When the lambs become lions

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Summary

A man who was looking for the meaning of this life. A man who wanted to fill his emptiness while making something good for this world. He wasn't a scientist or entrepreneur. He was just a spy. A story about a potential terrorist plot against the UK which traces the threat from its root, the land controlled by Islamic State. And it goes via the way of the silk from the Middle East via Turkey and Bulgaria to Western Europe. A story about personal drama and dilemma, our potential fears of terrorism and the hypocrite face of the International politics. (with a slight taste of Love & Erotic). Two articles confirming that our fears are not far from reality: https://en.yabiladi.com/articles/details/61777/moroccan-national-arrested-near-turkish-bulgarian.html https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/threat-to-britain-from-returning-isis-fighters-is-being-underestimated-terrorism-expert-warns-a3781351.html

Genre:
Thriller / Action
Author:
Boris
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
14
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter I.The human

I. The human

Human beings have different needs. We have our physical needs which are to eat, drink, have sex and to ‘flush the toilet’ from time to time.

What about our psychological needs? Have you thought about that? Do you consciously realise that you got psychological needs as well? There are different kinds of mental desires that people often just keep at the subconscious level and never bring it to the surface where they could register them as an actual need which they must satisfy somehow. Therefore, loads of people are suffering due to ‘unsatisfied psychological desires’.

The ‘not so intelligent’ people feel that they need something, and somehow, they try to satisfy it, but their lack of understanding of the actual problem, prevents them from maintaining control. Thus, they are an easy target to manipulate. Smart people consider their needs. They know how to satisfy and control them and what has to be done to stay sane without becoming a slave to your needs.

Have you seen a drug addicted, losing control when he is abstinent? A hungry woman who is ready to stab you because you are late to get on time for dinner? A super horny guy who is shaking of the thought of having sex with the subject of his sexual desires? That’s how people feel when they have the urge to satisfy their psychological need. They are abstinent.

George was a bright, funny and a good boy who grew up in an average middle-class family. He was living with his dad who owned small business of selling Solar PV panels for domestic installations. The solar panels are these big panel blocks attached to the house’s roof, which has the meaning to produce clean energy and reduce your electricity bills. It was a small-scale business, mainly focused on panels re-sale and occasional installations for which George’s dad had two guys who were working for him on a free-lance basis. They fitted the panels to the roofs.

As a typical sales guy, George’s dad was extremely talkative, a bit cocky, somehow emotional, and he smoked every day his favourite Marlboro’s and didn’t give a shit how much more expensive they were getting. Even at 50 quid per pack, he would still be smoking. He loved George and have done everything needed to see him happy and prosperous in this life. George’s dad wasn’t rich, but he never left George without his support. They travelled a lot including abroad which developed George’s geographical and cultural knowledge. His dad was fluent in English and Spanish so at the age of 15 George could speak both languages fluently. His dad tried everything possible to raise his son as a man. Therefore, George could see how harsh the real world is.

When he was a boy, he sent him every summer up north to work on his Grandparents farm and help with the animals and the crops. He wanted George to see how the working-class people make their living and what means ‘to eat what you grow’ yourself. His dad also sent him once to a boy scout training camp, so George learned how to survive in the wild and to do basic first aid.

George had a friend from his area, a naughty working-class boy who was training boxing and karate. That guy persuaded George to try martial arts sports, so he attended a few sessions, and suddenly he started often going to the boxing gym. He wasn’t a top athlete, neither a fast boxer as the gipsy guys from his gym, but he was devoted, he loved the sport as it gave him not only excellent combat skills and a good figure, but it disciplined him as well. The gym was like a small military training camp. The people who didn’t obey the orders were kicked out from the premises, no matter how good they were, or who were their parents. The boxing gym thought him how to respect his opponents, and it took from him any fears he had for fighting.

Since his childhood, George never took ‘No’ for an answer. ‘No’ for him was just an obstacle that he needed to overcome. His main problem was that he was a bit lazy and careless, but when he was after something he was chasing it as a predator.

In this life, you are not born as a ‘tough guy’ you become one. And the main reason for that is the environment where you grow up. George grew up in lovely and a safe environment, so besides the boxing gym, there wasn’t much violence in his life. Therefore, he wasn’t a hard-core thug, but he wasn’t a quitter either. When there was trouble, he was ready to accept the challenge.

Besides having all the physical desires as a human being, George had his own specific psychological needs, and one of them was the need to prove himself what he is worth. He wanted to feel that he is someone in this world. He wanted to be someone, not just to be another brick in the wall. He didn’t want to be the best, but he wanted to be one of the best in all the things he was doing. He wanted to be one of the best boxers, one of the best footballers or students at school and university. He wanted to be the best lover, the best friend or the best son or grandson. For him only the best things matter in this world ‘I am not an average person so that I won’t satisfy with something mediocre.’ Somewhere deep inside he knew that he is different, and he was supposed to give something to this world, but what? What could he do about it?

While at mid-school George’s need to prove himself received its professional explanation. They had a psychology test, and the school psychologist made an individual portrait of all students.

After their class, she invited him for one on one meeting, as she was worried that he was showing some of the Borderline disorder symptoms. She realised while talking to him that he often felt lonely and empty, he didn’t have a specific sense of who he is and what is his meaning in this world, and he had a significant lack of trust in people.

Eventually, after spending some time with George, she stated that he just had an accentuation of the disorder. That meant that George’s behaviour just had some traits or patterns which looked like borderline disorder, but he wasn’t mentally ill.

Thank God, that was the only worry he had in his life. He was physically OK, he didn’t suffer from any significant illness or had any other health problems. He had a stable family and seemed to be well. Just mentally he was sometimes struggling.

His lack of trust in people was ‘triggered’ by a significant life-changing story he experienced in his teenage. He was that type guy who was devoted to his friends and girlfriend, and he never thought that they might let him down somehow. The idea of betrayal wasn’t in his life agenda! But once it happened, it left a considerable mark not only on his life but even in his personality. His Girlfriend cheated on him with his best mate. And what shocked George was that it wasn’t the sexual contact they had. It was the romance they had behind his back. It hurt his ego so much, and he was so shocked by the events that he wasn’t the same man after that.

Although not a stranger to resolve his problems with his fists, he was a well-mannered gentleman, so he decided that is better to stay away from any trouble. In fact, he was very emotional, and that story took him out of his mind, but common sense prevailed because it was his best mate. It was the first friend he ever had on this planet, and he was his neighbour a swell. He was ashamed to raise a hand against him. Also, what was the point? Kicking the ass of someone who slept with your girlfriend! Why? If anyone was to blame was her. She was his partner, and she made a mistake.

That story changed utterly changed George’s view of friendship, partners, and people in general. From that point, everything was under question. He wasn’t sure if the people care for him the same way he cared for them, and he wasn’t sure who is reliable and who is not.

From the positive perspective, he became an absolute scanner. He became perceptive about many things, and he was observing and picking on all small patterns, and type of behaviours which helped him to build excellent psychological portraits of all people around him. His problem was that he was creating the ‘portrait’, but he was struggling with the final judgement. In any case, he didn’t know if he could trust some people, but he knew how to manipulate them identifying their weaknesses and things they like or dislike to hear.

George’s feeling of emptiness was connected somehow to his lack of sense who he was. It wasn’t the case that he was not aware who was his family or anything like that. What bothered him was the fact that he was nothing on this planet. He felt like he needed to give something, to leave something in this world after his death.

Maybe to go and fight for a cause, to save someone’s life, to create something remarkable, just he wanted to leave a trace in this world. He didn’t want to be one of these as he called them ‘default’ people. According to him, these were people who just existed on this plant. They physically live and exist, but they don’t do anything substantial to contribute to the society. ‘And one day when they die, no one would even notice’ he was thinking.

He wasn’t that ignorant, of course, and he could see that not every person could be a superhero, famous actor or something like that. But he wanted to be friends and surrounded by those type people who are funny, who can share interesting stories and experiences, or such who have some unique abilities. Just people who are different from the mainstream. He hated the mainstream. In George’s mind people who don’t have their style or appearance, tend to copy the mainstream stuff, as they can’t see any further than the end of their noses.

So, what he could do to change the world, or to make it a better place? He wasn’t a super bright scientist, neither engineer who will make a significant discovery. Although a boxer, he hated the violence. But sometimes ‘the goodness needs a little bit of badness’ that’s what he believed. Therefore, he signed with the military with the idea to serve somewhere around the world, where are the military conflict zones.

When he finished school, he signed with the army for a 6-month contract. His father wasn’t pleased to see him going away to serve in the military, but he didn’t try to stop him. His girlfriend that time was the only one who protested.

‘You are crazy! Why do you do that? You need to study to become a highly-skilled specialist. I don’t want someone to shoot you in the face ’, she yielded at him once upon his departure. In fact, he preferred someone to shoot him in the face instead of listening to his girlfriend screaming at him.

As usual, he did what he wanted to do. He joined the army! He didn’t reach Iraq or some other worlds’ war zones but spent his service on the south coast as a Volunteer reserve. He went there through full military training. He learned how to use a few different types of weapons, to drive a military jeep and use military radio station. It didn’t make him Rambo, but it filled him with pride serving his country which somehow fed his need of ‘achieving something in this life’, or least for the time being.

There’s something else that thought him a valuable life lesson as well. When he was at school George was always one of the cool guys, and everyone had sort of respect for him. But when he went to the army, he learned that never mind how hard you are there’s always some tougher than you. There was that guy who was around his age, who was some hardcore working-class kid. He looked like an experienced fighter, and his harsh upbringing made him a hardcore bastard even at the age of 19. Ben as his name was, served two years in a Juvenile prison as he got into a fight with two older than him guys. One of the guys punched him with brass knuckles in the face so Ben bit his tongue and now he was stammering and laughing in an especially annoying manner like some lunatic from a horror film. The way he was talking was even more sinister.

‘Who the fuck, are you? Mommy’s boy scout?’, grinned at him once Ben with his sinister sarcastic intonation. ‘Watch your tongue pal. I am here to learn real something not to cause any problems, so mind your language!’ When someone pissed off George, his first response was polite, and in the second round, he was ready to strike back. At the end of the day he wasn’t a bully, so he wasn’t looking for unnecessary trouble. And objectively, the sight of the heavily tattooed guy who looked like 30 years old skinhead with a lengthy criminal record was a bit frightening.

‘Mind my language I can say what the fuck I want. Where you are you from, I bet you are from some posh area?’ Grinned the young thug. ‘I am from Somerset’, calmly responded George. ‘Ah! Are you ha-ha I can imagine. I bet a guy like you won’t survive even a month here. In the juvenile prison kids like you were washing my clothes’, went on Ben. ‘Here get that and wash it’. Ben threw at George mockingly a bag full of dirty clothes.”

That pissed of George who threw it back at the guys’ feet. ‘I am not your servant mate. I am not some twat that you can mug off just like that. So, fuck off!’ George screamed at him and threw back at the Ben his bag.

‘Fuck off, come here, you, cunt’. Ben jumped over the bed and grabbed George for his throat. George did the same, and for a few seconds, they stared at each other eyes like two mad dogs who are ready for a fight. Eventually, nothing happened as the other guys in the room stood between them and broke the fight. But that was the first time when George felt scared. He had trouble with some kids at school, but he never experienced something like that. His opponent was a teenager possibly his age who looked like 30 years old hardcore hooligan. Since then, they often met at their training sessions, but nothing much has happened. The young hooligan tried to take the mick out of George a few more times, but he didn’t mean bad and eventually, they became friends. Nevertheless, lessons learned! Apparently, it left such an impression on George that he often recalled the face of this guy even after he finished his service.

The most important was that the military experience made George a different person. He was no longer just a boy. He was trained soldier who was capable of surviving even if left on his own in the jungle. The service also ‘dropped’ him back on his feet. For the past few years especially going to his private high school, he forgot how the real world looks like. In the army, he met guys from a different social background, and he learned and heard different stories. He learned how to respect and cherish the small things in life. And he realised that man could enjoy life even with a couple of quid in his pocket when the right people are around him. He learned that the most important is to have the essential things. The rest is just a luxury and vain. Somehow, that eased his desire for an extraordinary life full of adventures, but the need to prove himself was still there.

When George came back home, even his dad who was usually very harsh on him, couldn’t deny it! ‘Look at you son. You look great in that uniform. I am so proud of you. I was a bit worried what might happen to you in the military, but you look a real man now’.

George enjoyed his dad’s compliment as such things rarely came out of his mouth. He was proud of his achievement as well, but he knew somehow that there’s a lot more he could do in this world. He was now officially a man. But it wasn’t enough.

II. Faith

After graduating university, he didn’t feel like he wanted to stay at home. He would instead go and travel the world like a bag packer and work manual labour jobs rather than doing some tedious work in his hometown.

That’s what he did in fact. During his last year at university he worked at the campus coffee shop, making macchiatos’ every afternoon when he didn’t have lectures, so he saved enough money to buy his ticket for Asia.

Most of his friends couldn’t make it, but he wasn’t bothered at all. He went travelling on his own, and he explored and worked in various places.

Usually, people who are looking for adventures find them at the end of the day. While in Thailand he heard the story of a Thai fortune-teller, who could see your future, but she could look in your past as well. George was very thrilled as he loved mystical things. He had an Australian friend called Jeffrey, who told him some stories about the fortune-teller and hooked him up to come and see her.

‘Well, I am not sure if you will enjoy it mate. A friend of mine went there and said that the lady was quite good, and she saw some things that there was no way that lady could know. She told my friend also some things that happened one way or another after that. But I believe that my friend is just picking some small bits of what the old lady told her, and she just connected them with the reality. I think she freaked out a bit...That’s what I think at least. That’s my opinion. But hey buddy, that’s me also, I don’t believe in shit like that.’ I believe all these fortune tellers, palm, and tarot readers are absolute bullshit’, smiled at him, Jeffrey.

‘Right, I know what you are saying, and even though I am a bit sceptic I want to see how the things look like...I am just interested!’, George was still up for the challenge.

‘Well it seems to me that you believe in it’, grinned the Australian chap.

‘OK, maybe you can put it like that. I just want to try it. Plus, it’s not that expensive I’ve heard that you can pay the fortuneteller whatever you want’. ’Hmm, yes, my friend told me the same. Well listen matey, we could go together, I know the place as I gave a lift last time to my mate who went there. If you pay my ‘session’, I will join you as well.’ Jeffrey winked at him. ‘Fair enough! Just get me there, and I will sort us both. Just please don’t take the piss while we are there. I am not saying that I believe in that much and I take it that seriously, but I don’t want to take the piss and make fun of the lady and her stuff, as my intuition says that it’s not that silly as you think’. George never really liked the childish and mocking behaviour some people show when they go to public events like cinemas, museums, etc.

‘Okay Nostradamus if your gut says so, let’s do it! Pay my show, and I will be dead serious listening to the magician’, grinned the Australian again.

The very next day Jeffrey picked up George from his place, and they went to see the Thai fortuneteller. The location which was on the outskirts of Bangkok and looked quite poor. The house was quite simple with a small front yard. The weather was a bit moody that day as it was the raining season and was pissing the whole day.

‘You sure that’s the address?’ George looked a bit suspicious. ‘It is mate trust me. Also, I got the feeling that she has CCTV installed that monitors the street. She always knows when you approach her house.’ Jeffrey turned to George while pressing the handle of the front gate. It wasn’t clear if the lady had CCTV or if she was stalking the front door all the time. In fact, the door didn’t make any noise when they opened it, but when they came in the woman popped out of her window and waved at them.

’Good morning, good morning’ greeted them the Thai lady. Let me get you a coffee. ‘See that’s the coffee she uses to tell your fortune’ whispered Jeffrey. The old lady came back and passed them two cups of coffee with two small plates. ‘Drink that and put the cup upside down on the plate when you finish your coffee. I come in twenty minutes. I have customer’ the fortune-teller mumbled in her Thai English and came inside. She worked without any bookings. Walk-ins were welcome, but if there were people at the place, you needed to wait your turn.

‘I don’t know’. ’What if she poisons us. What if she puts something in the coffee that makes you hallucinate and talk gibberish after, which could help her to ‘build’ her fortune-teller story.’ Typically for him, George was sceptical.

‘Mate, I’ve taken loads of different drugs in my life, and I can tell you the coffee is fine, everything will be fine, don’t worry. Yes, she could be a liar, but she doesn’t have a specific charge. You can leave her as much money as you want.’ Jeffrey tried to rationalise him.

‘Well, OK, yeah, that makes sense. At least sounds like the oracle is doing her clients favour, even though for money, but it doesn’t sound like a scam’. If it sounds like total bullshit, we can always leave without paying her even a dime. ‘Let’s see’. Apparently, George bought Jeffrey’s rationalisation as he sounded a bit more confident and a smile on his face.

‘Don’t worry bro. My friend went through the same thing. All is good. The annoying part is that we just need to wait. And after all that waiting she might tell you things that you wouldn’t believe, or they might sound like absolute bullshit. But listen, we came here so let’s do it.’ The Australian was still rational while sipping his coffee.

‘Ok, you! Come here and bring the cups with you’, called them the Thai lady from the window. When they walked into her house, they were surprised to see that the place looked like a temple of all religions. There was a Christian cross with a few icons around the living room. There were a few Buddhist drawings, a Muslim painting and even there was a neckless with Hebrew star hanging on one of the cupboard handles.

‘You see I believe in God’, started the Thai woman. It just has different faces and different names. But God for me is the Universe. I pray to the mother nature, and I have in my home all the symbols that people use to worship her. I am not religious. I just have my faith in it, that’s it.

‘She sounds a bit looney, but it makes some sense’, thought George. He was baptised as Anglican Christian, but when he needed God, he could find it at every place. It doesn’t matter to him if it was Catholic, Protestant or some other denomination church. He just needed the spirituality, and he knew that he could find it in any church. That’s why he had some understanding of the Thai-woman beliefs.

‘OK, boys my name is Jessy, that’s not the name my parents gave me, but the name God gave me. So, who wants to go first’, smiled and looked at them the fortune-teller. ‘He can go first’, said straight away the Australian guy. ‘He is the one who is the more interested to hear his future’. ‘Hmm, OK, let’s see the what the stars have to say for that young, handsome man. Give me the cup please’, Jessy stretched her arm to grab the empty coffee cup.

She turned up the cup in its normal position and stared at the bottom. ‘Hmm, Okay, you are a person who doesn’t know which road to take. Look at your cup young man. There’s a two-branch tree there.’ The Thai woman turned to George the bottom of the empty cup.

He couldn’t see it instantly, but when the Thai woman mentioned the tree he focused on the cup bottom, and he could see at the coffee sediment something that looked like a tree with two branches.

‘That tree is your soul’. You have two personalities. One says ‘work’, the other says ‘lazy’. One says ‘risk’ the other says, ‘stay safe’. One personality speaks of kindness, the other arrogance, and aggression. All people have two personalities, so that helps them to see what is good and what is bad. That’s why we have the paradise, and we created the hell as well. If we are good, we go to paradise, if we listen to our bad personality we go to hell. Simple. But you my son, your two personalities, are very clear and they both affect you. Some people have one that dictates their life and the other one which whispers like a small devil or angel on their shoulder. In your case they both talk. Not just whisper they talk to you all the time. And you don’t know what decision to take. That is why you are always hesitant. And you will suffer from that in your life. It’s a test of the Universe. Only you know the answer somewhere deep inside you. I can’t answer that’, Jessy smiled at him.

‘Tell me your date of birth. I want to see your past and future.’ George told her his birthdate, and the lady started making something that looked like weird calculations writing down on a sheet of paper. ‘OK, so you are an old soul. You were a nobleman who lived in Scandinavia. You were absolute shit, buying friends and women, but you had a blind sister who you loved very much. When she died you thrown yourself into the sea and died there. That is why in this life you will always be scared of deep water and losing breath. I won’t be surprised if you have lung or breathing problems.’

While listening to all that George felt that he was shivering. He wanted to cry. He felt like he was with best friends and someone was telling a story about the old times that everyone remembers with a sentiment. It was an unbelievable feeling full of emotion. He almost held his tears. And what startled him was the fact that he indeed had breathing problems. He was very active doing different kinds of sports, but his worst nightmare was the cardio. He was quickly losing breath when running or doing some other physical activity. Moreover, he suffered from a sleeping apnea. A psychological disorder which causes breathing pauses during sleep. Usually, it comes with a loud snort or choking sound.

‘In your second life’, went on Jessy, ’you had a lovely woman who died. You loved her so much that you couldn’t live without her, so you burned yourself to death. That’s why in this life you are going to ‘burn out’ many times metaphorically’, grinned Jessy. And in your last two lives, you were in the military. I can see you fighting somewhere’. But you were lonely, you had a few wives, but never a happy family. That is why you probably feel alone and empty in this life. You need to find the real and valuable things. We all need money, different women or men, and power. But that won’t make us happy. Even for the wealthiest people, the most significant thing is their family and friends. Build a good family young man, keep close your best friends, who are less than the fingers on your right hand, and everything else will come to you.

Another challenge in this life will be your career. I can see the ‘Queen of Swords’ appearing in your life’. George looked a bit confused now. ‘Queen of swords what the heck that means?’ Jessy stood up from her chair and took something that looked like a deck of cards. She pulled a card and threw it on the table. ‘That’s the queen of swords. That’s one of the most interesting Tarot cards. She is a strong and independent woman who can bring many new things to your life. She will open your intellect and spirituality for some great things. I see her coming into your life soon and making a change that would affect your life forever. It is your decision if you will accept what she could give you. You feel some inner emptiness as you don’t know what’s the purpose of your life. I think that you will learn that soon and it will be a dynamic change. But that will be a challenge again, as it could be the life you are looking for, but I am not sure if it will make you happy. I try to say only good things to my customers, but when I see something bad, I have to say it as well as a warning. So, be careful with horses and water. I don’t know what that is but be cautious when you get to a place where you see these two things as that releases some bad energy. If everything is fine, you will live a long life until the age of 94. Now let me talk to your friend.’

George was confused, and he didn’t know what to say. He needed to digest all the information he just heard, and he was still shivering. All the things the lady spoken about sounded familiar and perfectly described him. How was that even possible. And the things she said about his future... His companion wasn’t that impressed. ‘Alright matey? You look like you just saw a ghost. Don’t worry, she is just a good psychologist, she knows well how to tell stories, and she was picking on some points. Scandinavian nobleman, ha-ha! If someone looks at you could say that you are a Scandinavian. Just leave it.’

‘But dude some things...how she knows what kind of person I am. It sounded like I had a session with an experienced psychologist who ran a psychological test on me, before making her conclusion. Here, I just walked in and gave her my date of birth and had a cup of coffee. That was unbelievable’, George still looked puzzled.

‘Don’t overthink it, buddy. I thought about some of the things she told me. I must say that it sounded quite interesting, but just like a good story. And she didn’t tell me that I will have an exciting life like yours... So fuck it! Ha-ha! Never mind let’s go for a drink.’

George spent a couple of months travelling and working across Asia so eventually when his tourist VISA expired while at his last destination, Vietnam, he decided that it was about time to come back home.

It was somehow nice to be back home as he could catch up with his family and friends. Also sleeping again in his bed was a big thing. In Asia, he slept literary everywhere. His slept on an airbed on the floor, in a hammock in front of a caravan, even in a hotel for a month which looked like a scene from ‘Trainspotting’. The drawers were full of cockroaches, and no one changed his sheets for a whole month. He wasn’t sure if that was even a half star hotel.

The scene back home was completely different. The smell of home was divine. New soft sheets, his bed, it was like heaven! For two weeks...

He spent two weeks back home to recharge the batteries, and that was it... He was ready to go again for the next venture! ‘George, I need some help with the company as manual labour, bits of hands-on installation work. Can you help me with that a bit? You can do that for now while you are looking for new jobs you have a good degree in Bioscience. I have a couple of friends I can ask around for...’

‘That’s enough!’, George seemed to be agitated. I will be better a rickshaw driver in Thailand than working for a local business. I will help you with the manual work, but don’t bother me with anything else.’

‘OK, OK. You can go back.’ He could sense the annoyance in his dad’s voice. But you can forget this house. I need a son who has a proper job. Not some sleazy shit who is wаndering around Asia like a tramp. You have your home and your family. You just need a good job, and that’s it!

George tried to protest, but he realised that he couldn’t argue with his dad who is the master talker. Arguing with an impulsive person like him was a dead end. He was happy to help his dad with the manual work but getting a tedious 9 to 5 job sounded like a nightmare to him. Especially a job locally.

III. Recruitment

The following weekend he went out with some of his mates, and they decided to try a new bar in the town centre. They were enjoying their drinks and having the typical guys chat about girls, sex, and football when George clocked a nice-looking lady who was staying at the bar. The lady as he later learned was called Joanne. She was a brown eyed brunette in her mid-40s, and she looked very stylish in her red dress and high heels. She didn’t wear much makeup, but she had on a sexy strawberry red lipstick, and her long hair was perfectly straightened. She looked very fit, and her breasts were lustfully big.

George wasn’t bothered that much about the age difference. He stood up and went to get another drink. While he was waiting for his drink, he looked at her, and their eyes met. They both smiled, and George suddenly experienced nice feeling at the bottom side of his pants. There was some natural sex appeal coming from that woman. ‘Good night?’ George couldn’t help himself to start the conversation. ‘Yeah, not bad’ Joanne replied casually. ‘Why are you on your own?’ ‘Well is it unappropriated for a single woman to have a drink after a tiring day at work’, gave him a sarcastic smile Joanne. ’Well, I can see a couple of men giving you the eye, but it seems you don’t care. Why is that?

‘Hmm, are they? I can’t see anyone looking at me.’, Joanne sounded like she was surprised and started playing with her hair the typical way women do when they flirt with someone or know that someone is watching them. ‘Oh C’mon. You are a lady you notice things like that. Unlike us men who cannot see far from our noses when we are having a drink’, George laughed and winked at her. ‘Well, it doesn’t look like you are that drunk or short-sighted. It seems that you notice many things around, including who fancies me...’ Joanne gave him a charming smile. ‘Well, I am very observant let’s put it this way. I hear and see everything around me. I just have a good hearing and eyesight’, smiled George cheekily. But as you asked me already, your fans are the bald guy with the dark green jacket on your right-hand side, the chap by the window at 2 o’clock, and that couple behind us. I bet they are swingers as they are both staring at you and talking about you. The man even touched few times the zip of his pants while looking at you. So probably he already made his plans for a fun end of the night.’

‘Ha-ha OK, I admit it. I noticed most of the people you mentioned, but I missed the couple and especially the man touching himself’, Joanne couldn’t hold her laugh. What about you? Anyone who fancies you? Let me see. Hmm, how about that fatty at the corner? She seems shy but still gives you the eye, or the cheeky blonde with the leopard dress. She looks at us even while I am talking to you. Don’t you like them?’ Joanne smiled with a cute sexy smirk.

‘Aww, so you are not that blind as you pretend to be, aren’t you?’ George smiled and bitten softly, his tongue which was halfway out from his mouth. That was one of his usual expressions when he was making a cheeky statement saying, ‘I got you!’ Well, the blonde is not bad, but I like classy things. I am not after the average meal.’ ‘Ha-ha, OK well, that makes sense why you are talking to me. I am not the prettiest, but I am a sexy woman, and I have a class. Let me buy you a drink!’. ’Don’t worry, I can get myself a drink, George was always very proud when someone wanted to buy him anything. ‘Oh, c’mon don’t be a silly proud boy. It’s my treat no objections. I don’t often offer a random man to buy them drinks. It’s usually the opposite! Do you like wine? I would love to share a bottle with you’. George laughed and raised his eyebrows, ‘Ha-ha a bottle? Do you want to get me drunk, love?’ ‘I am not your love laddie, Joanne changed her tone immediately. I could be your luck for tonight, but not your love. So red or white?’ ‘Always red. Helps the blood circulation and it is a natural aphrodisiac’, George didn’t hesitate with his answer. ‘I like the way you think. Hey Tom, give us a bottle of your best red and two glasses.’ Joanne shouted at the bartender.

‘Do you come here often? It seems that you know the bartender’. ‘Well, his name is just written on his badge. I am not that good with guy’s names, just with their desires’, smiled Joanne cheekily.

‘What did you say you do for a living?’, George sipped his red wine and gave her the puppy eyes. ‘Ha-ha, well I didn’t say anything about that. But OK, I am in the lingerie trading business and you?’. ‘Hmm, lingerie trading... are you an underwear model or something?’ ‘Ha-ha shut up you charmer’, blushed slightly at the compliment Joanne. No, I am a trader, and maybe sometimes I wear it as well.’ George looked at her eyes and gave her a devilish look, ‘Do you wear it now?’ ‘Hmm, you can find that out if you are lucky tonight. It depends if you are a good boy’, she gave him a broad smile and reviewed her perfectly with teeth. ‘I am always a good boy, although a bit opinionated’, he smiled and winked at her. ‘Aw, I would love to see that. Would you do me a favour?’ She changed the tone again. You’ve noticed the bald guy on my right-hand side who is looking at me, right?’ ‘Well, yes, I did. And to be fair, I noticed that you were eavesdropping on the conversation he is having with his companion.’

Joanne gave him another smirky smile, ’He is my ex-husband’s colleague. I am in a delicate situation. I’m recently divorced, and I am in a legal process with my ex-husband. We have some complication about our divorce agreement and a significant financial dispute. My ex is a wealthy man and works in the real estate investment business. He pretends that he is skinned these days and can’t meet our financial issues. However, I am sure that he is just after another deal, which swallowed most of his cash, but it doesn’t mean he ran out of money. I am just trying to understand what he is up to as it could help me at court. The bald guy is the VP of his company, and although he is having a casual drink with a colleague, they talk business now. I wanted to know what they are discussing as it seems that they are talking about that deal my ex is on about. So, if you are a good boy, you could do me a favour. They will go for a smoke in a bit. Can you please go out as well and smoke a fag somewhere nearby them. And just try to overhear what they are talking about there. I will appreciate if you can tell me something more about their conversation.

George seemed to be interested in the small spy task and replied without hesitation, ‘Yes, sure no worries’. You are lucky that I am a social smoker, so I got some fags on me. ‘Good, thanks, darling. Oh, Ok, here they are, they are just going outside.’

George waited a minute, so the guys could put their jackets on and go to the smoking area. He had a sip of wine and casually took his jacket and followed the guys.

When he got outside, he approached a young couple who were smoking next to his targets and asked the couple for a lighter. ‘Alright, chaps? Good night?’ He started a basic chit chat with the pair so that he could use the situation to overhear the two businessmen conversation. He was pretending that he is engaged in a dialogue with the couple, but he was eavesdropping on the other discussion.

The two guys were talking and smoking when one of them received a phone call. ‘Michael speaking. Yes, that’s alright, hold on a minute’, the guy who was called Michael took a small pad and a pen from his jacket’s inner pocket and started writing down something’. George decided to take the initiative, so he took out his phone and smiled at the couple. ‘C’mon guys let’s take a selfie, you look great! Come here’ George turned them, so they were backing his target, and they made a few selfies. ‘Thanks, guys you are awesome! See you inside...’

‘What’s going on’, Joanne looked worried. Well, I’ve heard them talking about storage space, liquidation of materials and one of the guys got a call and started writing down something.’ Okay… did you see what he wrote down? Don’t worry. I even took a picture, George smiled cheekily. Give me your number, and I will send it on WhatsApp.

OK, but…how? I mean are you sure they didn’t see you? Don’t think about it. I know my tricks, just give me your number, please! Ah, ha-ha OK. That’s a smart way to get my number’, smiled Joanne. OK, cool here it is. Send me the picture and now excuse me as I am going to the loo.’ George saved her number and sent the pictures to her WhatsApp. It took her some time to come back.

‘Alright?’ smiled George. Joanne gave him another beautiful smile reviewing all her white teeth, ‘All good lovely. It seems that you just got the lucky ticket. Finish your glass, and we can go to mine.’

George forgot about his friends, who left when they saw him talking to the beautiful lady. So, when he looked around and couldn’t see them, he didn’t hesitate much. He had a sip of his wine and turned to Joanne with his cutest smile: ‘Let’s go’.

‘I assume you still live with your parents, so let’s go to mine’, smiled Joanne. George tried to protest, but she had already stopped a taxi and pulled him in. Once in the cab, the charming brunette turned to him and gave him a big fat kiss swirling his tongue in his mouth so sexy that George immediately got hard again. She put her hand on his neck and casually put the other one between his legs and started rubbing his cock through his trousers.

Joanne’s flat was on the 7th floor of a brand-new building which was not that far from the town centre. While at the lift George was so horny that he couldn’t hold the temptation and started kissing Joanne’s neck while she was moaning in ecstasy. She took his face in her hands and looked him straight in the eyes. George looked like a horny stallion, and her lipstick was already on his lips. Then suddenly with one hit she pressed the emergency button and blocked the lift. She took out his shirt pulled down his pants to which George couldn’t protest, she took out his cock and put it in her mouth. In his 26 years, George slept already with some reasonable number of ladies, but no one blew him like that. He was melting from inside. He grabbed her by her neck pulled her up and turned her against the wall. Joanne gave him a slutty and horny smile and lifted her dress up. Without saying anything, they started having a passionate and noisy sex in the lift. She put her arms on his ass cheeks and pressed him against her body. When he was ready to cum, he wanted to take it out, but she squeezed him so tight that he just couldn’t do anything, and they exploded in a massive orgasm.

Joanne turned to him and gave him another wet kiss. She pulled down her dress, and while George was zipping his pants, she hit the emergency button again. The lift went up and opened the doors on the 7th floor. Once the doors opened the lovers bumped into an old couple who gave them a grumpy look as it seemed they were waiting for the lift for some time. No one said anything, Joanne just giggled and pulled George away from the elevator and took him in her flat. She took off her clothes, went to the kitchen and came back with a bottle of red wine and two glasses. ‘Give me one of your fags’, Joanne ordered him with a honey voice while standing in her underwear. ‘So how come a good boy like you is such a naughty little bugger?’, she stared at him with a smirk on her face, her legs crossed, holding a glass of wine and smoking with the other hand. ‘Well, I have some experience’, smiled and winked at her George. ‘That’s interesting you look like a boy, but you fuck like a man, and you are very initiative when you want something. I am surprised how you helped me with my case, taking that picture at the bar...’

‘Hmm, yeah, that’s true, I’ve done you a favour at the bar, but you see at the end of the day the woman is the one who decides if you are having sex or not. I made the initial approach, but we won’t be here if it wasn’t you’, smiled George charmingly and raised his glass to say ‘Cheers’. ‘Ha-ha, okay, it seems that you are a clever boy as well. I like that. I like fucking intelligent guys.’ Joanne gave him another beautiful smile, took a long puff from her cigarette and stared at him like she was studying his face in silence. George looked straight at her eyes and smiled sarcastically: ‘Well, it seems that you like to take the initiative as well. Possibly, your divorce process is not going very well, so you decided to spy on your husband to get some more information to turn the process in your favour.’

‘Well, sometimes I like to take the initiative’, she leaned back on the sofa and started teasing his cock with her right foot. George didn’t wait for a second call, he left his wine glass on the table, pushed aside gently her left leg and pressed himself against her body, and they started kissing passionately again. It was time for round two!

Since then, they started meeting from time to time at her place just for casual sex. Joanne was free to do what she wanted after her divorce, and she didn’t have kids either, so she was completely free. Everything seemed perfect for a causal relationship, but a few times when George was about to see her, she cancelled their date with the excuse that she needs to go out urgently. Once he was on his way to her place when he received a text message from her: ‘Sorry I need to go out as I have some work to do. I will message you later to meet some other time xxx Joanne’. All that stuff already raised his suspicion, but after the last cancellation of their sex-date, he couldn’t resist bringing on the topic. ‘But didn’t I tell you what I do for a living’, smiled Joanne. ‘Well, apparently, you did, but is the underwear trading business so dynamic?’ ‘Alright, alright. I have another on-call part-time job.’ George looked her straight in the eyes: ‘Sorry, but I have to ask you the inevitable question: Are you a prostitute?’ ‘Ha-ha, no not at all ha-ha’, it seemed like Joanne didn’t take any offence. ‘OK, to be honest, I would have thought the same thing. In fact, I work on behalf of some people, and when they need me, I need to go and follow some specific targets, maybe sometimes to have a drink with them and to deliver our conversation or what I overheard to my employer. Does that make sense?’

George looked as confused as full of disbelief. ‘You are joking, right? I can’t believe it sorry. I mean, if you were a teenager I would say that you are making that up to impress me. But at that age, I don’t know, sorry, but sounds a bit looney. So, these guys at the bar?’ ‘Were targets important to my employer that I needed to follow and eavesdropped on their conversation and you helped me to spy on them’, interrupted him, Joanne...

‘So, are you saying… are you saying that you are a spy?’ ‘Erm, yeah, sort of, just on a part-time basis ha-ha.’ ‘OK, let’s say even if it’ true, it doesn’t make sense. If you are a spy why are you telling me that? I thought that spies keep their secrets and identity?’ ‘Well, we do, but I don’t have family and friends. I got just my parents who are too old and my sister who is married and lives abroad. So, technically you are the only person I see now so I hope I can trust you’. George still looked like he wasn’t buying it. He wanted to believe it, but it sounded weird as well. ‘OK, so you are a spy. A part-time spy! How did you get into that stuff?’

‘Well, my parents were doing that so am I now. It’s a family tradition’, smiled Joanne. ‘Hmm. somehow, I don’t know why, but I don’t trust you!’ ’Well, I don’t need you to trust me. ’It’s up to you. I am just saying that if you date me, you must accept my absence from time to time.

George looked now like a student who was about to ask his teacher a question about a new topic they were discussing in the classroom. ‘OK, say that I am interested in doing your job. I am looking for new opportunities now. Can you put me in touch with your employer?’ Joanna gave him a smile which probably looked like the serpent’s smile when it gave the fruit from the forbidden three to Eve. ’Maybe! ‘You seem to have certain skills’, she winked at George. ‘So, what do I need to do? Do I need to send my CV + Covering letter and add you as my referral?’. ’Ha-ha, yes and you need to write 1000 words Essay on the topic ‘Why I want to become a spy’. OK, leave that to me for now sweetie. I will see what I could do about it.’

In three days Joanne messaged George and asked him to come and see her again at her flat. ‘Oh, hello there’, started George once he came in. How are you today? Horny?’, he leaned forward to kiss her. ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ while kissing her he opened his eyes, and he saw in the mirror the reflection of a man sitting on the sofa in the living room. It was the same man from the bar who was talking over the phone. ‘What the actual fuck?’

‘Don’t worry George come in’, he heard the voice of the man in the living room. You’ve seen me before don’t be shy!’ Joanne grabbed George’s hand and took him into the living room where he introduced him to Mr Campbell as she called him.

Well, George, you have an excellent photographic memory as you remember my face, and apparently good photography skills as well’, winked at him, Mr Campbell. ‘Hold on, what the heck is happening here?’

‘Mr Campbell is my employer, George’. You said that you are interested in my job, so I decided that is best to meet my boss’. George looked angrier now than puzzled. ‘Okay, stop fucking around! Who the fuck, are you? Is that a joke? Are you some crazy swingers who hook up young guys to have a threesome with them? I bet you were hiding and wanking somewhere while I was fucking her, or maybe you are her pimp?’

‘Ha-ha, OK George calm down. See, you have a good imagination. I cannot deny that. Imagination is a big thing. If we are made to believe some things, and we managed to convince ourselves to believe them, we can create a whole story from that. Look creating illusions is part of our work. When you start to live in illusion sometimes, it is hard to say what is real and what is a lie. Human imagination is a snowbаll. Step by step you can create a hole movie, trying to connect patterns and trying to explain yourself some things. In reality, Joanne is one of my best recruits, who I hired 22 years ago when she was your age. They both started working for me with your mum’.

’My mum? What the fuck are you talking about?! My mum died when I was six years old! You have to tell me what is going on. Apparently, you are not swingers, I don’t know who you are, you came into my life, and you even talk about my mum. How do you know her?

‘Alright, George?’ Joanne realised that is about time to rationalise the conversation. Your mum and I worked for Mr Campbell and his organisation. We always support the families of our dead employees, and we helped your family financially few times during that time. How do you think you paid your colleague fees? And these holidays abroad? Your dads’ business is alright, but he is not a rich man. It was us who supported you financially!’

‘OK, great so I shall thank you for that I suppose!?’ ‘By all means you should George’, turned to him with a serious tone Mr Campbell. ‘OK, so who are you and what’s that organisation you are talking about? What are you the Knights Templar? The Freemasons? Some other secret society from Dan Brown’s books?’

’We are Mi5 George. I guess you’ve heard of us. We keep away the bad people who are plotting against our lovely country and its citizens. And we operate in the ‘silent field’ as we call it. Sometimes we get our hands dirty, but we try to keep the things clean. We are soldiers like you. We just don’t wear badges with our names and ranks. We are more like ghosts. No one knows much about us, besides the authorities. And even some of them are aware of our presence, but they don’t know anything about our work. Joanne is an operative officer, and part of her job is the recruitment of new employees or informants. She told me that you are interested in working for us.

‘Huh…yeah…well. I... Yes, I did ask her, but that doesn’t mean anything after all. I didn’t ask for a blind date with my employer. OK, listen, guys no more games. What do you want from me?’ ‘Well the same thing you want from us – we want you to work for our agency’, smiled Mr Campbell.

‘George, please sit down and listen to me for a minute, Joanne started with a soft tone. Give me 5 minutes, and you can decide if you want to stay or leave’. ‘I know you are confused and I can understand that. George, as Mr Campbell mentioned I recruit people to work for the company. You are a child of an ex-colleague and a friend, and I always kept an eye on you. I can see that you have a rebellious soul and character. I know that you like bringing justice to this world, I know that you are a good fighter and good psychologist. I know your strengths and weaknesses. I had access to all your records since your childhood. I just wanted to test you with Mr Campbell that you can handle a job like ours. And you’ve done brilliantly! I also know from our conversations that you like to do something meaningful for this world. Something that is going to be remembered and make a change in people’s life. Here it is George. Here’s the opportunity knocking on the door. You either accept that chance to come in service of your country, or you can leave that flat and forget that conversation has happened.’

George looked them both, then he stood up and went to the window. He stared at the beautiful sight of the town centre and the dome of the cathedral which was throwing a great shadow at the main square. He touched his small golden cross which was hanging around his neck. It was a precious gift from his mum. One of the few things that he got left from her. ‘Life is a funny thing’, he thought. It seems that once you get something you wanted so much, you don’t know what to say, once it is in your hands. Why are we human beings like that? Our life could be simple, but we make it so complicated. Is there a reason for that, or it’s just me? Well, fuck it! I won’t overthink that much. At least not this time. I am not a casino gambler, but I like gambling with my life. What’s the worst that could happen if I fail? It doesn’t matter.’ He turned back to his companions, and with a calm tone, he said three words that changed his life forever. ‘I am in’.

IV. The interview

On the train to London, George was staring through the window and thinking about what he might expect from his actual job interview. He told his dad as Mr Campbell instructed him, that he was going for a job interview for a Junior Bio-scientist position. In fact, he was heading towards the Thames house near Westminster, where is the HQ of Mi5. Mr Campbell invited him for another chat there with his superior officer.

Once upon arrival, George looked back at the Thames river took a deep breath and entered the building. He passed the standard security check and headed to the reception desk where a smiled Asian looking lady said that Mr Campbell was expecting him. ‘Please, get the lift on the right-hand side of the foyer to the 5th floor’. When George entered Mr Campbell’s offices he saw him there talking to another man. ‘Hello George, good to see you again. Let me introduce you to my colleague Mr Cook.’ George handshake with Mr Cook whose dark eyes pierced him. He was a skinny, gray-haired man in his late 50s, wearing a 3-piece dark green suit, and his hair was combed on a side. Somehow, he was expressing the charm of the authority. ‘He looks like a real spy’, thought George.

‘George, please take a seat’, started Mr Cook. I’ve heard all about you from my colleague Joanne. I don’t have much time now, so I just wanted to tell you that conversation will be kept in privacy and I expect the same from you. Which means that you must keep everything that happens in this room confidential, or there will be legal charges against you. Do you understand what I mean?’ George didn’t say anything on his behalf he just nodded in agreement. ’Good. Now, please look at this document in front of you. It is a ‘Declaration of silence’. Read it carefully and sign it if you wish to proceed.’

George spent a minute reading the declaration which briefly was requesting him to keep everything private from this stage of the interview process. ‘It seems that the things are getting real’. He didn’t hesitate much and signed. ’OK great. So, let’s begin. I know what you’ve done so far, we ran a few checks on you so all seem to be reasonably good. Tell me now why do you want to work for us? Why do you want to work for the MI5? Mr Cook made an emphasis on the MI5 part.

’Well, there’s only one reason. I am not sure if you could understand me well, but I will try to explain it. I wanted to do something valuable for this world. I know what I am worth, and what are my best qualities. I want to do something valuable and to do it for a cause. I don’t see a bigger cause than serving my country. I have done that while serving in the army, and now I believe that I could do something more sophisticated using my intelligence in a combination of my other skills. George was a good orator and he had the natural skills to nail exactly what he was supposed to say and what the other side wanted to hear.

‘OK. I like that George. Your body language tells me that you didn’t rehearse that before and that was a talk from your heart. Which I respect. Plus, it makes sense and is what I am actually looking for’, Mr Cook looked content of his answer.

’Let me ask you a few questions. Say that you are in a foreign country. You don’t speak the language, you are far from our hub, and you need to deliver valuable information to a superior officer. The problem is that your cover is blown, and you are being chased. You have three options: A: To find your way to the embassy which is not that far. B: You can try to catch a flight out of the country. C: or you can try to get to our hub any other way.

And another question. You are following a suspect who suddenly discovers that he is being followed. He runs out from the coffee shop where you are spying on him. What would you do? A: You will call your colleagues for help. B: You will start chasing him C: You don’t take any action as it might be too risky and it’s not your responsibility. What would you do in these two situations, George? You have 15 seconds to answer starting now!’

There was a deep silence and both Mr Campbell and Mr Cook stared at George who was red as bacon and started sweating heavily. ‘Ok that’s it’, Mr Cook looked at his watch. ’Well, in situation 1, I will try to go to the embassy. If my cover is blown, possibly the location of our hub as well so I am risking of being captured. Also, trying to leave the country using the airport sounds almost impossible. According to question 2 I hesitate between answers ‘A’ & ‘B’. I would personally ask for help and start chasing the suspect. If there are no direct orders I would like to chase him as leaving the suspect could jeopardise our mission. And although confident in my skills I am not James Bond, so I would need some help’

’Good George, very good. I like the way you think. I asked you those two questions as I wanted to see how you think under pressure, your logical thinking, and ability to take quick decisions.

’In question ‘A’ the right answer is the one you provided. And in question ‘B’ I would answer the same way as you. I just have torn meniscus, which I operated recently so probably I won’t be chasing the guy. But that’s good. I like that you are proactive. And I like that you are a team player. In our work that’s important. We are one big family and we help each other all the time. OK, I am leaving that to Mr Campbell now. He will take it on from this stage.

‘George, follow me please’, turned to him, Mr Campbell. They went to another lift at the end of the corridor. Mr Campbell used a magnet card to get into it. He pressed the last button and they went to something like a ground floor. The place looked like a big computer centre, or a busy environment, where everyone is staring at his screen. ’That is our logistics centre here are the people who watch your back once you are on the ground. OK, let’s go ahead, continued Mr Campbell. They passed by the opened space and went through another door which Mr Campbell opened with his magnet card. They went through a corridor and another door when they finally reached a place which looked like something between laboratory and clinic. There was a small fountain in the centre with golden fishes, and a small memorial next to it. The memorial was placed there in honour of all scientists and medical staff, who gave their lives in service to the Mi5. ’As you expect George the nature of our work could be a bit risky. Not all Mi5 employees who work at that place are exposed to risk as most of their work is done in-house. However, sometimes there’s a fieldwork to be done which could put their life at risk. Especially, if their work is in war-conflict zones. George stared at the memorial and started browsing the names like he was looking for something specific. When he saw it he froze ‘Dr Lilian Harvey 1992, Iraq’.

Mr Campbell put his hand on George’s shoulder, ‘She was a great woman son. I am sure that everyone who worked with her keeps only positive memories. She was one of our best officers and a great person as well. We were all devastated when we lost her. I assume you have loads of question, but I beg you to leave them for some later stage. I know it is your mum and I can feel you as I am a son and a father as well. But she is dead, and we cannot do anything about that. I can tell you that she died with honour and gave her life in service to our country.’

‘And now you want mine, you twats’, George could feel his rising anger, but he managed to hold his temper. ‘OK, I won’t ask how as I know how she died although the circumstances and even the way she died might be a bit different. I am just wondering... did you do everything possible to save her?’ George turned at Mr Campbell at looked at him with fire in his eyes. ’What I can tell you George is what you already know. She died the way you know it. There were some other circumstances that were not made known to the society including to your family. In fact, your dad knows half of the truth. But he just kept it secret as there was no point for you to know all that. It wouldn’t change or affect your life one way or another. And to answer your questions. Yes, we did everything possible to protect her and prevent the tragedy.

‘Good Morning, gentlemen!’, their conversation was interrupted by a lady with Caribbean looks who was wearing a blue doctors apron. ‘Ah. George let me introduce you to Dr Rufus. She is head of our in-house medical services team. She will run on you a few basic medical tests, to see if your health is good enough to proceed with your training’. Mr Campbell seemed relieved to see Dr Rufus.

’Thanks for the introduction, smiled the doctor. ‘George please come with me’. She took him through another door and they entered a corridor who looked like a hospital ward. ’Right, you have to go to room 402. It’s the 2nd door on your right-hand side. Please take off your clothes and put on the gown and slippers which are left there for you.

George didn’t protest and followed the doctor’s commands. For the next three hours, he went through full medical examination similar to the one, when he joined the army. They run on him full health test. They checked his heart, brain, lungs, eyes, body reflexes, blood, urine and literary everything possible including X-ray and MRI scan. The difference with the army was that the psychological tests were more sophisticated. It consisted of a couple of online tests and 1on1 conversation with a psychologist. George never really liked the medical tests especially the blood test as he hated needles since his childhood, but he had to go through all that.

Once he finished with the basic health screening, Dr Rufus came in and took George to see her colleagues at the Psychological department. ’I got all your health-test results, George, I am going to file them to Mr Campbell. In the meantime, you can talk to Ms. Cartridge. I am sure you will enjoy your time with her.

Ms Cartridge or Dr Cartridge was still ‘miss’ in her late 30s. She had emotionless blue eyes, somehow beautiful face and blonde hair backcombed in a ponytail. ‘In fact, if it wasn’t the look in her eyes which made her look like a silly basset hound dog she could be a good date’, he thought.

‘Alright, George?’, gave him a goofy smile Dr. Cartridge. Can you tell me how you feel and how you find your time with us so far?’ ‘Yeah, it’s fine, thank you. Everything goes smooth...’, George didn’t seem like he has to add something more special. ’We are here to have a short chat regarding your current situation, expectations, and career goals. What can you tell me about that? George looked her in the silly puppy eyes and smiled: ‘Well I believe Mr Campbell passed to you all the information from our conversations with him and his colleagues, including my school and university medical records. I am not sure what you want me to tell you.’

‘I have all I need George, but I want to hear it from you. Why are you here with the MI5?’, continued with the calm voice the doctor. ‘Well, to serve my country and to do something good for this world. I sincerely believe in that. One day when I die I would like my name to be on memorial like my mum’s name, rather than being forgotten in a few months after my death. I like to leave my legacy which will be in benefit to the society.’ ‘Aha, so you want to be like your mum. That’s good yes, we all want to be like our parents. That makes sense. But why do you want to leave something after you? Why is that so important to you?’ ‘Because I don’t want to live the boring life of the average John who can’t do and doesn’t want to do anything for this world. Such people just exist, but they don’t live, according to me.’ George sounded slightly annoyed. ‘But why do you need to give something. Why don’t you expect the world to give you something instead?’, grilled him the doctor. ‘Yes, they will. They will give me their recognition.’ ‘So why do you need it so much?’ ‘Because I feel fucking undervalued’, snapped back George. ’Because people are fucking ungrateful for what you give them. I want for once in my life to do something valuable and receive real appreciation. I feel sick of being misunderstood like Moses who leads the people to the ‘Promised land’ and they keep questioning him if he knows the right way’. OK, so you need recognition then. That’s the key’, smiled dr. Cartridge. ‘OK, yeah, you can put it like that’, George seemed that he agreed with her conclusion.

‘Alright, so why the recognition is so important?’, the doctor went on. ‘You like teasing people, don’t you?’. ‘OK, it is important because...I want the people to believe in me. But why I want so much the people to believe in me?’, this time George was questioning himself. ‘Because, probably I don’t believe enough in myself, or maybe I don’t trust myself well enough… Hold on are you saying that I lack self-confidence?’. ‘I guess that you are often very hesitant as well’, dr. Cartridge replied to his question with another question. ’Listen, George, I am happy to talk to you because you are very rational patient and you even managed to self-analyze yourself. All your issues sound slightly problematic, but I believe we can overcome them with the time. I have to say that I am impressed of your level of intelligence and perceptiveness. And as they say, ‘the first step of making the things work is to acknowledge that there’s an actual problem’. Thank you for your time, George. We will speak again in the due course. I am pleased that I met you today. I believe we’ve both made some valuable conclusions which could help our work. Dr. Rufus should be here in a minute and she will help your way out. See you soon’, Dr. Cartridge gave him another goofy smile.

‘Lack of self-confidence, need for recognition and being hesitant...?’. For all these years, George never thought that he lacks confidence. Maybe he did for some things, he could agree that he is hesitant but not much more than the average person.

He read once in a book that sometimes the universe uses random people as messengers. They tell us something about our lives or personalities, looking at the things from a different perspective. And it sounds so meaningful and true, that it strikes us as a lighting and we freeze for a second thinking: ‘Wait! What did he/she mean with that?’ We fail to see the meaning instantly, but we know it’s important to us.

‘Alright, George?’ Apparently, Dr Rufus had that talent to interrupt important conversations even if it is one that you are having with yourself. ‘Yes, I am fine, thank you!’ ‘Shall we go, Mr Campbell is waiting for you?’ ‘I bet he is… OK, let’s go!’, George raised his eyebrows sarcastically.

‘George, I am pleased to hear from Dr Rufus that your medical tests look fine’, started Mr Campbell. I am sure your psychological test went well too. Please, join me for lunch at the canteen so we can talk further there. ’They took the same old lift and got to the ground floor where they switched to another one who took them to level -1 where was the company’s canteen.

While enjoying their meal and having a brief chat about politics and football, Mr Campbell got a phone call and stood up from the table. After he finished the conversation and took the phone down, George could see that Mr Campbell stared into space for 15 seconds.

‘All good’, he tried to start again the conversation. ’Yeah, just one of my colleagues had an issue with the current case he is working on with his team. Mr Campbell spoke with more firm voice. ’Anyway, George I received another message which confirmed that your psychological test went well. I can say that I am pleased to offer you a place at our training camp. If you accept it, you will have two days to get back home and collect your luggage. I strongly advise you for the time being to keep everything apart from your family and friends. Also, don’t forget that you already signed the ‘Declaration of silence’, which prevents you to disclose anything that you saw today during your stay at the Thames building, otherwise there will be legal charges against you. I hope that is all clear. You will receive shortly an email with some more information regarding the next step of your training programme. Farewell, and hopefully I will see you soon.

V. The Training camp

Everything seemed like a film to George when he went back home. ‘Are you alright son? What happened with the job?’ His dad was impatient to learn the outcome of his son’s job interview. ‘I got it! I am starting in two days’. ‘Ah, really. That’s great news, but so soon. Do you have where to stay there?’ ‘Yep, don’t worry I will stay with some of my uni mates’. His dad tried to talk further with his son, but George was very brief as instructed. He went to see his friends in the same pub in the town centre where he met Joanne. They were chatting and laughing, but he kept looking at the bar. He recalled his meeting with her a few weeks ago. How was that possible? Did that really happen, or I am dreaming?’

‘Hey, buddy you here? Do you want another pint?’ the voice of one of his mates took him back to the reality. ‘Yes please, I will get the next one’. ‘George, what’s going on lad?’ His best mate turned to him. I haven’t seen you like that for a while. I have the feeling that physically you are present, but mentally you are somewhere else. I know that you like overthinking stuff, but you keep staring at the bar and you seem worried. What’s going on? Something tells me that the things are not that easy with your new job. ’You know me very well Luke. I don’t want to lie to you mate. George gave his best friend a smile which was saying ’Thanks for the understanding, although you know nothing about it.” ‘Let’s leave it like that for now. We will have a good chat about all that stuff one day, but not now.’ George was so preoccupied with the potential new role that he was burning with anticipation for the start of the training academy.

The next morning, he received an email which was his official invitation to the training programme, saying that tomorrow morning he needs to be at 6.00am at Chingford coach station in London. He shouldn’t wear any weapons, sharp objects or inflammable materials, besides the ones for personal hygiene. For security reasons, the email deleted itself after he finished reading it. He didn’t need a second call, as he was already packed and ready to leave.

The next morning, he was put on a coach with 30 more people, most of which around his age. The coach had tinted windows, so no one could see anything from outside. Once upon departure, they collected all their mobile devices again for security reasons. The ride took around an hour when they reached a place somewhere north of London, as George could determine.

They took a tiny countryside lane where you can’t see anything besides trees from each side. Finally, they realized that the road was leading to something like a campus or base. The place had a massive fence with barbed wire and it was heavily guarded by armed officers with guns and dogs.

’This camp will be your hotel for the next two months. You are all here because you’ve been selected as one of the brightest young people, who are not just intelligent but physically fit to do that job.’ The voice of the training commander who introduced himself as Mr Stevens came on the bus microphone. ’I don’t have doubts that you are great working in front of the computer, but my duty is to see who are capable to do field work as well. For that reason, of course, I will have to train you properly. You will be ready when I say you are ready. If anyone wants to quit now, it’s the time. There’s no way back once you leave that bus. I will do my best to make it sure that dead or alive you will pass that training programme. But I will suck all your sweat, blood and tears first, to make sure you are ready to work for that company.

George wasn’t worried at all as he already passed his military training, and he believed that his service trained him well enough. The exercises were separated into a few different levels. The first level was the investigative side. The programme itself was called ‘Catch the thief.’ They played a couple of videos showing the potential suspects and they expected the trainees to determine who was the actual thief for an individual set of time (around 10minutes).

‘You can zoom it, you can use google search you can do whatever you want’. You have 10minutes to finish the task and not a minute more. Let’s start the count now’. It took a couple of minutes when one of the students raised his hand, ‘Done’. ‘OK let me see young man what you’ve done so far’, said the trainer. He looked briefly at his work and turned to him with a smile: ’Why do you think he is our suspect? ’Well, he is the one that got off from his car, sneaked through the parking and then entered the airport through the departures terminal. He didn’t look at the screens for the departure flights and didn’t have any luggage with him, just something wrapped like a present. He went to one of the customer service desks, where he accidentally left his ‘present’, after that the video has stopped, but the person showed odd behaviour and his present look suspicious.

‘Yes, good observation. Looks easy, isn’t it? But nothing’s easy at our job, that’s why your answer is wrong. Indeed, the person showed a bit odd behaviour, especially when he left the present there. In fact, your suspect is ex-labour MP who was flying to Ireland. He is a bit disorganised, as he missed his flight, but not only that, he forgot the present for his daughter at the customer service desk as well. Why is he the wrong person? It’s very simple! The car that took him to the airport has a diplomatic plate 101 D that’s how diplomatic plates look like in England. If you are planning to work for that government I strongly advise you to learn something more about that. Listen, guys don’t always believe what you see. You must read all signs carefully. It’s very common, that you could pick on one thing and create a whole case after that. There’s nothing more deep and creative than the human brain. Especially if you like to fantasise a lot. Anyone else?’

George raised his hand. ‘George right, if my memory serves me well?’ Let’s see what we have here George. Aha, OK the tube. So, what do find disturbing there George?’ ‘I believe our thief is that young lady who is sitting on a bench facing the tube entrance’. ‘Hmm, alright’, Mr Stevens sounded unconvinced. ‘OK let me know why you think so?’

Well, first, the girl that sits on the bench takes off her hijab to comb hair. In the Muslim religious beliefs taking off the hijab in public is absolutely forbidden and even taken as an offence. Second thing, every time when a man starts walking down the stairs she takes the phone to her year, pretending that she talks to someone. Possibly trying to make contact her connection. And finally, she eats a burger from McDonald’s. At 8.30am McDonalds do only breakfast meal which is sausage & egg or bacon& egg which is definitely not a halal food. So, without being a Muslim culture expert, I can tell you that this lady is not а Muslim. ‘Very well George! I can say that I am well surprised. That’s the correct answer. And it took you 7 minutes and 35 seconds to finish the task.’ ‘I would say 6 minutes sir, but I waited for you to finish with my colleague.’ ‘Good job George. Keep it that way’.

’OK, the second part of your training will be an actual simulation of spying on a suspect. Each of you will be sent today to a different area in London. You will be placed in a different situation, where I want you to track different targets, which are actually our agents. So, don’t get too far if you know what I mean.

You will have the targets pictures, so there shouldn’t be a problem to recognise them. Either if it is a pub, bar or just McDonalds. I want you to track the person you are spying on to the place they are going without raising any suspicion. You must be a ghost to avoid any detection. If by any chance you are seen by any of the targets they will come to you and give you a red card. It’s like in a football game. The red cars mean you are sent off. Take your break now and be prepared for your next task!’

George was looking for a place where to sit at the campus canteen, when one of the guys from his course, called him to join his table. ’George nice to meet you mate.’ ‘Oh, you know my name already’, George replied with a smile while sitting on the other side of the table. ‘Well, ha-ha we all know it now. We all have been in the morning training session and we are very impressed with your observation skills. Ah, Timothy by the way, nice to meet you!’ George shook his hand thinking that besides the cheesy compliment there was something naturally positive about his new acquaintance. He had a good instinct for people which almost never let him down.

‘How did you do that man?’ I mean, you seem to know some things about the Muslim culture and you solved the task so quickly it was impressive!’ George stared at his food as Timothy’s compliments made him feel shy. ‘Huh, thanks. Well, it’s nothing special I just have friends from different cultures and religions. I tend to keep a wide circle of acquaintances as you can always learn something new from any person you meet in this life. I strongly believe in that. Also, I like to read a lot about different cultures, history, and geography. And I must admit that I am a bit more observant and perceptive than the average person. I always have been like that. Let’s say we have to meet at Waterloo station at rush hour. I could spot you among the crowd for less than 30 seconds.’ Timothy seemed really impressed of that, ’Man that’s amazing. I want you to teach me some of your observation techniques. ‘Ha-ha alright, I can, but you need to teach me something in exchange!’ ‘OK deal’, smiled Timothy and bumped his fist.

’OK listen carefully’, started with some suspense George. ‘When you go to a place full of people and you need to find someone…always look the faces. And nothing else. People always subconsciously search for something specific like clothes or specific accessories such as umbrella or hat. Completely, ignore that. Just pay attention to people’s faces. Keep screening them like a scanner, one by one. And look specifically for their eyes. The eyes are human body magnets. They attract each other. Like a love from a first sight. The first thing the lovers notice is not their hands, body or hair, but their eyes. That’s why when boxers fight they look each other in the eyes. They tell everything.’ ’Ah cool. Thanks, George, I will remember that! I never told about it this way. ‘Alright Tim, it’s your turn now! What can you teach me?’ ‘Well, I can teach you...how to…how to play a guitar ha-ha?’ ‘Oh, no mate, thank you. I love the guitar as an instrument, but I am very bad at anything related to music. In fact, if anything like that was the criteria for joining the company, probably they wouldn’t let me any further from the reception desk. If I start singing even the dogs will run away’. ’Ha-ha alright, mate. Anyway, cheers for joining the company.’ Tim raised his cup with orange juice. ‘I hope we all could make it through. If not, I can still play guitar at the local pub, and you will have to join me never mind how bad are your musical skills. Well, in that case, let’s better pass our tests! Cheers mate!’ George raised his cup as well.

‘Excuse me can I use the seat?’ A random lady approached their table. ’ ‘What a stunner’, thought George looking at her without saying anything. It was a beautiful blonde, wearing a smart white shirt, black skirt, and a black bolero jacket. She had a short blonde hair and beautiful big green eyes. ‘Yeah... I mean, yes, of course, you are more than welcome’, Timothy blushed like a schoolboy. ‘How’s the training going?’ George turned to the lady. ’Well, I finished on time 9 minutes and 45 seconds, just before the deadline. It’s alright but could be better. Well, not so impressive as you George. She gave him a charming smile which put a smile on his face as well. ’Do you know where you could work next if you pass the tests? ’Timothy interrupted the small flirt.

’Well, I am a linguist, a Cambridge graduate. They mentioned something about international affairs. I hope that I can help somehow there with my language skills.’ ‘What languages do you speak’ both men asked her at the same time. ‘Ha-ha, are you brothers or something? OK, I speak English, French, German, Arabic, and Russian’, she looked proud of saying that. ‘Whaat? That’s mental’, Timothy couldn’t believe what he just heard, and George didn’t seem less impressed either.’ ’Well OK, I am half English and half German and we lived with my family in Tunisia for 10 years where I learned French and Arabic as well. I’ve studied Linguistics at Uni where I learned Russian also. I just find learning new languages quite easily.

‘Ahh that’s amazing I can’t believe it.’ George widened his eyes in disbelief. “Ты що не веришь, что я говорю по-русски?” (You don’t believe I speak Russian?), “Aw tafadal allughat alearabia” (or you prefer Arabic). The blonde giggled and gave another cute smile to George. He couldn’t help himself, but just leaned back in his chair and smiled like he wanted to say: ‘What a woman’. He was obviously impressed by her looks, but what grabbed his attention was that there was something really interesting about that woman. He loved it!

‘Well I didn’t introduce myself, but it seems you already know my name. I am afraid I am not that good with foreign languages. But I speak some Spanish. And that’s our colleague Timothy he speaks...’ ‘…Some Cornish! But just conversational’, interrupted him with a cheeky smile, Tim. ‘Alright, boys. My name is Jennifer Clark. It was a pleasure talking to you, but I have to leave you now to make a phone call as our break will finish soon’. ‘What an elegance’, George kept watching her while she was walking out of the canteen.

‘OK, boys and girls’. Mr Stevens started with the second part of their training. As you already know our main enemies are... anyone?’. ‘The IRA, Islamic fundamentalist, the Russians and the Chinese’, someone yielded from the back. ‘Absolutely, correct’. As I said before the brake each of you will have a specific target to spy on today. The targets will be our own agents who will be disguised as Russian spies, IRA terrorists or Jihadists. Once you leave this room you will be taken by coach to London. There you will be given your tasks. What we require from you is just to follow the guidance and try to be invisible to your potential suspects.

A few people were caught by their targets in the first 10 minutes of their mission and received the red card which meant they were off. Jennifer’s mission started in a bar in North London. The suspect left the bar and got on a motorcycle. She waited for him to pull out in the traffic, then she ran out and jumped in a taxi just before a middle-aged couple who were trying to do the same. They protested, but Jennifer shut the door and shouted at the driver: ‘Follow that bike’. ‘Is everything alright madam?’ The driver turned and look at her worried. ‘It’s fine, don’t worry. It’s just my cheating husband. Go on please’. It took around 5 minutes when they stopped at the traffic lights. She started panicking as she lost the biker. Then she heard someone knocking on her window. It was the biker. ’Shit, what the heck? But how...? She lifted down the window. ‘You did well going out quickly, but I saw you already at the bar’, the ‘agent-suspect’ gave her the red card. ‘You didn’t stop looking at me, and we were in a cocktail bar and you were the only one wearing trainers.’ ‘Well, I didn’t know that I have to wear heels’, tried to protest Jennifer. ‘You have to consider those things honey. You must blend in with the surroundings. It’s part of our game. Sorry.’

Timothy’s mission began at Burger King at Victoria station. He tried George’s trick and started skimming people faces. He kept just in case the picture of his suspect on his mobile. ‘There, he is’, he thought. An Asian looking man in his 40s, light beard and wearing a suitcase. The man had a coffee and he left the place. Timothy followed him but remembered George’s words that ‘the eyes are like a magnet’ so he started walking from a distance just looking at the suspect’s body. They both passed the ticket control and got on the train to Richmond. He entered the first coach of the train and started walking slowly down the aisle. Then he saw him, sitting in the third coach. They went out at Richmond and Tim kept following him from a distance. They walked for around 10 minutes when the suspect turned to a side road. There was only one person on the road beside the target, so Tim crouched behind a wall and decided to wait. The Chinese man entered an alley which led into a housing estate. Tim slowly crossed the road and entered the alley. Then, he saw the red card on the ground. ‘What the heck?’ The man he was following came in front. ‘I must say that was very good and you reached almost the end of your mission, but you made a major mistake. We always watch our targets from a distance. Never get too close.’ ‘What do you mean? Tim sounded really surprised. Did I need just to sit and wait?’ ‘Exactly, mate. You just needed to report the address and your mission will be over. But when you rushed to get in the alley it was obvious you are chasing something. Sorry, it’s just a surveillance mission, nothing more than that. But don’t worry that’s the idea of that task to learn from the practice. So far you’ve done great.’

George’s target was an Islamic jihadist, who was at the ‘British Library’. He was there reading a book about Sociology. George scanned him immediately. The man stood up and George could see how he was going down the stairs. He followed him but took the lift. He saw the man taking on a bike in front of the library. George passed behind him without even looking at the suspect and took one of the London bikes who were at the other side of the road. He deliberately left a few cyclists in front of him and started cycling behind the suspect from a distance. They reached an area where most of the people were Muslims wearing traditional clothing. George stopped by a street shop and grabbed for a fiver a white Muslim hat. He put it on quickly and follow the suspect who entered a private house. George passed by the house without looking at it. At the next junction, he saw a couple of kids playing football. ‘Hello, chaps would you do me a favour?’ I want to surprise my uncle. I will give you 20 quid if you just go and ring his front door and just ask him how to get to Whitechapel. ‘Okay, why not. What is the surprise for?’, said one the kids who looked like the leader and grabbed the 20-quid banknote. ’Well he is having his 50th birthday today and he doesn’t know that I am around. So, I just want to surprise him coming from the back door.’ ‘OK, I like surprises, why not’. The kids went to the house and rang the front door. George came to the backyard of the house. It seemed there was no one there. When he heard the doorbell ringing he jumped over the fence and entered the house through the back door. There was a small Pomeranian dog which started barking, he let the dog out and shut the door. He snuck into the kitchen while the children were talking to the owner of the house. He turned on the kettle and sat down. In a minute the suspect came in. ’Jesus, fucking Christ, what the fuck?’ He looked pale as a ghost. ‘Afternoon mate’, nodded at him, George. I believe the red card is for you today...’

The third stage of their training was orientation. They took them to Scaffel Pike, the highest mountain in England. ‘Good morning everyone. Here on this plane starts the next part of your training. You have a set route and specific location to reach, but unlike boy scouts, your journey will be more fun. We will start with a parachute jump. Any volunteers to go first?’

George felt like he was going to throw up. He hated heights, and he never imagined in his life that he would be supposed to do parachute jump or something similar. He has never done anything like that in the army either. It was one of his grates fears. ‘George come here. You will be first’, shouted at him, Mr Stevens. You’ve done well with the first two parts of the training, so let’s see what kind of a soldier you are.’ George looked like paralyzed. ‘Come on, what’s wrong? I thought that the ex-military are tough bastards’. ‘Alright motherfucker, let’s do this.’ The mocking comment worked on him. He hated people, making fun of him publicly. ‘Just pull that thing here, the rest should be fine’, were the last words he hard. He closed his eyes and jumped in the dark. He could feel the air pressing his face and his cheeks were like jelly. He just pulled the cord and closed his eyes. In a couple of minutes, he felt like he was flying. He opened his eyes and saw the ground underneath. ‘Right, let’s prepare for landing’, he could hear his own voice. ‘Alright, Georgy’ he could hear Timothy shouting somewhere from above. When they hit the ground, they all gathered around Mr Stevens who did the jump with his trainees.

‘You have a set time now’, he turned to them. You have 2 hours to reach that point on your map. You will be split in a team of three.’ Luckily, George was on a team with Timothy and another guy. It took them an hour when they reached a big lake. ’It says that we need to go through the other side, but we need to swim underwater. We will be disqualified if we do it any other way. ‘Underwater no chance’, if there was anything that he feared more than heights it was losing breath while swimming underwater. ‘Georgy, we have to do it mate. If you don’t go any further, we will fail that as a team!’ ‘C’mon George, I know you can make it mate’, both Timothy and the other guy looked at George with concern. ‘OK, OK, let’s do this.’ They slowly started putting on the scuba-diving gear who was in their bags. ‘If I knew I was caring that shit I would throw that bag pack away’. George tried to joke, but he could feel the rising tension in his body.

The water was cold and dark, but the thought that he could lose oxygen was paralyzing. They kept swimming when George’s foot got stuck in something like a seaweed. He tried to scream for help, but Tim and the other guy were swimming ahead. George panicked and tried to rip off the seaweed. He took out a knife from his side pocket, but it slipped through his fingers and he dropped it at the lake bottom. He felt that he was losing breath. Then he saw someone coming in his direction. It was Tim. He came back for him! Tim cut off the seaweed and helped George to get to the surface. Once he got above the water, he took off his diving mask and took a deep breath stretching his chest as much as possible. Then he heard the engine of a boat that was coming towards them. ‘It’s alright buddy don’t worry.’ Tim came out the water as well and tried to help him to stay above the water. ‘You saved my life, Tim!’ ‘Well I think you were alright, you just panicked a bit more, your equipment was fine.’ ‘It doesn’t matter Tim. For me, you saved my life and I will pay you off one day. Sorry for letting you down and the other guy.’ ’George, listen, it’s fine. That’s why we are a team to help each other. You don’t owe me anything. But if you insist to do something for me, let me teach you at least one guitar accord’. ‘What a guy’, thought George smiling from inside. ‘He is not just a mate he is like a brother.’

The last stage of the training process was weapon and martial arts practice. That was the easiest part for George as he already had his military training and boxing experience. The martial arts class was very interesting to him as they practiced Krav maga. It is a form of martial arts developed for the Israeli special forces. A combination of self-defense tactics which could be in a certain situation deadly for the opponent. All that training with a combination of physical exercises was the end of their training camp.

After finishing with the training camp, they all had their 1on1 meetings at the Thames building. ‘Hello George, I am happy to see you again’, started Mr Campbell. I got the report from your training commander. It seems that you failed one of your missions, but your general performance was outstanding. We believe that you are mentally and physically fit to work for us. That’s why I wanted to congratulate you officially of joining the MI5 family. We are currently, facing a sever treat from the Radical Islamists. We don’t have the time for any initiation at work. We must get you to the field now. Here that’s for you’, Mr Campbell took a small black USB from his pocket and gave it to George. All the information you need for your mission is in that flash memory. Also, here is your plane ticket. On Wednesday you are flying to Glasgow. ‘Glasgow, Wednesday?’ George seemed surprised as everything seemed to happen super-fast. ‘Yes, we work with a short notice here. When you get back home today, please check all the instructions on the USB, it will give you everything you need for your next task. When you finish with it, please destroy the USB. Excuse me, but I have some things to do know. I wish you a good luck and hope we can speak soon.’

VI. I Spy

‘What the hell? I know that I joined the Mi5 not Starbucks, but everything is so brief. I am not saying that I was expecting graduation ceremony, but it seems really weird. Maybe we watch many Hollywood movies. But that’s not what I expected!?’ George was dwelling on the situation while sitting in front of his laptop and waiting to open the USB flash memory content. The USB had his e-ticket and instructions to let him know that there will be a man waiting for him at the airport who will take him to his hotel.

Once in Glasgow, he was on his way out from the arrivals Terminal when a man in a brown bomber jacket and a grey cap stopped him. ‘George, I am Tom, a friend of a friend. Would you come with me please?’ George just nodded and followed him. They went to the parking lot where they got in a black Ranger rover jeep. ‘Nice car’, mumbled George. ‘Yeah, unfortunately not mine, company one’, smiled Tom. They didn’t say much during the ride. Tom parked in front of the hotel and helped George to take out his luggage. ‘Here’s your hotel. The booking is on your name. Here’s info about your next task. Enjoy your stay’. Тоm gave George another black USB and went back to his car.

’Help, please help. He stole my purse. A middle-aged lady was shouting at a hooded guy who was running down the street. George didn’t hesitate and started chasing him. It didn’t take much as at the next junction the guy jumped into a parked vehicle who was waiting for him and they disappeared into the traffic.

‘What happened did you catch him?’ Tim was out from the car and looked seriously worried. ‘No, I couldn’t! The guy was too fast. Where’s the woman is she alright?’ ’I don’t know, maybe she went inside to call the police. Jesus, you sure you are alright? ‘Yeah, yeah I am fine thanks. Thank you for the lift also, see ya’. George was a bit pissed that he couldn’t catch the thief so just briefly took goodbye with Jeff and went on his way to the check-in desk.

When he got into his room he took out the USB and plug it into his laptop. It contained a single video message and two pictures. He saw a familiar face on the screen, it was Mr Campbell, ’Hello George, I assume you are already in your hotel room watching this video. As I told you before we don’t waste our time, so we need to act quickly. Unlike your training sessions, there’s a real suspect this time, who I want to bring to your attention. His name is Karim Nizzar. He is part of an international terrorist cell closer to Islamic state, which has links to the recent Paris and London terror attacks. You will find his picture on this flash memory. Karim is dealing with human traffic and particularly with a refugee smuggle from the Middle East to Western Europe. So far, it’s not our concern. The problem is that there are potential terrorists who mix with the refugees to reach Europe. Our target is responsible for the terrorist arrival in the UK. Those terrorist bastards and Karim, don’t operate on their own, as they work with the local underworld which helps them with the logistics. Your profile is George, ex-military who works for a London based criminal organisation, who deals with drug trafficking and prostitution along the Albanian Mafia. Your group provides the Jihadists with weapons and secure safe houses for them around the country.

The suspect has a usual routine of visiting every night after dinner a Shisha bar which is not that far from your hotel. The place is called ‘Farookh café’. The suspect is aware of your presence. So, you don’t need to do and say much. I just want you to pass him a list with a few postcodes which are potential safe-house locations across the UK. You will find the postcodes in the file. When you finish, as before I expect that you will destroy the USB. Good luck’.

George dinned at his hotel and after the meal, he went straight to the targeted location. He immediately scanned his target who was smoking Shisha and drinking whisky at the bar. George came close to his target and ordered a lager. ‘A lager in a shisha bar. Here is a place for something stronger or a tea if you don’t drink.’ Karim started the conversation. ‘Well, I don’t drink usually, but I wanted to have something lighter. What about you I thought that the Muslims don’t drink alcohol?’. ‘Ha-ha well if you like to generalise maybe. Yes, I am a good Muslim, but I like a good drink too. Now it’s exactly the period after the Ramadan, so I can take some liberty. George, right?’ ‘Good to meet you Karim’, George nodded at him and took a sip of lager. ‘Well, I thought that you guys don’t drink at all. Never mind if it is before or after any of your celebrations?’ ‘Well, George I am a Kurdish Alevi. We worship Ali, the son in law of the prophet Mohammed. Sometimes we use Red Wine in our religious ceremonies. Therefore, the alcohol is accepted among our people.’ Karim raised his glass for saying cheers. Anyway, I believe we have some mutual friends George, who told me that you have something for me. ‘Yes, I do. Maybe we can go for a smoke outside, you can take a break from that and try a real tobacco.’ ‘Ha-ha, I am not a stranger to any pleasure in this world George. I smoke everything’. ‘Let’s go then.’ Both men stood up from their seats and went outside. ‘Can I borrow one of yours?’ ‘Here, take one’, George pulled out and gave him a pack of Marlboro lights. ‘Actually, you can keep it I got another one.’ He winked at him like he was conspiring something. ‘Excuse me guys can I ask you for your lighter, please?’ A random guy speaking the unique local Glaswegian accent approached them with a cigarette in his mouth. ‘Yes of course here you got mate’, George passed him the lighter. ’Instantly, the guy grabbed and twisted George’s hand and turned him against the wall. ‘Scotland yard you are under arrest on suspicion of International terrorism.’ At the same moment, two other men jumped out from a van parked in front of the café and pushed Karim to the floor trying to nick him. Karim swore something in Kurdish, and he tried to slip away, but two more guys came from the shop and restrained him. ‘You mother fuckers what the fuck you want? Is it illegal to smoke outside?’ The police officers desperately tried to handcuff him, but he fiercely resisted the arrest. One of the cops pulled an electric shocker and electrocuted Karim. George saw how the electricity went through his body, and his new companion collapsed motionless on the ground. This time the police easily put him the handcuffs and pushed him and George in the parked van. As usual in such situations, it looked like it took ages, but actually, everything happened for less than a minute. Therefore, just a few random pedestrians noticed the scene.

When they got in the police van they hooded their faces and the next thing George remembered was opening his eyes in a room with two uniformed police sitting at a table in front of him. ’Good evening, George. Let’s see. Do you want to do the things the easy way or we need to get hard? You are accused of helping a criminal suspect alleged in international terrorism, human traffic, blackmailing and possession of illegal weapon. Your record says that besides some minor incidents in your teenage like street fighting you don’t have some major convictions. You served in the British armed forces for several months and you come out with an outstanding record. You have a degree in Bioscience and seem to be a good kid to me. Why do you do that? Why do you mess with those terrorists?

’Fuck that little ‘arsehole’. I know people like him. Middle-class spoiled lazy kids, who don’t want to do their living the normal way, so they are after the easy money. You, heartless piece of shit, don’t you know that people are dying, because of those terrorists you work for’, screamed at him the bad cop.

’Apparently, these silly twats never get rid of the old tactic of ‘the good and the bad cop’. And what the heck is going on? Is that some kind of a staging organised by the company?’ George was trying to stay sane and figure out the situation, although the police officer who was shouting at him was seriously pissing him off.

’OK listen, guys, I really don’t know what you are talking about. I believe there is a mistake. I am not a criminal. I was just having a fag that’s it. He knew that it won’t work, but that’s the best he could tell them. ‘Having a fag with a terrorist and passing him over information about potential terrorist safehouses. What do you think we are stupid? We got the Marlboro’s pack you gave to Karim and we found the postcodes tucked in the uppers side of the box. When we took your fingerprints, we found marks of PETN or Pentaerythritol tetranitrate as it is also known. It’s a chemical ingredient, used for producing IES, improvised explosive device. Widely used these days and favourite toy for the Jihadi terrorists. Recently they used IES at the London tube attack. So, better stop fucking around, and start talking’, the ‘bad cop’ kept pushing him. ‘What? What the fuck you are talking about.’ George widened his eyes and stood up in his chair like he was electrocuted.

’You sure that’s not some kind of mistake? OK, I see that’s just another game organised by the company. ‘What company you are talking about you scum?’ The bad cop was losing patience. ’Right, OK. Just tell Mr Campbell that it was a good trick, you almost got me but it’s time to bring down the curtain and stop with that theatre. I don’t know what’s the purpose of that, but it starts to piss me off. So just cut it off now, please. ’Cut it off? I will tell you what I will cut off you little piece of shit. I don’t know who Mr Campbell is, but he won’t help you here. The bad cop who was standing next to George punched him which knocked him off the chair. ‘What the fuck’. George started coughing and spitting blood on the floor. ‘That’s enough’, another senior police officer came into the room. ‘Come with me I have to talk with you.’

Ten minutes later the two cops came back. George was now standing still with his hands cuffed behind his back. ‘Just, fucking do that again and I swear...’ ‘George, calm down’, cut him the good cop. ‘There’s someone who would like to talk to you. We are done here.’ The ‘bad cop’ gave him an angry look and the two police officers left the room. At the same time, another man in suite came in. ‘George, I am sorry about that’. My name is Orpington I work for the company.’ George spat some blood on the floor and looked him in the eyes. ‘It was about fucking time. What’s going on?’ ‘Listen, sorry for that. Please, sit down. Apparently, these retards are taking liberties here.’ ‘Oh, really, tell me about it’, George was still fuming. ’I am here to take you out. Sorry, but we needed that show. Not the punch in your face of course, but your arrest!

Karim Nizzar is indeed an international terrorist and high-priority target and we needed to buy his trust and make your cover more believable. It wasn’t easy for us to arrange that meeting with him as usually he is very careful and avoiding any personal contacts as much as possible. With your arrest, we can strip down any suspicion he could have about you. We will work out your release from custody, and Karim’s also. They don’t have anything against him anyway, besides the box with the postcodes. So, I will talk with these bastards from Scotland Yard and they will let you go. You are leaving Glasgow tonight, and you are flying over to London. We got a safe house there where you will stay and wait to receive further instructions. I can see on the look of your face that you are confused. I am unable to speak further, but I want to assure you that everything is fine so don’t worry. We are on the ball.’

‘Don’t worry what the heck you are talking about’, shouted George. I am arrested by the police on charges of terrorism and some cunt just split my bottom lip for no reason. Jesus fucking Christ. OK, just fucking get me out of here. That’s fine.’ ‘Thanks, George. I can see your frustration, but things like that are part of the game. There are always ups and downs and situation with unpredictable development and ending. It’s part of the game. Be prepared for things like that.’ George stood up from his seat ‘That’s OK. Just don’t lecture me anymore and get me out of here, please’.

The next morning George woke up in a flat somewhere in East London. He finally managed to get some proper sleep. His bottom lip was swollen and aching. He was so tired when he reached the safe house, that he fell asleep in his clothes while watching TV. He could hear the landline ringing and he rushed to get the call in the living room. ‘George, Good morning, Orpington here. I hope you slept well. Listen for further instructions please find more information under the table in the living room. Wish you good luck.’ ‘Wait for …how?’ George tried to say something more, but the opposite side hung up. ‘Son of a bitch’. Still sleepy he sat on the sofa in front of the table and started searching for whatever he was supposed to find... He finally found something that was sellotaped underneath the table. He took it out. It was another black flash memory. He connected it to his laptop and saw again in the file a video and two pictures. He started the video.

‘Good morning George.’ It was Mr Campbell again. I hope you are OK. I’m sorry to hear that you had some trouble. As you’ve been told we needed your arrest, so we can make your cover more convincing in front of Karim Nizzar. We believe that he is trying to help Islamic extremist to illegally enter the UK. I am talking about suspects under the monitoring of Interpol for International terrorism, who are believed to be taking part in a new terrorist plot. He is going to be released today from prison and he expects to be under surveillance. As, you can imagine Karim is highly suspicious now, and it will be hard to arrange another meeting with him in person. Although we believe that we’ve done our job well and he bought the whole story with your arrest, we will have to use someone else as a mediator to make a new contact. Our target will be his cousin Hafez. You can find his picture in the file as well. He goes every Thursday around 6 pm to pray at the Abbey Mills Mosque at Stratford. He goes there after work with his company-branded VW van. It has his meat company name on it ‘Hafez Halal meat’. The registration is MIKE NOVEMBER 05 BRAVO TANGO VICTOR. Then the police got the information for the potential terrorist hiding places, so we need to pass on Karim a new message. The new postcodes are in the file as well.

I suppose since last time you need some answers, so I will try to explain the things. Thе fundamentalists often work with the local underworld to form their cells. The criminals, sell them weapons, supply them with IED inventory, help them with secure new safe houses, or provide storage spaces. That’s one of our ways to detect the terrorists and infiltrate their cells. As I explained before, your profile is of an ex-military, who has a good chemistry knowledge, so you could help the terrorists not only with securing safe houses but supplying and constructing for them an IED. Here I must apologise also for not making you aware of the whole case. But we were worried that you are not that experienced yet, and if we shared all that information with you prior meeting Karim, the whole operation could go to bust. I have to say that besides the overreaction of the police officers while arresting Karim and what they did in the custody, everything went well. So, well done.’ ‘Thanks mate! At least you could give me heads up...’, George didn’t feel very happy with Mr Campbell’s apology. He bit his cut lip which produced a tiny drop of blood in his mouth.

‘I hope that helps and clarifies some information for you. I don’t expect any more questions, but rather some activity. There’s a small green Honda parked in front of the house, you can use it for your next task. The key is under the mat. The car is not locked. As usual, I expect you to destroy this flash memory. “Allah Ma’ak”, as they say, may God be with you!’ Mr Campbell disappeared from the screen. ‘And I expect you to stop bullshitting me’, George replied to the black screen, took out the USB and threw it against the wall.

He spent the following day just hanging around London city centre like a ghost trying to gather his thoughts. For two weeks his life changed completely. MI5, Islamic terrorists, local criminals, Scotland yard, custody, punch in the face…Was he able to handle all that? What If his work is that stressful all the time? He kept questioning himself, but he knew the answer. It was fucking worth it. He would rather do that job 365 days per year instead of being stuck in some boring laboratory or office, working 9 to 5.

The next day George had a proper full-English breakfast as he needed some carbs for the day, and he headed to the Stratford mosque. He thought that it better to mix with the surroundings before meeting his target. He went to Stratford shopping centre and he bought from there cheap traditional Muslim clothes from a flea-market type of stand. He changed at the car and although he had some time he went to the mosque. Once there, he followed the tradition and took off his shoes before entering. It was massive! He was surprised to see such a massive mosque at the heart of London. He felt like he was somewhere in the Middle East. It was impressive!

While browsing around he felt that a few worshipers were looking at him with curiosity. Even disguised he looked more like a tourist than someone who came in to pray. He had a short tour around and headed to his car as he didn’t want to raise any more suspicion. He sat and waited for Hafez’s van. In an hour he saw it coming. It looked the same way as Mr Campbell described it. He decided to leave his target to finish the prayer and make the contact after that.

In around half an hour the target left the mosque. George jumped out from his car and slowly started walking towards him. Hafez was just entering his car while holding with the other hand his prayer rug. ‘Hafez?’ ‘Yes, do I know you?’ The Muslim man looked George with suspicion. ‘I am a friend of Karim and I mean well’. ‘How do you know him?’ We met before as he needed my real estate advice. I have some more information about that matter, that could be of interest to him. Hafez looked at George and just made a gesture with his head saying, ‘Jump in’. In 10 min they pulled over at some side road and both men came out from the van.

Hafez opened the back of the van and ordered to George: ’Get in there! No objections if you want to see Karim. George entered the van and Hafez came after him and shut the doors. ‘OK, I have to check if you carry any weapons first.’ It was pointless as George was unarmed. ‘Turn around now and I want to see your hands at the back’. Hafez fastened his hands with two cable ties and blindfolded him with a piece of cloth. ‘Is that necessary?’ ’You said, you want to meet Karim. If so, these are rules. Just sit down here and don’t make any noise. You will see Karim soon.

They were driving for around half hour, as George could determine when the van stopped and went reverse like entering a parking. The driver opened the back side of the van and helped George to come out without removing the blindfold and the cable ties. Hafez pushed him towards a staircase and shortly they entered one of the flats. Hafez put George to sit down and removed the cloth from his face. George saw a familiar face at the other side of the table. It was Karim who was smiling at him.

‘Welcome George. I am glad to see you again. I’m sorry but we have to be careful after what happened last time. I hope those retards didn’t bother you much’ while saying that Karim stared at Georges split lip. ‘Well, there were some issues, but it’s not my first time at the police custody so it was fine. Just the same old shit, with the bad and the good cop.’

‘Ha-ha, OK. So, you have good lawyers then if they let you out so that soon?’ ‘Well, they didn’t have anything against me. I believe the same goes for you. A pack of Marlboro’s with some postcodes doesn’t say much.’ Karim, changed the look on his face: ‘Well it doesn’t but it raises suspicion. And I want to avoid that as much as possible. Therefore, this time I didn’t want to make a contact with you directly. Possibly they are following you and I didn’t want to take you directly to my place. That’s why I needed all the security measures. Anyway, no more chit-chat let’s get back to business. A cup of tea?’ Karim put back the smile on his face. ‘Yes please.’ George felt more relaxed now as they released his hands also. Karim came back with a fancy oriental decorated kettle and poured him an aromatic tea. That’s Turkish rose hip cai. It’s full of Vitamin C. Great for that bloody cold weather.’ ‘Thanks, smells divine. Do you have a pen and paper?’ ‘Ah, well, yes I do.’ Karim looked surprised but gave George a pen from the table and took a sheet of paper from the printer. George briefly wrote down something and passed the sheet to Karim. ‘I believe that’s what you need?’ Karim looked at the sheet and a broad smile came on his face. ‘Some real estate information. Thank you, George. That’s exactly what I needed. I hope that we will avoid any confusions for the future. For that reason, I need you to help me a bit more.’ Karim had a sly look on his face. ‘Alright, what do you want me to do?’ ‘Well I somehow trust you George, but to fully convince me you have to do something more for me’, Karim narrowed his eyes. ’I am going to Paris tomorrow. I have a business meeting there with two professionals who would like to come over and work in the UK. As you understand their arrival here, must be arranged under strict confidentiality. I want you to come with me and help me with that. In other words, thanks for the hospitality and offering them a place where to stay, but you have to come with me to pick the ‘new employees’ and bring them home safe. Does that make sense?’ George had a sip from his tea. ‘Well, I believe so, but if it is important to our business relationship that’s alright. When are we leaving? I love Paris!’

VII. The smuggle

The next day they took a late flight and landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. It was a cold evening. George was having a small anxiety which he tried to hide with some small pink anti-stress tablets he was taking from time to time. ‘You alright? You, look a bit stressed.’ Karim tried to show some empathy. ‘No, I am alright. I am just a bit nervous as I hate flying.’ ‘Ha-ha OK George. Don’t worry when flying with me. I won’t hijack the plane and crush it at the Eifel tower. I am not that extreme.’ Karim laughed at his own joke. ‘Ah, here is our ride.’ A black Mercedes pulled in front them. They both got on their ride and the car went towards the city of Paris. George could see the lights of Paris when they left the highway. The car turned again and went into tiny off-road. They pulled over in the middle of nowhere and Karim turned to George, ‘OK you have to get out of the car mate. I will see you soon.’ Without any objection, George followed his instructions. When he went out he saw another car parked at the back. The car flashed the lights, so he realized someone was waiting for him. When he reached the car a man with a gun came out, ‘Get at the back.’ George followed his orders. The man with the gun sat next to him, he fastened something like a scarf around George’s eyes and handcuff him. ‘Lay down and shut up’, were his last orders.

George opened his eyes to something like an old warehouse. In front of him were Karim and two other Asian looking men. ‘George, sorry about that, but we must act in full secrecy. Let me introduce you to these gentlemen. These are Remi and Mohammed. We must help them to get to England tonight. After that they will be heading to the safe-house you provided us. Just to make it sure we are taking them to the right place, I want you to come with us. I guess you don’t mind?’, Karim gave him another charming smile. ‘Yes, should be fine.’ George didn’t sound very enthusiastic about being their tour guide. ’Great there is a car in front, waiting for us. I am afraid that I must blindfold you again. But to give you some heads-up, we will be heading towards Calais. There’s a boat waiting for you to cross the English Channel. I know you hate flying, I hope you are OK with sailing!

George didn’t know what to say. ‘What shall we do when we get there?’ He thought. Besides the postcode he gave Karim, he knew nothing about that location in England. He was left on his own, and there was no sign of the company or anything else. He needed to go with the flow. ‘I am fine with sailing. My grandad was a fisherman, and he took me out a few times with him’, he tried to force a smile. ‘I am happy to hear that George. So, we are good to go. Just mind that our companions don’t speak English, just Arabic, and French. If there’s something, talk to me. And remember we must get them safe to our location. Whatever happens, we need them safe.’

After they left Paris area they took off the blindfold from George’s face. The drive itself took around 3 hours to get to Calais. They passed by the town and headed towards something that looked like a village. It didn’t take much when they stopped in a place surrounded by trees. They turned off the engine and went out. It was dark as a dungeon. Karim took out a flashlight, and they entered the forest. When they stopped, George heard the waves. He saw in the dark the silhouette of something that looked like a small sports fishing boat. Karim took out a ladder from somewhere and he stuck it between the shore and the boat and climbed on board. When he got on the deck he whistled with two fingers and George and the two other guys joined him in the boat.

Karim took in the ladder and said something in French to his companions. ’George, I want to let you know also. For safety reasons, we are not turning the lights on the boat. I won’t turn on the engine either. We will sail old school for now. When we left the shore, I will turn on the motor on and we will travel normally. George helped Karim to pull up the anchor of the boat and stared in the dark. The English Channel looked black as they were sailing in a tar. Although the sky was clear, it was a new moon, so they couldn’t see much. It was so quiet that you could hear only the sound of the waves.

‘I hope everything will be alright, but if we bump at coastal guard boat you will say that we are fishermen traders and you just came over to France to talk business. We have weapons on us, but I hope we wouldn’t need to use them. If you are asked for any identification document, you can use that.’ Karim gave George a fake fishing licence. ‘Steven Crate a fisherman from Andover. But where did you get my picture from?’ George looked puzzled.

‘Well, we have our sources, George. We are an international organisation, not just a bunch of amateurs. I can get you a fake British or French passport, whatever you want. You could be George, Jan-Claude or Mustafa. I can get you anything! I just can’t teach you French or Arabic.’

’That’s alright I can stick with Steven for now. In my student years, they never sold me an alcohol with my fake ID as I looked much younger than 18. ‘I hope that now I will be more convincing. Hopefully, the coastal guard would believe that I am the fisherman Steven rather than the smuggler George’, he tried to joke, but he knew that he was nervous from inside.

It didn’t take much when Karim shouted, ‘Here’s England in front of us, half an hour more and we are there. Shit, these motherfuckers.’ Karim changed the look on his face. ‘What’s wrong mate?’ Karim pointed at the boat radar, ‘We have company. In front of us is the Coastal guard.’ ‘Couldn’t you go somehow around them?’ ‘I can, but I am sure they saw us already on the radar. If I try to go around they will follow us. It’s like a police patrol on the road. Try to turn around when you see them, and most likely they will start chasing you as it looks like you are trying to escape them.’ Karim turned to the two other passengers and said something in Arabic. They nodded and started nervously to talk among themselves. Apparently, the tension started to rise on the boat.

‘What’s that other point on the radar?’ George pointed at the screen. ‘Well, that’s just another boat, maybe a fisherman’s boat. Why?’ ‘Hold on I have an idea. Let’s go and talk to the people on that boat.’ ‘What you on about George? I can’t risk talking to some strangers on our way. What are you going to ask them for the right direction?’

‘Karim just turned the boat in that direction and stop asking questions. I came here to get you to your safe house in England and so shall I do. Go on!’ Karim just looked at him like he was crazy but decided not to argue and turned the boat in a direction towards the other boat which was on the radar. When they got closer it looked like a small fancy yacht rather than a fishing boat. ‘Give me your gun’, George turned to Karim. ‘What are you doing? That’s risky mate’. ‘Don’t worry, I know what I am doing. No one will get hurt.’ George flashed the lights and shouted at the other boat. In a minute someone came out on the deck. It was a guy wearing a red silk robe, holding a glass of champagne. ‘Hey, you alright?’

‘Hello mate! Listen our radar is broken. Can I come over to use yours for a minute?’ George tried to look smiled and friendly. ‘Yes, sure buddy come over. Just watch out as it is a bit wild here.’ George jumped on the yacht and while walking on the deck he saw through the window that they were having a small party onboard. In something like a living room, another guy and two girls in bikini were laughing, drinking, taking cocaine and dancing. ‘Here it is mate’, pointed at the control room the owner of the yacht. George pretended that he is checking the screen when he pulled out his gun and pointed it at the guy. ‘What the fuck mate?’ The guy lifted his hands up and dropped on the floor the champagne glass.

‘We will go downstairs. I want you and your mates to come with me. I don’t want to hear a sound, otherwise, I will blow your brains.’ The skinny playboy closed his eyes, tears came down his face. ‘Don’t do that, please. My family is rich. I can pay you.’ ‘Shut the fuck up and keep walking.’ George pushed him with the gun. When they went downstairs, the girls started screaming and they immediately turned off the music. ‘Guys we have been hijacked. Listen to what he says.’ The guy was sobbing and crying.

When they came outside Karim and his companions startled at him. ‘Here. Come on the yacht chaps’, screamed at them, George. Karim didn’t say anything. He just jumped on the yacht and his two companions followed him. George turned to the party lot. ‘OK, I don’t want to hear a fucking sound. Get in the empty boat.’ The hostages didn’t wait for a second call. One by one they jumped on the fishing boat. The playboy with the robe tried to follow them, but George grabbed him by his arm, ’You stay here’.

He turned to the hostages again, ‘Okay, the only thing I want from you is to go towards the shore. Soon you should be stopped by the coastal guard, try to waste their time as much as possible or I will blow his head off’, he pressed the gun against the guy’s temple, who was shaking of fear. ‘Please, please do whatever he says’. A small leak came out from his trousers. The guy was peeing himself in fear.

‘Off you go’, he screamed at the people at the fishing boat and they sailed towards the shore. ‘You lot, get inside’. The two Arabic guys didn’t speak English, but Georges’ tone and the sight of the gun were a universal language. ‘You, mad bastard. That could get us into trouble’ shouted at him Karim, once they got in the control room. ‘Calm down Karim. You were about to get into trouble anyway. At least now we have some chance.’ George starred at the radar. As he expected when the boat came closer to the shore the coastal guard crossed their way.

‘Here we go again! Full speed Karim.’ Karim turned on the yacht engine and they speeded off towards the shore. They saw on the radar that the police were on their way. ‘C’mon you can make it Karim. Go on!’ George was staring in the dark and looking at the radar screen. ‘For fuck sake. Calm down I am doing my best’, screamed angrily Karim. There was a strong crashing noise like they hit something, and everyone felt on the ground. Unluckily, George’s hostage smashed his nose against the wheel of the yacht. They crashed onto the shore! George shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Welcome to England boys. It’s time to go.’ He turned to his hostage who was holding his bleeding nose, ‘Sorry for that mate! You will have to take less cocaine now. Just stay here and don’t move, you have a party to catch’, he winked at the rich boy who looked like he was going to pass away from stress.

They jumped on the shore and started running towards the nearby woods. Then all of sudden they were blinded by a strong light and someone shouted on a megaphone ‘Stop right there! All weapons on the ground. I want to see your hands up slowly.’ They all froze as they have been surrounded by a couple of policemen who looked like special forces. The sound of the approaching coastal guard was getting stronger. They were caught from all sides and couldn’t do anything. They lift their hands up and George threw his gun on the ground. ‘Fucking hell!’ George couldn’t believe his luck. It was his second arrest for the past 7 days.

Then he saw a familiar face coming in front. It was Mr Campbell! ‘What the actual fuck’, he thought. ’Good to see you again George! Mr Campbell gave him a half smile. ‘Welcome to the Mi5!’

‘What? Is that a joke? What the hell is happening here? Who are these people? Who are you?’ George looked at the two ‘terrorists’ and Karim who was smiling at him. He turned at the yacht and he could see the guy staying at the deck, shaking like a leaf of fear and the cold weather and holding his bleeding nose. ‘Illusions George. We’ve been telling you that since the beginning.’ Don’t believe everything you hear or see. If we believe an illusion we can easily create more and more illusions out of that. Human imagination is a big thing son. People watch on the TV that there is terror attack happening at streets of London and after that, they see terrorists at every corner. Some people believe that every person with Asian looks and beard is a terrorist. It’s like when you are a child and I tell you that there is a ghost in the room. The trees blown by the wind outside throw their reflection on your wall and you take that as the mysterious shadow of the ghost.

We hired you for this job as you are very perceptive, and it is not easy for someone to deceive you. But we are master forgers, as that is the nature of our work. You must learn some more things about how we operate here, but I believe you will be a great asset to our company. Today, was your official initiation at the MI5.’ Mr Campbell had a serious expression on his face.

‘Listen, George, I must tell you something privately as well.’ Mr Campbell took him for a walk away from the whole scene. ’You failed your psychological test. You have certain beliefs and elements of behavior which could be a problem to your service here at the MI5. We need people who can take quick decisions, and your psychological portrait speaks that you are a quite hesitant person especially when you are put under pressure. In our work that could cost your life. As you know from your conversation with our psychologist Dr. Cartridge, your hesitation comes from your lack of self-confidence. I do understand that you are a young person and it takes time to get to know yourself and start feeling fully confident with your personality. However, you are about to join the best intelligence agency in the world, not a start-up sales company where they teach you how to believe in yourself to become a better salesman. The assertiveness should be a natural skill here. Last but not least, failing the diving exercise was a bit worrying. But we live in complicated times and we need people on board. So far with some exceptions, I believe that you possess what you need for that job. George swallowed what he just heard and looked Mr Campbell straight in the eyes, ‘So that’s it? I am here because I am “maybe” good for this job?’

‘George, no one is here, because he or she is “maybe”. You are definitely capable of doing that job. You proved that during your training and you not just proved but overachieved what we expected from you. In fact, you proved us wrong as you didn’t show any hesitation today when you kidnapped that yacht.’ I didn’t want to say that as it’s not good for our work, but I personally believe in you. I sincerely, think you are good for that job. That’s why I gave the green light. Nevertheless, the psychologist raised the red flag.

George didn’t know what to say. ‘Thanks, I really appreciate that. Although, I expected a bit more different initiation’, a smile came on his face. ‘What do you think that we will put you only through some kind of a Rocky training. It’s the Mi5. We save people’s lives and protect that country. There isn’t a better way for you to experience that job, and for us to see if you are capable of doing it then experiencing the things in a practical way’.

‘Ha-ha alright. Just one question then, what was that thing with the stole hand bad I didn’t really get it?’ ’Well, George once again, ‘Don’t make false assumptions about everything you see! That wasn’t us and it wasn’t planned at all. Just a coincidence with your arrival at the hotel.’ George looked puzzled ‘OK but how did I get the PETN on my hands?’ ’Huh, that was relatively simple. Karim’s right hand was covered in it. So, once you handshake with him to say ‘Hi’ you got it already on you. It just made your criminal appearance more believable in front of the Old Bill.

VIII. The hub

The following week was the first official day for George at the Thames building. Mr Campbell gave him a proper tour around the place. They started from the bottom of the building, level -1. ‘George, let me present you this gentleman’. They approached a tall guy with glasses, brown curly hair, and blue eyes. ‘A bit geeky, probably in his early 40s’, thought George. He stood in front of a big screen who had a couple of small windows opened on it, which were showing a live picture from CCTV of different areas across London, and maybe the UK. He was using a touchscreen pad to move around the opened tabs.

’If I can use that tennis expression, Mr Harper will be your eagle eye while you are in the field. He is Head of our surveillance. He has access to every small camera in London, Manchester, Birmingham just name it and he is there. He is our ‘Big Brother’ and monitors everything that needs to be monitored. His team has access to everything that goes on the web. Well, almost everything as after the Edwards Snowden’s scandal with our American, cousins, we are a bit limited to a certain extent and we must report everything directly to the Secretary of state. In other words, we are not spying you through your laptop while you are watching porn. But everything that you share publicly on the web and the dark web in relation to terrorism, or as a threat to our national security is already known to us. I am referring to terrorism as that will be your field. These days, Britain is facing the most severe terrorist treat ever and we reached critical levels. The situation is quite more problematic, than what we had in the past with the IRA. The Jihadists are a serious peril for our national security and we like to believe that we are on the ball, and we have control of all suspects alleged in contacts with terrorists and fanatics, but it’s not that easy as you can imagine. If you ask me personally I will arrest all these suspects and will interrogate them, but our modern libertarian society and all human rights organisations will eat us alive if we do that and will accuse us in racism. I am telling you this as 20% of our staff is Muslim and I am a direct supervisor of a number of agents of British Asian origin, some of which you met already. We are equal rights organisation and there’s no place for racism here. But some people should understand that we are at war with terrorism. And if we receive worrying information about an Asian looking suspect we must check that, even if we risk being accused in racism. I don’t mind arresting anyone who is in contact with the Jihadist never mind if he is white, black or brown. But that’s the world these days. You have to consider many things if you don’t want to get stamped with the stigma of ‘racist’. That’s the tricky part, you can’t call every Muslim a terrorist, as, besides a pure racism, it’s absolute nonsense. It’s the same as classifying every Catholic Irish as an IRA terrorist. But the truth is that you must work with the local religious communities as many of the potential terrorists are part of them. We tried to recruit informants to spy at the religious gatherings in mosques, but it wasn’t very successful as they took it a bit racial. And to a certain extent it is, so we discarded that policy. We try to work now with the leaders of the communities to get more intelligence.

But it is hard to gain their trust and to keep a good communication. I assume it would be the same if you try to infiltrate an orthodox Jewish circle. Most likely, they will tell you to fuck off as well. For some God damn reason, all these religious people want to keep their privacy like they are doing some secret master mason rituals at their meetings.

Anyway, as you probably know our main enemy these days are Islamic state or ISIS. Al-Qaeda is not that strong, and they mainly operate in the Middle East and Africa. We try to monitor ISIS recruiters and all their assets in the UK, but the problem is that there are ‘ISIS detachments’ as the jihadist call them, who are a real pain in the ass. I am talking mainly about Muslim youngsters who come from a problematic background, like kids with a criminal record. But sometimes these ‘detachments’ are as clear as a bell. So, you wouldn’t suggest that they are able to kill even a fly. There are lots of videos on the web, even uploaded on YouTube which preach extremism and Jihad. Although we track and delete them, it’s hard to keep a record of everything that happens on the Internet, even for experienced professionals like Mr Harper and his team.

Nevertheless, Mr Harper will be your eyes on the ground and he can always help you if you need to track or trace someone.’ ‘Nice to meet you, George. I’ve heard some good things about you. I hope that we could work effectively and track all these bastards’, Мr. Harper stood up from his chair to introduce himself. ‘He looks like and sounds like a nerdy teenager. But, I bet he knows his shit’, George extend his hand to introduce himself.

On their way-out George and Mr Campbell, bumped at an attractive blonde who smiled at them charmingly with her beautiful red lips which make her look like Merilyn Monroe. ’Ah George, that’s miss Jennifer Clark. She sits with our international surveillance team. I believe that she was with you at the training academy. Jennifer could be very helpful if you have some international work. ‘Sure, I will’, came as melody her voice. If there’s anything just let me know. I think that George might need some language lesson.’ She winked at him George looked at her with a smirky smile, ‘Good to know that. I am always up to learn new things’. ‘Alright’, Mr Campbell coughed a bit nervously to interrupt the small flirt. ‘Let’s continue with our tour’. Good luck!’, George could hear Jennifer’s lovely voice when they were heading to the lift.

George, there are a couple of more people that I want you to meet around. But let’s go to your desk now and meet your team. They got on the lift and Mr Campbell pressed the button for the fourth floor. They reached another opened space office where people were sat behind individual desks. ’Here’s the anti-terror team and that’s your direct supervisor Mrs Winton. She can help you with anything you need. ‘Hello, you must be George. We are pleased to have you on board as a member our team.’ ‘It looks like I joined KPMG or some large corporation’, George thought. ‘Let me introduce you George to your colleague Timothy he will work along with you.’ ‘Ah, of course, what a lovely surprise. We were together at the training centre. It’s nice to meet you again mate.’ ‘Same here buddy!’ Tim looked sincerely pleased as well to see his old friend.

‘Okay, George, interrupted them, Mr Campbell. I am glad that you met your colleagues, so I believe it’s about time to start working hard. I am sure I leave you in good hands’, he nodded at Mrs Winton and headed back to the lift.

‘Right, boys it’s about time to start with our morning briefing, please follow me’. Mrs Winton took the two gentlemen to a small briefing room with a big board on the wall. It was full of pictures, links and information between them like a typical investigation board in a police station.

’Okay George, I understand that you just started, but I believe that from your training period and time spent with Mr Campbell you are aware who are the bad guys. Currently, we received a signal from our Syrian colleagues that ISIS are planning another major terror attack on British soil, but we don’t know yet where it might come from. We try to track every single step of a terrorist cell when they plot something. Especially of the people who are responsible for the final execution of the plan. We investigate the problem from square 1 as we don’t like any surprises. In general, there are two ways where the terrorist threat comes from...Tim any help? ‘Yes, simply enough, the treat comes either from abroad or it’s already here’, Tim raised his eyebrows.

‘That’s correct’, continued Mrs Winton. There are over few thousand people who we suspect in radical talks and Islamic extremism and couple of hundred of them are under constant surveillance. All these people are believed to be a part of terrorist cells or just random ‘detachments’ as they are called who are in touch with Islamic recruiters оr hate preachers who brainwash them.

The other type of threat are the jihadists who are coming from abroad. Parts of them are British citizens who fought in Syria and Iraq under the flag of the Islamic State. We talk about around 400 people who are under constant surveillance as we fear they might take part in a new suicide attack. As a matter of fact, Britain has the highest rate of jihadi returnees in comparison to the other countries in the world.

Besides these people, we have trained extremists who enter the UK illegally using different routes and sources. The refugee crisis opened the gates to Europe, and we are doing our best with Europol to track all illegal immigrants who crossed our borders. However, we are unable to say for sure if there are any potential terrorists who travelled with the normal refugees and are already here.

You will see that we face many challenges doing that job. I am embarrassed to admit that we received a couple of signals about the Manchester and Westminster attackers and we failed to acknowledge them as a real threat. It’s hard for us to determine who is radicalised enough to perform an actual terrorist assault. The potential terrorist could be anyone from an introvert teenager or your kind neighbour to some naughty youngsters who you could expect to sell weed in the park, but never to stab people to death calling them crusaders as ISIS refers to their Christians enemies. We received just for the past year, around few thousand calls and messages from people who are alleged in radicalisation and hate talk. But it’s not easy to distinguish which part of that is irrelevant and what we should take into account as a serious threat. The problem is that is hard to make the difference between brainwashed and radicalised person who is ready to commit a suicide attack, and a random chap who watches too many extremist videos on YouTube and makes radical comments in front of his mates.

The other issue is the radicalization itself. It could take just a few weeks maybe even days for the radicals to reach the state when they are ready to kill. It’s like looking after someone who has schizophrenia. You can’t really tell when the ill person will have his next crisis. You can give him pills, you can monitor him, but you can’t predict the human nature. In the case of the recent terror attacks, we received a few signals about the warning behaviour of the potential attackers. Some of them were even already under our radar, but we didn’t regard them as a high-risk threat. And yet they completely proved us wrong. We do our best here George. We work our asses from morning to dusk, we receive constant pressure from the government, media and society. We prevented already 15 terrorist plots this year, but only one mistake and everything goes to hell. And for all that work we don’t receive any appraisal, just critics.’

The other issue we are facing is the digital problem. Half of the war we are having with that organisation is in the digital field. Al-Qaeda was a strong a group, but they never managed to achieve what ISIS did in terms of the territory they seized in the Middle East, their capacity and reach. The only reasonable explanation behind Islamic state’s success on the battlefield and their strong recruitment network is their compelling Digital Propaganda. Although we finally turned the things in our favour in the battleground, the Jihadists are still very strong and active in the digital world and cause us lots of trouble. Mr Harper and the Surveillance teamwork along with the big Digital tech companies such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft to prevent the spread of radical videos, images and reading content, it’s not that easy as it seems. We want those companies to make their policies stricter about the stuff which is uploaded on their platforms, and to a certain extent, they responded to our call. We are also talking to WhatsApp and Apple to make their encrypted chats accessible to us, so we could track the terrorist correspondence. In fact, it is known to us that just before the Westminster attack the jihadist Khalid Masood exchanged a couple of messages with someone on WhatsApp.

We recently increased our staff with more people who can help us battling the terrorist threat on and offline and thank God, the digital companies do the same. If I am not wrong, Facebook recently announced that they will expand their counter-terrorism team to improve the monitoring of the radical content which has been shared on their webpage. The tech companies are even working between them as Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube signed anti-terror deal to prevent the spread of hate speech content on their platforms. So, we are doing everything possible on multiple levels. But on the other hand, we must keep people’s privacy as well and we cannot monitor literary everything as that will be in breach of the people’s human rights.’ ‘Yes actually, Mr Campbell talked me through that issue including the sensitiveness of the modern libertarian society. So, I have some idea about that’, interrupted her George, who felt that he wanted to say something just to prove that he is following Mrs Winton’s briefing.

‘Oh, OK that was another major topic, but it’s great that you already cover it. I want to get now to the main point of our briefing which is the information we received from the Syrian secret services. Our Syrian colleagues have an information from a reliable source that Islamic state recently came into possession of Chemicals laboratories owned previously by the Syrian government. We are talking about places for production of Weapons for mass destruction (WMD) or more specifically chemical warfare (CW).’ Mrs Winton turned on a video screen. ’The CWs are one the most brutal weapons for human genocide created by the mankind in along with biological and nuclear warfare which are the other two major types of WMD. It is arguable which Mass genocide weapon is the deadliest, but due to the fact that Chemical and Biological weapons are relatively easier to produce than the nuclear weapons, they are a preferable option for the terrorists. An example of Biological weapon is the Anthrax, which Al-Qaeda, placed in their infamous letters, sent to different media offices in the States and to a few US congressmen. The post effect was that 5-people died and 17 got infected. The BWs and CWs have some drawbacks as well. Although, cheaper to produce than the nuclear weapons they require the workforce of experienced bio-scientists for their production. They could be also very dangerous to make as even a small mistake or let’s say a gas leak while working on a Chemical weapon production could destroy the whole laboratory. In any case, the chemical weapons are preferred choice for the extremists as they require even just an ordinary laboratory environment for their production in comparison to the BW. They have an immediate effect on the victims also. A BW incubation period might take a few days before the actual death of the infected person. In comparison, the Chemical weapons could kill a person just for a couple of minutes.

The CWs were first used during the 1st. World War. At the beginning, the two sides used tear gas grenades who weren’t that strong to cause any damage, and later the Germans constructed the chlorine and mustard gas weapons which were the deadliest and the most used CWs during the war. Nowadays, one of the major chemical weapons used by extremists is the notorious gas Sarin. Believe it or nor the first major assault with that gas was organised by a Japanese extremist’s cult called Aum Shinrikyo. They spread the poison in the Tokyo tube and poisoned to death 13 people and 53 people were injured. Recently, there was a poisoning with Sarin in Syria. I suppose you’ve seen on the TV the horrific videos of people vomiting, chalking and struggling to breathe. We believe that Bashar Asad was responsible for the attack, launching sarin neurotoxic bombs against the Rebels controlled town Khan Shaykhun in the Syrian province Idlib. The attack led to the death of over 80 people among them, 27 children. According to the UN report, the devastation carried out in Khan Shaykhun took the usage of not more than 20litres of Sarin. I am giving you this numbers just to give you an idea how deadly the sarin could be. It doesn’t have a smell or colour and the poisoned person has absolutely no idea of what is happening. The first symptoms of sarin intoxication are blurred vision, runny nose, drooling, vomiting and chest tightness. The two main harms that it causes are asphyxiation and skin burn. Once in human’s body, it hits the respiratory centre of the central nervous system and leads to paralysis of the lung muscles. The final effect is death by suffocation.’

While listening to all that and looking at the screen George felt like he couldn’t catch a breath. The thought of poisons gas who can literary squeeze his lungs and prevent him to breath sounded like an absolute nightmare. The sight of the suffocating Syrians children who were fighting for their breath was unbelievable.

’..to get back to the main point, if we trust our Syrian colleagues, we strongly believe that ISIS is in a possession of Syrian government laboratory equipment that could be used for the production of Sarin.’ The voice of Mrs Winton took George from the space out zone. ’Yes, I know what you are thinking after watching all these horrible videos, I am totally against that tyrant Assad and his methods and I hope that he will get what he deserves for his war crimes. But in the current case, we are on the same side. We don’t deal with politics here, although we are a government regulated institution. Our work has different nature, so we have to work with the Syrian government and their intelligence services.

What we know from them also is that once ISIS acquired possession of the Chemical laboratories they started supplying the ‘ingredients’ for producing sarin via Turkey. They got them either directly from Turkish smugglers, or they bring them over from Bulgaria, which is Turkey’s neighbour.

‘Bulgaria, sorry I got a bit lost here?’ Tim decided that it was his turn to interrupt the briefing. ’OK, well in the communist era, Bulgarian communist party was operating practically like a drug cartel using local gangsters to sell amphetamine and captagon which is another chemical from the amphetamine group, sold to the Islamic world via Turkey. After the changes, the Bulgarian mafia kept the old channels and now they do the same business along with their Turkish colleagues. They mainly operate as traffickers as huge quantities of the synthetic drugs is actually produced in Western Europe, in countries such as Netherlands, Austria and etc. It is well-known fact that the ISIS fighters use captagon to stimulate their fighting skills. They believe that a single pill could make you so strong, that you wouldn’t feel any tiredness or pain.

Our source says that recently, the jihadist acquired a substantial amount of methylphosphonic difluoride which is one of the main substances for producing sarin and hexamine which is used as a stabilizer for the CW. Both of these substances are banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and their production and trade are absolutely illegal. As mentioned, most likely these two substances came from the Bulgarian and Turkish mafia accompanied by hundreds of captagon pills. The captagon is very popular in the whole Muslim world, especially in the wealthy Arabic countries such as Saudi Arabia. ISIS take part in the traffic chain and it is one of their main financial sources besides selling petrol. I hope you are with me as here comes the other side of the coin. As some things travel from the West to the Middle East the same goes vice versa. There are loads of drugs, weapons and even human traffic which is smuggled via the old ‘Silk road’ as it is known. And the gates are Turkey and Eastern Europe.

’Eastern Europe? I thought the silk road was via China and the Mediterranean? George sounded confused. ’Well that’s the maritime route, the land silk road is from the Middle East via Istanbul, Turkey, Sofia, Bulgaria, Budapest and then to the Western world. That’s the old Roman trading route as well. Nevertheless, the smugglers are still using the Mediterranean. They bring over stuff by boats either to Spain or Italy, then the traffic goes through France and the English Channel and finally, it reaches us.

I will let you know in the due course why I shared with you all that information, but the bottom line is that we fear the next terrorist attack in the UK could be with the usage of Chemical warfare. We are doing our best to prevent that and we even equipped the paramedics in the major cities with EpiPen-style auto-injectors with antidote as a precaution of any potential chemical attack. We don’t know where and how they will organise the attack, but we do our best to get the necessary intelligence.’

Mrs Winton switched the screen. ’Here on this photograph is the right hand of the current leader of Islamic State, called Abu Rimal. The Syrian and the Libyan secret services reported multiple contacts between him and the few of the Isis commanders in Libya. Yes, besides the territory which ISIS controls in Syria and Iraq there’s a small territory under the black flag in Libya as well. The taped conversations are quite ambiguous, but we could catch the Arabic words “Shuhna” and “albahr almutawasit” which stand for ‘shipment’ and the ‘Mediterranean Sea’.

We still don’t know what those bastards are on about, and the best way is to get the information directly from the source. ‘George and Timothy, you are already booked for a flight to Tripoli on Wednesday. We can’t waste much time, you have two days to review all the information needed and prepare yourself for the travel. Any questions I am at your disposal!’ Mr Winton switched off the tv screen. ‘I believe we will have a few questions with George when we will read the brief for the mission, but I just wanted to ask a quick one’. ‘Yes of course Tim’. ‘My Arabic is not very strong neither George’s can we take a linguist with us?’ Tim knitted his eyebrows in a grimace which was more ironic than serious. George almost held himself to laugh out loudly looking at his colleague. ‘If you refer to Ms Clark she stays here as she is needed within the surveillance, Mrs Winton replied with a serious tone. Your contact there speaks English so don’t worry. If you feel lost, try communicating with your body language. Apparently is quite expressive. Piss off now!’

It was lunchtime, so George decided to go to the canteen on level -1. Tim was about to join him, but he went for his usual fag at the smoking area. George took the stairs to stretch his feet. Walking down, he could hear the rattling sound of high heels coming from the opposite direction. It was a familiar face. ‘Ah, here you are’ he smiled at the sight of a tall brunette who was wearing a red top, black skirt and stylish black high-heals. ‘Good to see you, Joanne! I almost forgot that you work here.’ ’Ha-ha, yes I do, George. It’s part-time work. He gave him one of her charming smiles. Possibly you won’t see me that often, but it’s good to know you are around. How are things? Did you meet your colleagues?’ ’All good thank you. They all seem nice and very helpful. Actually, I am going away tomorrow. We are flying off to Libya. ‘Ah, are you? That’s great’! I always feel nostalgic about the Middle East. It’s definitely not the safest place to live, but I have so good memories of your mum working there. ‘Hmm’, George started at her. ’What? We had fun when we were young. I am not that boring as it seems.’ She either pretended or didn’t read the expression on his face. ‘Joanne, that’s alright it’s your business. Actually, I was looking for you as I really need to learn something more about my mum. I want to know something more about her work for the company. Can we have a chat about that sometime? It will be great if you could tell me a bit more about that. Please!’ He clasped his hands in front of his chest. ’Alright, George. It’s your mum and my best friend so you deserve to know something more about that. Just here it’s not the right place to talk about that. Can you meet me tonight? I will text you the place where we could go for a dinner. I hope you still keep my number.’ She winked at George and went up the stairs.

They met after work for a meal at a Lebanese restaurant in Shoreditch. ‘I hope you like Arabic food George’. It’s very similar to the Indian I just find it tastier.’ ‘Hmm, I tried Moroccan food before, but never something from the Middle East’. George wasn’t very hungry and was impatient to get to the essential part. ‘OK, you will see the difference now’. I find the Middle Eastern food spicier than the North African/Arabic cuisine. I hope you like spicy food?’ ‘I absolutely love it’, forced a smile, George. After the meal, they ordered shisha and tea and enjoyed the relaxing background oriental chill out music. ’Alright, let me know what you want to know about your mum then? Broke the silence, Joanne. ’Well...’George took a deep breath. ‘I would like to know what kind of a person she was?’ Joanne put her hands on the table and looked him in eyes smiling, ’She was the best colleagues and best friend I ever had. She was an absolute workaholic. She could work 24 hours without having a break. She was Biologist and scientist expert in Biological and Chemical warfare. The Chemical and Biological weapons have their part in our military history. In the late 70s and 80s, we all started developing our Chemical and Biological Warfare programmes, Americans, British, Chinese, Russians. All the greatest powers in the world had their share. As you know the Cold war was a big thing for the whole world. After we survived the nuclear crisis in the 1960s then came the period of the CW and BW threat and all top British scientists who worked for the company were engaged in that field. Among them was your mum.

There was a long 8-years war in the 1980s between the Sunni dominated Saddam’s’ Iraqi regime and the Shia Islamic Iranian state. The war was mainly a consequence of a long-time border dispute. During that time Iran was one of the strongest countries in the Middle East and their Fundamental Islamic regime was threatening to spread to the other countries if it conquers Iraq. Iran and Iraq were on the US blacklist of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’, which is a list of countries sponsoring the International terrorism. Recently, secret documents became public and reviewed that the Reagan administration took out Iraq from the list and secretly started supplying the Saddam’s regime with CW and BW and everything needed for their production. That’s not surprising at all as these days most of the Middle Easter Tyrants were close to the Western World. Gaddafi, Saddam you name them all the bad guys were good in our eyes as they followed our foreign doctrine and were ‘our guys’.

The Iranian regime was already in a conflict with the US and eventually when the Iranians turned the war in their favour the Americans started supplying the Iraqi with arms. The British government didn’t take part in that, but with the blessing of Downing street private companies closed to the government started selling equipment and raw materials used for the construction of Chemical pesticide plants in Iraq and Syria. Believe it or not, until fairly recently we’ve been still involved in that business until the UN made stricter control on such export and trade. Anyway, the items that we were selling to the Iraqis and the Syrians in the 80s as you can imagine were not used for their purpose. The Iraqis used the materials for producing CW which they used against their Iranian enemies. When Saddam gassed his rivals, we put the blame on the Russians for supplying him with CWs. Which, by all means, they did. But they were not alone in that. We did it as well. We all played in that game which never ends.

As a matter of fact, the CW equipment, weapons and drugs sold by the Soviet state countries and Russia itself to all regimes in the middle east is just 30% of what they actually bought from us and the Americans. It’s not bad to talk about that now, but it won’t be well accepted if government representatives like us talk about that publicly. But 20 years ago, such talk wasn’t politically correct at all. And...” “...and my mum knew all that and raised her voice’, George took the word from Joanne. ‘Yes, she did’. Joanne stared at her glass of red wine. ‘She is exactly like me, or actually, I am like her, I can’t stand any injustice and I have to speak my mind’. George could feel that his eyes were getting full of tears. ’Yes, George she was like that, my lovely Lilian. And she wasn’t alone. But during that time there were lots of government members in the parliament and in the American Congress who denied all that. That was the world 20 years ago.

But to be fair the things didn’t change much. After the recent Gas attacks in Syria when Asad used CW to gas his opponents we all claimed that he got the gas from the Russians. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The parliament opposition wanted from the Tori government to review some of the secret documents for the trade with Syria, but nothing much happened.

‘OK, that is fine but what happens with my mum then?’ ‘Well George, after making some things public she was questioned by the Mi6 for her work and making anti-government statements. She was working in Iraq during the Gulf war when Saddam again used his CW against Kuwait. Your mum made that public again, and it was confirmed at a later stage even by the US Congress, but nothing happened during that time. After one of the bombing attacks by the allies in Iraq, she lost her life. It wasn’t confirmed from which side came the attack and if it was friendly fire, but we believe she died along with some other colleagues by Iraqi fire.’ George looked her with fire in his eyes: ‘And what you believe in Joanne?’ ‘I really don’t know what to believe George. All I can say is that she lost her life in service of that country. Yes, I have my doubts that someone wanted to shut her mouth and the other people working there. But at the end it was war, and there were loads of casualties from all sides. So, we can leave it to our fantasy. Sorry, it’s quite late now and I believe you said you have a flight to catch tomorrow. Shall we call the bill?’

IX. The Hyena’s den

George couldn’t fell asleep until the morning hours. He was obsessively thinking about the situation and spent the time reading some stuff on the web. ‘Was it possible? I am working for the Government that killed my mum? Or maybe the God damned Americans killed her along with some other scientists because they were speaking the truth? Was she speaking the truth...? Did that really happen?’ His rational thinking wanted to accept the version that it was a tragic accident, so he could take it easier. But his heart and gut feeling were making him think the opposite. He would never accept the things that easy especially when it’s concerning the death of his mother.

The flight to Libya was a few hours, so he got a few beers with his meal on the plane and managed to get some sleep. While getting off the plane they were immediately hit by the hot wave. It was 34 degrees. Outside the airport, they were picked with Timothy by a large black Cadillac. ‘You see our capital changed a lot after Gaddafi’, the driver opened the conversation. We needed a change before, although many people were happy. In the 70s and 80s, Libya had a big export-import and we had a good standard of living. But human rights... there was no such thing. If you are in trouble with the regime, one night the Gaddafi military police will come to your house, arrest you and that’s it. No one will hear from you again.

‘Here, look there, you can still see the war remains.’ While passing by the town some of the walls were covered with holes pierced by the bullets, and there were loads of buildings demolished by the bombings. There was an overturned bus who stood all covered in wholes, likely caused by a machine gun. George stared at the people’s faces and he could tell that most people looked either grumpy or sad. ’There’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know what might happen tomorrow. The political situation is unstable. We have the current legitimate government backed by the UN and NATO, but we have two other self-proclaimed governments controlling different parts of Libya that we fight. We also have random militia groups and among them are the ISIS fighters. It’s madness. There’s no stability here. That’s why people look insecure and some of them take dangerous trips across the Mediterranean trying to flee to Italy. Before it was dangerous for people who had problems with the state, but we had a country. Now we have jungle where everyone is fighting for himself. ‘What about ISIS? How are they these days?’ Interrupted him, George. ‘ISIS? Not that strong as before. The Americans bombed them heavily in the past two years. And now after they lost their main stronghold, a town called Sirte they control just random villages around central and south Libya. They are like cockroaches. You think you killed them all and they come out from another place ha-ha. A real pain in the ass. Okay, here we are’. The driver pulled over in front of a nicely decorated in Arabic style house with two palm trees in front. ‘Here’s one of our safe houses. My colleagues will help you with the rest.’ The driver smiled at George and Tim, but he didn’t bother to help them to take out their luggage from the booth.

‘Good afternoon, Gentleman.’ A tall man in a military uniform greeted them at the front door. ’Come in don’t worry. It’s safe here. We don’t have enemies around and no one will dare to disturb us. My name is Feisal and I work on behalf of the newly established Libyan secret service which replaced the old Mukhabarat Gaddafi criminal secret police. I will give you a full induction of the current situation here and our mission but be prepared for a trip tonight. ‘Well, you can skip the induction, your colleague who picked up us from the airport was a great tour guide’, Tim interrupted him. ‘Tim!’ George gave his colleague a serious look. ‘Ha-ha yes, my colleague is really talkative. That’s why he is a driver only. He is not good for our job.’ Feisal laugh had a few intervals of a deep cough ‘a sign of chain smoker’, though George.

‘Alright, I will add a few more things, but the essential is that we will be heading to the Misrata province where ISIS still have a remaining control of a few villages.’ ‘We will take a couple of pictures and we will come back so I can show you the taste of our famous Libyan couscous. We will provide you with a full equipment for the travel. We travel civilian to eliminate any suspicion, but you will need night vision equipment and a few firearms. Just in case you never know’ Feisal winked at them. ’Don’t worry, everything we use these days is modern technology. ‘BCR Googles’ which are used by the US military for their operations in the Middle East. With them, you see in the dark like a cat. You can zoom and un-zoom any objects and you can even change the color. You can see in orange and yellow if you prefer those colors than the standard green. Also, we use ‘Beretta M9’ pistol, another gift from our US friends. It bursts jihadist heads like watermelons’, Feyswall started laughing with a certain amount of pleasure and chalking with his chesty cough at the same time. ’Ah, and last but not least an old legend ‘AK-47’. Kalashnikov, Russian model, manufactured in Belarus, purchased by the Gadhafi regime. ‘It seems that you have weapons from all around the world’, turned to him, Tim. ‘Well, the world loves our petrol. We love weapons.’

The trip took two hours through the desert. The car needed to stop twice at checkpoints and they all needed to show their documents to a well-armed soldier loyal to the current Western-supported government. After the 2nd checkpoint, they pulled over next to something that looked like an old empty house. There was a man standing there with two camels, аapparently, waiting for them. The driver turned to his companions, ‘Okay here we are at no man’s land. In 100yards starts the ISIS occupied territory. We must leave the car hеre as it makes too much noise. We will do the trip the old school Bedouin way.’ ‘You are joking?’ Tim, couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘I’ve seen Camels only in the zoo. I don’t know even how to ride a horse!’ ’Don’t worry, my friend. It’s easier than riding a horse. They are not as fast as the horses, they reach only 25miles per hour, but they could continue at racing speed up to 18 hours. They called the camel ‘Ata Allah’, or ‘The gift of God’. ‘I hope I wouldn’t need to ride the Gods gift for that long’, even worried Tim wasn’t losing his sarcasm.

Feisal went to talk to the man with the Camels. They exchanged a couple of words in Arabic and the Libyan agent gave him something. ’OK, guys we are good to go. Your colleague will ride on his own, and you mister Jockey you come with me! Feisal turned to Tim who had a worried look on his face. ‘We can put the goggles on now.’ ‘What did you tell him?’, asked George. ‘Well, I told him that if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut I will come later and will cut his tongue out!’ ‘Do you trust him?’ Tim’s voice was quivering with emotion. ’Well if you could trust a Libyan peasant who you just bribed. ‘C’mon guys, no more talking we are entering the ISIS-controlled territory.’ Feisal helped Tim to get on his camel and they headed on their way. The ride didn’t take much when they reached a large dune. ’Our informants from the local village said that the jihadists use that side of the coastal line to ship some things across the Mediterranean. Let’s see what’s today’s cargo. ‘OK here we go, please zoom the Goggles’, whispered Feisal.

There was a big lorry coming from the other side of the road. It stopped next to a group of soldiers with machine guns in front of a mid-sized house-boat. Two more soldiers came out of the track they opened the back of the vehicle and started unloading large containers and bringing them on the boat. ‘Can you see what they are carrying?’ George turned to Feisal. ’No, there are no signs on the boxes. Could be anything, drugs, weapons, God knows what. ‘Hold on! What’s that?’ The ISIS militants were carrying two containers which looked like a gas bottle. They got the hazardous sign on them and something written in Arabic. ‘What does it say Feisal.’ The sign looks familiar like I’ve seen it somewhere. George’s photographic memory was trying the recreate the object. ’Huh, probably you’ve seen it on the posters and leaflets the ISIS spread among their territories. It is a black poster with a picture of a gas mask and a sign ‘alsaarin ghaz’ or ‘Sarin gas’ in English. ‘Motherfuckers, I knew it! I was sure that looks familiar.’ George gritted his teeth in anger.

‘Shit what the fuck is that?’ Tim pointed at a Jeep which was speeding through the dunes in their direction. ’That fucking cunt. He sold us to the Jihadist. Get back on the camels now.’ Feisal jumped from his places anxiously and they all got on the camels. ‘It’s not fucking moving.’ Tim started to panic. ‘C’mon’ The Libyan agent kicked-in the camel with his heels and pushed the camel to gallop. Fortunately, the camels started to run, but the jeep was approaching them faster. Gunshots started to fire at the 3 agents while they were desperately trying to run away. They tried to fire back, but it didn’t help to stop the car which was chasing them. They saw their car in the distance and the Libyan shouted at George who was slowing down at the back. ‘Come on it’s not that far. Keep riding.’ Then a horrible menacing sound came from Feisal and Tim’s camel. The Jihadist shot it! The animal bent its legs in agony. “Allah yil’anek” (Goddamn you, Arabic) Come on you bastard. Feisal lift up the camel but it started to gallop much slower. ‘George go and get the car we are behind you’.

The ISIS fighters didn’t stop shooting at them as they were getting closer. ‘Aghh’ screamed Tim. ‘My leg’. ‘Those bastards shot me.’ Tim who was sitting behind Feisal grabbed his bleeding leg in pain. ‘Hold me tight, we will make it’. The Libyan shot back a few times, but he went out of ammo. The shots kept coming. Hopefully, at that moment George, came over with their car. He came out with an AK-47 and started shooting at the ISIS fighters. Feisal pushed Tim from the camel who felt on his back. ‘Put him in the car now and give me your gun’, he shouted at George. Then suddenly he made an agonizing sound. The Libyan was hit in the back. George kept shooting and he hit the Jihadists’ car wheels. Their car wobbled from side to side and stopped. They came out and kept shooting. Another shot came from their side and hit deadly the camel. It bent its knees and dropped Feisal. Give me the gun and help him, God damned it’ he shouted at George. Using the cover of the dead camel he started shooting with George’s machine gun. George dragged and dropped Tim in the car. He came out with another machine gun and started shooting while crouching beside the door of the car.

’Go for God’s sake! I promised to get you back safe!’ The Libyan seemed to be in a great pain but kept shooting. ‘I don’t care I am not leaving you’, shouted George. ‘Stay there and keep shooting.’ George crawled to Feisal and started dragging him to the car. ‘What the heck you are doing you, crazy man?’ ‘Just don’t fucking stop shooting. I will get you out of here.’ George dragged him up at the back of the car, lifted him up and threw him at the boot of the Jeep. Once landing Feisal screamed in great pain. George shot another round at the Islamists and got in the driver’s seat. The bullets kept coming at his direction and the front windscreen got smashed into pieces. George switched to reverse and leaned over Tim who was convulsing in severe pain at the driver’s seat. George managed to turn over the car from that position, then he lifted himself up just as much as to look through the wheel and he started speeding towards the opposite direction of the attackers. The Jihadists got into their jeep and although driving with flat tires, they started speeding behind the agent’s car. The ISIS fighter’s t kept shooting and hit George’s car tires. He lost control of the jeep, which went off-road, the car skidded, and they crushed onto one side. George hit his head against the wheel and lost conscious. When he opened his eyes, he felt that his face was covered in dust and blood. He was laying over Tim who wasn’t moving. With great pain in his ribs, he managed to get out of the vehicle. Then, he heard Tim’s cry from the car. ‘We are done’, he thought. He looked at the direction where the jihadists were shooting at them, but there was no one there. He was unarmed and felt that he was going to collapse like a boxer at the last round. He turned to the car and tried to help Tim to get out. Then he saw three large jeeps which blindfolded him with their lights. They pulled over in front of the crashed car and a few soldiers ran towards George holding machine guns in their hands. They shouted something in Arabic and pointed with their guns to the ground. George raised his hands in the air and slowly went down on his knees. ‘Boom’. One of the soldiers hit him at the back of his head with his gun and George lost conscious.

He woke up next morning in a hospital. There were two men in military uniforms. He saw Tim sitting on a chair in the corner with two crutches in his hands. ‘What’s going on?’, George mumbled. ’Don’t worry. You are in safe place.’ One of the soldiers stood up when he noticed that George is conscious. ‘You are in Tripoli. This is Alm-Nassar private hospital. My name is Muradin. I work for the new Libyan government intelligence.’ George was conscious and awake, but he was absolutely confused. After all conversations yesterday about the current state in Libya, ISIS, and finally the shooting where he thought that he lost his two companions George thought he was dreaming. ‘Don’t worry. You are still in shock. That’s understandable. You’ve been chased yesterday by ISIS militants, but Alhamdulillah (Thank God) you’ve been saved by our government forces. They didn’t know who you are and that’s why they were a bit aggressive. They thought you are jihadists as well. Your friend is OK. He got shot in the leg but it’s fine now. Your government is sending a private jet for you two. My colleague is still unstable.’ He turned to the bed next to George where Feisal was laying down with a couple of tubes coming out of his mouth. ‘Don’t worry his life is out of danger. You saved him. You apparently saved your friend as well’, Muradin smiled and turned to Tim. George looked at Tim and a small smirk came at the corner of his mouth. ‘You paid off your debt man. Now I don’t need to teach you guitar. You, lucky bastard.’ Tim laughed and winked at George’. ‘I always pay my debts mate’, George laughed as well, but he felt a sharp pain going through his ribs. ‘No more jokes! Be quiet you have a fractured rib.’ A grouchy nurse came into the room to change George’s IV and didn’t waste time to tell him off. ‘Never mind which country they are from the nurses are always grumpy.’ Tim tried to crack another joke to which the nurse gave him a fierce look and left the room.

Next day they were ready to travel back home. George wanted to say goodbye to the wounded Libyan agent, but the doctors advised to leave him for the time being as he was still in shock.

X. The refugee

The next few weeks George spent in recovery and research work along with the International surveillance team. ‘I believe you’ve met Jennifer Clark already George’. Mrs Winton turned to Ms Clark who was sitting next to her. She is one of our new language superstars. She will help you with the Arabic translation at your work. I want you to work closely with her for the next few days as she will help you to expand your knowledge about our enemy, terminology and everything else that you will need to know for your job. ‘Sure of course.’ George sounded quite modest this time. After their mission in Libya, he realized that their job is quite serious and there’s no place here for cheesy jokes or flirting at work. Even though the women were his weakness and he fancied Jenny he didn’t want to expose that at his workplace.

‘How was your mission George’, tried to open the conversation, Jennifer. ’Yes, it was fine, thank you. I just hope that Tim will be alright.’ ‘He will be alright, don’t worry. I’ve heard that you’ve done great there.’ Jenny gave him a charming smile. ‘Well, I just did what I was supposed to do.’ George starred at the desk without taking the compliment. ‘You saved his life you should be proud of that!’ ‘Well, he saved mine some time ago. So, we are even now’. ‘Ah, you are so humble. You should be proud of yourself. George, can I ask you something?’ ‘Yes of course’. He looked her in her beautiful blue eyes. ‘I believe that you liked me when you saw me the first time. And although, you smiled cheekily few teams at me you never done much more than that. All other men around are flirting with me, some of them already asked me out, and you never said anything. Why is that? Did I say something wrong? I mean... I might not be your type, but...’ ’Listen, Jennifer’, George interrupted her with a serious tone. You are my type. You are definitely my type! And I thought of you many times, but I just wanted to be professional. Yes, there are some people who are in relationship round here, like Christina and Tom from my department, who are actually married. I am not saying it’s impossible. The thing is that I am very devoted to this job. I really want to make the things work. Tim almost died a few days ago, we got another injured man who I am not sure if he is OK and I could die as well. That job is a serious stuff. I don’t want to turn my workplace into some kind of a ‘Love Island’ silly TV show.’ ‘Listen to me carefully George.’ Jennifer immediately changed the look on her face and her big blue eyes turned to a storm. ‘I don’t know what you think of me. But I am not one of these shallow, reality TV stars who will sleep with the other guys around to gain popularity or anything else. I am a big girl who supports herself and I am looking for a serious relationship with a serious intelligent guy. Excuse me!’ Jennifer jumped off her seat furiously. ‘Jenny!’ George tried to stop her, but it was pointless. ‘Once again, I fucked up’, he thought. I am trying to be honest without any intention to offend the other person and always turns into a bummer. That’s unbelievable quality.’

Next day Mrs Winton organised another briefing at the office, but this time they have done it the attendance of the members of the Surveillance and International teams. ‘George, let me start by saying that we are all proud of you and your first task. It’s my pleasure to handle you that complimentary letter from our director for your work in Libya. We never forget our brave man.’ All the people in the room gave him a big round of applause, which George took with bowling his head down of shame.

‘Thank you all’, continued Mrs Winton. ‘I am afraid that we have to continue with our work now due to the urgent situation. As we already learned Islamic State are smuggling containers with the poisonous gas Sarin to Europe. We work with Interpol and Europol and we are prepared for a potential terrorist attack, which could be done with such a Chemical warfare. However, we still don’t know how and where the attack will be organised. Interpol sources confirmed that there was a Houseboat which arrived in Malta on 7th of August, similar to the one Timothy and George saw in Libya.’ Mrs Winton showed a few pictures on the screen which were taken by George and Tim. ’The boat recharged petrol and continued in North West direction. We believe that they are heading either towards Spain, France or Italy. Sicily is a few hours by boat from Malta likely that could be their next stop if they were planning to get on Italian soil. That’s what we got so far. If the gas is heading towards Spain or France any of those two countries could be the next target or maybe us.

Thinking in that direction, we are not certain how they will execute their plan, but the only thing that we know for sure is that they won’t use random recruits for that operation. A lone-wolf won’t do the job. Plotting such thing is not that easy as stabbing random people in the back or driving a van into the crowds. Here we are talking about trained jihadists who know very well how to deal with the sarin and what to do to cause maximum damage. George, as all that is part of your work and you spent already some time working with our Surveillance teams I will give the word to you, Mr Harper and Ms. Clark.

‘Okay.’ George took Mrs Winton’s place in front of the audience. The Surveillance team has a team of information security specialists who are brilliant hackers also, and they managed to break into the mailbox in one of the ISIS recruiters in Turkey. With the help of Ms Clark and some of our Arabic speaking colleagues, we managed to translate and decipher the messages. ISIS uses a mixture of old Arabic and Aramaic for their internal correspondence. The Aramaic is an ancient language which is still spoken in some parts of Syria. The script they use is not some super enigmatic code, but it could be quite confusing as Arabic is a rich language where one word could have 15 different meanings. There are a few words who came out clearly from the message. They were “britaniins” or British, refugees and chemists. Considering all intelligence gathered so far and making a couple of links we believe that ISIS are sending trained fighters, and possibly chemical experts masked as refugees to come to Western Europe. We possibly talk about British citizens and we could assume that these people will be heading towards the UK. That’s only an assumption at the moment, but we are working on the case to get some more information. We all know that there are British citizens who went fighting for Daesh in Syria and Iraq. Around 150 of them are already dead, but there is a good number who are back here in the UK and hopefully under constant surveillance. Some of these people already plotted terror attacks which we successfully prevented. So, the returnee jihadists here are well aware that we monitor every single move they make. Taking into consideration all that, and the fact that a CW attack is not an easy job to do, we believe that the potential threat will come from well-trained terrorists which will attempt to enter their target country illegally. May I invite Mr Harper to say a few words?’ George turned to his colleague who came in front.

‘Thanks, George.’ I’d like to say that although we broke into the mailbox of the suspect terrorist we couldn’t get much more specific information out of that. Islamic state has a good team of cyber specialists who protect their servers and personal information 24/7 so shortly after our breach, we got kicked out and we couldn’t extract any more information.

Recently, we received a signal about two fundamental Islamist who live in a shared flat in Brixton. According to our source, they have been in Syria fighting under the black flag of DAESH. We decided to check the signal and we broke in their flat with the Entry team to tape them. We found two laptops there and we extracted all the information from them. There were files on one of the computers about high tech drones and we think that likely the suspects were planning to acquire such kind of technology. However, the drones they have been looking at are not for general sale as they are used only for military surveillance purposes. We can’t say, what they planned to do with such drones, or if they have something like that already in possession, but we are trying to find that out. Also, we recovered the deleted history from the laptops and we saw that the suspects spent some time reading and watching videos about Sarin gas and its usage. In the context of the current situation, we started connecting the pieces of the puzzle. The sarin gas containers which George and Timothy saw leaving the Libyan shore, the messages from the ISIS recruiter mailbox and the interest of the ISIS assets on UK soil in the CW, lead us to the thought that the extremists are likely plotting a sarin gas attack here in the U.K. We are trying to collect some more information about the suspects, but so far that’s all we got. Jennifer anything else that you wish to add?’ turned to his colleague Mr. Harper.

‘Yes, please.’ Jenny stood up from her seat. ‘We recovered all the scrapped papers in the flat and we found in one of the bins a receipt in Turkish. With the help of my colleagues, we found that it was issued in Istanbul a few weeks ago. We checked the records of the suspects with foreign office and neither of them seems to be out of the country for the past year besides their last travel to Turkey and the Middle East when they joined ISIS there. The mystery is how these two people came back to the UK without crossing our borders, considering that they are both U.K. citizens. The most obvious answer is that they arrived illegally as they wanted to remain unnoticed by us and the police. Thank God, for the signal we received we put the suspects under surveillance. Mr Karim Nizzar who is head of our International Middle Eastern team is already in Turkey checking the case.’

‘Ok thank you, Jenny.’ Mrs Winton came in front again. No doubt you are doing a good job here and we wouldn’t let the suspects escape our radar, but once again we would need to check that story from its root. I am afraid George, this time you will be traveling on your own to Istanbul. Timothy is still in recovery and we cannot risk his health. You will receive further instructions how and where to meet Mr Nizzar. I believe you two already met.

Upon leaving the meeting room George waited for most of the people to leave and went after Jennifer. ‘Jenny, can we have a word please’. She turned and gave him a cold look, ‘OK you have a minute as I have some stuff to do.’ ’Listen, I don’t want to take much of your time, but I wanted to say that I didn’t mean what I said. I mean, I meant what I said, but you misunderstood my point. I really like you, Jennifer, you are beautiful, smart and look like a kind person. And I would love to get to know you better. And I am looking for something serious as well. She put a smile on her face, ‘Is that an invite for a dinner?’ ‘Well, ah…yeah…yeah, it is! Actually, it is.’ George didn’t expect the direct question. ‘OK, cool. Have a safe trip to Turkey and let me know once you are back’. Jennifer went on her way to the lift. ‘Oh, and George’, she turned again. ‘Be careful. Don’t risk your life. I am sure it matters to someone’, she winked at him. ‘And you should never leave a girl waiting for her dinner! Take care’. She entered the lift and George kept looking in her direction until the lift doors closed, ‘What a woman’!

The flight to Turkey was quite disturbing. There was loads of turbulence, and to avoid that the pilot needed to take the plane up and down a few times, which made a passenger throw up at the row and a few babies cried for some good period of time. ‘Unnecessary panic’ thought George who was afraid of heights, but when flying by plane, he didn’t feel any fear. Nevertheless, the turbulence and especially the people’s panic stressed him out.

When they reached Istanbul it was already dark outside and he could see the Bosphorus waterway covered in lights. Small boats were sailing in the dark water to an unbeknown destination. One of the main trading routes between Asia and Europe the Bosphorus is an important geographical location in Europe which everyone wanted to control through the ages, from the Roman and Byzantium Empires to the Ottomans, Russians, French, and English.

The city looked huge from the plane. Istanbul consists of more than 15milion citizens as much as London and it is spread on two continents, Europe and Asia. Looked at the sky someone could call that place the ‘city of the lights’ just as Las Vegas. Everything was shining and glowing, just the gambling wasn’t the main industry there. The airport also amazed George. Ataturk airport was a big modern place which looked like the gate to the Middle East. When he arrived there, he saw passengers from all over the Oriental world. Turkish, Arabic, Bedouins, Saudis, Qataris, people from all different Arabic cultures dressed in various traditional clothing.

George had an appointment with Karim in a Caffe near the Grand Bazaar or also known in Turkish as Kapali Carsi. The place is also known as the Turkish Champs-Élyséeswith. The main difference with the real version is that if you don’t haggle there when buying something is like going to Paris without seeing the Eifel tower. The street’s exotic look is complemented by shops selling different sorts of Turkish delights, pistachios, nuts, spices and of course loads of leather goods manufactured in Turkey. Walking down the market shopkeepers from all sides were calling George to come and try their goods. ‘If you haven’t visited that place you would never know what the real trade means’, he thought.

Finally, he reached his destination a shisha and tea cafe where he saw Karim relaxing as the last time he saw him in Glasgow. ‘Good to see you again my friend’ Karim grinned in his usual smile. A cup of rose hip tea? I know you like it! George didn’t say anything but the way he lifted his eyebrows and squeezed his lips said enough. I like your new look it’s not bad. You look quite Turkish now. George was advised by Mrs Winton to change his looks for his mission. So, he left his beard and cut his hair short. ‘Well, I am not sure about that. Maybe the beard, but I believe I am too blonde’, George didn’t seem to be very convinced. ‘No, no! You could be Turkish. The Turkish are so diverse. We have olive skinned people with dark eyes and hair. But we have also blonde Turkish especially on the Northern side of the country, and we have gingers too. That’s why we are so beautiful nation.’ Karim smiled with pride. ‘But I thought that you are British or...?’ Well I am British born George, but my parents came over to England from Turkey. In fact, my dad is Kurdish born here, he had some problem with the authorities and they decided to emigrate abroad. My parents traded with leather jackets and belts and had a small shop in North London. ’OK, so how did you get this job then?’ George wondered. ’I applied! There were not that many people that time in the company who could speak Turkish. Not that, there are many these days, but 20 years ago I was a rare breed! Also, I speak my father’s language Kurdish and some Arabic. Listen, George, the Ottoman Empire, and Turkey were always a very important ally to the Western World and particularly England. These days the things here are changing rapidly. President Erdogan is quite unpredictable. He is still balancing between the US and Russia, but you don’t know which side he could take eventually. And to be fair his contacts with the Russians are becoming warmer. You should never forget that Turkey has one of the biggest armies in the World and a strong economy as well. A potential military conflict with this country will be devastating for anyone who dares to challenge it. Finally, Turkey is hosting at the moment over 1 Million refugees and Erdogan is twisting the hands of the EU to secure reasonable trading and political deals for his country, or he threatens to let more refugees on their way to Western Europe. That’s why people like me are a valuable asset to the ‘company’. It’s sort of like having a Russian working for a Western secret service. It’s always a benefit, especially if he is well connected.’ Karim had a sip of his aromatic tea with a self-confident smile on his face.

Anyway, my friend, I’ve spoken to one of my informants who said that the Kebab shop where our radical friends had dinner is actually a place where the traffickers are gathering the refugees before their departure to the Bulgarian border and Europe. That’s our next stop as well. My source said that there are two groups who crossed the Syrian border for the past week. The first one already left Turkey and the second one should be in Istanbul at the moment. They will hide them in a safe house for the day and tonight they are going to the Kebab shop where another transport will take them to the border. I’ve been told that there are two people in that group who speak English between them. I believe these are our guys. As you already know the plan is to mix with the refugees and cross the border with them while collecting as much intelligence as possible about our travel companions.’

‘Can you trust your source?’ George looked quite suspicious. ‘Last time we nearly died because of a double informant who was working for us and the enemy as well.’ ‘Don’t worry my friend. The informant is a refugee trafficker himself. He works at the Turkish / Syrian border. And most important, he was best man at my sister’s wedding. I can absolutely trust him. At least I know that he won’t betray us’. Worst case scenario the guys are not British, but Irish and my contact is so stupid that he can’t make difference between the accents. Karim laughed at his joke, but it didn’t really reassure George.

‘The only thing that I would like from you is to literary remain silent and not say anything.’ Karim changed the look on his face. ‘As you know ISIS is not just a bunch of crazy guerrillas. They are trained in contra surveillance and they can easily notice us if we are not careful. For that reason, our cover story will be that we are brothers. Kurdish Syrians who are travelling on their way to Germany. Our stopover will be Bulgaria as we have a cousin there who owns a barber’s shop. We will stay with him for a while until we arrange our travel to Germany. If anyone asks why you cannot speak we will say that you are deaf. Once again, we have to be very careful as even a single jingle from your mouth could fuck up the whole mission.’ ’His looks are Turkish, but his sarcasm is pure British, thought George. ‘Alright, that’s fine, but I wonder…Why me? You said there are other Turkish or Arabic speakers who work for the company. They could do the job.’ ‘George, two things my friend. There’s no one who speaks Syrian Kurdish as fluently as I do. And we already worked together during your training period. So, I believe we are a good team. And most important, the whole thing is your case. The company wants you to be here, to study the suspects to learn their faces. We are talking about high-risk suspects. We need you to be here.’ ‘That’s alright. I didn’t want to sound like I am not up for doing it. I am still learning, but there might be someone who is more experienced.’ George’s lack of trust in himself was kicking in. ’You are learning very well my friend. You proved that in Libya. And even working with me you will learn some more things. But you must understand that in that critical situation we are facing we don’t have much time to waste. So, I beg a pardon, but we cannot ‘babysit’ you. We need you in the real shit asap. It was sort of a risk even with the Libyan mission. But Mr Campbell was certain in your abilities. And yet you proved that he was right. Anyway, we have work to do. Please take this bag with you. I have some traditional clothing that I want you to put on. I will come and pick you up tonight nearby your hotel.

George looked himself in the mirror. In fact, he didn’t change much. He just put on baggy grey trousers an old pair of shoes, t-shirt a grey shirt on top and old brown overcoat. Karim was on-time as he promised. ‘I thought we are going to put on something more traditional?’ ‘Ha-ha, we are not going to a wedding mate’. Also, most of the refugees are dressed just normal western style. But here is something just in case’ Karim passed him a black and white checked scarf. ’I will help you to put it on. That’s ‘Keffiyeh’ in Arabic or ‘Cemedani’ in Kurdish. It’s a traditional Middle-Eastern hear dress. Now you will look more authentic. Just don’t say anything, be cool and everything should be fine.’ George smiled at Karim, but he was a bit nervous from inside. His companion looked calm and firm.

‘OK, here we are. We are leaving the car and we are going to walk.’ In 20 minutes walking, they reached the Kebab shop where the refugees were gathering for their next travel. They came from the back door where they met a group of 12 people. There were apparently 10 refugees and 2 smugglers. ‘Merhaba’ or the Turkish ‘Hello’ is the only word that George could catch from the conversation that Karim had with one of the smugglers. Karim made a sign to George to come with him and slowly the whole group which was in something like a backyard started getting into a truck which had a sign of a Turkish yogurt company. The trip took a few hours when the truck pulled over. The two people in front came at the back and opened the back doors. They shouted something at the refugees and the people started getting down one by one. It was dark as hell. There was no single light. Even the lorry lights were switched off. The smugglers shouted something again and all the refugees started forming a line. George didn’t get it and looked around confused. The smuggler came and started to scream at his face. George remained silent as everyone around. Hopefully, Karim was quick to interfere. He said something angry to the smuggler and pushed George at the line. The trafficker just shook his head and made a gesture with his hand like saying, ‘OK be damned’. That pissed off George, but as instructed he was pretending that he cannot hear or understand anything.

The whole line started walking in an unknown direction behind the smuggler who was leading in front. They’ve been walking for half an hour when the trafficker got a call on his mobile. He turned to the group and said something brief. He counted five people and called them to follow him. George looked around and realized that he and Karim and the other refugees must sit down and wait.

There were two more guys in their early 30s and an older guy who was probably in his early 70s with a boy no older than 12 years old. ‘All good brother?’, turned in English one of the young refugees to his companion. ‘Yes, I am fine. By Allah’s will, we will be soon in the land of the Crusaders’. I wonder how it will be when we get back there’, replied the other one. ‘Shall, we have any feelings for our family or friend’. ’Don’t worry brother, everything is in the “jahiliyyah” (ignorant past which does not affect the present). We serve Allah now and the “Al-Dawla” (DAESH/ISIS) and “Amir al-Mu’minin” (The ISIS Khalifa) are our family and friends now. We must get there and make all “kafir” (disbelievers) suffer for their ignorance. We are expected, brother. Our brothers and sisters will take care of us.’ The guy smiled at his companion and put his hand on his shoulders. Then he turned and looked at George and Karim and said angrily in Arabic, ‘Do you listen to us’. ‘No, no’, shook his head Karim and waved his hand in front of his face to show that he is with his thoughts. ‘Do you speak English’, went on the angry guy. ‘No, I never learned’. I just speak Arabic and Kurdish. We are both Kurdish with my companion...from Iraq.’ ‘Why is he not talking what’s wrong with him?’ ‘Forgive him, but he was born like that he cannot talk.’ Karim replied as according to plan. ‘OK so we can speak in Kurdish then, my mother is Kurdish’, the guy continued grilling Karim this time in Kurdish. ‘Yes, we can, of course. It’s always a pleasure to talk to someone in your native language’, Karim tried to sound positive. The other guy kept looking at him with a suspicion and remind silent for a second, then said, ’But where are you from exactly? You speak northern Kurdish, you don’t sound like ‘Sorani’ from the central lands? I didn’t see you yesterday when we crossed the border with Syria. I saw all other people there, but not you two!’ Karim kept his confidence and didn’t seem like he was worried by the interrogation. ‘We are originally from central Kurdistan, but our father had a problem with the Saddam’s regime. For our safety, we left Iraq and moved to North Kurdistan in Turkey where we lived for the past 11 years. That is why I sound different. Apologies. This morning we arrived in Istanbul, so the Bulgaria-Turkish border is the only one that we need to cross to get to...’

‘OK, so we are you heading then?’, cut him off the interrogator. ‘Well, I tried to tell you that my cousin has a barber’s shop in Bulgaria. We will stay with him, and then we will travel to Germany. We have more family there who will help us. The Germans are giving 1000 Euro to every refugee, so we don’t need to work, and our life will be good there’, Karim laughed and snapped with fingers. ‘And you? Where are you going?’ Karim gained the confidence to ask a question. ‘We are going to Bulgaria as well, then we will decide if we like to stay there or go somewhere else’, the other guy was very brief.

A noise from the woods interrupted their conversation. They saw a light approaching and all jumped from the ground. It was the smuggler! He urged them to form the line again, and they started walking behind him. There were trees and bushes everywhere and they couldn’t see anything. They were all holding each other’s shoulders and the man in front was leading them with his flashlight. All of a sudden, the old man with the boy stepped on something slippery and felt on the ground. The trafficker came over, shouted something angrily, kicked the man on the ground and tried to force him to stand up.

George fuming out of control tried to charge the man, but Karim grabbed him strongly under his arms and held him. The smuggler just looked at them with his ugly bearded face. ‘What an awful person’, thought George. He had small Mongol eyes, dark greasy hair, and beard, and he was missing one of his front teeth. George felt an instant desire to punch him in the face, but Karim was holding him tight.

The man stood up, and they all started walking through the woods. Shortly, they all stopped. The trafficker started moving aside something that looked like leaves and pine tree branches. Underneath them, there was something like a big chunk of wood. He lifted it up and a big whole review itself. He made a sign to the group of people to follow him and they all started cautiously to talk into the whole. It was a dark tunnel. It was probably 5-foot tall and there were wooden pillars on the sides to hold the ground above them. It looked like a small mine gallery. They kept crawling when George experienced an annoying feeling. He felt that he was losing breath. Just the idea of crawling in the dark with all these people around him made him feel like there was not enough oxygen around. He started breathing slowly and kept going.

Soon they all started going out one by one. When they went out they could see behind them a big metal fence like in prison. It was probably 20-foot tall and there was a curved metal wire all around the top. Apparently, they made it and crossed the border. The smuggler said something angrily in his usual tone and urged them to follow him. Everyone started going slowly without making a noise. They were about to enter another forest when they heard a noise coming from behind. They saw a police jeep with its lights on coming in their direction. The trafficker started screaming and they all ran into the forest. The car pulled over behind them and two border control officers came out. While running George, Karim and the refugees could hear the megaphone of the police car, ‘Stop there! Don’t move, we shoot you’, the border officer was shouting in broken English. The old man with the boy stopped running, but the angry man who questioned Karim took out a gun and started shooting at the police car. The border control officers ducked behind the car and started shooting on their behalf. The refugee group kept running into the woods. The smuggler, run away and left them to their faith. Soon the refugees came out of the woods and reached a place that looked like a large field. They saw there a parked van with opened backdoors. The driver was out shouting at them hysterically to get on board. Apparently, it was another smuggler. They all got in the van but could hear that the police sirens were approaching.

‘You idiots, why did you shoot at the border police car.’ The driver started screaming in Turkish. ‘I am going to leave you all here to deal with them. I don’t want to have any trouble because of you’. The guy with the gun pointed it at the drivers’ head and replied in Turkish ‘Drive, or I will burst your head.’

They came into something that looked like an old village and soon stopped in front of a house. The driver opened two big metal gates and the van entered the house yard. All the passengers came out and the driver called them to follow him. When they all entered the house, his wife looked at them scared to death. ‘Shut up and help me to open the basement’, he didn’t want to lose time in talking. They went in the bedroom, and the wife of the smuggler removed the carpet. Underneath there was something like a gate. The smuggler opened the gate and with his flashlight he pointed to a ladder which was leading to something that looked like a basement. There was a noise of a car which pulled over in front of the house and they could see the police lights through the window. “Eğil” (Turkish, ‘Get down’) he shouted at them and they all started looking down by the stairs. The police were already knocking on the door. When they all got in the man with the gun turned to the smuggler, ‘If you betray us, I will shoot all your family. I swear in Allah’s name’.

The owner of the house went to open the door. ‘What’s going on? Why are you making that noise the children are sleeping?’, he turned to the border control police in Bulgarian. ‘Don’t fucking lie to me. I know you are hiding them Kadir’, yielded to him the police officer. ‘What are you talking about? There’s no one here’. The police officer pushed the door. ‘Check all rooms’ he turned to his colleague. They search everything including the barn but couldn’t find anything. ‘Open the basement!’ Ordered the police officer. ’Oh, come on I have to search for the key now. I don’t keep anything there. I haven’t been there for a while. The door of the basement which was from the inner side of the house looked properly locked with a padlock and chain. And indeed, it looked like it was unopened for a long time. ‘I said open it! don’t fuck with me.’ The police officer was still quite angry. ‘Alright, alright, Shirin, bring me the keys’, he shouted at his wife. She was all pale and crying, but she brought over the keys. Kadir nervously started to unlock the padlock. His hands were shaking. ‘Oh, for God’s sake, give me the keys!’ The angry police officer took the keys and opened the basement. Immediately, he took out his gun and pointed it at the opened basement while his colleague wаs trying to light it up with his flashlight. There was no one there. An emptiness, darkness and a smell of old wine greeted them. They tried to turn on the lights, but it didn’t work. ’Sorry, the light is not working. I told you that I don’t use the basement anymore.’ They found inside some old instruments and two empty wine barrels. Nothing else. ‘You are lucky Kadir, but I will get you next time’, muttered the policemen. The two border control officers gave the smuggler grumpy looks for a Goodbye, apologised to his wife and left the house.

In the meantime, George, Karim and the other travelers remained quiet. They were in a storage space just above the basement. There was a ladder which was connecting the basement with the storage space, but Kadir removed it, making it a hiding place for the refugees which he was collecting from the border. The border police, which was from the nearby town, suspected him in the refugee traffic, but no one really caught him so far so there were no official charges. He was risking a jail, but the money was good, and the job was fairly easy until today when the police came to search his own house.

The refugees stayed in the storage space and the basement until down. Kadir gave them some food and water and in the morning, he drove them to the nearest big town where they’ve been taken by another van which took them to the capital Sofia. When they were just about to enter the city, the van stopped on the highway and the two suspects came out. George could see that a black BMW picked them up quickly and they disappeared for seconds. ‘Don’t worry’, whispered Karim. ’Their faces will be on the Interpol ‘Wanted list’ tonight. We will get them soon.’

XI. Headhunt

They spent the next few weeks looking for the two suspects. The whole UK border control had pictures of their faces and Interpol and Europol were actively looking for them. George spent some time with his colleagues in front of the suspect’s houses, but they didn’t notice anything suspicious. It seemed like their families were living their normal everyday life. There was no sign of the two-potential terrorist.

‘Maybe it’s time to relax a bit’, George thought. At his lunch break, he went to the city centre and bought from a gift shop a card which he signed with a dinner invite. Once he got back at the Thames building he went to Jennifer’s’ desk, while she was away, and left the card at some of her files.

Getting back to his place George saw through the window of Mrs Winton’s office Mr Harper, who was explaining something very excitingly to her and Timothy. Mrs Winton saw George as well and invited him to join them. ‘We finally found them’, Mr Harper spat enthusiastically. ’We received a CCTV footage from the Dover coastal guard. There was a Cargo container ship who recently arrived at the local port. The ship is owned by a British import-export company called ‘Magners & Co’. The cargo arrived from France, but the original sender is a Saudi state-owned company. They import military weapons and aerospace high-tech products and they export to the UK and France organic chemicals such as Hormones, Antibiotics, and Vitamins. All legal stuff. I checked the travel books and once the ship sailed from Saudi, it had two stopovers. One in Malta and one in France. I don’t have more information, but we believe that while at one of the stopovers the cargo ship loaded some extra shipping goods and I am not talking only about material goods.

But listen to that. The whole crew passed by the passport control and everything seemed alright. The written and verbal evidence of the coast guard which we collected, does not say anything about any suspicious materials among the cargo. And they are quite determined they have done their job well. Between us, I didn’t expect something different. They know very well who the trading companies are, and I am sure they even overlooked their work.

The best part comes a bit later once they unloaded the cargo. One of the crew members comes up and secretly opens one of the containers. The CCTV captured how two people are coming out and entering the back of a large TIR who is ready for loading. The CCTV picture is not amazing, but with some modern Israeli facial recognition technology which we implemented recently, I got a good image of the two unwanted passengers. I compared them to the pictures of our missing refugees, and guess what? It seems our friends are already in the UK. Unfortunately, UK border agency doesn’t know anything about that. I checked with Europol and there’s no evidence for any of those people arriving or leaving France either. They travelled like ghosts, but you wouldn’t believe how we located them. I either can’t believe they made that mistake. Here is the cherry on the cake. One of the suspects Abdullah Hussein aged 29 recently applied for a new job and was accepted.’ ‘Hold on he applied for a new job?’ Mrs Winton couldn’t believe what she just heard. ‘OK that sounds interesting I hope it’s not like a chemist’. ’Ha-ha, no, no. He is doing hospitality work on behalf of an agency called Finest Hospitality solution. They provide temporary stuff for party events or horse racings. I believe that the gap of three years on his CV raised a suspicion and the employer just double check his National insurance number with the Home office. That’s how we got the lead. We still don’t have any information about his companion though. His name is Shafiq Assilah, aged 30. George looked at the picture and immediately recognised the face who was aggressively questioning Karim while they were waiting to cross the Turkish/Bulgarian border. ‘Abdullah was the more sensitive one. I am sure that he will pay a visit to his family soon. If we follow him he will take us to Shafiq.’ ‘I hope you are right George. Anyway, good luck ladies and gentlemen if you need me you know where to find me. If not, I will find you.’ Mr Harper winked and pointed at them with his fingers imitating guns while leaving the room going backwards. ‘Classical geek’, George smiled at his small show.

‘The Saudi’s’ thought George. He remembered recently talking to his colleagues and reading in the media about the double-faced friendship between the US and the Western countries and Saudi Arabia and Qatar which was mainly based on Weapon and Petrol trade. The media allegations were that the Saudis as Sunni Islamist were supplying Islamic State who was also part of the Sunni denomination with Western-purchased weapons to fight the Shia Iraqi. There were lots of political accusations also in the UK mainly from the opposition parties regarding that. And it wasn’t the first case when the Saudis were accused in connection with the jihadist. There was a constant criticism against them for directly funding Al-Qaeda and ISIS. It was the basis of all conspiracy theories who were accusing the Americans and their Western allies in creating an enemy who they can fight later for multiple reasons. While studying the history of ISIS George was reading about the leader of the state Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who spent time in US jail in Iraq before announcing his caliphate. The conspirators believed that he was recruited there and trained by the CIA to serve the American cause. George didn’t really believe in all the conspiracy stuff, but he couldn’t deny that there was some truth in some of the potential theories. He was a patriot and loved his country, but he had some suspicion about the hypocrite rhetoric of the Western governments. One thing that he believed was that when you combine loads of money with politics you can forget about any morals.

‘Look, there mate!’ Timothy woke him from his thoughts. They were keeping watch of Abdullah’s family house in Stratford with George. There was a guy who was waiting at the front door and didn’t look like a salesman. A woman came out and when she saw him she dropped on the floor the glass she was holding. She stood up starring at the guy, put her hands on his cheeks and started crying. Then they both came in. There was no doubt! George immediately recognized Abdullah. He had his beard trimmed, and hair slicked back. When the suspect left the house, George looked him well again. He was wearing casual clothes, unlike the last time when he saw him, but it was clear that it was him! George had strong photographic memory, which almost never let him down. ‘Follow him’, George turned to Tim who was driving an old Vauxhall Astra Coupe. They slowly followed the target from a distance, leaving two cars in front of them. Abdullah walked for a while and took a bus to Shadwell. He went to a place that looked like a shop which was under construction. There were two other people in front of the shop who were apparently waiting for him. ‘I knew the mouse was going to take us to the cheese’, thought George. One of the men was Shafiq Assilah the aggressive ‘refugee’ who started shooting at the border control officers, at the Turkish/ Bulgarian border and threatened the van driver when they were trying to escape the police. The other person was a familiar face to George and Tim as well. Hamid Aslan another ex-ISIS fighter and ‘returnee’ to the UK who the MI5 suspected of hate preaching and uploading illegal fundamentalist videos and other information on the internet. Hamid was also believed to be a ‘Jihadi recruiter’, but there was still not enough evidence to arrest him. His legal business was shop keeping. He had a halal food shop and Internet café.

An old sign of a Real estate agency was still hanging at the front, but it wasn’t clear what the place will be after the refurbishment. The three men looked like they were in a really good mood. They chatted and laughed, and it seemed like a few old friends were catching up after a long time no see. They spent some good 20minutes in talking and they all left in different directions. ‘R31, Mansion here, any news over?’ The voice of Mrs Winton came on George’s radio. ‘Mansion, the two refugees are going West, and the Brown elephant is going East. Copy that R31. You go after the refugees, R32 will follow Brown elephant.’ ‘R31 copy’. Okay, Tim, I am going to follow these two on foot ’, George turned to his colleague. You check where Hamid is going and if possible check out what’s that place here.

George followed the two suspects who got into the nearest tube station. They took the Overground for a few stops and got out at Bethnal Green where they reached a housing estate. George followed them from a distance when they entered one of the flats. ‘Okay we got the den’, he thought. ‘R31, R32 here, Tim’s voice came in his year’. ‘I followed Brown Elephant. The fat fuck went to something like a showroom of a company in West London. The company’s business is an import, and sale of Drones made in China which function is focused on agricultural mapping and anti-pesticide spraying. I don’t have an idea what’s that maybe the guy is a farmer. I went also to the closed shop and had a random chat with one of the painters who was refurbishing the place. He said that they will turn it into some video gaming club with Play station and Xbox console games. That doesn’t seem that wrong, to be honest, considering Brown Elephants’ business.’ ‘Drones you said’ thought George. ‘Copy R32 I need to hang up now.’ George saw Abdullah and Shafiq coming out of the flat. They were both caring two bag packs. A car pulled in front of them on the street and they both got in. He looked around but there were no taxis and he was without any vehicle. He phoned the surveillance team. Quarry, I need your help urgently can you track a silver Ford Escort TANGO X-RAY 04 GOLF YANKEE LIMA going north on Columbia road. Also, send a vehicle to pick me up please.’ ‘Copy R32, give me a second.’ Mr Harper who was on the other side of the line switched on his large video screen the satellite-based tracking system. ’Okay R31, I can see it it’s heading south now towards Whitechapel. Your transportation should pick you up in 3 minutes. ‘Copy that Quarry, I am waiting for that. Please keep an eye on the targets.’

In 15 minutes speeding through the London traffic, they came close to the suspects’ car. Soon they reached something that looked like а big warehouse with tall metal fence and a barbed wire. The suspects’ car entered the yard through the entry barrier. There was a big sign on the building ‘Magners and Co. agricultural chemicals and fertilizers’. George called again Mr Harper, ’Quarry, the building has the name of ‘Magners and Co’. Do we have more information about that company?’ ’Give me a second R31.’ Mr Harper turned to Mrs Winton who was staying next to him and gave her a concerned look. Mrs Winton just nodded without saying anything. ’R31, you know already from our last meeting what the company is doing. The current warehouse belongs to one of their branches which deals with phosphorus, sulphur, and other chemical fertilizers trade. The owner of the company is Vincent Parlor, brother of James Parlor a Tory MP. It seems like a business with government links. ‘Copy Quarry, all clear. I will stay in the car and wait for them’, George was brief in his response.

A brother of Tory MP. Trading with weapons and import of chemicals. ‘History repeats itself because no one was listening to the first time’, that saying stuck in his mind once he was reading a history book. 25 years ago, his mum died, because she reviewed secret information accusing Western Governments of Weapon supply for the Tyrant Middle East regimes. Apparently, at present, the Western Governments Hypocrisy didn’t change much. And somehow, without any intention, his current work became part of that...

‘R31, all right mate?’ Tim’s voice came on the radio. ‘Copy 32. It’s the same situation mate. No one came out. It feels like they just evaporated. Like a secret information made public...’ ‘R31, what you are talking about buddy? You sure you are alright?’ Tim sounded confused. ‘Don’t worry I am OK. It’s just 6.30pm already most of the employees left the building and there’s no sign of our friends.’ ‘OK R31, I am coming down to replace you. Let’s see if something could come up.’ ’That’s alright R32 I got some dinner plans anyway. You can take it from here. ‘Ah, a dinner! How exciting? Is that with someone that I know?’ Tim asked him cheekily. ’Well, maybe R31. I just hope that she will turn up. If not, you are always welcome, if you fancy Moroccan food. ‘Thanks, R32, but it will be too intimate. We already spend too much time together at work. Good luck with the date. I think your blonde companion will enjoy the place.’

George came on time at the Moroccan restaurant he chose for the dinner. His date wasn’t in, so he took a seat and starred impatiently at the big oriental clock on the walk. Hopefully, in 5 minutes she walked in. ‘Good evening sorry for being late’, started Jennifer. ‘That’s alright. I thought you are not coming.’ Although happy to see her George still looked a bit anxious. ’How can I turn down such a creative romantic invite! But at least the Invitation card was good. It looked quite Parisian with that lady on the bike and the title ‘For a special friend’, was spot on.’ ‘Well, your sarcasm tells me that you are not that impressed. I thought you would like it as a French speaker?’ Jenny gave him a sassy smile ’And you picked a Moroccan restaurant knowing that I lived in Tunisia, thinking that I like the North African food. ‘Georgy, I have to thank you for the initiative, but I had a really bad food poisoning which ended up in a local hospital in Tunis. So, I can’t eat anything which reminds of the local cuisine of that region. But that’s alright I will just get a salad.’ ‘Oh, boy’, George closed eyes of his misfortune. ‘Don’t worry darling. Just next time take me to a Steakhouse or Italian and we should be fine.’ George immediately changed the expression on his face, ‘Ha-ha OK. That’s my favourite food as well. Jen, can I ask you something, how comes that you lived in Tunisia and you have such an interest in foreign languages?’ ‘Hmm, Okay.’ She looked him at the eyes. ‘My dad worked for the Mi6. He was employed by the British embassy there and we came back just after the Tunisian revolution. He was very good with languages and I guess it’s just in our blood.’ ‘So, actually, you got some link to the secret service? It wasn’t a pure coincidence for you to apply to the Company?’ ’It wasn’t really. But my dad wasn’t very happy either with my application with the Mi5. But on the other hand, he wanted to keep me away from international politics, so he was sort of OK with my focus on domestic stuff. Although, I still work for our international team. ‘And you George. I know your mum worked before for the Mi5?’ George stared at his glass. ‘She did in fact, and she died in service.’ ‘I am really sorry to hear that, but I am sure you make her proud with your work for the Company.’ George looked at Jennifer and they both smiled without saying a word. They had a good time together talking about their past and future plans. ‘I believe it’s time to go, George, it’s too late.’ ‘Ah, OK you sure that you don’t want to go for one more drink?’ George smiled at her. ‘If you plan to get me to your bed it won’t work tonight I am afraid. You have to work harder for that’. ‘No, Jen I mean...’ ‘I am just winding you up, George. Don’t worry!’ ‘I would do one more, but we have an important meeting tomorrow with Mr Campbell. We can do something anytime soon. Just next time come and talk to me. We are not in high school anymore.’

XII. Ride of the Valkyries

‘Morning all.’ Mr Campbell started his briefing in front of the members of the surveillance team and George’s International Counter-Terrorism team. ’As you all know in the last few months we’ve been actively working with Scotland Yard on the lead that Islamic State is planning another Terrorist attack in the heart of our country. It seems that our biggest fears come to reality. We are aware that there are two Islamic fundamentalists who are already among us and likely they will take the dreadful plot into action. We confirmed the evidence from our international colleagues that Islamic State is in possession of chemical warfare and so far, all gathered intelligence speaks that it could be used for the next terrorist attack.

We’ve noticed the growing Jihadi interest in the usage of ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’, or Drones as they are widely known. So far, Islamic state used Drones only for military purposes such airstrikes against American or Peshmerga targets in the Middle East. However, the drones could be harmful in some other ways as well. We believe that in a case of potential attack the jihadists might use a drone for releasing an acid gas or other inflammable materials in a public place where the attack could have maximum effect. We actively monitor the suspects and their behaviour, but so far, we don’t have enough information that could help us issuing a warrant for arrest. Also, a part of the evidence is a bit controversial and that causes a delay of the process. Nevertheless, the alert is real and serious, and I strongly recommend that everyone keeps his eyes opened 24/7 so we won’t miss anything important. You all know that we have the bad experience in the past of failing to respond to signals and information which could help us to prevent some horrible things which already happened. Every moment when you overlook your work the terrorists are one step ahead.’

’Remember that the Islamic fundamentalists are not that naive as someone might think. We are talking about an experienced network of criminals who have their own counter-intelligence. They operate a large network of informants, and as we learned in the past few years they could track our activity too. I am not saying that they are a masterpiece in the counter-espionage as the Russians are, but let’s put it like that: ’These people are very observant, and they keep their eyes opened for us. I want everyone to be really careful, as the nature of our work is to protect the people of that country, and of course, we risk our own health for their sake. Farewell, and may God be with us and help us to capture the bastards.’

After the group meeting, Mr Campbell called Mrs Winton’s team for a private chat. ’I got your evidence from yesterday regarding the suspects entering the ‘Magners and Co.’ building. I have to say that I am partially surprised of that. I am not sure exactly, what these two jihadists were doing in such place, but If you have done your homework well you would know how things look like in reality and that for some people the business comes before their principals. The world is a bit hypocrite when it comes to International terrorism. But as I told you before, our game is in the field of eliminating terrorists or criminal plots who jeopardise our national security. Anything political is not on our scale and that’s more of Mi6 work. However, sometimes as you know politics and economic interest go hand in hand. I will raise that issue in front of Mr Cook and hopefully we will get some positive response there. Believe me that no one in the parliament wants to be associated with terrorists. Do you have any other concerns that you would like to share with me?’

’Well, George and Timothy were yesterday both in front of the building of the chemical company, and although they saw the suspects coming in they didn’t see anyone going out. We exclude the option of any of them spending the night inside the building. We believe they left just without being noticed’, Mrs Winton replied. ’Like what? Did they fly over with a drone?’ Mr Campbell didn’t look very impressed. ‘Well, no sir. But I think they used someone who works for the company to take them out.’ George was impatient to take part in the conversation. ’Perhaps, they came out using a company car or something similar. We kept track on all vehicles that left the company parking lot and we didn’t see anything disturbing, but it seems to me that’s the only way possible.

’Hmm, it seems that the plot thickens. That’s definitely something that should be discussed with Mr Cook. If someone from that company helps our friends that sounds quite disturbing. Please keep an eye on the suspects. Eventually, the rats will come out from the hole and they will make a mistake. In the meantime, I work on the case with the chemical company. I don’t promise much, as it seems like a hard nut to crack. Possibly, I would have to stick my finger in some political games which I really despise, but I don’t have any other option. It’s in our interest to get as much information as possible if that will help the investigation. It must go through Mr Cook, which might be a struggle, but I will do my best to convince him.

‘A few weeks passed by, and nothing happened’, thought George. Eventually, ‘the rats came out of the hole’, but it didn’t seem like they were hiding. George, Tim, and the surveillance team spent already a few weeks on watching the suspects and there wasn’t anything disturbing. If they didn’t have their previous evidence and suspicion, it will look like that the two jihadists were just two normal British citizens, who came back home after living some time abroad... Abdullah was doing his hospitality work and paying a visit to his family from time to time. Shafiq’s daily routine wasn’t more thrilling. He was going to a small Shisha bar near their home, and the only interesting thing about him was that apparently, he was a Tottenham fan as he went to a few ’Spur’s home games. Both suspects didn’t do much stuff together outside their home, besides praying at the mosque and visiting the newly opened gaming club of Hamid Aslan to play video games.

’What the heck is going on? Did they notice us? Is it possible that we just picked the wrong signal? ‘Don’t believe everything you hear or see’ The voice of Mr Campbell came in George’s head. Was that another theatre organised by the company? No, it can’t be true. That’s sick! It was for real, but for some reason, those bums were so quiet. On the other hand, all the international statistics show that most of the terrorist attacks were caused by people who have been recruited in their home country. A Jihadi who returns to his home country almost never had any connection with potential terror attacks. ‘Is it possible that we’ve been misled intentionally?’ George was overthinking the situation as usual and that didn’t give him much sleep either. Life changed so much for him for the past year. Everything sounded and looked like a movie. His fantasy was reaching some state when he was even asking himself if he really works for the Mi5. ‘Is it really happening, or it’s one of those prankster TV shows where they are taking the piss of the victim until he gets properly annoyed, so they finally show him the candid camera. No, that’s too much!’ He jumped off his bed. Sometimes George was getting scared even of his own thoughts. If he was about to do something else with his life, he could potentially write a script for a Hollywood movie. He sipped some water directly from the tab and look himself in the mirror. ‘It’s not a false signal. I know those twats are plotting something, but what?’ he always trusted his gut feeling and he knew that he couldn’t be wrong.

A voice from his radio station woke him from his thoughts. ‘Good morning R31. I need you in the office now, please come and meet me asap’. Mr Harper had that habit of calling whenever he wanted, but this time was a bit too much. ’Jesus, what the heck? It’s 4 am! You should say ‘sleep tight’ or something else instead of ‘Good morning’. ‘C’mon be a good boy R31. I will make you a tea when you come over. It’s important don’t waste much time’. In half an hour he arrived at Mr. Harper’s office. ‘I would definitely get a speeding ticket for that, but the company should worry about it’, thought George while going through the pass and weapon control at the Thames building.

‘Alright, where’s my tea?’, George sounded grumpy while entering the surveillance office. ‘Tea time is later mate, we have to talk first’ Mr Harper sounded quite serious. ‘I am not sure what you have been told already and what you learned from our work here in the surveillance department, but I have to tell you something which is not officially stated by any agency in the world regarding the digital war against the Islamic fundamentalism as it could be an absolute scandal. But the truth is that so far, we are losing the war with the terrorists in the digital field. We do our best to talk to some of the top digital companies who rule the online space to grant us access to all the encrypted information people are sharing between them. But, we are far from where we would like to be.’

‘OK hold on, sorry!’ George raised his hand to say ‘Stop’ with an angry tone. ‘Did you wake me up at 4 am to lecture me about some stuff that I already know? If you need someone to complain about the frustrations at your work I am not your man. At least not right now. Call me for afternoon tea tomorrow and we can talk as much as you need’. ‘Calm down George. I might look a bit geeky and soft, but I didn’t call you to cry on your shoulder. That wasn’t the nature of my call. My intention is to show you something important. Have a look please.’ Mr Harper pointed at his screen. Recently, the jihadists are very active on the social media and all the channels they are using. George could see Mr Harper browsing among different Facebook and Twitter profiles, YouTube channels and other Internet forums. ’It is a common tactic for ISIS to use for their recruitment purposes different video games. An example is the famous among the gamers ‘Grand Theft Auto’, where you can steal cars, helicopters, and other vehicles and you can use them to smash into the pedestrians if you want. You can also punch, stab or shoot random people or even the police. So, the terrorists use pictures or videos of the game for their propaganda with a slogan attached to them which is saying something like, ‘What you do in this game is our way of life. Join us, and play for real?’ The Americans, on the other hand, do what is called counter-narratives. They upload let’s say video, or picture of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ which says something like, ‘Killing people won’t get you to heaven with 72 virgins’, which has the meaning to mock the ISIS propaganda. But on the other hand, acknowledging the model the terrorist use to recruit as successful. The counter-narratives are not a great deal as they make fun of the Jihadi believes, but they don’t really offer an alternative to the youngsters who are the main target for the fundamentalists, but that’s a different story. What I am trying to say is that the video games are taking a serious part in the Digital war and the stuff the jihadist post in this regard shouldn’t be overlooked.

Recently, the jihadists started sharing loads of videos in the social space featuring another popular video game called ‘Assassin Creed’. The videos are about the main character in the game or the ‘Assassin’ who throws smoking bombs which chalk his opponents to death. The video ends with a sign in Arabic which says, ‘Gas the crusaders’ and hashtags #London and #Wembley. The jihadi profiles on Twitter and Facebook started posting similar hashtags as well. Believe it or not, but before some of the terror attacks like the ones in Manchester, London, and France there were twits like #Manchester, #Westminster, and etc. The interesting fact is that our two suspects, Shafiq and Abdullah the Jihadi gamers, mainly play Assassin Creed multiplayer when they visit Hamid Aslan’s video gaming club. I am just waiting for some support from the Americans to break into their online accounts. This time I really don’t want to miss a thing if I can use the title of the famous song. Jokes aside, but as Mr Campbell said we protect the people who live in that country, and every time we overlook a signal someone could pay with his life for that.

‘OK hold on’, George stopped him. I do understand that of course, but why the jihadists do that? Why they tell the world, or us what they plan to do?’ ‘Because that’s the new era of terrorism George.’ Mr Harper smiled friendly. ’Currently, ISIS reached levels that Al-Qaeda never had before. Unlike Al-Qaeda’s secret way of communicating with their terrorist cells, ISIS a more transparent approach. And that’s how they ‘hooked’ more people. I am sure you know from your work the profiles of the Westminster and Manchester attackers. None of these people was a trained terrorist. They were all just a bunch of brainwashed extremists. Nonetheless, they served the purpose. ’Make it public, make it accessible, make it easy and you will get more people for the cause.’ That is their motto.

’OK, let’s think then. George stared at the picture of the Assassin Creed which was on one of the Mr Harper screens. ‘We could be sure about the gas, I’ve seen it with my eyes, and we believe it’s here in the UK. We don’t know where it is, but we could have some suggestion. We taped the suspects flat with the Technical team, but they don’t talk about anything like that at home. It seems like they know we are eavesdropping on their conversations. If they plan a potential attack where could they go? Wembley? It’s a big area, outside of the centre.’ ‘What about the stadium? It’s a semi-closed venue and a potential gas attack there could be dreadful.’ Mr Harper was trying to help with the brainstorming. ‘Yes Wembley, but... Oh, for God sake, how we missed that? That motherfucker I knew that there’s something wrong about it. Jesus.’ George closed his eyes and put his hands on his face. ’What George? What’s wrong? Mr Harper looked confused. ‘Shafiq Assilah. He was so quiet, last two months that I almost forgot that he is a Jihadist. There was nothing interesting about him, besides going from time to time to Tottenham football club games... And the Spurs this season...’ ‘...play at Wembley stadium, as they are rebuilding their current stadium White Hart lane’, finished his sentence, Mr Harper. ‘Fucking hell. We have to tell Mr Campbell and the others.’ ’Jesus, hold on, George! Tomorrow is Sunday and I think that the Spurs have a home game against Man United. There will be at least 60k people attendance at the stadium. OK, George, I am going to talk to the senior management and our teams. We must bring over everyone here in half an hour. We need to act fast as it seems that it is happening.

‘Thank you all for coming at that urgency’, started the briefing Mr Cook. We are all here because we believe that the Valkyries are ready for their last flight to the promised heaven. In other words, our evidence speaks that the jihadi treat this time is for real and the terrorists’ horrific plot will take place today. All the collected information speaks that the place chosen for that will be Wembley stadium and today’s football game between Tottenham and Manchester United. The game will attract many spectators and that increases the chance for a high volume of casualties. We have two main suspects who likely will be the main attackers, but we keep our eyes wide open for any other surprises. I got the warrant for arrest and all Special forces teams are ready for action. We will wait for the Jihadists to get in touch with any of their connections, or to make something disturbing and we will arrest them immediately. Mr Harper has a few things to share with you as well. ’

The head of the Intelligence department stood up from his place. ’The gathered information so far speaks that the terrorists will likely use acid gas or a Chemical warfare for their plot. We don’t have an idea how that might be activated, but we seriously believe that could be done either physically by a person, or with the help of a remotely controlled drone. We do everything possible to infiltrate the extremist’s chat channels or other digital sources to get any extra information. The video which the jihadist keeps sharing about the video game ‘Assassin Creed’ reminds me of another case which came from the Americans. Recently, there were a couple of publications in the media, based on another portion of the discoveries of the defected agent Edwards Snowden. He reviewed that the CIA and NSA were infiltrating the online servers of popular video games such as World of Warcraft, Counter-Strike and so on, where the terrorist arrange a virtual meet up place to exchange important information. Snowden’s publications are indeed true, and I already spoken to our American colleagues. With their help, we will spend the next 24 hours, or as much as it is needed in the Assassin Creed’s online servers, and we will try to break in our Jihadi gamers accounts to locate their correspondence. If there’s any communication regarding what we expect to happen today, it should be either through the video game, or other encrypted chat applications. Unfortunately, we still don’t have the permission to check the ‘WhatsApp’ encrypted conversations, but we work along our hacker’s team to break into another application which terrorist used, called ‘Navigant’. It does have an option for encryption, but it’s not usually set by default, unlike other applications. So, if you forget to switch it on the messages will remain accessible.

’Thank your Joseph!’, Mr Cook spoke again. ’Mrs Winton anything from your team. ’Yes, we are monitoring constantly the suspects. Timothy and George are already in front of their flat in Bethnal Green. Actually, I just received a message from Timothy which says that Abdullah Hussein already left the house on his way to work. It’s a routine for him as he usually starts his work early in the morning. There’s nothing to worry at this stage, but we will keep an eye on him the whole day just in case. George will stay with the other suspect Shafiq Assilah as he is now the high-risk target. The psychological evaluation of Shafiq portraits him as the more aggressive one who lives the anti-social life, in contrary to Abdullah who is more attached to his family. If I must be honest, I would place my bet on him to cause us trouble. Nevertheless, we got the unpleasant experience of missing the ‘loving dad’ and the ‘smiled neighbour’ who just decided one day to go stab random pedestrians to death and drive into them with his vehicle. Therefore, there won’t be any psychological evaluations this time, but just purely following the facts and the suspects.’

‘OK thank you Mrs Winton’, continued Mr Cook. In 3 hours I will be meeting the Secretary of state, so I am going to talk to her about the current case. We don’t want to create unnecessary panic, but I want to show this time to the government that we are on the ball. In other words, if we screw up this time, there won’t be excuses such as ‘we miss them’, or ‘we weren’t expecting that’. We are here today because we know, and we expect. We have the most professional intelligence service team on this plant and I want all of you to prove that. Please, do your best and let’s get those bastards before they make some mess.’

XIII. Eagle in the sky

‘If it is so easy why don’t we just arrest them’, thought George. And yet he knew the nature of their work. They could monitor a target for years until the very last stage. A quick arrest could prevent a danger, but the idea of International espionage is to gather as much intelligence as possible. That’s why they are intelligence agency, unlike the Special forces or the SAS who are the storm team. ‘We are licenced to kill, but the essential in our work is the information.’

George was overthinking again the situation while following Shafiq, dressed as a morning jogger. He came after him to the usual gaming club the jihadist was visiting with his friend. George took a seat at the opposite coffee shop, where he got a full English breakfast and coffee. ‘He is in’ he whispered on the radio. In ten minutes he got a call from Mr Harper, ’Alright R31, we are online on the same server where he is playing. As we expected, he is playing his favourite ‘Assassin Creed’. Just for the sake of the irony, the version of Assassin Creed which he is playing is called the ‘Black flag’ and his character is a female named ‘The rebel’. Anyway, it doesn’t seem like anything is happening he is literary sneaking around. Hold on there’s someone else coming. OK, we have to hide somewhere Jesus, I feel you now guys. I can see in a video game how the real spying looks like. Anyway, here’s someone else.’ George was losing patience ‘What’s going on are you playing the game yourself?’, he whispered again angrily. ’Well, obviously I am R31! How can I do it any other way? I am literary stalking him online. I am just sneaking from behind and nothing is happening which is annoying. There’s no text box to chat and the voice messaging is off. What the heck mate? He is not even moving is this guy playing? George jumped from his seat and came out. ‘Fuck it. I am going in no more fucking games’. ‘R31, stay there mate it’s not safe, you can blow your cover like that...don’t...’ George crossed the street and rushed into the gaming club. There were only two people inside. He grabbed the one who was backing him and playing Assassin Creed and turned him to see his face. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t Shafiq. ‘Can I help you buddy?’ said the guy who was dressed like Shafiq and left the suspects flat an hour ago. ‘Where’s Shafiq’, yielded to him George. ‘I don’t know who you are talking about. Leave me to finish my game’. ‘You, piece of shit’ George turned to the microphone hidden in his collar and called the Strike team. ‘I need you here now.’ Immediately three masked men entered the gaming club, they threw the suspect on the ground and handcuffed him. ‘Arrest him and keep him under eye’. George ran in his car and called the office. ‘Quarry, he is not here I repeat again the Valkyrie has never been in the nest. We lost him.’ ’But how? ‘It’s his account, the IP address from where he logged in is Brown Elephant’s gaming club address...’ ’It’s not the Goddamn Shafiq. Usually they used on the radio only coded names, but apparently, George lost his temper completely. ’He used another guy dressed like him to misled us to follow him here. Likely he just used his account details. ‘Alright, but I am confused’ Mr Harper sounded like he registered what George said, but couldn’t understand it. ‘Hold on, his character is moving, let me check quickly. Yes, I got it! Someone has just logged into his account, and I hope this time is the suspect himself. The exact address is somewhere in... Wembley! Jesus. You must go there R31. Speak to you soon over.’ ’Mr Harper called the other channel ’Team Bravo and team Delta everyone should be heading to Wembley stadium now. The actual address is still unknown. ’On the way there George dialled Tim, ‘How’s it going any action’? ‘No mate, everything seems to be fine. He worked here yesterday as well. It is two days horse racing event at Ascot raise course. Nothing seemed to be suspicious. He is following the exact same routine as yesterday. In fact, they just should have the morning briefing and he must be at his workplace behind the bar. There’s still not that many people around. The first race starts at 12.10pm. What’s going on there?’ Timothy dressed for such event, was staying in his car at one of the remote parking lots pretending to be an early arrival spectator. ’OK keep an eye on him. It’s madness! The bastard is playing games with us and we lost him, a long story will tell you later. Sorry, R32 I have to leave you now, Quarry on the other line.’ George hung up and took the call from Mr Harper, ’Hi R31, listen there’s something interesting that just happened. I am back in gaming mode. Shafiq’s character in the video game and the other one that approached him started moving around. They went to a place where there was a cart full of straw. The other person came into the cart and started throwing from there the smoking bombs which are in his weapons arsenal. I guess he is indicating to the Valkyrie the exact location where they hid the gas, but I can’t get where’s that place. ‘Quarry, you know that I am not a gamer. Cut the crap please.’ ‘Hold on R31, the nickname of the other person in the game is ElmHa9. Does that stand for something?’ ’Elm, Elm, what that could be? George sounded puzzled. ‘Just Google it for God’s sake Quarry. It could be a street address or something.’ ‘OK hold your horses R31. Yes, Elm road HA9! That’s the address of Elm road car park.’ ‘Right, whatever is happening we need to get there asap R31’. ‘Copy Quarry I am on my way.’ Although, breaking all traffic laws, speeding as much as he could, driving in the bus lanes, it took George around 20minutes to get to the car park. He run towards the parking and he saw there, the strike team who were already at the place. ‘Good morning Sir, we already checked the first level, there’s nothing there. My colleagues are downstairs still waiting for them.’ Then a voice came from the radio of the officer, ‘Team Bravo, downstairs is clear no signs of the suspect.’ ‘Have you spoken to the parking stuff?’ George seem to be highly impatient. ’Yes, we did. They said there were around 30 cars which came in, and only one white Boxer Peugeot van left the building 10-15min ago. ‘OK let’s get as quickly as possible towards Wembley. Please close the perimeter and check the parking lot with the bomb disposal team.’ Georg got in his car and headed towards the stadium.

The stadium itself was just a few minutes away, but the heavy traffic was slowing down his driving. He was losing patience. He jumped out from his car and started running towards the stadium. The whole venue was super busy. There were football fans everywhere in scarfs and t-shirts singing songs, beer and food stalls, just all the atmosphere for a football game. George bought a Tottenham cap and mixed with the other fans wearing the white Tottenham colours. He looked in the sky, there was a police helicopter, but no sign of drones or anything else. He saw a man dressed as the Assassin’s Creed character next to a PlayStation stand.’ He looked further down the stadium road and he saw another one. At the other end of the road, there was one more. What the heck is that? He called his team leader ‘Mansion, R31 here, what the hell is that there are a couple of people around dressed like our gaming character?’ ’Copy R31, I just learned that there’s a promotional event organised by PlayStation in front of the stadium. It’s for promoting their new version of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game. ‘We just spoke to the stadium authorities. The game won’t be cancelled now as it could cause panic, but there will be a delay of the kick-off. Also, there won’t be any Sky TV camera drones in the sky. Beware that any drone you see won’t be related to the TV operators or the game itself.’

The Counter-terrorism team was actively searching all the perimeter. Тhe fans who saw them thought that there was some football riot, but the M-16 guns in their hands, instead of police batons, implied that they were not here to stop a football fight. ‘Nothing on this road captain’ came from the radio of the special forces officer. ‘Keep going, it’s here, I can smell him’. ‘Copy that, we keep sniffing’. Then another signal came from the radio, ’Team Delta here, we just spoken to the security guard at the nearest Holiday Inn. He saw the van coming and tried to stop it, but it speeded down the ramp and disappeared at the parking lot. ’Okay to all units we are getting into the parking lot. Be careful we don’t know if he is armed. All civilians and hotel staff should be taken away.

‘R31, Quarry here’. George heard the voice of mister Harper on the microphone. ‘I checked the gaming account of the other person who showed up in the online game. The IP is a flat in Bermondsey, I already sent the special forces team there. In that place lives another suspect, Sunil Habib, 18 years old, Asian looking, born here, his family is from Pakistan. He is on our list of suspects who post hateful stuff on the social media. Moreover, he was one of the accounts posting the #Wembley hashtag and Assassin’s Creed video. I believe he is helping Shafiq and he should be somewhere around. He is a gaming fan and goes to one of these geeky events where the gamers are dressed like their favourite game characters. Check the people dressed in the Assassin’s robe it could be a good cover for him.’ George looked around and he could see at least 3 people dressed the same way. ‘For fuck’s sake’. He ran towards the nearest one and took off his hood. ‘Hey, what the fuck man? Are you mental?’ It was a black guy, but definitely not their Asian looking suspect. George sprinted to the other play station booth and pointed his gun at the dressed-up character ‘Take off the fucking hood now’. ‘Alright, alright buddy just chill’. It was just a random guy. ’What’s going on? George could feel the tension and his heart was pounding crazily. Then he ran towards the third person with the Assassin’s tunic. The dressed-up person turned to George and when he saw him running with a gun in his hand, he pulled out a gun as well and started shooting at George. The people around panicked and ran in all sides. George took cover by one of the sandwich vans. ‘Team Bravo we got another suspect it’s wearing a tunic of the gaming character and holding a gun’. ‘Copy that R31. I can see him. There are just too many people around it’s risky to take a shot’.

‘Jesus where did that come from?’ George saw something which was flying in the sky and approaching the stadium. It was a mid-size drone which had something attached to it that looked like a container. He called the special troops ‘Team Bravo you have to take that down now!’ ‘Team Bravo copy that. I am afraid that if the container is full of toxic gas and it’s inflammable it could explode and release the gas all over the place. We must find the suspect who is controlling the drone. The helicopter and the satellite signal can’t locate the target. It seems like he disappeared, or he is hiding in another garage or something.’

’Then another signal came from the office it was Mrs Winton, ‘Team Bravo, here’s the Mansion, no shooting at the drone. I repeat again no shooting at the drone without my permission, direct orders from the Capital. R31 that concerns you as well. There will be charges if you take any action, we need to find the suspect first’. ‘They must be the joking if that thing gets over the stadium it will cause more casualties, than anywhere else as the stadium is semi-covered. Apparently, it will spread the gas, but at least we could minimize the risk.’

‘Copy Mansion. No shooting at the drone, but please take permission from the Capital to take down the suspect with the gun. He is shooting at the people around’. ‘Copy R31. He is already on target. We are just waiting for a clear vision and will take him down. Don’t do anything stupid over.’

In less than 5 minutes the special team was all around the van. There was no one at the front seats. ‘He should be there, open the doors’, commanded the team captain. Two of the police officers came in front and pulled the door handles. Shafiq was there holding the remote for the drone. ‘Drop it now! Down on your knees!’. ‘Ha-ha you stupid “Kafir” (unbelievers)’, Shafiq didn’t seem worried at all. ‘When you think you are getting closer we are already one step ahead.’ He stretched his arms and dropped the remote slowly. He opened his other palm and they saw that he was holding a grenade. In a second the whole van exploded.

George saw that the drone changed its direction, and it started speeding towards the ground. Once it hit the ground it smashed into pieces, but there was no sign of a bomb explosion. ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Sunil was screaming and shooting at George. He turned and started shooting at some of the people who were running around. He hit a woman in her leg and another man in the back who felt on the ground. ‘Team Bravo, all clear now, I am ready to take the shot.’ George took cover behind a rubbish trolley and started rolling it in Sunil’s direction and shooting at the Jihadist. He felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder. One of the shots of the jihadists hit him at the place which was uncovered by the bulletproof vest. ‘Team Bravo, take the God damn shot now.’ George heard Mrs Winton screaming on the radio. Then he saw how a gunshot hit Sunil. He dropped down with his head split open. ‘Team Bravo, the suspect is down’. George ran towards the injured people trying to help them. The man was laying on his face. George checked his pulse. Hopefully, he was still alive. ‘Mansion, send paramedics now. We got two injured people one fighting for his life.’ ’Are you alright R31? It seems you took a shot as well. Mrs Winton’s voice sounded worried. ‘I am alright, just look after the people, over.’ George ran towards the place where the drone crashed. It didn’t seem like there were any gas leaks, just the drone and the box attached to it. He opened the box and found inside a picture of their car with Tim staying in front of the suspect’s house in Bethnal Green. There was a sign at the back of the picture written in Arabic that George knew very well, even without any translation, “baqiya wa tatamadad” (Remaining and expanding), the moto of Islamic State.

‘What’s going R31? Where are you?’ Mrs Winton sounded angry this time. ‘They knew of us Mansion. I found a picture of me and R32 in a box attached to the drone.’ ‘What are you talking about R31? You are disobeying my orders. The drone likely carries poisons gas. It could kill you!’ ‘Don’t worry Mansion. The gas is not here.’ Those fucking twats knew that we were watching them.’ ’But when did they notice us? Was it since the beginning? George felt some mixture of anger and confusion. ‘What was the idea of the drone? What was the purpose of creating such theatre? ‘...to waste our time chasing them’... He answered his own question. Apparently, the whole stuff was just to deflect their attention. ‘Don’t believe everything that you hear, or you see’, he couldn’t forget of Mr Campbell words. ‘stay close, but don’t overlook the other treats. That’s how we screw up last time.’ ‘Oh, my God. But we’ve spent too much time chasing the wrong person.’ They didn’t neglect Abdullah, but he wasn’t showing any warning signs. Everything was leading to Shafiq. ‘We don’t have time to lose we have to arrest Abdullah.’ George felt again the waves of the coming anxiety. He phoned his team leader. ‘Mansion I am requesting permission to go and join Timothy. I believe the real threat is there.’ Mrs Winton turned to Mr Campbell who was staying next to her. He nodded in approval. ‘Affirmative R31 but listen to what I say. One more solo-action and you are out!’

‘Thanks, Mansion and Capital. I won’t disappoint you I promise.’ George knew that the pause Mrs Winton made wasn’t to gather her own thoughts. Then he called Timothy.

’R32, where are you? Where did he go?’ ’I am here R31, just watching the horse racings at Ascot all seem to be fine. He is at his workplace behind one of the bars. Everything looks normal and there’s no need to worry. I just lost 30 quid in the first race. Same shit as yesterday. What happened with the other bastards any news there?’ ‘R32 listen to me carefully. They played us. Our cover is blown, they know our faces. I need you to arrest The Eagle immediately. We don’t know yet what is going on, but my gut feeling says that he has the gas, not The Valkyrie.’ ’Oh, ok got, it R31! But I can’t do that without the Mansions permission. You know that I need a direct order for that… Sorry but...’ ’R32, we don’t have time to fuck around. If any of those cunts is plotting something that should be The Eagle. ‘Arrest him now, I will accept all the charges’. ‘OK, OK got it! Will do, but I will talk to the Mansion first’. George got a call on the radio from Mrs Winton. ‘Hi R31, how the things look at the field? I just got a call from the Strike team, The Valkyrie blew himself with a grenade and two counter-terrorist officers are dead, one injured. We are still securing the area as we don’t know if there could be any gas released there...’ ‘Unlikely, Mansion. The gas is not there. We need to arrest The Eagle now.’ ’Copy R31, do not interrupt me when I talk. Don’t forget that you are receiving the orders from me, not vice versa. ‘We interrogated already The Eagle’s family and got his school records. Apparently, our suspect is very good at Chemistry and was about to apply for university with similar major, when he left for Syria. Likely he got his further education there, and they trained him how to work with the Sarin gas. I am sending the SAS towards Ascot with a team of paramedics and two chemical gas experts. There will be another helicopter in 2minutes which will take you there as well. You will be given first aid on your ride to Ascot. I believe you need it. Once, upon arrival I expect you to locate and arrest the suspect along the SAS team. Be careful and don’t do stupid things, over.’

In two minutes indeed, a Scotland yard helicopter came literary outside the stadium where George was waiting and picked him up. As promised by Mrs Winton there was a medical assistant who cleaned George’s wound on his shoulder and put a temporary bandage. ‘It should be a busy day at Ascot’, turned to George the helicopter pilot. ‘There will be 40,000 people. It’s much more compared to yesterday. They said on the radio news that there will be some MPs and members of the royal family could be there as well. It’s lovely weather, if I had the time I would go myself. I love betting on horses.’ They reached the arena in 15 minutes. When they landed at the helipad George stared at one of the banners around representing a company called ‘Magners and Co’. What the heck? ‘Ah, you should see that everywhere’, said the heli pilot while George was ready to jump out. ‘They are one of the sponsors of the event as they provide chemical supplements for the horses. Everything is absolutely legal, no steroids or things like that. My brother is horse breeder, so I have some idea about that stuff. I believe the owner of the company is one of the Tory MPs or his brother or something like that.’ ‘Jesus fucking Christ’ George closed his eyes. Now, everything started getting clearer. That’s how they got it in.’

In the early morning, a VW Caddy approached the back gate of the race course. ’Good morning, you can park over there, the security guided the vehicle. ‘He looked at the drivers’ documents briefly. Everyone in the horse racing business knew the company, which was the main suppliers of horse supplements and sponsor of many events. The driver parked the car closer to the stables and started unloading. ‘Anything else that you got for me?’, the guy from the stables turned to the driver’. ‘That’s all mate. You got everything.’ I am travelling to Liverpool tonight and I was wondering If I can stay at least for the first race just to place my bet?’, the driver looked at him with a smile. ‘Well I believe you can, you can even leave the van here, shouldn’t be a problem’. The problem is that they wouldn’t let you in as there is a strict dress code’. ’Ah don’t worry I always keep a pair of clothes in the van for such purposes. Sometimes, in smaller racecourses, they are not so picky, but for some large events the dress code is strict, so I usually have another set of clothes just to go and place my bet and enjoy a pint. ’I hope that’s alright?’ ‘Yeah, should be. Just mind that they are really strict about wearing the right clothes here’. ‘I will be alright. Don’t worry, can you sign here?’, the driver passed to the stables guy a list for confirmation of the order. ‘OK, here you go, enjoy the races’. The guy handed him the list and went on his way.

‘How we could miss that?’ George was thinking about the situation while staring through the window of the Scotland Yard’s civil car which was taking him from the helipad to the race course. The weather started changing slowly and clouds were gathering above the race course. It looked like it was going to rain soon. The first race already took place. The main stand was full of people. There were people everywhere dressed in fancy tweed jackets and trousers, knee-high boots, hats with feathers for the ladies and tall hats for the gents’. Everyone looked perfectly dressed, smiled and happy. Nothing implied about a potential terror threat.

‘R32, I am already here’ George dialled Tim. Any signs of The Eagle, what is going on? ‘Copy R31, I can’t see him he is not behind the bar. I asked his colleagues he literary disappeared.’ ‘Fucking hell, hold on’. George got out at the car parking and started running towards the race course. The security tried to stop him, but he just flashed his documents at them and screamed, ‘Mi5 get off my way. I don’t have time for bullshit.’ He called Tim again ‘R32, did you find him, which bar is he working at?’ ’I completely lost him R31. I am looking everywhere. Someone said they saw him walking with a bag pack towards the lunch area which was allocated for the staff. ’R32 leave it, I am going to find The Eagle. I believe there’s one more person around here as well. There’s someone who helped him to sneak the gas inside the course premises. Check a representative, or something related to ‘Magners and Co. agricultural chemicals’. That’s the chemical company they went to when we traced them last time. I believe they used the cover of the company to smuggle the chemicals not just to the UK, but here to the race course as well.’ ‘Alright mate, no worries copy that’. Tim ran towards one of the security guys flashing his badge, ‘Magners and Co. agricultural chemicals’ does that ring a bell?’ The guy looked confused ‘Ah, well, isn’t that the company who delivers supplements for the horses’. ‘Yes, possibly where can I find them?’ ‘Well I don’t know usually they leave their stock by the stables. You can look there. If you go in that direction, all the way through the main gate, then turn left and will see it’. Tim didn’t wait for further guidance started running towards the stables.’ ‘Sorry no entry’, said another guard with radio station. ‘Fuck off’ Tim pushed him and took out his gun. He ran towards the stables where some of the jockeys looked at him in amazement. ‘Where do you keep the horse supplements? I’ve been told they are here at the stables’. ‘Ah…well...check the building next door to us’, said one of the Jockeys who looked frightened when he saw Tim with the gun in his hand.

‘Oh no not again for God sake’. George looked at the sky and he saw two drones flying in the sky approaching the main stand. They were both having something attached to them, but he couldn’t see it from the distance.

‘We all here ready for action.’ He heard on the radio the signal from the SAS team. He was in one of the unpleasant situations when he needed to take a quick decision. The difference was that this time it was a matter of life or death. So, he didn’t have a choice. ‘We don’t want the mass panic, but we cannot risk people’s lives, even if that’s another bluff.’ ’Mansion, I can see two drones approaching the main stand. They might hold the gas. Please, give permission to SAS to evacuate the place. ‘Copy 31, find the suspect or whoever controls the drones. Leave the rest to me.’ Then her voice came on the radio again. ‘to all units at the race course, evacuate all people. Evacuate everyone from the main stand now’. It started to rain so the people started leaving the stand themselves looking for cover from the rain. The SAS started to urge the people to get in which cause the inevitable panic. George looked at the two drones which came just above the people at the end of the stand who were trying to get in. Then it happened. Both drones were spraying something in the air which became visible because of the rain which was getting stronger. ‘All units we have to take them down’, George shouted at the radio. He took out his gun and started shooting with the special officers at the drones. For a few seconds, they gunned them down. ‘Everyone, stay away immediately. Stay away from them.’ George started screaming at the people around. ‘R31 what’s going on God Damn it!’, he could hear Mrs Winton’s voice. The people around who heard the shooting started running in all directions. There was a mass panic. Some people ran on the field. The people at the boxes took cover inside and George could see a few of their private security guards staying on the balcony with their guns out. ‘Let’s pray that won’t affect many people’, thought George. He remembered when studying the Sarin gas characteristics and the Tokyo subway attack, Mrs Winton was talking about, that if the gas is released in the air, a potential rainfall could minimize the harm of the Sarin spread. The forensic investigation materials after the attack in Japan show that it was done after few days of heavy raining. So, the day the gas was released the weather was dry and humid. It was believed that the attackers have chosen that day deliberately because of the weather. ‘The weather forecast was promising sun the whole today, so the rain was definitely a surprise. God bless the British weather’, thought George. ‘So unpredictable! Let’s pray that this time our rainy weather will save us!’ Then he saw a few people collapsing on the ground and chalking convulsively. A foam was coming out from their mouths, while they were experiencing horrible body spasm. ‘Where are the paramedics for God’s sake?’ he called the radio. ‘Don’t worry, R31 they are already here’ ‘Mansion, people are chalking God Damn it.’ He felt that he was losing breath as well and wanted to throw up. The sight was horrible. Hopefully, the medics came quickly at the place and started helping the people. There were around 7 or 8 people convulsing on the ground.

’Where are you R31, did you find the suspect?’ Mrs Winton sounded worried again. ‘Negative.’ George was paralyzed and couldn’t say a word. ‘R32 any news from you?’ The team leader was checking Timothy. ’Copy, Mansion, I found the car with the logo of the chemicals company. The potential suspect should be somewhere around...’ George managed to get control after his mental break down and called Timothy, ‘What is the name of the bar where The Eagle is working at?’ ‘It’s called the Stalbridge bar, but he is not there. I already checked half an hour ago.’ ’OK, thanks, R32. Please keep looking I am on my way to the bar.’ George passed by the medics and rushed inside the race course building.

The first stables building was empty, so Tim tried the one next door. He lifted the wooden bar who was keeping the stables door shut and came in. There’s no one around besides two horses. It was really quiet, and he could hear the speaker who was announcing the score from the first race. Then suddenly, someone came behind him and hit him at the back of his head. He lost consciousness and felt on the ground.

When inside, George grabbed one of the raise course security staff, ‘Mi5 take me to the Stalbridge bar now!’ They both run in a direction towards the bar. It was one of the main bars from the other side of the stand where the attack has happened. There were people who looked panicked as they heard that something has happened at the main stand, but the bar was so full that some people looked like they haven’t heard anything and were just having fun. George looked at the bar. It was unbelievable, but there were people still queuing for drinks. ‘For fuck’s sake’ these British people could day any minute soon, but they are still queueing for their fucking drinks!’ He started pushing the people around to make his way to the bar. Some of them turned and looked at him with condemn, considering that George was dressed quite sporty in comparisons to all fancy-dressed customers. ‘Sir you don’t need to push the people around, you will get your drink’, George faced a toothless bartender with greasy hair and glasses who was telling him off in his Yorkshire accent for pushing in. He didn’t say anything, but just took out a picture of Abdullah and show it to the bartender. ‘This guy! Have you seen him?’ ’Not recently, but if you see him tell him to come back immediately I am overwhelmed with work’, yielded back the bartender. ‘Where’s your supervisor?’ George looked ready to knock off the other front tooth in his mouth. ‘I am the supervisor. If you don’t have any orders help yourself out.’ George grabbed him by his collar. ‘Listen, you retard, tell me where Abdullah is, or you will face the bar from the other side’. ’I don’t know I told you already. He was supposed to go to the cellar to bring some stuff, but he disappeared. The guy from the cellar is gone as well and we are running out of stock and the customers are complaining. If you find, Abdullah or the cellarman send them on my way. ’Where’s the cellar?’ ’Just come out of the building there’s a ramp on the right-hand side which will take you downstairs. There will be a guy from the security with a radio station, he will guide you to the cellar. George pushed him back and started making his way out, pushing the snobbish looking people around him. Once he went outside he saw all people around screaming and pointing to a large video wall which was supposed to broadcast the races. He saw a familiar face on the screen, his hands were fastened behind his back and he had a band on his mouth. There was another man with a black mask with the Islamic stage logo, standing behind him, holding a big knife at his throat. ‘Tim!’, screamed George on top of his voice. ’You dirty dogs who don’t believe in the mighty Allah. You think that you are better than us. But you will all die like this pig. You would never defeat us. We will hit you where it hurts most when you sleep, and you don’t expect it. We will come to your houses and schools. We will be on your streets and we will chase and kill you until the very last person. The head of that man shall fall as the head of the Western Imperialism. You can’t stop the reign of our Khalifa! Allahu Akbar…’ There was a banging sound and the video was cut... ‘Jesus, oh noo, ohh noo, please God’ George realised that he cannot do anything. He wanted to help his friend, but he didn’t know what to do. He started panicking, but immediately managed to hold the wave of anxiety and anger. He took a deep breath and focused on the only one thing he could do, to find Abdullah before he could cause any more trouble.

He ran down the stairs and he saw another security guy with a radio station and black suit with the Ascot logo. ‘Where’s the cellar?’, shouted George ‘May I know who you are’, asked the security. Then a message came on his radio station, ‘A poisoning incident at the main stand, please make sure that all attendees are fine. If you see anyone in bad health, please call immediately we have paramedic over here.’ ‘What the hell...’ The security couldn’t believe what he just heard. ‘I don’t have time for talking, show me the Goddamn cellar.’ George pointed his gun at the security. ‘OK, OK, calm down. Come with me it’s just right here, should be this door…hmm, it seems that someone locked the door.’ The security pushed the handle and knocked on the door, but no one opened it. ‘Stay away from the door’, George shot the locker and kicked the door. He saw inside Abdullah who was crouched in front of one of the Lager kegs and was injecting something with a syringe in a tube which was coming out from the barrel. ‘Stay right there’, George shouted at him. Abdullah turned and faced George with a grin on his face. ‘Ah, so you can talk right now.’ Last time when my brother spoke to you seemed a bit deaf. Do you think that we didn’t know? You stupid dogs. You were thinking that you are watching us, but we were watching you as well. We are everywhere, we are even in the heart of your government. Your Western greediness blinded you. We will remain and expand our kingdom until we reach Rome and kill your pope. You can kill me, you can kill my brothers, but there will be more and more people joining our cause. You can fight with us in Syria and Iraq, maybe we can even vanish our territories there, but we will come to your countries. We will never let you live a normal life. We will kill your wives, brothers, sisters and babies until you accept Shariah, and bent the knee in front of our Calipha.’ ‘Threw the syringe. One more word and I will blow your head’, shouted at him, George. ‘We found the car, the other suspect is down’, SAS team came on the radio’. ‘R31 copy, Go to Stalbridge bar and stop all the alcohol sale upstairs. Take all the drinks from the people, they are all poisoned that’s not a joke, do it now.’ Then he turned to the race course security who was still standing behind him and shaking like a leaf. You go as well, you know what to do.’ ‘It’s done my friend’ smiled Abdullah. They are all drinking our poison and will be chalking soon like mad dogs. Including you…’ Abdullah ripped off the tube and turned it to George, so it started spraying at his face. ‘George took a few shots immediately.’ The first shot hit Abdullah in the face and he collapsed on his back. Then a few more shots followed and hit his body.

George went out of the cellar all covered in lager and started running the way upstairs. He thought again about the Sarin reactions. It dissolves very well in water and water-based liquids. Just a touch or a sip of the poisoned liquid could be deadly. He felt that his vision started to blur, and he started coughing. He went in the main hall and shot a few times in the air. ‘Throw away all drinks, they are poisoned, throw them away now’. He kept shouting and pushing people glasses. Then he felt like he was losing consciousness. He collapsed on the ground and a white foam started coming out from his mouth. He started fighting for breath. The panic was overwhelming. He was scratching the carpet with his fingers. He was trying to call for help, but he was laying hopeless on the ground. He could feel the muscles in his chest getting tighter and tighter. Then he had a few flashbacks. He saw his best mates from school, he was playing football with them in the schoolyard. His mum was calling him for dinner as it was getting dark already. He saw his dad smiling at him while dining at home just two of them. He saw the Thai fortune teller and her words whispering in his head, ‘Stay away from horses and water’. Then he felt like someone was ripping off his clothes with scissors. He saw a paramedic above him. A pin feeling in his arm, then the feeling of relief. He passed out. There were sirens and lights everywhere. He saw Timothy’s smiling face in the ambulance. The lights got switched off again.

He opened his eyes and saw the sun coming through the window. There was no one in the room just his mum. She was smiling at him, stroking his hair gently. His eyes were getting full of tears. ‘Mum I missed you so much’, he cried. ‘You’ve done well George. I am proud of you son. One day we will meet again. Until then my son you can be sure that your life means a lot not just to me, but to lot more people. You gave your life, so others could live. But you have much more to give to this world as your life has a purpose. Now breathe my son, breathe deeply. I will be always with you...’ Then he saw two guys in medical uniforms running in his room. His mum disappeared. He saw his dad and Timothy. ‘His pulse is getting up, be prepared with the oxygen mask’. He could feel someone putting a mask on his face. ‘Breath George, breath’, he heard now his dad’s voice. He closed his eyes which were full of blood. Tears came out and blood started pouring slowly from his nose. He took a deep breath and release it. He opened his eyes, but his vision was blurred. Slowly everything started to get clearer and he could focus the room. ’He is stable, call the doctor we need more morphine.’ Then he lost passed out.

He opened his eyes again in a few hours. He saw his dad, Jennifer and Timothy around his bed. ‘Am I dreaming again?’ Last time he saw Timothy, he had a knife in his throat. ‘Was he alive?’ He moved his fingers and coughed. ‘Relax George everything is fine. You are fine buddy. You’ve made it. You are an absolute legend.’ ‘Hold on Tim give him a chance to breathe.’ His dad was grumpy as always. George looked at them smiled and tears came from his eyes. He felt great. He never felt like this before. The feeling of completion. For the first time, his life had а meaning. The chance to wake up and see the people who love you. ‘The feeling that someone loves you and cares about you. Isn’t that what we all need? The rest is just vain. The meaning of life is just to live and love. Sounds cheesy and very basic, but it’s so true.’ George closed his eyes again with a smile on his face. He didn’t know the consequences yet, but he knew one thing. He gave his best. He gave his life for a cause. He gave his own life so other people could live. And in reward, God gave it back to him. ‘Everything makes sense now. I finally achieved something’, he thought. I’ve done it...’ The gap in my heart is closed. The beast is gone.

XIV. The Lambs and the Lions

‘Today we are here to show our respect to the victims of one tragedy which hit our nation. Our agency gave all to prevent it, and we saved many lives, but we lost a few. The face of the terrorism is unpredictable. It’s like a virus. You can hire many doctors and scientists, but it’s hard to stop the spread. Whatever we do, we know that we cannot completely kill the virus. But we are ready to give everything to fight it.’ Mr Cook opened the Mi5 memorial ceremony organised to honour the victims of the recent terrorist attacks. The ceremony was closed for journalists and members of the society.

‘Here in front of us are standing two heroes. They are real gentlemen and lions. Lions as the ones on our flag. Mr George Harvey and Mr Timothy Spencer. These two people risked their own lives and almost died in service of their country. Not every single human being is ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of the others, but they did. As we show our respect to honour the dead, we honour the living as well. As they should be set as an example in front of everyone. For those who don’t know Mr George Harvey’s mother, Lilian Harvey worked for the Mi5 and she died in her service. Her name is already on our wall of fallen heroes who lived and died for that country. Her son will receive a similar medal of honour. Please, let me introduce you, Mr George Harvey and Mr Timothy Spencer. I want to give them the chance to say a few words in front of all of us.’ Tim helped George to slowly get to the microphone. George was still in recovery, but the doctors confirmed that he will be physically and mentally stable to attend the ceremony.

’Thanks for the good words Mr Cook’, started George. ‘And thanks to everyone for being here. I don’t want to fell in clichés, but I won’t be here if you were not around to support me in my work including Timothy. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to walk to the microphone if it wasn’t him!’ We all know that we live a life created by illusions and conspiracy where we cannot review our work or identity in front of the society. We fight everyday things, which are unknown to the average person in that country. You know how much that cost us but we are still here, still standing, and still fighting. We all have different reasons why we are doing that. Mine is simple, I just want to give to this world something that will make it better please to live. Love your families and partners, respect your colleagues and protect your country. Thank you.’ All attendants stood up and applauded George. He moved aside so Tim could say a few words as well.

After the official part, there was a cocktail, where George stood beside Jennifer. They decided that there was no point to hide their relationship now. ‘Alright, buddy?’ Tim approached George with a glass of Champagne. ‘What a speech you almost made me cry.’ ‘Not as good as yours which made me laugh’ George smiled cheekily. ‘Come here you know I love you buddy.’ George gave his colleague and friend a warm hug. ‘Tim, I have to ask you something. I never had a chance to ask, as the doctors didn’t allow me to talk about work. But, what happened last time?’ ‘Yeah, I know it was close’, Tim looked at the floor. ‘Well exactly when the bastard was planning to slit my throat or cut my head off, whatever he was aiming to do, the SAS storm the building and shot him. I always wanted my funeral to be on the TV like the Pope or the Queens funeral, but I didn’t expect to be killed on a live broadcast in front of thousands of people…’ ‘Ha-ha you bastard you never lose your sense of humour even in the darkest moments. I thought I lost you!’ ‘No, no’, smiled Tim. ‘I am still here looking after your ass. Actually, George would you fancy another glass of champagne or you prefer lager?’ ‘Tim you asshole!’ Jennifer wanted to tell him off for his dark sense of humour, but she started laughing as well. ‘Sorry, sorry guys couldn’t resist to say it, but you have to agree that it was a good one.’

’Ah, gentlemen I am happy to see that you are smiling again. Good to see you as well Jenny!’ Mr Campbell seemed to be in a really good mood. ‘How is the recovery going?’ George and Tim looked at each other. ‘We are fine. Thank you’, started George. Physically we are slowly, but steadily getting better. Mentally it will take some time. But that’s not that surprising for Tim.’ George winked at his partner. I mean for such a brain capacity like his it will take time to recover.’ ‘Ha-ha, I am happy to hear that you are getting better. I need you to rest well. Timothy anything to add to that?’ ’Well Sir, I think my partner was very descriptive to illustrate the current situation and my intellectual potential. I have just one question, which I believe interests us both. What happened with ‘Magners and Co’?

Well, as promised I addressed that to Mr Cook. In a nutshell, there’s not much development there. As you know we work for the government. And we must be very delicate addressing these issues. Somehow the press knows that the second attacker at Ascot came in with the Magners & Co car. So, the media and particularly the opposition press, plus some human rights groups are pushing every day, asking questions and trying to make the Tory MP whose bother owns the company to resign.

The topic is sensitive as it will open the Pandora box and I am not sure if we could close it after that. You know that after we confirmed we sold chemical weapons in the 80s to the Middle Eastern regimes, there were loads of acquisitions that we are still doing that. And here under target are not only the Tory’s but the Tony Blair’s and Gordon Brown’s governments as well. Therefore, it could be a massive trial which could lead to loads of resignations on different levels and from different parties.

I personally think that there are loads of people to blame, but just because of their greediness. I strongly doubt that someone at senior or at government level helped those terrorists. However, we have two suspects who are confirmed in helping our friends. Hamid Aslan has a friend, Hamza who worked for the Magner’s & Co Chemical branch as a mid-level Sales manager. The guy is radicalized, and he brainwashed another employee too. That’s the one who you saw on the footage from Dover, helping our refugees to leave the port. Also, he was the one George, who you saw picking up Shafiq and Abdullah from the flat in Bethnal Green and driving them to the Magner’s & Co building.

Once they get there, Hamid was already in waiting for them. They played a small theatre at the company offices pretending that they are farmers who are interested in buying agricultural fertilizers for anti-pesticide spraying. They got their pesticide chemicals with the help of the Sales manager, just the containers they took were filled with the deadly Sarin gas.

‘That’s alright’, George looked serious. ‘I do understand they used a rat who helped them with the logistics. That doesn’t put direct blame on the company for aiding terrorists but doesn’t excuse them in supplying terrorist regimes with substances for producing Chemical warfare.’

’George, what’s one of the first lessons you learned here son? We don’t deal with politics. That’s why we were a bit cautious when we shared with you the information about the links between the company and the Tory MP. We thought that you will take it a bit personal in memory of your mum. Believe me, we will have a good chat about that one day as I still feel responsible for her death, although it wasn’t my fault. But, the current case is different a thing.

‘Hmm, is it? I don’t know why but somehow, I am failing to see the difference. The actors might be different, but the game is still the same.’ Mr Campbell bitten his lip apparently feeling annoyed. George, yes, the game is similar, but the main difference is that no one is keeping that stuff in a deep secret. Even some government officials partially admitted our supply of chemical materials to the current Syrian regime. The difference is that these days the British companies just sold the materials for business purposes. No one aimed to arm anyone. Which is much different from the 80s when supplying the Middle Eastern tyrants directly with Chemical warfare and other weaponry was an official policy for the Western Allies.’

‘Right, we just changed the tactic and we are more discrete. If you sell the arsenal for producing AK-47 to an African regime what do you think that they will start producing, vacuum cleaners?’ ‘George, please, we are here for a different reason let’s not ruin the positive vibe with political topics. Thank God you and Tim are safe if not in a perfect health. I promise that I will call you for a private chat soon and we will talk about all that stuff including your mom’s service for the company and her death. But please for the love of God be positive today.’ ‘C’mon Georgy, listen to him he is wiser than us’, Tim tried to calm him down. ’Please, George let’s leave that at least for now, Jennifer gently put her hand on George’s arm. ’OK Mr Campbell with all my respect and for the sake of the current event, I won’t bring that topic anymore. But if I can use the old war phrase ‘Lest we forget’. ‘OK, thanks! Goodman. Talk to you later then.’ Mr Campbell put his hand on George’s shoulder in a gesture of appreciation and went on his way.

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