This is the dumbest fucking idea you’ve ever had.
Deckard thought over Pat’s words to him before he had stepped on the airplane. The passenger plane had just touched down in the bizarre city where every other jerk off had a graduate degree and a plan to save the world.
It wasn’t that Deckard disagreed with what Pat was saying, he just didn’t see any other option. With no trails to follow, the only path left was to put one of their names out there into the netherworld as seeking employment and see who called. Both of them began making phone calls to certain former Special Operations and intelligence professionals who served as personnel feeders for various black projects.
Pat insisted that it should be him going in, not Deckard. Deckard was the CEO and leader of Samruk International, and he wouldn’t be leading anything while working undercover. Deckard insisted. There was a big difference between Pat and him. Pat was something of a legend in the Special Operations community. He retired out of Delta Force as a Master Sergeant. He was a rock star operator who was loved and respected by the community.
Deckard on the other hand, was completely disgraced. When shit got ugly between him and the CIA, they had completely disavowed him. Today he was considered persona non grata in many circles by people who were pissed at him. Some were angry over things he actually did, others were angry over baseless rumors they had heard. Still others were just angry.
They were trying to infiltrate a rogue group of para-military contractors. Bad ass operators like Pat with sterling reputations wouldn’t cut it. Not on this op. Liquid Sky would never even consider someone like that. They would want someone who was already on the fringes, maybe someone who was already guilty of something. They both knew that Deckard was the right man for this job.
You always had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel, Pat had reminded him as he boarded the plane.
Deckard unbuckled his safety belt as the flight attendants opened the doors, and he made his way down the aisle. He didn’t have any bags with him. It was another one of those trips.
After floating his name out there as a freelancer looking for work, Deckard received a phone call in less than twenty-four hours. He had no idea if it was Liquid Sky or some other group that was trying to recruit him. He just knew that Liquid Sky would be looking for a warm body and threw the dice.
Some times you just have to let them bitches roll.
His instructions, received via email, were to report to a nondescript building near Embassy Row for processing, whatever that meant. Pushing through the glass doors, he spoke briefly with the receptionist before she took his photo with a webcam and printed off a black and white photo building pass for him.
“You want to go up to Jorge Bio-Medico on the 5th floor,” she instructed him.
Getting on the elevator, Deckard punched the button for the 5th floor.
When the elevator doors opened, Deckard walked to the door with the Jorge Bio-Medico logo on it and hit the buzzer. “Please look directly into the camera,” a female voice instructed through the speaker system.
Looking up, he saw the CCTV camera mounted in the corner of the hallway and looked into it. After a moment the door buzzed to allow him in.
A stunning redhead rounded the corner and came to meet him at the door. Deckard was flustered for a moment and at a loss for words. She wore a tight dress that left little to the imagination as to her profile, along with a collared shirt with the top buttons undone. Her smile lit up the room, her features framed by flowing red hair.
“Hi Mr. Deckard,” she extended her hand. Deckard held it a little longer than he should have. “My name is Sarah.”
“Nice to meet you,” he said with a grin that he hoped didn’t betray him.
“Just this way,” she said, still smiling as she spun around and led him to an office.
A bank of computer terminals was set up along with a series of different electronic scanners.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“I just need to take some biometrics.”
Sarah instructed him to place his hands down on a glass scanner which read his finger and palm prints. She sat down at her desk and followed the computer prompts to save Deckard’s bio-metric data.
“Now please stand up against the wall Mr. Deckard.”
There was a large white sheet tacked to the wall, like where passport photos taken. He stood right in front of it. A camera mounted into a ball-shaped casing rotated up and down on a pivot mount until it focused in on Deckard. He could see the shutter move across the lens as it took his picture.
It seemed like the entire office was empty except for him and Sarah. What was this place?
“Okay, now we need to get voice. Please state your full name.”
“What is all this about?” Deckard asked.
“We are just gathering your biometrics Mr. Deckard.”
“You don’t already have all this stuff on file somewhere?”
“We are a private firm, Mr. Deckard. Various entities contract us and we have no access to your military or other service records,” Sarah explained politely. “Can you say your last name please?”
Deckard opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted.
“Never mind. It was recording the entire time and it looks like the system has enough of your vocals on file now.”
Biometrics was a game-changing technology that measured various biological characteristics. Fingerprints had been used by law enforcement for years, but today advanced sensors could also measure other unique details from person to person such as the distance between a person’s eyeballs, his gait, the shape of his face, conduct voice spectrum analysis, or match DNA samples. The technology could help the government and corporations secure their property by ensuring that only authorized people were given access, but biometrics also carried with it a lot of historical baggage.
The Nazis had used eugenics, racial hygiene, and other types of junk science to catalog human beings for extermination. Another holocaust, this time in an era of advanced biometrics, would make the extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany pale by comparison. Big brother was watching, and even professional spies were feeling the heat. In a few years the technology would be so pervasive around the world that it would be impossible for the CIA to plant covert operatives into foreign countries.
While Sarah continued to work on another camera to record his specifications, Deckard just had to grin and bear it. It was a high-tech cavity search, painless until it wasn’t.
Grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, she wrote something down, folded the paper, and walked towards Deckard with her heels clacking across the floor. She slipped the paper into his shirt pocket and smiled again, her blue eyes showing interest.
“There is a Greek restaurant not far from here,” she whispered. “I wrote the address down. Meet me there in three hours.”
“I’ll be there.”
She held the door for him on the way out.
“See you soon!” she beamed.
Deckard walked to the elevator wondering what had just happened.
It was a beautiful sunny day in Washington D.C., but Deckard decided to show some discretion and chose a table in the back of the restaurant rather than sit outside. He had no pressing need to get all spooky, but if Liquid Sky had people watching and assessing him, they would lose respect for him for meeting with Sarah while using sloppy tradecraft.
He ordered a beer and told the waiter that his friend would be along shortly.
Taking a sip from his Heineken, he looked up as Sarah slipped into the chair across from him with a sigh. She tossed her hair back and smiled.
He felt like an idiot for reverting back to slang from the place where he was born. Nobody talked like that, including himself.
“Good,” Sarah said handing him a manila envelope. “I think you are all set.”
Deckard popped open the envelope and slid a handful of documents into his hand, a blue U.S. passport staring up at him. It was a full identity package, and on short notice too. Flipping open the passport, he noted his picture alongside the name Sebastian Rothrock.
“Hell of a name,” he commented with a frown.
“Not my decision. Let’s get something to eat.”
Deckard ordered the lamb souvlaki and Sarah had a Greek salad. Before slipping the false identification documents away, he noted the plane ticket. He was already electronically signed in for a flight later that day. He was going to Kabul, Afghanistan.
They talked while waiting for the food to arrive. Sarah asked a lot of questions about Deckard’s background. Much of it he lied about or was otherwise evasive. She picked up on something and steered the conversation in another direction. Deckard asked her similar questions and found out that she had a degree from Georgetown and a Masters from the London School of Economics. She had spent a lot of time in Iraq and Afghanistan using her biometrics background to help intelligence agencies and Special Operations units locate enemy fighters.
“You know,” Sarah said as she finished her salad. “I see guys like you come through here every so often. Usually a lot of spooks, people who need covert or clandestine covers, but sometimes former Special Operations guys, which I assume you are, heading to one place or another.”
“We’re all looking for work these days.”
“I never know where you are coming from,” she continued. “Usually I don’t know where you are going either. I just process the paperwork and never see you again.”
“Sounds like you are getting sentimental about the job,” Deckard said with a smile.
“Maybe,” Sarah said as she rested her head in her hand, with her elbow on the table.
“If it makes you feel any better, we usually don’t know what the hell is going on ourselves.”
“But you make it sound so romantic.”
“Trust me,” Deckard laughed. “The honeymoon ends fairly quickly.”
“Then why keep doing the job?”
“Everyone has their reasons. Most people will tell you it is patriotism, and yeah, there is a little of that, but mostly they do it for the money. There are lots of jobs you can do as a patriot that don’t involve thousand-dollar-a-day paychecks sitting behind a computer in some third-world shithole, jobs that pay better too. But there is a certain amount of path dependency; soldiering or spying is the only life they’ve really known.”
“But not you?”
“I don’t need the money if that is what you are asking, and I don’t hide behind the American flag. I do this job because I like it. Even when I don’t like it, I choose my own missions, take the jobs that are personally important to me.”
“Like this one?”
Deckard wondered if she was trying to draw him out. Maybe she already had. He was going after his own kind this time around. Rogue operators assassinating democracy advocates around the world. This may not have been the most important mission he had ever committed too, but he knew it would be the most challenging mission of his entire career. And the most personal.
“Like this one.”
“You’re an interesting guy Deckard.”
Sarah pulled out her business card, clicked a pen, and wrote a phone number on the back of it before sliding the card across the table to him.
“That’s my personal number,” she told him. “Give me a call when you get back.”
Deckard watched her as she turned around and headed for the door. Her hips rocked gently as she put on her sunglasses and walked out into the sunlight. She looked over her shoulder and smiled at him one last time before turning back towards her office.