Silent Station [A Laura Axle E-Single (Liberatchik.com exclusive)]

Wasteland

This is a work of fiction. Characters, institutions, products and organizations mentioned in this series are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously without any attempt to describe actual conduct or usage.

Copyright © 2013 by Craig S. Brantley

 

It was the glimpse through the curtain that made the American veer off at the last second. Instead of continuing on toward the house at the end of the block here in the Hasan Abad district, she turned left and kept walking purposefully, as if she were late for an appointment–which in fact she had been.

 

Now, she could almost feel the house staring at her from behind. In a few more moments, if she hadn’t turned away, she would have knocked on its door. And been seized by the Islamic State Police.

 

She knew that now, after getting that glimpse, that the ISP or maybe the Caliphate Intelligence Service (CIS) was in that house.  She would have been yanked inside, handcuffed, had a hood tossed on her head, and been carted away to  Evin Prison for a brutal chemical and physical interrogation.

 

It was only the glimpse through the window that had saved her. Someone inside had parted the curtains, for only a second. They had seen someone coming down the road toward the house. It was Laura, in the traditional Iranian chador, the large black cloak that women in this part of the Caliphate wore. The men inside in the house had probably been curious and thus had parted the curtains for a brief moment to get a better look.

 

Through that brief peek into the house, Laura had seen the flashes of gun metal and helmets. That was enough. There was a team, no doubt heavily armed, crouched low inside, poised to close the trap. Laura had avoided them only because she was a woman and they were almost certainly expecting a man. That is why Langley had sent her in the first place.

 

Though she built distance with every stride she took, Laura still felt the house boring into her back. Any minute she expected Caliphate agents to come boiling out of it. Then would come the handcuffs, the hood. No, that won’t happen, she thought fiercely. She still had the CZ-75 pistol beneath the hijab.  She favored the Belgian FN 5.7 but the Czech gun she had now would do the job in a pinch. She was determined to go down fighting before she allowed herself to be dragged off to Evin.

 

Laura kept walking purposefully. She made a few more turns, entered the Tehran Metro at Mirdamad. She took it to Imam Khomeini Metro stop and exited. Idling nearby was a nondescript SUV, windows tinted darkly. The doors clicked open as she approached. Laura slowed, becoming increasingly wary. Everything was too…too…normal, and that was maybe a bad sign. She had tried to be careful but for all she knew she had been tailed, with Caliphate agents perhaps hoping to scoop up both her and Trace.

 

Or maybe they already had Trace, and when she opened the SUV door, an arrest team would be would snatch her as well.

She slowed her stride even more, fingered the CZ-75 beneath the hijab again.

 

Either it would be Trace or someone else inside this car. If it was someone else, she was in her last seconds of freedom, maybe of life.

 

She opened the door. “What are you waiting for?” asked the tall  man inside, irritated. Speaking American English. Trace. Laura got in and closed the door behind her. Trace had grown a beard to fit in here and dyed his blonde hair black. At first glance, he might pass for a Syrian or a Turk, not a New Yorker.

 

Trace drove away, but was careful to observe the speed limit. The last thing they needed right now was to be pulled over.

 

“Did you contact Mousavi?” asked Trace, referring to the Iranian recruited by the CIA. He was the last member of the network. Brave men and women, dissidents, intellectuals. They were unpaid but working for the Agency in the faint hope that someday, somehow, their homeland might have a taste of freedom—instead of being ruled by a secretive Supreme Council of clerics, generals and Muslim Brotherhood Party members in Sa’dabad Palace.

 

But those hopes were dashed now. The entire network had disappeared off the grid, seemingly in the course of only 15 minutes. As Operations  personnel grimly watched lights clicking off on a holographic board, Langley had surmised a simultaneous citywide raid by the Islamic State Police. At that point, CIA Tehran station had gone deathly silent.

 

Only one asset, Hafez Mousavi, had escaped capture–or so it seemed. He had messaged through a secure satellite uplink. He wanted out. He wanted a pickup. Couldn’t anyone get him?

 

But a bankrupt America meant a bankrupt CIA. There were certainly no funds for anything like rescuing anyone from overseas, especially a foreigner. Every agent and every operation had to be self-funding. John Smith, Laura’s boss, had somehow secured the funds–no one had asked how–and hence the mission. Hence Laura in Tehran. Hence the present situation.

 

“No,” Laura replied as these thoughts went through her head. “I didn’t contact him. The Caliphate rolled up everyone, Mousavi included.”

 

“I thought he sent a secure message for a pickup,” offered Trace. Laura shook her head. “Nothing’s secure anymore—not against the Caliphate Signals Group. Maybe they sent a false message. Or maybe Mousavi was picked up and they forced him to send the message. Torture does that to a man.”

 

“But how did they manage to sweep up everyone so quickly?” asked Trace.

 

Laura shrugged. “I’m not a techie or analyst. But there was probably a lot of signals traffic between our network here and Langley when the Caliphate held Charleston. The Agency must have been desperate for any scrap of information they could get. That level of signals traffic must have stuck out like a beacon to the CSG.

 

“Maybe they couldn’t read everything, maybe they could, maybe they somehow fixed on the signals. I don’t know; like I said, I’m not a techie. What I do know is that the Agency doesn’t have any more assets here.”

 

“So we just worked those people to the edge, knowing they’d be arrested,” said Trace. “That’s Langley’s way of thinking: use everyone until they’re burned out, captured or dead.”

 

“The Iranians knew the risks they were taking,” said Laura, looking out at the city flowing by.  “ I don’t like it anymore than you do.”

 

Then she remembered:  Mousavi had a wife, three small children. Were they…? A huge darkness fell in her heart, and she had difficulty holding back a tear.  Trace sensed it, and took one hand off the wheel and put it on hers. “Home, we’re on the way,” he said in his most assuring voice.

 

Above the flow of traffic,  the mid-afternoon call to Islamic prayers echoed from dozens of minarets.

 

[END]

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