Continued from Twenty: Face to Face
Twenty-One: Fruits of the Mind Field
The night hadn’t started out so well. Ambushed while having a cigarette? That should have never happened. Rudi had chided himself in the past about getting soft. This just reinforced the truth of it. Sitting at a desk in Burma, enjoying the perquisites of the job, it had turned him into that which he had always detested: a slow and lazy talker who didn’t do.
That it had been Boyle’s protege, young Lt. Park, who had surprised him made the wound sting only slightly less. It may be that his cigarette had saved everyone time and troubles. If Lt. Park and her friends had stormed the safehouse, would the mistake have been realized before someone got hurt–or killed?
But here they sat and stood, all together, talking strategy, sharing information. Rudi liked it. It made him feel alive again. Fuck the Burmese. Had they planned to kill him? They at least didn’t trust him, if he believed Boyle
He did. It made sense.
It was all slowly making sense.
Then it came. Boyle had information on a shipment that had moved through Vladivostock and into Kathmandu. Gurung offered to take the lead on that. Rudi knew the ex-Gurkha, ex-contractor would get the information. No one in the room had worked as closely with Gurung as Rudi.
No one else in the room even knew his real name.
Boyle pointed to Rudi. “Take Rudi with you. He has the proper skillset for this kind of job.”
That got Rudi excited. This promised some level of action, some application of skills. Gurung trusted him, likely more so than anyone else in that room. This could be good, could be fun. He tried not to let that out. The smile though, that smile he couldn’t contain. “I do at that.”
Nothing ever reached Boyle’s face. Nothing ever touched his voice. When he nodded, Rudi read a lot into it. Perhaps too much.
Then Cascade appeared at the top of the stairs. She looked like Hell. Like she had been there and back, walking the entire way.
“We’ve got problems.” Her words came strong and confident. If she were ready to drop, Rudi didn’t hear it in her voice. “I think I know the opposition, and you’re not going to like it.”
Boyle rose from his chair. “You okay?”
Cascade waved him off. “I just got a bit of a work-out. I’ll be fine.”
Rudi ushered her over to the chair Boyle had just left. She didn’t protest. He had expected she would. Perhaps she had endured more than a simple ‘bit of a work-out.’
“So, who is the opposition?” Boyle moved to join Lt. Park leaning against one of their work tables.
“The CIA,” Cascade said.
“Fuck me.” Madison said it, but all of them were surely thinking it.
Lt. Walker rubbed his face, exhaling loudly. “So maybe Hitch wasn’t as far off the reservation as we had thought.”
Cascade shook her head. “No, your briefer was totally off the reservation. This whole group is off the reservation. Listen, our subject’s got surface memories of being part of a Narcissus forward action team, but those were plants. They were good, but they were plants. Beneath them was a lot of static. There were catatonia trip-wires and triggers for an emotional shock so huge it would essentially lobotomize the subject. That’s not amateur stuff. If this wasn’t planted by the CIA, it was someone or something with plenty of time and skill.”
Boyle leaned against the table beside Lt. Park, his arms crossed over his chest. “The way you’re talking, I’ll assume you didn’t step on any brain mines.”
That got a chuckle out of Cascade. “No. No brain mines. I took it slow and careful. The problem is, I don’t have a full picture. There are places I can’t go, at least not right now. To get everything we need, I’ll need days and days, preferably supported. His head is a real mess right now. He doesn’t even have memories stretching back more than five years. He calls himself Sapan, but that’s a Nepali name and he isn’t Nepali.”
Heather’s eyes narrowed. Rudi had worked with her back when she was still officially with the military. She was the reason he no longer denied the theoretical inclusion of women in special operations. “Can you trust anything you pull from it?”
“I’ve done this before.” It didn’t sound patronizing coming from Cascade, just a statement of fact. “I’ve worked in worse. There are things I can’t say for certain are facts. All I can pull from a subject are perceptions. Nothing taken out of someone’s head is 100 percent accurate. That’s just the way our brain works.”
Boyle took a bottle of water offered to him by Lt. Park. “Did you get anything actionable?”
“Not actionable, no,” Cascade said. “Information, yes. I’m as certain as I can be that he’s involved in the CIA somehow, but not Narcissus. He’s working for a dark operator, someone off the grid, but not renegade. There’s an organization here, something permanent. This isn’t a rogue agent, or even a group of rogue agents. The sense is something hidden, something deep.”
“Wow, and I thought I was already pants-shittingly scared.” Madison didn’t smile. He spoke in a light tone, but he had drawn features, a tense face. “So we’re up against the evil CIA? Do they all have goatees?”
Boyle did a good job of ignoring the comments. “But he’s not Narcissus? Does the CIA have another ESPer unit that has this level of skill? How could we not know about it?”
“The CIA doesn’t know anything about the Stream,” Rudi said. “Why assume the Stream must know everything about the CIA?”
“This isn’t official, this isn’t the CIA that keeps records, has human resources, and provides benefits.” Cascade massaged the back of her neck. “We’ve seen shadow governments before. Now we know there is one in the CIA. One that knows who we are and what we are doing here.”
“Who we are?” Heather leaned forward. “And who is we this time?”
“We is all of us,” Cascade said. “Everyone in this room. Sapan knew all our faces. He had photographs. For us, the photos were taken in Kathmandu. For your team, it was in India.”
“That makes sense if Hitch was one of them,” Lt. Walker said. “They would have had the meet under surveillance. We did the usual sweep, but that was a pretty big location. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had recordings of everything said.”
“And they would have tracked us here.” Heather started to pace. “This is a mess. This is a total mess.”
“If by here, you mean Kathmandu, then yes, Sapan and his people were aware of your precense,” Cascade said. “If you mean this location, then no. Sapan, at least, had no information on your whereabouts or your safehouses. His team was there to intercept others. There were parapsyches in the cafe, and Sapan and his team had been sent to neutralize them.”
“Two teams.” Madison smacked his palm with the back of his other hand. “Two fuckin’ teams. Just like I said. Out back of the cafe was us caught in the crossfire.”
“Two groups, yes,” Cascade said. “And Sapan’s group has little to no information on the other. The impression is that they are amateurs, short-term contractors, ill-trained and poorly led. Still, they are making Sapan’s people nervous. The communications gear that can pierce the Kathmandu silence originated from Sapan’s people, from this shadow CIA, but the opposing force got it, reversed engineered it, and now they have their own.”
“Wait, if the evil CIA has equipment that can pierce the silence, that means they were prepared for it.” Madison’s gaze moved around the room. He cracked his knuckles as he spoke. “They would have had to test it. I mean, this can’t just be a coincidence. This was purposeful. And the weaponized ESPer? Your ‘parapsychic asset; from the ‘non-state actor?’ That non-state actor is our evil CIA. They developed this silence. This is the effect of your parapsychic asset.”
Boyle put out a hand, palm forward. “Hold on, Mr. Sinclair. That’s a lot of suppositions on very little evidence.”
Just as Boyle had ignored Madison, Madison ignored Boyle. “It’s all making sense. Except for Kathmandu. Why Kathmandu? Proximity to China? Is it a warning? There must have been better targets.”
Walker took Madison’s arm. “Slow down, Madman. That’s some interesting analysis, but we need something more immediately useful, you know?”
“The only thing I can offer is St. Martin,” Cascade said. “It was almost a talisman or mantra, something buried deep but bubbling up. It’s something Sapan doesn’t understand, but recognizes. He doesn’t realize how messed up he is, but he knows there is something wrong, and St. Martin is the key.”
“St. Martin?” Lt. Park peeled off pieces of label from her water bottle. “What’s that have to do with anything?”
“There’s the island,” said Lt. Walker. “Saint Martin, in the Caribbean.”
“And there are a bunch of towns around the French-speaking world,” Heather said.
Rudi frowned. He knew that term, had been wondering about it. He had no conclusions, only questions.
“The dude’s the saint with the sword, right?” Madison looked at each occupant of the room in turn. “You know, from that movie, Flesh and Blood? The one with Rutger Hauer? Jennifer Jason Leigh? Jesus, people, come on.”
“Not terribly helpful, Mr. Sinclair.” Boyle watched Rudi. “Rudi, what is it?”
Rudi met Boyle’s eyes. “The ESPer who tried to kill me, the one when I first arrived in Kathmandu, he mentioned St. Martin. He asked me if I knew of it, what it meant.”
“Yeah, Dolme, one of the crew that jumped us right after we hit Kathmandu,” Boyle said. “They thought they worked for the Chinese. This may mean they were CIA all along, which would be ironic.”
Boyle didn’t elaborate on that.
“That is all I got.” Cascade seemed to sink further into the chair, as though she had focused her energy on delivering her message, and with that done, was shutting down. “Not much of a lead.”
“Enough,” Boyle said. “The more we know about the opposition, the better we can face them.”
The beeping actually startled Rudi. He hoped no one saw his slight shudder. He had focused so much on the deliberations, on the information, that he had all but forgotten his surroundings. The beeping came from the collection of communications and computer equipment. Slim, dark-haired Willow–perfect name for her–had been silent for the entire discussion. She moved to the electronics array and worked on one of the laptops.
“Son of a bitch.” She spoke with a British accent that Rudi found inordinately attractive. “We’ve got him. Target Yukon activated his cell. We’ve got it locked. We can activate and track it anywhere now.”
Boyle visibly straightened. “We have a location?”
Willow turned to him with a broad smile. “We have a location.”
“Kit up everyone,” Boyle said. “The game is afoot.”
Continued in Twenty Two: Warm Welcome