“Meet & Greet” is the fourth episode of serial fiction set in Mundus Novit.
In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese. In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu.
Now, two operatives from the Canadian Security Establishment’s Vault join up with their assigned team in India.
Five: Meet & Greet
Two days after getting assigned to “Task Force 12,” Madison Sinclair found himself in India. Not New Delhi, not Mumbai, no place cosmopolitan or exciting. No, Mads found himself in an old factory in Raxaul, on the Indian side of the Nepal-India border. It looked like a stock location from some gritty film noir or gangster-on-the-run flick. The wide open space on the ground floor had the prerequisite detritus of machinery and battered furnishings.
Madison sat in an old metal chair with flattened cushioning at a scarred and pitted folding table in the centre of the second floor office, its windows blacked out. Heather sat with him. Her pale, strawberry blond hair tied in a ponytail. She wore non-descript hiking gear, just like everyone else, including Mads.
When he was being honest with himself, Mads had to admit that he had a crush on Heather. Who didn’t? She wasn’t supermodel hot, but she was attractive. She had a healthy, athletic build. Smart, confident, experienced–if she didn’t scare the shit out of him, Mads would have jerked off to her nightly. Instead, Mads had grown a strange kind of dispassionate crush. The more he got to know her, the more he respected her, the less he daydreamed about her naked body and the things he could do with it.
He knew she was hot, but he also knew he’d never end up in bed with her. He respected her, liked her.
They had become friends, all Mads’ lewd intentions to the contrary.
On the other side of Heather sat Lieutenant Evan ‘You-Can-Call-Me-Walker-Everyone-Does’ Walker. Walker hadn’t talked much on the trip, except about the mission. He looked East Indian and talked pure Toronto. He had all the commando gear, from the tricked out assault rifle to the ninja-cool tactical harness.
The CIA man doing the talking had been identified only as Hitch, though that was apparently short for Hitchens. A beefy guy who may have been athletic once but who had let himself slide, Hitch’s loose cotton shirt had sweat marks and the legs revealed by his shorts glowed like a red beacon. This guy wasn’t used to India yet. He wouldn’t know anything about local conditions except what he had been fed.
He droned on in a slightly bored voice. He only occasionally made eye contact. When he did, he would turn away quickly. Mads wondered what he might be feeling guilty about. If it was a bad omen, Mads figured it was only one of many, so don’t get too hung up on it.
Hitch turned back to the photos tacked to the wall. He didn’t have anything fancy like a projector and a screen. Nothing high tech to be seen. With his pointer, he tapped the picture of the guy Heather had called Rourke, now called Boyle. “And so, this information suggests a conspiracy reaching from China,” the pointer moved to a picture of Boyle at a table with an Asian female, “and into SOCOM.” The pointer rested on the attractive, buff Asian female.
Lt. Rebecca Park.
Mads knew her as Becca, the special forces chick he had met in Germany a year back. The one with whom he had “fraternized.”
Things kept getting better and better.
“And there is at least one unknown.” Another photo had Becca sitting down with a solidly built Caucasion male with a deep tan, a weathered face of sharp features, and slightly greying, very short hair. “Russian? Eastern European? Hard to say. We photographed him in Monrovia meeting with Lt. Park. He’s definitely involved, and he’s likely to make an appearance in Kathmandu.”
If he hadn’t been busy worrying about Becca and what his involvement with her could mean, he might have asked the question Heather finally did. “If this guy is an unknown, how do you know he is involved and how do you know he’s coming to Kathmandu?”
Hitch looked at her, then looked down at his notes. Guilty. It was the only way Mads could describe it. Nothing about the whole assignment sat right for him. They were being bullshitted. “I’m not at liberty to say right now, but our intelligence is solid.”
“So we go in, we grab Boyle, we get out, right?” That was Dyck, which ended up as Dick–or the Dick–more often than not. Tall, thin, and American, his short sleeved knit shirt revealed arms of thickly corded muscles, and the deep, dark tan of his craggy face spoke of lots of time in the outdoors.
“Boyle needs to be removed from the picture, one way or the other.” Hitch’s eyes moved over everyone in the room and then back to his notes. “Totally deniable, and all your governments have agreed to that. There are sanitized weapons–no markings, untraceable, and modified by our armourer.”
“Listen, we all know Lt. Park’s in the Advanced Tactics Action Company.” Walker took a sip of his coffee, a nice dramatic pause.
It gave Hitch time to reply. “I, of course, can’t confirm that.”
Walker acted like he had heard nothing. “She’s in ATAC, so we need to know if she’s post-human. Is she Oberon? She an ESPer or anything?”
This time, Hitch didn’t even bother to glance at Walker. “I can’t confirm Lt. Park’s specific assignment. I can’t confirm if Lt. Park has been enhanced in any way.”
“Yeah, she’s post-human.” Walker shook his head. “This should be fun.”
“What is, uh . . .” Mads wanted to ask the question, but he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer. “What is Lt. Park’s relationship with Boyle? I mean, what’s their connection?”
Hitch frowned, and when he met Mads’ eyes, he didn’t look away. “We know of your encounter and relationship with Lt. Park. Her relationship with Boyle was not of that variety.”
Mads’ eyes narrowed. “How the fuck would you know about me and Becca? How long have you guys been tracking her?”
“Lt. Park had to report the situation to her commanding officer, considering her position and yours.” Hitch tapped his notes. “The information came to light when we backgrounded her.”
“And that’s why I’m here?” Mads rose a little out of his chair. “You think I’m going to . . . What? What am I going to do?”
“I’ve been told you’re here because of your capability with strategic analysis.” Hitch considered the picture of Becca. “Happy coincidence I suppose.”
“Still leaves the question of Lt. Park’s relationship with Boyle,” Heather said. “Sounds professional. If so, shouldn’t that be in her file as well?”
“Much like your encounter with Boyle posing as a member of the Army Ranger Wing, Lt. Park’s operational encounters with Boyle were while, . . .” Hitch cleared his throat. “While Boyle maintained a cover identity.”
“See, that’s what I don’t understand,” said Mads. “You don’t just walk into a military camp or base, say that you belong to the special forces, and get given the secret handshake. There’s an intro somewhere along the way. Someone vouched for him. In the Balkans, Boyle came in with the Irish special forces, so it’s kind of natural to assume the guy is Irish special forces. So, what of that trail? What does it lead back to?”
“That’s been considered, of course, and we’re working on it,” Hitch said. “Right now, priority is to get Boyle and remove him from the equation.”
“Nice.” That came from a black guy with a swimmer’s build and an accent like Sharpes on BBC. His nimble fingers worked a military-style laptop as he spoke. Everyone in the room called him Flick. Madison didn’t know why. “You want assassins, you can come do this yourself. I’m here to assist and all, but I’m not about to clean the CIA’s laundry.”
“No one here is on a kill mission, right?” The sandy-blonde Kiwi who went by the oh-so original title of Digger–though everyone just called him Digs–lounged on a faux-leather couch that looked very 70s Soviet-style. “Flick isn’t. I’m not. You need this guy buried, Hitch, the CIA has got plenty of guys that’ll do just that.”
“When I got the call on this, I was told capture or kill,” Dyck said. “I’m going for the capture. Seems to me like we need to know how this Boyle character blacked out Kathmandu. This guy is somehow blocking ESPers. That’s got me a little worried. Yeah, I’m going for the capture, but if my back is up against the wall, I’m putting this fucker down.”
“Oh, I think we can all agree on that.” Digs levered himself into a sitting position. “But why us? I mean, I’m talking to the CIA here. Wouldn’t the spooks be better doing their spooky thing?”
Flick’s fingers stopped their tap tapping. “When the SIS needs dirty deeds done, they get special forces to do it for them. My bet is, same thing here. They don’t want to lose any of their people, so they dump the shit assignment on us.”
“This group was assembled based on advertised talents,” Hitch said. “I’ve been led to believe that we couldn’t put together a group as capable and likely to complete the mission with success on such short notice.”
“More flies with honey, yeah.” Walker stood up, walked over to the end of the table, and started gathering up Hitch’s notes. “Let your bosses know we’re on this. We’ll formulate our own plan. We’ll do this our way. Then we’ll deliver up the goods. This being deniable and all, I figure once we’re in Nepal, we’re on our own. No cavalry coming, right?”
“That would be the case.” Hitch watched as Walker took each of the photos tacked the the wall and slid them into the folder jammed with documents. “Given that this is a CIA mission, Captain Dyck has command.”
“No offence to the good captain, but we’ll decide who’s in command of what.” Digs removed himself from the couch to take a seat at the table. “Like Walker said, we’ll be doing things our own way. You don’t offer support, you don’t get to call the shots. Stay by your phone and we’ll let you know when the delivery is on.”
Hitch opened his mouth. He might have had something he wanted to say. No words came. He scratched his throat, nodded, then left. No one spoke as they all watched him cross the floor of the abandoned factory, or warehouse, or whatever it was.
“Packages are all in the other room,” Dyck said. “Locally available and common weapons only, but we’ve tried to meet your kit requests.”
Walker dumped the folder in the middle of the table. Flick closed the laptop’s lid. Mads even sat a little straighter.
“So how the fuck are we going to find a spook that’s been ghosting since the Soviets were in Afghanistan?” Dyck asked. “How do we find a guy that seems to have his fingers in everybody’s pies, who’s now apparently fronting the Chinese?” Dyck pulled out the picture of the unknown man from Monrovia. “How do we stop a guy who has the fucking invisible men on his payroll.”
“He’s no invisible man.” Walker stood by the window looking into the empty factory. “That’s Alexander Scott. He’s with Drift. I met him in Afghanistan in 2006. For an old guy, he moves fast. Good shot. Real high-speed.”
Mads hated being the guy not knowing. He didn’t want to ask the question, but if he didn’t they’d all talk around it. “Isn’t Drift some kind of enhanced SERE training group?”
“They are now,” said Heather. “But before the end of the Cold War, Operation Drift was the foremost extraction unit in NATO. They could get anyone out of anywhere. They got turned into a training unit, which retained institutional memory and skills, but some of the crew liked the field. A lot still got dirty.” She turned to Walker. “But Alex isn’t with Drift any more. Not for at least a year now.”
“Maybe so, but to me, this still goes back to NATO again.” Dyck scratched his chin. “What’s Scott’s angle? How do you figure he got involved in all this?”
Walker leaned against the window sill. “No angle I can see. Scott was a good guy. I don’t buy him being part of some conspiracy. It sounds more like the CIA not having all the necessary information and just slotting him in as a bad guy.”
“Then what about Becca?” Mads leaned forward, over the table, rifling through the CIA file. “I mean, the only thing they’ve got is that she’s gone on ops with this Boyle, and then she recently took leave. Could be a coincidence.”
“Monrovia?” Flick rolled a pen along his knuckles, his chair tipped slightly back. “Wasn’t there something about a CIA black site there? Or possibly next door, in Cote d’Ivoire?”
“This whole thing stinks.” Heather considered Alex’s photo. “Why no records on Alex? I mean, he was in the Canadian military before joining Drift. I can’t believe the CIA couldn’t find anything.”
“Between you and me, he was in the Security Reconnaissance Group, grandfather to Det 7,” Walker said. “His Canadian records would have disappeared around that time. And once he got into Drift? No one would be too keen on starting a file. CIA found nothing because there’s likely nothing to find.”
Mads rubbed his forehead. “So if Scott is a good guy, and Becca is a good guy, and they’re all linked to Boyle, what does that tell us?”
“We’re getting one up the chute without a reach around.” Digs slid back down to a lounging position on the couch. “Of fucking course.”
“We still need to apprehend Boyle,” Dyck said. “That’s still our mission, unless you’re all talking mutiny.”
“Apprehend, yes,” said Walker. “Apprehend, put on ice, and get some answers. After that, well, I don’t work for the CIA.”
Dyck frowned. “Neither do I, Walker. If they’re trying to get us to bury an inconvenient, I’ll be happy to build the petard to hoist them with.”
Mads brightened, a smile on his face. “Oh, I like that. I truly do.”
Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “the Russian.”