I need to know is this,” Hood went on.

“If we can locate the Harpooner, do you feel up to helping us take him down?”

“If there’s a way for me to get the Harpooner, I’m up for it,” Battat said. Just the thought of that energized him.

“Good,” Hood told him.

“We’re working with a Russian intelligence group on this. I don’t know when we’ll have additional information. But when we do, I’ll let you and your new partner know.” Battat looked over at the young woman. She was standing in the kitchenette spooning eggs onto two plates. The last time he was in the field, Russians were the enemy. It was a strange business they were in.

“Before I go, is there anything else you can tell us about the Harpooner?” Hood asked.

“Anything you might have seen or heard while you were looking for him?

Anything Moore or Thomas might have said?”

“No,” Battat said. He took a sip of tea. It was stronger than he was used to. It was like a shot of adrenaline.

“All I know is that someone put me in a choke hold from behind. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. As for Moore and Thomas, they were as mystified as I was.”


“The Harpooner had let me live,” Battat said.

“Assuming it was the Harpooner,” Hood said.

“Listen. Use the time you have to rest. We don’t know where the Harpooner may turn up or how much time you may have to get to him. But we need you to be ready to move out.”

“I’ll be ready,” Battat said. Hood thanked him and hung up. Battat placed the phone on the night table. Then he took another swallow of tea. He still felt weak, but he was trembling a little less than before. The young woman walked over with a plate for him. Battat watched her as she set the plate on his legs and placed a cloth napkin and utensils on the night table. She looked tired.

“My name is David Battat,” he said.

“I know,” she said.

“And you are–?” he pressed.

“In Baku, I am Odette Kolker,” she said. There was finality in the young woman’s voice. It told him two things. First, that she was definitely not an Azerbaijani recruited by the Russians. And second, that Battat would not be getting her real name. Not from her, anyway.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

Categories: Clancy, Tom