Wearing black kafiyah head wraps, the gunmen stormed the Army detention center while firing their AR-15 and AK-47 rifles in all directions.
“Allah Akbar! Allah Akbar!” one screamed.
The two gate guards went down under a hail of gunfire. Another two Egyptian soldiers were shot dead on the front steps of the compound. Once inside, the gunmen blasted a lieutenant sitting behind a desk and headed for the stairs. An Egyptian soldier managed to pull his pistol free from his holster and fire several panicked shots over the heads of the attacking Islamic militants. The return fire splattered him against the wall.
By now shouts were heard through the Army facility as soldiers began to panic. They were under attack and no one was even remotely prepared for it.
The prisoners heard the calls from inside their cells and cheered the attackers on. Taking the stairs three at a time the four gunmen reached the second floor where the prison cells were located. The soldier on guard duty tried to make a break for it and took off running down the hall until a burst of 7.62×39 caught up with him.
One of the gunmen found the keys on the corpse’s belt and used them to open the rusty barred door that led into the cell block.
“Allah Akbar!” the gunmen screamed in unison.
“Allah Akbar!” the prisoners repeated. The prison was packed with Muslim Brotherhood members who had been rounded up by security forces and each cell was packed with nearly a dozen of the Islamic fundamentalists. They had been arrested for protesting, terrorism, and other acts of sedition, both real and imagined.
They lunged with outstretched arms from between the cell bars, the wild look of fanaticism in their eyes. Many had rough spots on their foreheads, a badge of honor for a member of the brotherhood. It came from prostrating themselves during their daily prayers.
“Amriki? Amriki?” the gunmen asked.
“Nam,” the prisoners answered, pointing down towards the end of the cell block. American scum.
The gunmen swept down to the cell that the Brothers pointed to. Huddled in the corner were the three American college students, all of them on the verge of pissing their pants. One looked to weigh ninety pounds and wore glasses. That was Luke Thomas, 22. The goofy kid wearing a t-shirt with the word “singularity” was Adam Kauffmen, 19. The third was wearing his gay rights t-shirt, as if anyone in Egypt gave a shit about that issue. He was Aaron Helms, 20. Helms was the priority because his dad was somebody back in the world. Their contract covered all three, but they could kank the other two losers and dump them if shit got really tight.
The American students cringed in the corner of the cell as one of the gunmen stepped forward. He peered through the bars, squinting behind his black head wrap. He wore a white dishdasha and held an AK-47 at port arms. Leveling the Russian rifle, the gunmen blasted the padlock off the door and swung it open. Two other gunmen rushed in and secured the college students, grabbing them by the collars of their shirt and by their hair to drag them out into the corridor.
Then the gunmen began shooting the locks off the other cells.
The prison cell doors flew open and the Muslim Brotherhood members burst out into the hall screaming with their arms up in the air. They cheered as the gunmen dragged the infidels down the stairs and outside.
Outside in the courtyard, a crowd had begun to gather. The soldiers had long since disappeared, many of them dropping their rifles and beating feet as the already agitated public converged on the Army building. Now that people saw the Muslim Brotherhood members breaking free they openly cheered and chanted slogans. When the four gunmen emerged from the prison with their three American prisoners the crowd went wild with fervor, their extremist devotion overwhelming a few members who dropped to their knees.
A gray mini-van edged through the crowd.
Just then, a civilian ran up out of the gathering crowd with a black Al Qaeda flag attached to a thin metal pole. One of the gunmen grabbed the flag while the other three escorted their prisoners to the van.
With his head still wrapped in the black kafiyah, the gunmen held the black flag proudly as he began to wave it back and forth.
“Allllaahh Akbaaarr!” he screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Allah Akbar!!!” the crowd screamed in return.
With the prisoners loaded into the back of the van, the gunmen handed the black flag back to a Muslim Brotherhood member. Jumping into the van, it lurched off as the crowd parted ways. Escaped prisoners and protestors alike praised these gunmen and their gift from god.
Ramon began downloading his Barrett magazines, sliding each cartridge out on by one and setting them down. The bullets were about the size of his finger and had enough kinetic energy even after traveling 1,000 meters to cut a man in half.
Their target building in the engineering section of the University of Cairo was only about 700 meters away, an easy shot with the .50 caliber rifle. There would be little compensating for gravity or wind at that range when firing a round with so much energy behind it. The former Special Forces sniper had no doubt that he could hit targets at that range with this rifle, even if he was a little rusty. They also had a very detailed range card that he and Deckard made copies of. Deckard could call in pre-designated target reference points to help Ramon get on target faster as well.
Flipping open the latches on the black box that Deckard had retrieved from under the bridge, Ramon began sliding the bullets under the feed lips of the magazine, which depressed the follower as the magazine filled with ten rounds. They looked like normal .50 caliber rounds except that the bullets themselves had clear plastic wrapped around them.
“Whoever set that cache was sloppy about it,” Deckard complained as he watched Ramon. “What is so special about these bullets anyway?”
“Sloppy or just rushed,” Ramon elaborated. “It was worth the risk of going in to retrieve the cache. These are EMP rounds.”
“You’ve gotta be shitting me.”
“Nope,” Ramon said. “During the terminal phase, when the round makes contact with something, it will emit an electro-magnetic pulse which will short out and destroy any electronics within five meters. This way I will be able to clear a path for you by disabling the security systems as you make your infiltration into the engineering building. It should be sealed up pretty tight, all things considered. We’ll see what we can do about that. There are also a couple EMP grenades in that case for you.”
“If you fire it too close to me, it will destroy my comms uplink,” Deckard said as he picked up one of the box shaped EMP grenades and inspected it in his hand.
“Well, don’t get too close.”
Just then, Ramon’s cell phone began to buzz.
Checking the text message he received, he then turned to Deckard.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.” Aaron Helms turned into a human chatter box as he sat in the back of the mini-van with the Al Qaeda gunmen, their eyes menacing him through the slits in their black head wraps. Aaron was just a liberal arts major who wanted to fight for human rights and got in over his head. Now he was on an express one-way trip to a made-for-youtube snuff flick starring him and his college bros in orange jump suits.
“We’re so fucked,” he croaked.
The van hit a bump in the road and Adam started to cry.
One of the gunmen finished texting someone on his cell phone. He had to be the biggest Arab any of them had ever seen. Probably he was texting AQ HQ back in Pakistan, Aaron figured. Meanwhile, Luke was hugging himself as he gently rocked back and forth on the floor of the van.
As the driver took them across the Nile River on one of Cairo’s many bridges, the three college students were left to ponder their fate. Then, one of the gunmen turned to the other and began to talk.
“I think you were getting a little too into it, Zach,” the gunmen said in English. “Waving the black flag around like that..what was that about?”
“I was just staying in character,” the other gunmen responded. “I take my job seriously, unlike some of you.”
Aaron and Adam looked at each other, both their faces streaked with tears.
“Both of you fucking jokers need to pull your heads out of your asses,” a third gunmen said.
“Whatever Rick. You’re just jealous of my method acting.”
The van rocked as they crossed the bridge, then the wheels squealed as they took a tight turn.
“Women drivers: no survivors,” the one they had called Rick announced.
“Eat my ass, Rick,” a woman’s voice said from up front, the driver not even turning to look at them.
“Don’t threaten me with a good time. I’d eat the peanuts out of your shit, girl.”
The others laughed until the big guy who had been texting screamed at them.
“Knock it the fuck off,” he snarled. “We’re still in the middle of an operation.”
Then he peeled off his head wrap. The others followed suit. The college kids looked on with slack jaws.
The guy with the beard looked over and saw their expressions.
“Did you guys really think Al Qaeda would break into a prison and free you just to execute you?” the American said.
“Uh,” Aaron began. “Maybe.”
Luke pursed his lips like he had just bitten into a lemon.
“Damn, you kids look like you are about to piss your pants,” the blonde haired American said.
Luke took a deep breath.
“How you doing down there, high speed?”
Deckard heard Ramon’s voice through the ear bud placed in his ear, the device connected to the cell phone in his pocket. He was walking onto the university grounds through the Giza Zoo, which ran right behind the engineering department.
“Three minutes out,” he answered.
“I’m all gassed-up and ready to go.”
Crouching in the bushes, Deckard watched the facility grounds for a moment. From observing most of the morning and into the afternoon, they already knew that there was not a roving guard on patrol. In fact, the campus was pretty dead because so many students were out protesting in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.
“I’m ready to go in,” Deckard said into the microphone attached to the ear bud. “Hit it.”
A second later, sparks flew from the transformer mounted on the telephone pole just outside the electrical engineering building. Three booms echoed out in rapid succession as the sound caught up with shots. From his sniper hide up in the empty building, Ramon’s shots would be muffled, but still audible to those who knew what they were listening for.
“That’s it. Put a shot into the transformer and two more into the generator up on the roof,” Ramon told him.
Sure enough, Deckard didn’t see any indications from his view through the windows that there was any power inside.
Deckard walked up to the oblong, khaki-colored building. He squinted as he got closer to the door.
“Looks like there is a key card lock on the door, I am going to-”
His words were cut short as a hole suddenly punched through the door above the locking mechanism.
“Come down six inches,” he advised Ramon.
This time he blasted the lock and pieces of metal scrap bounced off the door stoop. With the lock shattered, Deckard was able to shoulder open the door and step inside. Sliding his backpack off, he rapidly attached the upper and lower receiver of his AR-15 rifle, then locked and loaded a magazine.
“Inside, moving up.”
“Got it, fifth floor looks clear from where I’m sitting.”
Deckard carefully walked down the empty corridor to the stairwell and began walking up. It made sense that the device they were after was being kept by the Army inside the electrical engineering department of the University of Cairo. That would be the best place for them to study it since that is where the tools and expertise were already located. The Egyptian Army would not be so foolish as not to have it under guard however.
Then the interior lights came back on. Back up power. Somewhere in the basement probably.
“Hold up a minute,” Ramon said over their cell connection. “Let me load my other mag so I’m shooting regular ball ammo if you come under fire.”
“I’ve got a couple more flights of stairs to go.”
“Cool,” Ramon said. Then a second later, “Okay, I’m up.”
Deckard walked out onto the fifth-floor hallway with sweat dripping off his forehead. He held his rifle at the low ready as he moved towards his objective. Their intel was that the device was being held in Lab C. Finding the correct door, he looked through the window pane to glance inside. Pulling back behind the wall, he spoke into the mic.
“Looks like at least two guards. Couple civilians in there, too.”
“You’re clear outside. You know what to do.”
Rendering the device inoperable was the first priority, recovery at a close second. Deckard palmed one of the EMP grenades as he backed away from the door. The pulse would propagate outwards and right through the walls. There was no need for him to get it into the room to render the device inoperable. With the lab’s door locked, he would normally have had to breach the door before lobbing it in. No need for that this time.
Pulling the pin, Deckard rolled the EMP grenade down the hall where it stopped at the foot of the lab’s door. He scrambled away to make sure he was out of the blast radius. While it wouldn’t physically harm him, it would kill his cell phone, and with it, his comms link to Ramon.
Five seconds from the time he pulled the pin, the grenade popped off. There was no brilliant plume of miniature bolts of lightning or anything cool like that, more like a weak firecracker. The EMP itself was of course invisible to the human eye. Hearing the pop, one of the soldiers inside opened the door to see what was going on.
Deckard was there to buttstroke him across the jaw.
Stepping inside the lab, there were rows and rows of desks with soldering irons for students to practice building microchips. On a black table towards the back, two engineers looked up from their work, both of them wearing those goofy magnifying glass goggles that made them look like they had giant Anime character eyes.
Another soldier standing by on guard duty went for the pistol on his hip.
“La!” Deckard ordered, thrusting his gun barrel in the guard’s direction.
The soldier put his hands in the air, realizing that the newcomer had the drop on him. Stepping towards the table, he waved the engineers back. He was looking at the device. About the size of a shoe box but only about two inches thick, the black box had a USB cable and a power cable leading out of it. The top of the device had been pried open and the electrical engineers had been poking and prodding around inside. The computers and lights inside the room had gone dark, which meant that the EMP had done its job.
Keeping his rifle leveled on the Egyptian soldier, while the other writhed on the floor behind him, Deckard unzipped his backpack.
Now he just needed to haul ass out of there.
Shen Banggen walked alongside the Egyptian Lieutenant Colonel as he was led to view the device. The Chinese operative was on assignment for the People’s Third Department. It was his job to shape outcomes, and part of that position included securing foreign technology which had military or economic applications the Chinese government could reverse engineer to use for espionage, combat, or simply to turn a profit by mass producing and dumping into foreign markets.
They had just completed a meeting with an Egyptian General which had to be cut short. The military was desperate to quell the riots around the city, and the General had other obligations. Banggen assured the Egyptians that they would be properly compensated for the technology transfer.
“The device is just upstairs,” the Colonel informed him as they walked.
“I understand,” Banggen replied in Arabic.
His track record with technology procurements was nearly impeccable, and his superiors knew it. He had recovered a sensitive computer system from the Taliban they had captured from a Navy SEAL team that they had killed. A few years later, he secured large pieces of a stealth helicopter which the Americans had crash landed in Pakistan. Other pieces of tech showed up here and there. In one major coup, he simply paid off a U.S. Special Forces soldier running a training mission in Thailand. He helped the soldier make it look like a hooker had drugged him and ransacked his hotel room. Banggen got the black tough box filled with sensitive radio equipment and delivered it to his superiors in China.
Suddenly, something popped on the floor above them. To Banggen it sounded like a single firecracker lit on Chinese New Year. But this was no Chinese holiday. The lights flickered and blinked off. The Chinese intelligence operative then noticed that the second hand on his watch had stopped ticking. The Egyptian Colonel looked up, as if he would see something on the ceiling.
Banggen then pulled out his cell phone. It was completely dead and would not turn on. First they had a power outage causing the back-up generators in the basement to kick on. Now this.
“Something is happening,” he informed the Colonel. “We need to get to the device.”
Taking off at a jog, they headed for the stairs.
In one smooth motion, Deckard swept the device and the opened cover into his bag with all the wires still attached. Cramming the cables inside, he zipped it up and threw the backpack over his shoulder on one strap, the other having been used to improvise a sling for his AR-15.
Before leaving, he relieved the soldier still on his feet of his Browning Hi-Power pistol and stuck it in his pocket. The last thing he needed was to get shot in the back on his way out the door.
“See ya later, Fletch,” he told the guard.
High stepping it over the second guard who was curled in the fetal position in the doorway, Deckard headed down the hall.
“Got the package,” he said into the mic. “On my way out.”
“Roger that,” Ramon answered. Good, the EMP hadn’t taken out his comms.
Turning into the stairwell, Deckard suddenly found himself face to face with an Egyptian Army officer. The officer’s eyes went wide with surprise, startled by Deckard swinging onto the landing. He held a BHP in his fist, but forgot it was there for a second too long. Deckard identified his threat faster and raised the AR-15 into the pocket of his shoulder, his knees already bent in a shooter’s stance. The barrel barked twice, then several more times as Deckard fired 5.56 shots into the officer as he crumpled to the ground and rolled down the stairs.
Without hesitating, Deckard brought the rifle to bear on a second potential target. The approaching man backed up against the wall with his hands in the air.
“I’m unarmed,” he said in near perfect English.
He was in his fifties, chubby around the waist and the neck, and obviously Chinese. Deckard’s eyes narrowed. In an instant, Banggen realized that he had been made. The American mercenary recognized him from the picture they had been shown in the briefing for their mission to the Philippines. A Chinese influence agent heading up to a floor where a sensitive, captured American technology was being kept? Yeah, sure.
“That is a matter of opinion. Your weapon isn’t guns or bombs is it?”
“I am here on official business with the People’s Republic of-”
Deckard’s rifle recoiled in his hands.
Banggen pitched forward and did a face plant.
Flicking the rifle’s selector back to safe, Deckard bounded down the stairs.
Target of opportunity.
Ramon tossed his suitcase with the disassembled Barrett inside in the trunk while Deckard popped out the cylinder on the steering column using a screwdriver. Bypassing the lock, Deckard hit the ignition and they had their ride out of Cairo.
He took the wheel while Ramon got in the passenger seat and called up a map on his cell phone to help guide him out of the city. Bill had simply texted them a cardinal direction, basically the worst exfil plan in history. They would secure transportation out of Egypt once they got to the coast of the Red Sea.
Ramon directed him over a bridge heading east through the city. Cairo was volatile to say the least. Young people were out in the streets marching and chanting slogans. Pro-democracy protestors clashed with the Muslim Brotherhood, and they both clashed with the Egyptian military. Deckard did his best to skirt around clusters of protestors who could break into a riot at any moment.
His navigator instructed him when to make turns, and they weaved through the now-busy city streets.
“Take this left, then straight ahead.”
Deckard followed Ramon’s instructions and suddenly found himself coasting across a wide boulevard littered with trash, discarded pickets, and empty tear gas canisters. To their right stood the military bearing riot shields, shotguns, and grenade launchers loaded with tear gas. To their left was a gaggle of twenty something year old kids throwing rocks at the soldiers.
A sniper’s shot cracked, the bullet leaving a dimpled hole in the hood of their stolen car.
Deckard slammed down on the gas pedal and shot across the street.
Both men breathed a sigh of relief when they finally cleared the city and took the Cairo-Suez road to the coast. It was now getting late in the day and exhaustion began to set in. Liquid Sky had been running a no-notice hostage rescue and asset recovery in a hostile region with bare-bones intelligence, no equipment when they arrived in country, and no backup to speak of. Whether they wanted to admit it or not, their nerves were shot.
The terrain flattened out into desolation in all directions, an empty desert that probably didn’t look much different that it did during the time of the Pharaohs. Halfway to the coast, Deckard pulled over to gas up their car while Ramon went and bought some coffee at a bus stop. Deckard could tell that his reaction time was slowed and he wasn’t working at one hundred percent. Ramon came back with bottles of water and the coffee both of which they promptly drank, and then got back on the road.
Ramon got a text from Bill. The other Liquid Sky element had arrived in Suez and was looking for their exfil platform. After another hour on the road, they reached Suez just as the sun was setting. Making a phone call, Bill directed them south for a link-up. Driving by some residential neighborhoods, the low-laying mountains in the distance made for a change in terrain near the entrance to the Suez Canal. They spotted the mini-van in a parking lot next to the fishermen’s docks.
Zach was leaning against the side of the van smoking a cigarette.
Deckard parked the car alongside the van and killed the engine.
“You have it?” Zach asked before Deckard had even stepped out of the car.
Bill opened the van’s passenger door and got out.
“Let’s have it.”
Deckard tossed him the backpack.
“Something else,” Deckard mentioned.
“What is it?” Bill asked as he unzipped the backpack.
“Banggen was in the engineering building. He was on his way up to inspect the device as I was on my way down.”
Bill looked at him blankly for a moment.
“You do him?”
“Fuck yeah,” Deckard answered.
“Then it’s done.”
“What the fuck was he doing there?” Zach asked. “For him to be in cahoots with our previous target and then involved with this one as well, that isn’t a coincidence.”
“No, it isn’t,” Ramon said. “We talked about this a little on the drive here. It is possible that we are working the same mission profile as Chinese intelligence but from different approaches. They are working to influence world events in a manner that favors their economic policies. We’re working to prevent world events from negatively influencing American foreign policy.”
“Cool story bro,” Zach snorted. “That or our OPSEC is fucking blown and the dinks are shadowing our moves.”
“Not very well,” Deckard added. “Homeboy ate a 5.56 round between his eyes from about three feet away.”
“Everyone fucks up at least once in their life,” Zach said, challenging Deckard and Ramon on their hypothesis.
The sliding door on the van swung open. Rick and Paul jumped down to the pavement.
“Who the fuck cares,” Rick said, having overheard parts of the conversation. “We’re alive and he’s dead. That’s all that matters.”
Bill was still fishing around inside Deckard’s backpack, pushing the broken-down AR-15 out of the way and palming the device.
“This is it, huh?” The Liquid Sky team leader was unimpressed to say the least.
He took it back to the van and crawled inside to show it to the three college students. They confirmed that it was the device they had used in Tahrir Square. Nadeesha got out of the driver’s seat to join them. She was still wearing a head scarf over her hair.
“Okay,” Bill told the Liquid Sky team. “I don’t care about some fucking chink right now. We did our job, like Rick said. I got us a fisherman who is going to take us out to sea where we will board a commercial shipping vessel that the client secured passage on for us. Grab whatever kit you have and we can walk to the docks from here.”
The seven Liquid Sky members and the three recently liberated hostages walked to the fishing docks and met up with the captain of a small boat that Bill and Nadeesha had gone to make arrangements with twenty minutes prior to Deckard’s arrival. The client had secured them transport into international waters, but they had to get to that transport first.
As the fishing boat churned the waters and lumbered off to the commercial ship in the distance, Deckard started to get the idea. Who ran a maritime commercial shipping business that doubled as a logistics infrastructure for covert operations? There were not a whole lot of players in that arena. If it wasn’t Langley, then this mission was Langley cleaning up someone else’s mess.
The deck hands lowered a rope ladder and also a cargo net to haul up Ramon’s suitcase. One by one they ascended to the top, the college students going up in the middle of the group. Bill paid the fishing boat captain and was the last up the ladder.
Once on board, the crew took them belowdeck and showed them to their berthing area. The captain was an American with a largely Indian crew, and showed up briefly to inform them that they could make their way to the galley and the cook would be ready to make them something. About half of the group stumbled off to grab some food, the rest fell asleep almost immediately in their bunks. Bill lay down with Deckard’s backpack next to him as he slept.
Deckard went to the galley and grabbed a couple rolls before heading back to the bunks. He realized that he was alone as everyone else was already snoring in their bunks or still at the chow hall cramming down some grub. He should have remembered to take a picture of the device when he first snatched it, but he would have to act now. A third opportunity probably wouldn’t present itself.
Tapping on his cell phone, Deckard slowly unzipped the backpack next to Bill’s cot and took out the device. With the Egyptians having already tore it open, all the guts inside were exposed. Deckard could see the motherboard, the power source, and several other electrical components that he did not recognize. Whatever it was, the device was clearly professionally made in a modern laboratory somewhere, not just something the three college students jury rigged in their dorm.
He began snapping pictures with the camera on his phone. If he could get them to Aghassi, finding the origins of the device might help them build the big picture, and ascertain who the puppet master behind Liquid Sky was.
“What the fuck are you doing?” a voice said from the cabin door.
Deckard’s head jerked up as he held the device in one hand and his camera phone in the other. It was Rick, who had just returned from chow.
“Taking some SSE photos in case we need them later,” Deckard said trying to play it off. SSE stood for sensitive site exploitation, an evidence-gathering methodology that Special Operations units used to uncover intelligence information.
“SSE my fucking ass,” Rick bellowed as he stepped through the door.
“What the hell,” Bill grumbled as he woke from what had been a deep sleep. As team leader, he was probably the most exhausted.
“Deckard is here taking pictures of the fucking device,” Rick complained. “OPSEC violating motherfucker. What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“This is the kind of tech we might want to request for our own use on a future mission.”
“Bullshit,” Rick cursed. “What are you up to?”
“Deckard,” Bill cut in. “Don’t let me catch you going through my shit again. I don’t give a fuck about this horseshit Rick. You two both need to shut the fuck up so I can get back to sleep. If this Army puke was going to steal the device for his own purposes, then I’m pretty sure he would have done it by now.”
“Maybe that’s just what he was up to,” Rick said as he got red in the face.
“Deck is part of the team now, Rick. Learn how to steer a fucking parachute, you fucking chump, then you can complain to me about how I run my fucking team,” Bill said as he leaned up on one elbow from his cot. “Now get the fuck out of here and go catch a sea jack in the showers or something. I’m trying to rack out here.”
Rick turned and stormed out. Deckard zipped the device back up in the backpack as Bill tore it out of his hands and flopped the bag down next to him on the cot.
“If you pull some shit like that again Deckard, I’ll fucking kill you.”
Deckard took the hint and hit the rack himself, with the cell phone tucked in his pants pocket.
Deckard was vaguely aware of the others filing into the berthing area in ones and twos as they hit the rack themselves. With adrenaline bleeding off, they all went into a post-mission coma while the captain of the ship went full power and headed for international waters.
It was a deep, dreamless sleep as their minds and bodies reset themselves. Ten hours later, the passengers began to wake. The ship had cleared the Gulf of Suez and was now in the Red Sea.
Bill was the first one up. He had confirmed with the client that they had accomplished their mission, but now he headed up to the bridge to re-establish commo and find out what was going on. Having seen things on the way out, Egypt had probably imploded on itself just as they were sailing off.
Liquid Sky and their three liberated college students cycled through the showers and had another meal before they peeled off in separate directions. Zach and Rick went up on the deck to work on their tans. Nadeesha and Paul sat around the day room watching television. Bill was working on his push ups in between the cots. Ramon fell back asleep.
Deckard was up on the deck, watching the sea pass by. It was now early in the morning. As he walked to the stern of the ship, he heard voices and muffled giggles. It was Luke, Aaron, and Adam, enjoying a pack of cigarettes they had bummed from the crew.
“Can I get a smoke?”
They turned to look at him, having thought they were alone.
“Bro, you can have whatever the fuck you want,” Aaron said. “You guys saved our sweet virgin assholes from that prison.”
“That we did.”
Luke handed him a cigarette and held up a lighter for Deckard to get it started.
“That prison would have been Gitmo, Abu Gaireb, and Auschwitz all rolled into one for us,” Luke said. “They were talking about transferring us to some dungeon somewhere at any moment. Then they would have let the guards have a go at us.”
“Nah,” Deckard informed them. “In Egyptian prisons they have a special technique for people like you.”
The college students looked at Deckard with wide eyes.
“They would strip you naked and lock you in a small cage with a dog and its, uh, fully engorged member.”
“A dog?” Adam asked in disbelief.
“Then when you gave up all the intel they wanted you would have a sudden and catastrophic drop in blood pressure.”
“We owe you guys big time,” Luke said. The other two nodded in agreement.
“Takes a special kind of man,” Deckard said as he played it up. This was the real interrogation. The one where he got the information he wanted. He was just lining them up before he knocked them down.
“Are you like SEAL Team Six or CIA or something?” Adam asked.
“Or something. Freelance.”
“You know it.”
“That’s so gangster,” Adam blurted.
Deckard took a drag on his cigarette.
“So they tell me that you three were in Tahrir Square.”
“Yeah,” Aaron said. “Had the best seat in the house from a nearby rooftop. Revolution in real time.”
“I was the guy that had to go in and recover your toy for you.”
“The Nexus Interceptor,” Luke said.
“That is what that black box is called?”
“It’s just a nickname we gave it. That bad boy is state of the art.”
“What exactly does it do?”
“It is a hacking bypass tool. You know if you want to break into secure computer systems you can hack in through cyberspace, right?”
“Well this allows you to sneak in through the back door. It creates a temporary power shortage in the targeted system, which creates an opening for you to then insinuate yourself into various networks.”
“Why not just hack in the old fashion way from back in the United States?”
“The thing with social media networks is that when you post messages they have a geographical locator with them so the network you are posting from knows where you are physically located. This means that you have to have an actual presence in the vicinity of the network you are trying to spoof.”
“And once you spoofed it what did you do?”
“Well, for instance you can then walk right into user accounts for e-mail and social media. That is what we were doing. So then we just start making posts as if we are those users.”
“Egypt has been run by one dictator after the next,” Aaron informed Deckard. “The people have been suffering under oppression at least since Sadat was assassinated. We came here to help them out.”
“What do you mean? Help them how?”
“Human rights is a mainstay in American foreign policy,” Luke said. “But America propped up Hosni Mubarak for decades. He was a dictator and the people were suffering. All of us agreed that he had to go and we could help change conditions.”
“All of us being the three of you?”
“We were just facilitators. People were already flooding into the streets in droves.”
“Pent up anger from years under the thumb of Mubarak,” Adam said.
“Wait a second, what did you actually do with that device?”
“We used it as a bypass to gain control of thousands of Facebook and Twitter Accounts,” Aaron said.
“Then used them to broadcast the message of revolution,” Luke said.
“A mass blast that got the ball rolling,” Adam finished.
“You three lit the fuse on Egypt’s Arab Spring?”
“The fuse had been lit decades ago. Like Luke said, we were just facilitators.”
“Holy shit,” Deckard said as he leaned back against the railing on the side of the ship. “Don’t you realize that someone back in America flipped Mubarak’s switch from green to red?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Hold on a second.” Deckard was getting pissed and was starting to break role at this point. “Who put you up to this?”
“What do you mean?” Luke asked.
“Who gave you that bypass device?”
“This NGO down in Virginia.”
Deckard rubbed his forehead with both hands.
“Yeah,” Aaron broke in. “They are called Global Freedom and Prosperity. They visit our college sometimes, really cool people. They really care about helping to get college students out into the world to help promote freedom. They offer workshops, training, and stuff like that.”
“You know, like political advocacy type stuff,” Adam said.
“Political advocacy type stuff,” Deckard repeated ominously.
“What did you mean someone flipped Mubarak from green to red?”
Deckard took another drag on his cigarette and flicked it over the side of the ship.
“No man, what were you going to say?”
“You guys don’t get it?”
“Mubarak didn’t simply fall. The United States government would not let their strongman fall if they didn’t want him to. A policy decision was made in the halls of power in D.C. They decided it was time for him to go. Not you, not some grassroots revolution. An NGO in Virginia? Are you guys kidding me?”
“It isn’t like you think,” Adam said flippantly. “That is not how GFP works; they are out to promote democracy. America was in bed with Mubarak so why would they want him out of office?”
“Good question,” Deckard answered. “Maybe it plays into Syria.”
“And why would they care about Syria?”
“Because that plays into Iran.”
Deckard turned and walked away, leaving the young men in stunned silence.
Meanwhile, the world continued coming apart at the seams.
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