Tom Clancy – Op Center 7 – Divide And Conquer

Charles hung up. He put everything into his backpack except for the 45.

As he did, he heard sirens. They stopped exactly where they were supposed to. By the burning van. Comforted by the unparalleled feeling of a job well done, Maurice Charles made the final preparations for his stay. He removed one of the pillows from the bed and put it on the floor between the bed and the window, directly in front of the nightstand. Then he lay down and looked to his right, toward the bed.

The hem of the bedspread reached nearly to the floor. Beneath and beyond the bed, he could see the front door. If for some reason anyone came in, Charles would see their feet. That was all he had to see to stop them. Charles kept his clothes and shoes on in case he had to leave in a hurry, but they did not distract him. Nothing did now. This was the time he enjoyed most. When he had earned his rest and his pay. Soon, even the sound of the police and fire sirens did not penetrate his deep, rewarding sleep.

Saint Petersburg, Russia Tuesday, 9:31 a.m.

At 9:22 a.m. Piotr Korsov e-mailed General Orlov a brief data file. The file contained a list of the secure calls that had been intercepted between Azerbaijan and Washington during the past few weeks. Most of those calls had been between the American embassy and either the CIA or the NSA. The Russian Op-Center had been unable to decrypt any of the conversations, but Orlov was able to scratch them off his list. Those calls were pretty much routine and not likely suspects for calls made by the Harpooner. Over the past few days, there had also been calls to the NSA from Gobustan, a village to the south of Baku. They were all made before the attack on the oil rig. The calls from the embassy to the United States had a slightly different band with from the Gobustan calls. That meant the calls were made from different secure phones. In a note attached to the file, Korsov said he was watching for new calls made from either line. Orlov was not very hopeful. The Harpooner probably would not signal his allies to tell them he had been successful. Whoever he was in league with would hear about that from their own intelligence sources. The very fact that a secure satellite uplink had played any part in this business was personally disturbing to Orlov. That was the kind of technology his space flights had helped to pioneer–satellite communications. The fact that they were being so expertly abused by terrorists like the Harpooner made him wonder if the technology should have been developed at all. It was the same argument people had made for and against splitting the atom. It had produced plentiful and relatively clean atomic power, but it had also bred the atomic bomb. But Orlov had not had a hand in that work. Just in this.

Then again, Orlov thought, as Boris Pasternak wrote in one of his favorite novels. Doctor Zhivago, “I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.” Progress had to allow monsters like the Harpooner to surface. That was how it showed the creators where the flaws were. Orlov had just finished reviewing the material when his private internal line beeped. It was Korsov.

“We picked up a ping,” Korsov said excitedly.

“What kind of ping?” Orlov asked. A ping was how his intelligence officers described any kind of electronic communication.

“The same one we recorded as having been sent from Gobustan,” Korsov replied.

“Was the call made from Gobustan?”

“No,” Korsov replied.

“It was made from Baku to a site very close by. A site that was also in Baku.”

“How close?” Orlov asked.

“The caller and receiver were less than a quarter mile,” Korsov told him.

“We can’t measure distances less than that.”

“Maybe the Harpooner was calling accomplices who have another secure line,” Orlov suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Korsov told him.

“The phone call only lasted three seconds. As far as we can tell there was no verbal communication.”

“What was sent?”

“Just an empty signal,” Krosov said.

“We’ve fed cartographic al data into the computer. Grosky is overlaying the signal and trying to pinpoint the exact location now.”

“Very good,” Orlov said.

“Let me know as soon as you have it.” As soon as Orlov hung up, he put in a call to Mike Rodgers to let him know about the apparent NSA Harpooner connection and the possible location of the Harpooner. Then he called Odette. He hoped that the American she had saved was ready to move out. Orlov did not want to send Odette against the Harpooner unassisted, but he would if he had to. Because more than that, he did not want to lose the Harpooner. As Orlov punched in Odette’s number, he began to feel hopeful and upbeat. The technology that he had helped put into space was actually a two-edged sword. The Harpooner had been using a secure satellite uplink to help destroy lives. Now, with luck, that uplink would have an unexpected use. To pinpoint the Harpooner and help destroy him.

Teheran, Iran Tuesday, 10:07 a.m.

The chief of the Supreme Command Council of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran had been called at home shortly after dawn.

Teheran maintained listening posts on many of their oil rigs in the Caspian Sea. From there, they eavesdropped electronically on foreign shipping and on military sites along the Caspian coast. Each post sent a pulse every five minutes to indicate that the electronics were still on-line. The sudden silence of Post Four was the first indication anyone in Teheran had that something was wrong in the Caspian. An F-14 Tomcat was immediately dispatched from the Doshan Tapeh Air Base outside of Teheran. The Tomcat was one of ten that remained of the seventy seven that had been a part of the shah’s state-of-the-art air force. The fighter confirmed that the oil rig had been destroyed. Salvage experts and military engineers were immediately parachuted into the region by a Kawasaki C-l transport. While rescue patrol boats hurried to the site from Caspian fleet headquarters in Bandar-e Anzelli, the engineers found burn marks on the platform that were consistent with powerful high explosives. The fact that the underside had been struck suggested a submarine attack that had somehow eluded sonar detection. At nine-thirty a.m.” the salvage experts found something more. The body of Russian terrorist Sergei Cherkassov. The report galvanized the often fractious officers of the SCCAF as well as the minister of the Islamic Revolutions Guards Corps, the minster of foreign affairs, the minister of the interior, and the minister of intelligence. The moderates had joined the extremists, and by ten a.m.” the order had been given: the IRI military was ordered to defend Iranian interests in the Caspian at any and all cost. * On the sea, the initial thrust was to be an antisubmarine defense. That was spearheaded by antisubmarine aircraft and helicopters. Marine battalions in the region were also mobilized. The second wave would consist of destroyers and frigates, which were to be stationed around the remaining rigs. Chinese-made Silkworm missiles were rushed to the forces defending the Caspian. In the air, Chinese-made Shenyang F-6s began regular patrols from both the Doshan Tapeh Air Base and the Mehrabad Air Base. Three surface-to-air missile battalions in the region were also put on high alert. At the same time, Iranian embassies in Moscow and Baku were ordered to notify the Russian and Azerbaijani governments that while the attack was under investigation, any further moves against Iranian interests would be regarded as a declaration of war by those governments. Iranian diplomats were informed by both governments that they had had no hand in the attack on the Iranian oil facility. Representatives of Moscow and Baku added that Iran’s increased military presence was unwelcome. Both nations indicated that their own navies and air forces would be placed on alert and would increase patrols in the region. By late morning, waters that had given lives to fishermen and oilmen the night before were rich with something else. The promise of death.

Washington, D.C. Tuesday, 1:33 a.m.

Mike Rodgers was in his office when General Orlov called. After hearing what the Russian had to say, Rodgers immediately called Paul Hood in his car and gave him the new information about the Harpooner.

“How certain is General Orlov about the NSA Harpooner connection?” Hood asked.

“I asked him that,” Rodgers told Hood.

“Orlov answered that he is very certain. Though I’m not sure the president is going to put a lot of credence in what a Russian general thinks.”

“Especially if several of the president’s top advisers refute that information,” Hood said.

“Paul, if Orlov is correct, we’re going to have to do more than tell the president,” Rodgers said.

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