14:25 (19:25 GMT)
Blake arrived at Langley and was escorted up to Director Brennan’s office for his debriefing. As he entered, Director Slocum was sitting on the couch to his left. Mike walked around his desk with a big smile and extended his hand.
“Blake. Great to see you!” Mike moved his head from side to side as he inspected the cuts and bruises on Blake’s face. “You look like hell, though.”
“Thanks Mike. Yeah, I feel better than it looks, but it’s getting better.”
They shook hands and Mike directed Blake to the couch.
“Hello, Director Slocum,” Blake said.
“Mr. MacKay. Glad you’re here to join us.”
Blake noticed the slight recoil Veronica had at his battered appearance. Blake sat down, moving gingerly not to disturb his bruised ribs too badly. He could sense some tension in the room. The mission hadn’t gone according to plan and he was about to find out about any blow back.
Mike said, “Director Thomas stepped out for a second to calm some of the media fire over the little incident you had over the water.”
Little incident, my ass. You should have been there. “Yeah, well unfortunately that couldn’t be helped. I’m just glad the boys—and gal at NAS could help me out.”
Blake leaned forward and put the file of intel that he brought on the table in front of him. He stood up, grunting quietly to hold back the pain, and walked over to Mike’s bureau and poured himself a cup of coffee.
Mike stood in front of his desk, leaned back and folded his arms. “I’m sorry you ran into so much trouble down there. I’m just glad you’re back safe.”
“Me too,” Veronica said.
Blake noticed a certain tone in Veronica’s voice. Are you? Really? “Thank you both,” Blake said.
Julian stepped back into Mike’s office. Blake gave a nod from the opposite side of the room. “You look like shit,” Julian said.
“So I’ve been told,” he said with a grin.
“Glad you’re back.” He extended his arm to the couch. “Please. Take a seat and let’s get down to business.”
“Blake, what did you find in the intel that you were able to acquire from General Vasquez?” Mike asked.
“Most of it listed his dealings and contacts with the Colombian Drug Cartels and the Mexican Gangs: much of which we already knew.”
“We can turn that information over to our departments that handle that after we’ve taken a good look through it,” Veronica said.
“Right,” Blake replied. “But the one thing that I think we need to handle involves this.” He opened up another folder. “I found out that General Vasquez had recently acquired a weapon called Metal Storm. Have any of you ever heard of it before?”
“Yes. It’s relatively new,” Mike said. “But, short lived at the same time. They’ve used it as counter measures to missile attacks on ships, armored personal carriers and tanks. Ships can use it against torpedoes as well. I understand that it was developed in Australia, but that company has since filed for bankruptcy.”
“That’s true, but there is an American manufacturer and they’re still in business,” said Blake.
“Give us all a review as to what it is, or if there are any new capabilities.” Mike said.
Julian waved a hand of dismissal. “I’m familiar with it.”
“I’m not. Are they using it out in the field, now?” asked Veronica.
“Not really. It was still in its experimental phase when the Australian company went out of business, but when you hear about its capabilities, you’ll realize it could still be a game-changer,” Mike said. “Sorry, Blake. Go ahead.”
“In a nutshell, it’s brutal and it can fire any caliber from nine millimeter to forty millimeter armor piercing grenades at a rate of up to a million rounds per minute.”
Veronica said, “What, wait. A million?” drawing out the word. “That can’t be right.”
“I’m afraid it is,” Blake said. “It doesn’t actually fire a million rounds. It just fires the rounds out at that rate. Here, I printed up information that I got from the company’s website.”
Blake handed them the material. “This information is based on the nine millimeter model. The amount of ammunition and number of barrels changes based on the caliber used.” He gave them all a second to let that sink in.
“When you fully load the weapon, each of its thirty-six barrels will hold fifteen rounds each for a total of five hundred and forty rounds. It can be set to fire at various rates from as low as six-hundred and forty per minute to that ridiculous one million. At the top rate, all five hundred and forty rounds sound like a single shotgun blast. The end result is a relentless hail storm of flying lead and explosive grenades raining down on unsuspecting targets. It obliterates anything in its path.” Blake looked at the three directors to get a gauge on what they were thinking. All were in serious thought.
“Here’s the part that is the most concerning. The weapons can be fired manually or automatically by themselves by turning their sensors on and then defining a perimeter that can’t be broken.”
Julian said, “So if the perimeter is broken, the sensors detect that and then unleash hell.”
“Right,” Mike said. “That’s how it can be used on armored vehicles, choppers and ships as a self-defense weapon. The perimeter around the vehicle or ship is set and then any incoming projectile is detected and then obliterated before it hits its intended target.”
“Correct,” Blake said. “And with the right combination of differing calibers and armor piercing grenades, there isn’t anything out there that could survive an attack from a set of these things. A convoy of tanks, even with their current counter-strike defense systems, they couldn’t stop all that would be coming in.”
“Holy crap!” Mike said. He walked around the back of his desk and rubbed his hand through his hair. “What the hell else?”
Blake stood up and said, “Well, it gets even worse. These weapons don’t have any moving parts. So, for anyone looking for a weapon, they would just look like a steel box under x-rays or anyone just doing a visual inspection. Their dimensions are anything but typical.
Veronica’s eyes narrowed as she stared at Blake. “How so? How can something mechanical not have any moving parts?”
“You’ve got to remember that the technology is in the way these weapons fire. There’s no firing pin, no springs, etcetera. It’s just a box with a bunch of gun barrels in it. The projectile—or bullets, are stacked on top of each other. They’re fired by an electrical pulse. So, an unarmed metal storm weapon under x-ray would look like a metal box with some tubes in it and some wires. Nothing else.”
Veronica nodded. “I understand now. And their dimensions? How are they not typical?”
“For one, the smaller caliber models are about the size of a toaster in height, and the length varies depending on the length of the barrels. It’s basically just a rectangular box with a bunch of holes in the end. The ones that fire the forty millimeter grenades are about the size of a medium to large moving box, so we wouldn’t be looking for the typical long package that contained rifles or rockets. And two, because of their small size and range, they could be placed and hidden in atypical places.”
Julian closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “Jesus. Please tell me that we know who bought them?”
Blake gave each of the directors in the room a serious glance. They’re not going to like this at all.
“Yes. Zahmir al Hamwi.”
Veronica ’s eyes widen and she spoke quickly. “al Hamwi? Zahmir al Hamwi? Top ten most wanted list, al Hamwi?”
“The one and only,” Blake said.
“Shit. Please tell me he hasn’t picked them up yet.” Veronica shot a glance at Mike. “Do we have a last known location for him?”
“As soon as Blake told me we were dealing with al Hamwi, I put a call into my contact in the Middle East. I haven’t heard back. Let me see if I can light a few fires.” As soon as Mike picked up the phone, Veronica turned to Blake. He could see the concern in her face.
“I’m sorry, Director Slocum. I don’t know if he had or not. The intel I acquired didn’t mention a pick-up date. It could still be there, or it could be long gone.”
Veronica’s eyes moved back to Mike as he spoke on the phone and then turned back to Julian and Blake. “Gentleman, we will find out where he is. Julian, do you have any contacts that you could reach out to?”
Julian pointed to Mike with his coffee cup. “Let’s see what Mike finds out first. He’s probably on the phone with the first people that I’d reach out to.”
Veronica then turned to Blake. “I hope you heal fast. I have a feeling you’re about to get very busy…” She reached out and touched Blake gently on the shoulder. “...if you’re up to it?”
Blake sensed for a moment that she actually had concern for him. Maybe she’s not all that bad.
The clunk of Mike’s phone turned everyone’s attention to him. “His last known location was in Sabzawar, Afghanistan. It’s about a hundred and ninety klicks east of the Iranian border in the northern part of the country. There is a known group there that he has been spotted with on multiple occasions.”
Veronica perked up and seemed less tense at the prospect al Hamwi hadn’t picked up the weapon. “That’s good news then. The weapon must still be down in Cuba.”
Mike put his elbow on the table, bent down and rubbed his face. “Well—not so fast, Veronica.”
Blake could tell Mike knew something; and they weren’t going to like the answer. “Isn’t there an asset on the ground nearby that can verify he’s still there, or if and when he left?” Blake asked.
Mike looked up. His eyes darted between the three of them. He looked like a doctor delivering bad news to a family after surgery. “That’s the bad news. NCS says their asset didn’t contact them at the last required check in.”
“And when was that supposed to be?” Julian asked.
“Two days ago.”
“When was last contact?” Blake asked.
“Over two weeks ago.” Mike said.
Blake cocked his head in disbelief. “Over two weeks?” That’s not good at all. He’s either been captured or killed. “So, we don’t know if this guy has been missing for two days or over two weeks? That makes me nervous.”
Mike shrugged his shoulders. “Blake, I agree, but maybe the circumstances only permitted him once every two weeks. Unless you’re there, you can’t determine if that time frame is unrealistic.”
“So you want me to go to Afghanistan and see what I can dig up?”
“Yes. I’ll call NCS back and get as much info on al Hamwi’s last known whereabouts.” “Perhaps I can get some intel as to what he’s got planned with these weapons,” Blake said.
“By the way,” Mike said. “Right after we got word of your departure from Cuba, we sent a team over from Guantanamo to clean things up. The Cubans have actually been pretty cooperative.”
Julian’s eyes lit up. “You know—since things have recently loosened up between the U.S. and Cuba, it’s actually not surprising that they’re being so cooperative. I have a feeling that they’re hoping this new attitude will go a long way to us lifting some of these sanctions we’ve had on them for so long.”
“So what are you saying, Julian,” Veronica asked.
“We should take advantage of this and really see what we can find. Blake’s mission was obvious. Finding this intel was an afterthought. Now that we know what to look for, there could be more intel down there that might lead us to what al Hamwi is up to. Mike, I suggest you get on a flight down there and see what you can dig up. Blake, prep for Afghanistan.”
“Whoa, hold on a second,” Veronica said. “No disrespect, but I think we need to hold off on sending Blake.”
Mike unloaded on Veronica. “I suppose you have a better idea? You’re the one that was in such a panic when you heard that it was al Hamwi that potentially had this weapon. If you have a better idea, then fine—what is it?”
Blake’s eyes went back and forth between Mike and Veronica. Oh, boy. Here we go.
Veronica stood still with her arms crossed and traded glances with Mike for several seconds. “Okay, let’s see what kind of plan you come up with, and if it looks feasible, then I’ll agree to it.”
Mike sat back, the rigidness of his spine softened. “Okay. Give Blake and me a couple of hours to figure out our best course of action and when we do, we’ll go over it with you, agreed?”
“Sounds good to me,” Julian said. “I’ll leave it up to you two. In the meantime, I’ll follow up with the guys in Key West and make sure they get that press release out within the next thirty minutes.”
Veronica nodded her approval. “Anything I can do?”
Blake expected Mike to respond with a Fuck No. Instead, he stayed professional. “Not that I can think of at the moment, but if something comes up, we’ll call you.”
A few hours later, Blake, Mike, Julian and Veronica sat in Julian’s office. Mike stood at a map of the Middle East that was projected on the wall.
“We’ve contacted NCS in Afghanistan and it’s pretty much confirmed that we have a missing asset. He still hasn’t checked in and they’ve not been able to pick up any kind of signal from his cell, so here is what we’ve got.” Mike pointed a laser at the map.
“Blake will fly to Al Ueid Air Base, just west of Doha, Qatar. We’ve established a relationship with one of the locals in Sabzawar, and he’s proven to be an extremely helpful asset. I’ll tell you how he’s going to help in a moment. Blake, go over what your plan is first”
Blake cleared his throat. “Sure thing.” He stood up and took the laser pointer from Mike. “Because of rising tensions in Iran and the close proximity to the Iranian border, I think the best way for insertion is for me to HAHO into…”
“I’m sorry,” Veronica said. “HAHO?”
Oh Jesus. Blake looked at Mike just as he rolled his eyes. Blake suppressed a smile.
“It’s a high altitude, high open jump, ma’am.” Blake said.
Blake shifted on his feet. “Generally, around twenty-seven thousand feet. I’ll open my chute about fifteen seconds after I jump. I’ll be just under fifty klicks, or thirty miles from my target. I’ll have GPS on my arm and will be able to steer to my…” Should I say LZ or will that confuse her more? “landing zone.”
“And why is this the best way in,” she asked.
Mike fidgeted in his chair before speaking. “Because at twenty seven thousand feet, the plane won’t be seen as a threat on radar, and being fifty klicks away, no one within miles of his lz will even know there is a plane in the air. It’s clandestine. It’s what we do. Blake.” Mike waved his hands. “Please continue.”
“Right. Our local asset will meet me at my lz and then get me in touch with an all Afghan special forces team. I’ll be hand picking who I want on that team, once I land at Al Ueid. They have dossiers on all the locals that we’ve trained and I want to go over them personally.”
“What then,” she asked.
“From there, it’s just a matter of reconnaissance and trying to find al Hamwi or some clue to his whereabouts.”
Mike stood up and turned to Julian and Veronica. “Any questions?”
Julian and Veronica both said no.
“Great.” Mike turned to Blake. “I need you at Langley air force base at oh-six-hundred.”
“Now go home and rest up.”