Amazon2004 SF Bestseller at Fictionwise!
US Embassy and 3rd World personnel are kidnapped by terrorists in the Middle East. Ed's boss, Linda, sends him to retrieve the hostages in a manner that will convince terrorists never again to mess with 3rd World.
2004 SF Bestseller at Fictionwise!
Opening her briefcase, Linda handed me a folder. Clipped to the first page of the contents was a picture of a beautiful brunette woman I hadn't seen since before Ellen had left for the factory station.
"Aw, damn," I said softly. "Alanah. How's Gary taking it?"
"Not well," said Linda. "Six men grabbed her and four others in downtown Tehran, three blocks from the US Embassy. They used L.A.W.'s to take out the front and rear escort cars, then the leader threatened to blow up the middle car if they didn't get out. They were driven away in three cars about three minutes after the first explosion."
"Why weren't they in a flitter?"
"The religious authorities there banned flitters and all other field devices as implements of Satan."
I laughed. "Too bad they didn't think to ban AK-47's and explosives for the same reason."
Three minutes. That Linda could tell me exactly how long the kidnapping operation lasted meant that it had been recorded or reported as it had occurred, likely through one of the company watches.
Alanah had a watch similar to mine and Linda's. There was no place on Earth that watch couldn't be found, whether or not she still wore it, and if it could be found, probes could be sent.
I asked, "Is her watch still functioning?"
"Yes," said Linda, reaching to pick up the next page with another brunette woman's picture clipped to it. Attractive, intelligent brown eyes looked back at me from the photo.
"That's Marine Lieutenant Barbara Klass," said Linda, "An embassy guard. She and Alanah were going shopping, so she wasn't in uniform."
Meeting my gaze, Linda said, "She took Alanah's watch and passed herself off as Alanah during the snatch."
"She thought they might just take her and haul ass, huh? That took guts."
With a nod, Linda said, "Yes, it did. Of course, they might also have taken her and simply shot everybody else."
I shrugged. "They could have grabbed any other Americans in the area, but they chose these. They're up to something more than a ransom demand." Handing back the pages and pics, I asked, "Where are they now?"
"Our probes found them in an underground bunker near Yazd. Iran said that the bunker is an abandoned remnant of the war with Iraq and that they had no knowledge of the situation. Our probes have intercepted communications with various locations in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Syria, but none have been linked directly to Iranian officials."
"Figures. They know about 'plausible deniability', too. Yazd. That's just about the dead center of Iran, isn't it? Maybe three hundred miles from Tehran? Any demands yet?"
Her left eyebrow went up. "Uh, yes. That's exactly where it is, and that's pretty good navigating after thirty years. No demands yet."
She sighed again and stood up to move the coffee pot so the percolation stream ran into her cup for a few moments.
Adding a bit of what had accumulated in the pot, she said, "There may not be any demands, Ed. We think the hostages may be intended as examples of what can happen if certain concessions aren't made concerning the Amaran project."
"Any idea who did it and why? Which group?"
"Nobody's taken credit or given reasons. All the usual agencies are investigating all the usual terror groups."
Sipping my coffee for a moment, I said, "You have two flitters and four teams, Linda. You could send probes to knock out the bad guys and parade the hostages out of there with a brass band and a popcorn wagon. Why me?"
Sitting back in her chair, Linda took a breath and met my gaze as she said, "The teams are subject to cooperative-command agreements and politics. You aren't. We don't just want our people out, Ed. We want to make an example of our own in this matter."
"Would that be an example like Schloss Brechau in '73?"
She nodded. "You got it. Our people out of there and total destruction of the facility."
Grinning, I asked, "Will a smoking crater do? Not one stone stacked upon another, and all that biblical stuff?"
With a completely deadpan expression, Linda replied, "As long as the results aren't radioactive. We want these people -- and everybody else -- to understand instantly and completely that nobody fucks with 3rd World personnel."