Deckard came awake with a start as the lights were flipped on.
Recognizing the voices that had entered his office, he remembered to breathe.
“Hey, wake up,” Frank said.
Sitting up on his cot, Deckard squinted, the light hurting his eyes. With a sinking feeling, the memories of the last seventy-two hours washed over him.
“We have flights to catch in a few hours,” Adam announced. “If we are going to make it to the airport in Astana in time, we have to do this now.”
“No problem,” Deckard replied, swinging his legs over the side of the cot. He’d been awake for nearly three days by the time he finally got the chance to lie down. After a marathon like that, five hours of sleep left him feeling like he had awakened from a coma.
Looking down, he realized he was still wearing his fatigue pants and dirty socks. He didn’t even remember coming back into his office. Landing in Astana, he had men who needed to be transported to the hospital. Bodies that needed to be brought to a morgue until they could be claimed by family members, if they had them.
“Since we got back, we’ve been reviewing data we recovered on the objective,” Adam told him. “From talking to MIK’s brother, I confirmed that they were running a smuggling route into Tajikistan where the poppies would then be distributed to Russia and Europe. The refining into opium could happen anywhere along the way from Uzbekistan to Kosovo.”
“Pretty much what we thought,” Deckard said, resting his elbows on his knees.
“Yeah, but we uncovered more from several of the hard drives,” Frank replied. “You’ll never guess who was paving the way for them.”
“You mean making sure the shipments made it past coalition checkpoints?”
“You got it. Human Terrain Teams.”
“The social scientists that work for the Department of Defense? Aren’t they anthropologists and shit like that?”
“On paper, yeah,” Adam cut in. “They map the ‘human terrain’, basically studying social networks. They build tribal link charts to help coalition forces understand the local people they are interacting with.”
“Sounds benign at best and just another money pit of a defense contract at worst.”
“But get this,” Frank interrupted again. “We made some phone calls; the defense contractor who fields the HTT teams is Global Systems Inc. founded by Carl Weiss. He kicked the bucket a few years ago, so now his son Neil runs the business.”
“HTT isn’t a huge step for them,” Adam continued. “This company is sort of an umbrella that has sent teams all over the world mapping different ethnic groups under various pretenses, usually under the banner of one Non-Governmental Organization or another.”
“To what end?”
“Not sure yet, but we’ve uncovered a few clues. Turns out the Weiss family are a bunch of closet Nazis, going all the way back to their support for the Third Reich during the Second World War. Big supporters of the eugenics movement on both sides of the Atlantic.”
“You mean racial hygiene?”
“A little more high tech, but yeah.”
“This is bizarre. We started going after a warlord smuggling opium and found that they are connected to a US based firm that is mapping ethnic groups and had Nazi ties?”
“It gets better. Two HTT members in Afghanistan have died under suspicious circumstances in the last few months. Not corporate management types, but the scientists themselves. One was an anthropologist, and the other had a doctorate in political science. Officially, they are listed as dying from enemy action, but the family of one went to the press, calling bullshit. Some internet rumors surround the other death, but we can’t be sure.”
“They were going to go public, so someone took them out.”
“Don’t think it ends there. CEO Weiss, junior, and the late senior were and are members of the Council on Foreign Relations.”
“I told you about our trio of employers. They are all heavily invested in CFR. Major stakeholders to say the least.”
“Yeah, we’re trying to figure out what that connection is, but it doesn’t make sense.”
“Think of it like this,” Frank interjected. “We all know the Afghan Prime Minister is balls deep in the heroin trade. His brother is a warlord, doing most of the dirty work. The PM works for the US. I’m thinking our employers didn’t like the competition they were getting from a rival CFR member.”
“So MIK was a convenient beta-test for Samruk. Two birds with one stone, exactly the type of thinking you’d expect from the owners of mega-corporations who live on the interest created by their interest.”
“We’ve also been tracking some atmospherics that may or may not be related,” Adam added.
“What have you got?”
“Strange shit. A lot of smart weapons being moved in and out of Diego García. Maybe nuclear, but my sources don’t run that deep. There have also been transactions of unusually large amounts of gold bullion in the last few weeks. Mostly out of the US to China and India.”
“Sounds like the CFR goons getting on a war footing.”
“What have you gotten us into?” Adam asked. “I need to know you’re not in over your head here.”
“We all are, but this is going to work.”
“How can you know that?”
“Because no one has ever done this before. “
“Christ,” Adam remarked, shaking his head.
“Anything else?” Deckard asked, standing up and stretching his arms.
“One other thing. Global Systems Inc. also fields a subsidiary called Information Technologies LLC out of Singapore. As near as we can tell, the entire company consists of three ex-CIA psychologists.”
“Some kind of PsyOps deal?”
“Mind fuckers,” Frank said, nodding.
“But we’re not sure what they’re up to yet,” Adam finished.
“Let me know when you find out who they are targeting.”
“Yeah, we need to get moving. We’re heading-”
Deckard stopped him by holding up a hand.
“Don’t want to know.”
* * *
Unable to fall back asleep, Deckard went out for a run just as the sun was creeping across the horizon. None of the Samruk troops were out and about, most still asleep. Deckard had ordered them to grab some chow and get some sleep. They’d spend the next few days refitting and resting before being put on pass for a long weekend.
As he ran down the dirt road, Deckard’s thoughts drifted to the events that had transpired in Afghanistan. After taking the objective and being denied extraction, they spent the day fighting off wave after wave of Taliban fighters. The Kazakhs were strong and knew how to soldier, but by the end of it, he was beginning to see the signs of battle fatigue and shell shock setting in. Getting some downtime was important in the following days.
Once nightfall came, Deckard called the Joint Operations Center in Bagram with an Iridium phone and coordinated for the pickup. Securing the landing zone several kilometers away, they’d moved the dead and dying first before getting the rest of the company into the Chinooks.
Most of the injured would be coming back to work over the next couple of weeks as their wounds healed. Others would need an extended stay in the hospital. He had already assured them that they would have a job when they came back. If they couldn’t soldier, they could be trained as mechanics or work staff jobs.
Turning onto a side road, he could see their compound in the distance, the morning sun reflecting off the corrugated steel warehouse.
Twelve were coming back for their funerals. He had never felt so responsible and never felt as guilty as he did now for already contemplating how to replace them. They would recruit locally first, vetted relatives of current members, but he also wanted to bring in some more special forces types from stateside to make up for the lack of training in the other new recruits.
When the boys woke up, they’d clean weapons and confirm that all equipment was accounted for. If there were any losses, like a machine gun turned into scrap metal by an exploding rocket, they would have to be replaced. On the plus side, they managed to smuggle fourteen RPG launchers out of country right under the noses of the military police at Bagram Airfield.
Feeling his muscles begin to loosen up, Deckard picked up the pace spending the remaining distance back to the compound thinking of comments for the after action review in the afternoon.
Minutes later he arrived back at the compound and took his first shower since getting back. It was bad enough that he could smell himself from across the room. Thinking about the AAR and the meetings he needed to have with the Sergeant Major and his Executive Officer, he knew he had a lot of work to catch up on.
He just hoped Adam and Frank would be able to work fast before their employers called his bluff.