Is That a Thermonuclear Device In Your Briefcase Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)

Gumshoe: Nights Black Agents: Session 1

It was two years ago. Some South American Op. Deniable. Drug’s cartel work. That was the last time they had worked together. That was when it all went south. Nothing worked as it should; people clammed up instead singing like pigeons. More scared of someone else than they were even of the Los Zetas. Electronic trails going dead. By the time Sergei Lecomov went in they were already expecting him. They expected him to go dead too. Six bullets didn’t do the job. It was enough to put him in hospital though.


There is a reason they haven’t spoken to each other in two years. Too much blame being thrown around. Too many bad memories. That is about to change.


Sergei was the first to be contacted. He was the one who had fallen the furthest. He couldn’t fulfil his bodyguard contract for a Saudi prince while he was hospital. He didn’t have much to come out to when he had healed. With shrapnel scars pocked on his face and torn ear people should have come to realise they should get out of his way. They didn’t. Their mistake. Bar fights and wild risks where all he had. When the dead drop came there was nothing to stop him from leaping at it in a heartbeat. A chance to be back in the game.


Hans Fuhrman, ex German BKA operative had not moved on at all since those nights in South America. His muscled white body hunched obsessively in the darkness behind banks of computer screens, blue eyes looking out from under his shaved blond head as he searches for the truth behind the events of years ago. Looking for links in the chaos of the net, taking classified info from where he can, working through intermediaries and air gapped facilities. Despite his days in darkness his muscles still show the signs of an equally obsessive workout, every moment spent trying to be prepared for the next unexpected challenge. In the dark net of custom built protocols he finds his invite back to the light.


David Antipov, it has been years since his days, working as handler for the SIS in the cold war. Years since he went to ground, trusting Britain not to keep him alive, nor Russian to trust his turning. In the cold Russian winter the nondescript clothes and feature covering facial hair goes unnoticed. Just another fifty plus years worker, moving between factory fronts and docks. Still playing the old game, turning who you can, playing criminal gangs and oligarchs against each other, when you can tell the difference. Always just keeping one step ahead of the storm. An old dead drop thought long unused brings him back. Decryption cryptography for a thought long unused radio site. Time for the cold war to go hot again.


Three offers, three highly generous payments. One handler – Anton Dedopovic, a Serbian, a survivor of the Bosnia war. Veteran of deniable ops and off the books arms and human trafficking. A consummate professional, if not an ethical one, but who of these three can speak. One task. One location. Krakow, Poland.


That was a week ago.


This is now. This is Krakow.

It is nightfall, caught between the pink relief of the last ghostly rays of sunlight in the west, and the first stars in the dark to the east. The land caught in transition, or perhaps choice. A freeway, tower blocks rising around, the river winding its way through the centre of the city.


The moment of transition is broken, the concrete overpasses echoing the mechanical chops of police helicopters flying as low as they can, police communications snatched from the air reveal panicked polish language fragments, their emotion obvious if not their words. Sirens wail as they try to wave around the snarls of traffic piling up. Burning junks crumpled into streetlamps, scars of rubber marking new curses into the tarmac as their owners try to manipulate suddenly unresponsive metal shells around newfound dangers. A tanker jack-knifes as inertia and traction work against each other, its explosion moments later illuminating the stark post soviet concrete.


The three operatives have already been hard at work. They have spent days sifting through false leads, left bodies of the lower ranking agents who stood in their way. Now two of the three operatives tear through the night on four wheels in pursuit of a psychopath in possession of a nuke, low yield and dirty. The threats have been made, and his intent is clear. If he can reach the city centre he will detonate the device. If he cannot, well it is doubtful that will stop the detonation, merely numb its impact.


The local authorities are being less than understanding of the three illegal operatives in their midst. Military bunkers are on full alert, their safeguards already broken and the nuclear device stolen. Polices cars swarm over the streets and mig interceptors control the air.


Throwing their car around the broken vehicles in front of them Sergei tries to line up a shot with his good hand, his off hand twirling the wheel against all sense and rules of the road. As he snaps off two futile shots at the distant fleeing car of nuclear potential in front he curses the low roof of the car that forces him to hunch over his muscles six foot three frame.

In the back seat of the car Antipov presses a phone to each ear, rapidly switching between three languages and more conversations as he organizes the chop shops he has contacted, arranging for a horde of cars, clones of their own, down to the number plates, to flood the city. Something to lighten the shield of blue that keeps threatening to pin them down. Then in final conversation he barks the car they are chasings details and plates down the phone.


On the other end of that line, miles away, the third member, Hans sits, fingers dancing across the keyboard. One more line tapped and the target vehicles details spring up on every authorities wanted list. Another step to slowing its progress.


On the second of his many screens Hans maps real time data to the prepared maps of routes and blockades. The feeds from police radio, encrypted coms and satellite traffic all merged into one rapidly updating mess of colours and shapes. His eyes follow without pause, and his voice calmly, almost bored, reads off the direction for Sergei to follow.


“Don’t set the cops on him” Sergei mutters “I don’t need police watching when I shoot him”


“Don’t worry” Antipov says from behind him, pulling items from a rucksack in the car “By the time I am done with you, even your own mother won’t recognise you”


Sergei just rolls his eyes, but says nothing more, concentrating on the road ahead.

Hans breaks the police’s co-ordinating system three seconds later, thirty seconds after that a new route through the city is beamed down, flickering up on a real time updating map on a tablet screen within the two operative’s car. Sergei thanks the pre planning once more that meant he picked the car for manoeuvrability not speed, as he loses paint scratches and tyre layers following the directions from above.  The concrete superstructure breaks for a moment, granting sight of their prey. In that instant Sergei extends his arm out, two .45 calibre rounds barking from his pistol, puncturing chassis and shattering a window. The prey car swerves, wheel turning in shock, and barely recovering to keep to the road.


Antipov glances behind, the decoy cars seems to be keeping the police off their trail for now. Taking advantage of a moment’s break in the rapid manoeuvring he leans into the front of the car, dragging baggy jacket over Sergei’s temporarily free arm, holding the car wheel still as he does so. Releasing Sergei to take the wheel again, he continues, affixing fake scars, concealing hats and loose, silhouette breaking clothes to them both. If they had more warning before things went south he could have done better, but for now this should keep descriptions vague enough to prevent identification when the operation is over.


Shrugging off Antipov’s patting, Sergei tries to harangue the prey car, forcing it down into a hard shoulder blocked off on the other side by a convoy of trucks. Han’s approval comes down the headset; the police are setting up a stinger ahead. With the targets wheels blown capture should be inevitable.


The hard shoulder is running out fast, and the blackened teeth of the stinger is barely visible ahead as Sergei pushes his target into the danger zone. At the last minute though the car ahead spins through 180, handbrake pulled and wheels spinning for grip. Mere inches before the stinger it catches traction again, heading on collision course towards the perusers for a moment before breaking off the wrong way down a one way street.


Reacting on instinct and carefully memorised street layouts more than by what comes down Han’s electronic feed Sergei gives chase through the tight back alleys. Glass windows shatter from floors above as a MIG flies low over the buildings, its sonic boom following seconds after. Sergei’s car crashes through a parking bays barrier, ramping up to the first floor and breaking out back onto the main street on the other side, hot on the nuclear load’s trail.


Teeth slammed painfully together by the cars impact back on tarmac Antipov, shakes his head to clear it. They are away from the watching eyes of the police and military for a moment. Magnetic plates blow off revealing new number plates for the car. Placing a blue siren on the roof of the car, and activating the siren Antipov smiles. Now they are part of the approved hunters, at first glance at least. Miles away Hans flicks through his screen, back to the backdoor breech into the police databases, where, a SQL statement later, it is ease in itself to list the car’s new plates as those of an official undercover police vehicle. Repeating intercept co-ordinate after co-ordinate down the coms, Hans keeps Sergei on the hunt whenever the target slips from sight.


Following the optimal driving line to the inch, Sergei finds himself behind the target car as they approach back to the freeway. Slamming down the accelerator and riding the slipstream the car creeps up, until it is inches from the boot of the target car. Without a word Sergei releases the wheel, pulling himself through the long shattered windshield of the car and throwing himself onto the car in front.


“Pichka ti materina” Antipov curses, leaping into the front seat of the now swerving car, grabbing the wheel and pulling it back on course.


Sergei glances back from where he is clutched onto the car in front “Just get back on the phone, phone boy” he replies in Serbian as he readies his pistol.


Seeing the target, a well known target by the name of Nicholai Limrovich, in the process of unjamming an Uzi in the front seat of the car Sergei is now on, Antipov slams down the accelerator further, pulling the car out alongside them.


Limrovich looks out the side window, a scrawny guy, all goatee and bad attitude. Gun readied he reaches out to casually spray lead at Antipov. Ready, Antipov swerves in, locking his hand on Limrovich’s and hyper extends the man’s arm, before slamming on the breaks of the car.


The full force of a rapidly decelerating vehicle’s frame slams into Limrovich’s arm with a crunch. However instead of breaking, or ripping from its socket, the arm tenses like a steel bar, locking Antipov and Limrovich’s vehicle together. The two cars spinning together as they career off towards the side of the overpass. Breaking free, Antipov turns into the spin, rolling the car out and back into control.


“Pichka ti” he curses again, trying to make sense of the seemingly impossible action that just occurred. The dropped Uzi rattling on the car’s floor the only gain from what should have killed the target at the very least.


Meanwhile Sergei has managed to ride out the motion of the two cars, catching a street sign, riding his momentum round, and landing back on the target car. The back window crunches inwards as he lands, giving a free sight of the inside of the car, and the two mean within – Limrovich nursing his wounded arm, and his driver who ignores the noise, reigning the car back under control instead.


He has competition for that task though, Hans, watching through multiple remote cams, has isolated several nearby wi-fi spots he can jump and has compromised the systems. On another monitor car make and model details flash past until the correct one comes up. He has all the details he needs to remotely access the car’s on board computer and take over.


Inside the car, still nursing his shoulder and arm, Limrovich rummages into the back seat, trying to get his hands on the combat shotgun lying across the passenger seats. Both Sergei and Limrovich spot the weapon at the same time. a dull metallic military grade piece of death.


“Watch out. Target may have body armour” Antipov reports over the mike, still trying to make sense of how the target’s arm is still attached.


Understanding, Sergei’s aim rises, and just as Limrovich pulls the shotgun to him, Sergei’s 1911 barks twice, two ragged holes entering the targets skull and exploding out of the back. The fragmented windscreen splatters with blood before shattering outwards.


In response the driver slams on the brakes. The car skidding and wheeling to halt. Going with the motion, Sergei rolls into the back seat of the car, leaning through and planting the pistol to the driver’s temple just as the driver slams the accelerator once more.
“Stop the car” Sergei says in flawless Russian.


The drivers foot slams down, and Sergei’s pistol trigger moves a fraction of an inch. Blood splatters once more as the driver slumps down, dead and headless, his body weight flooring the accelerator. Just at that moment, Hans finishes his download into the cars system, the electronics dying.

On momentum alone the car continues forwards towards a concrete wall, still enough force left to crumple it on impact. Scrambling through the windscreen, Sergei throws himself from the car, moments before it folds itself around the oncoming wall.

Antipov pulls up alongside him, stepping from the car and heading towards the ruined vehicle. As he approaches it he flicks an auto dialler on a disposable phone, a message alerting his assets to what he needs of them.
“Guess we still have a job to do”


The car boot is bent, but is levered open quickly to reveal the nuclear device that all this destruction was for. A cell phone detonator strapped to it, its screen showing 5 minutes countdown. 5 minutes to destruction.


Pointing his smart phone at it, Sergei sends a photo back to Hans for analysis.


“Ok Hans, you know tech. How do we set this to give us nine hundred minutes or more”


“Or just turn it off” Sergei adds.


“I can do this” Hans says “I just need to break the phone”


As Hans investigates, Sergei walks to the front, levering open the door and staring inside at the two mangled and now intertwined bodes. He rummages through their pockets and, whatever else is intact. Ticket stumps from Serbia, a mobile phone – one use burner, but little else. Tossing the phone to Sergei, Anipov looks back at the body. According to the miniature Geiger counter they have Limrovich is turning out a hell of a lot of radiation, even for someone who has been handling a nuclear device. Antipov frowns, too much is outside standard parameters here. He doesn’t like it. “Pichka ti” he says again.


Sergei flicks the mobile phone around, altering wires at the back and turning it on. The details are encoded, old cold war stuff. There’s some real high grade soviet crypto going on there. The details encoded are the target city, and the location of the dirty bomb. More so it confirms what they already suspected, if they can enter a disarming password into the phone it will halt the nuclear devices detonation. The details seem to indicate a former KGB handler, maybe ex spetsnaz.


Han’s voice comes over the airwaves. “I’ve found security flaws in the phone. Data going to you now. You just need to type it in.


The two agent’s in the field look at each other, then back at the nuke in front of them, then back to each other.


Sergei waves with the end of his pistol “I’ve done my bit today providing you with two bodies”


Antipov shrugs “Guess I’m not going to be any more dead for being a meter closer if this goes wrong” Humming tunelessly to himself he follows Han’s instructions, entering data via the keypad, one step after the other. His mind keeps slipping away dangerously, the data, it looked like Old KGB countersigns, it seems to be a sign that the handler of these two may have been a Viktor Eschenko – an old cover used by a fomer KGB operative now based in Serbia.


“Pay attention old man” He mutters, entering the last digit and hitting send.


No one says anything for a moment. Nothing moves. The phone goes inert and the nuke with it.


“Knew that would work” Antipov mutters, wiping sweat from his brow “Sergei, do you have any way of getting rid of the bodies? I wouldn’t mind using their ID’s to try and lure some of the rats out of the woodwork.” Silently Sergei takes out blocks of C4, attaching them around the car.


“Ok, that’ll do it aye” Antipov says.


A car pulls up beside them, a discrete escape vehicle, responding to Antipov’s earlier summons. Sirens hail closer and closer “Ok guys time to call it”


As the car pulls away, nuke tucked away in the boot, Sergei triple taps a button nestled in his hand and the world goes white. A flame sheet rising from the C4, erasing any sign that two men where ever there, trapped in the wrecked car.


Miles away Hans watches the screens, banks and banks of screen. On one screen a series of digits just got several hundred thousand pounds higher.


Their handler is satisfied and the mission is complete,

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