oh, that's right, I forgot that they don't get mentioned til the beginning of episode 4, oopse
anyway, here comes episode 4:
Episode 4: -”Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
-10:17 AM, April 19, 1986, GRU Headquarters, Moscow, Russia
Colonel Vladimir Vasilievich Kvachkov sat calmly at a chair in the corridor outside the office of Pyotr Ivashutin, an attractive female secretary sat at the desk across from him, quietly typing something. Valdimir shifted uncomfortably in his chair, the situation did not sit well with him.
Sometime in the middle of the previous night, someone from the GRU woke him up and told him to get dressed. Within minutes of that, he was being hustled out to a waiting car which proceeded to take him to an airbase where he was flown all the way from Pskov to Moscow at which point he had been asked a series of questions over and over by some asshole bureaucrats from GRU headquarters. This was followed by them giving him vast reams of documents to sign and which he was not allowed to read.
Then he found himself here, where he had been sitting for the past hour. Part of him felt a bit exhilarated by the prospects this situation may have for him, after all there must be something important that would require him to come all the way to Moscow to talk to the chief of the GRU personally. Then another part of him was dreading what was coming next, being gotten out of bed and shipped here at such short notice implied that something... unpleasant
must have happened, and no doubt it meant that all kinds of unpleasantness would be further dispensed, and probably by him in person.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the door down the hallway open and in walked a man wearing an army uniform. As he approached Vladimir realized that he recognized the man as Lieutenant Boris Medved, a platoon commander who he had served with in Afghanistan. An instant later the look on Boris' face revealed that he too had the same realization “Colonel Kvachkov? They've got you too?” he asked, surprised.
Vladimir nodded “yes, me too, but don't bother asking me anything, I probably know less than you about what's going on.” He rose out of his chair as the lieutenant approached and the two men shook hands briskly, Vladimir greeted Boris with a warm smile “mystery or no, it's good to see you again Boris” he said.
The lieutenant returned the smile “yes, yes it is good to see you too” he replied. Although Vladimir had no love for his experience in Afghanistan, Boris had proven to be an excellent officer and the two had gotten along splendidly. Some of the foreboding he was feeling lessened, as bad as he thought the situation may well be, as long as he was working with Boris for this one, he at least knew that he would be working with competent men under his command.
When they had released each others hands, some seriousness returned to Boris' expression “well, I don't know if I know more than you, but it’s a fact that I'm not here alone, they flew me here with my whole platoon all the way in from Kiev, they are all waiting back at Khodinka” Vladimir raised an eyebrow at that “well, it would appear that-” the door across from them opened and out stepped two gaunt looking men in black suits who had 'GRU agent' written all over them. Without a word both men walked down the hall and exited.
A few seconds later the door opened again and out stepped the longtime head of the GRU “Good, you are both here, please come in gentlemen.” said the spy master in a tone that was about as welcoming as the barrel of a gun.
The inside of Ivsashutin's office was more spartan than Vladimir had thought, although he had a somewhat understated painting on the wall behind his desk, the rest of the room was almost undecorated. It would appear that one of the most powerful men in the USSR had no need for trifling decorations in his office. “Please take a seat.” he said in the same unpleasant tone as he gestured toward the two chairs in front of the desk.
Vladimir and Boris obeyed as they settled into the chairs. As soon as the spy master had settled into his own chair he immediately got to business “as the two of you may have guessed from the sudden nature of your journeys here, you have been brought here for something very important. So much so, you've both been cleared for viewing 'completely secret' materials” he explained.
Vladimir and Boris gave each other surprised glances that was unexpected, they must really be in the shit, Ivashutin pulled a folder marked “COMPLETELY SECRET
” on the cover out of his desk and slid it across toward Vladimir, he picked it up and opened it. Boris leaned over to get a look as well. Thumbing through the folder, Vladimir saw that it contained some radio communications transcripts, notes by a couple GRU analysts, and photos of a handful of military officers, nothing exceptionally remarkable on the surface.
The briefing commenced “less than twenty-four hours ago, a Red Army mechanized infantry platoon disappeared while investigating the Afghan village of Spera near the Pakistan border. Within fifteen minutes of reporting reaching the village, the platoon transmitted a garbled and almost unintelligible distress call that indicated that they had come under attack from some kind of monstrous creatures. No further contact was received from the mechanized platoon; intending to lend assistance, a squadron of Mi-24 attack helicopters was dispatched to the area. They also reported that the area was crawling with some kind of creatures, however shortly after arriving they sent out a distress call themselves which indicated that they were coming under attack by a massive swarm of oversized demonic bats.”
The outlandish description spoken by such a calm and collected man seemed so odd that it was almost funny. Ivashutin continued “the situation in the area is a massive intelligence blind spot. Aside from the two incidents of which we have very little information, there is very little information to go on as of this moment. What we do know is that we have so far lost a few dozen men and several military vehicles within the past twenty four hours and that the cause of those losses has yet to be explained” he paused.
Reaching into his desk, he pulled out two envelopes which he slid across the desk to both of them. Both men opened them and examined the documents inside “these are your orders, in short they indicate that Colonel Kvachkov is to investigate these incidents and any further incidents that appear connected in any way. He is to determine what the cause of them is, what, if any involvement the Americans may have with them, determine what threat the cause poses to the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in particular, and if at all possible, eliminate it.”
“Lieutenant Medved and his platoon is to assist in any way possible, however their primary foreseen function is to act as personal security for the colonel as well as overall mission security. You have a flight ready to leave for Kabul in one hour.”
Ivsashutin folded his hands across his stomach as he finished “Lieutenant Medved, I need to talk with the colonel for a moment in private, please step outside.”
Boris rose from his chair and nodded to both Vladimir and the spy master “Good day sir.” was his standard response as he exited and closed the door behind him.
Vladimir was getting that feeling of dread again, and it was getting worse with every passing second, going back to Afghanistan was bad enough, but he feared exactly what the GRU chief was about to say. Ivashutin looked him square in the eye “what you have in that dossier is all true, and all of the information that we have gathered on the situation
” he almost spat the word out “is in there, however there is some more that you should know” he began to explain. Here it comes
, Vladimir was almost physically cringing with anticipation “I'm sure that you've heard the rumors that the Americans have been smuggling heroin into the country in order to get our soldiers addicted so as to reduce their combat effectiveness. Some have suggested that this latest incident was merely an escalation of that same operation, that now they are using something far stronger, and that they are using some kind of unidentified method to disperse it. I'm not sure I believe that myself, but nothing else seems any more plausible.”
He paused and made a face like he had just bitten something rotten “Now the situation there has been completely fucked for years now, and whatever this is threatens this year's entire offensive into the region, in fact it may pose a threat to the entire country, but most worrying is the complete lack of intelligence” Vladimir wasn't sure if he was more unsettled by this level of candor, or what he was being told.
The spy chief steepled his hands and leaned back “if this is some kind of new American weapon, and we haven't heard even a whisper about its existence, then there is a bigger problem than just Afghanistan” he said. Leaning forward, he spoke at almost a whisper “this has got a lot of very important people very worried, in fact your orders have come straight from the General Secretary himself, and I have been told to tell you that when you determine what the source of this threat is, you are to deal with it
using any and all means necessary. I repeat, any and all means
. We want this situation dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“You are also authorized to have access to all information regarding this particular situation and as of this moment we have a Tu-22 that will be doing an over flight of the area scheduled to take off within an hour. The photographs from the run will be sent both here and to a lab in Kabul, they should be analyzed and ready for you by some time tomorrow, also any other updates that we have will be sent to you when you land. Now go, you have less than an hour before your flight leaves.”
With that Vladimir rose and walked to the door “one other thing Colonel, so far this situation has revealed to be extremely hazardous, use extreme caution. We can't debrief you if you are dead.” -8:23 AM, April 21, 1986, Soviet Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan
Vladimir sat at a conference table in a room somewhere beneath the embassy compound, florescent lights stung his eyes. With all the preparations he had to make over the past two days after leaving Moscow, he had gotten less than six hours sleep in over forty-eight hours. Two unshaven men in wrinkled shirts and ties entered the room; one with an ungainly portfolio, the other with a file folder, Vladimir looked at them both with considerable annoyance. They were the analysts assigned by the GRU to review and provide an analysis of the photos taken by the Tu-22 that flew over eastern Paktika Province. That analysis was due more than twelve hours prior “gentlemen, I am so glad that you could find time to complete your assignment” said Vladimir, annoyed.
Both the GRU analysts looked cowed “I am sorry for the delay comrade colonel” the GRU man with the folder apologized “the contents of the photos were... uniquely difficult to analyze, we-”
“I'm not interested in your excuses, just your analysis.”
The other man put the portfolio down on the table “yes colonel” clumsily the two of them prepare their presentation, first Vladimir was handed the file folder while the silent GRU man places a card with a map of Paktika Province on one of the two easels in front of the table, then a blown up photograph on the other.
The lead analyst started to speak “the packet you are holding is a collection of photocopies of all of the reconnaissance photographs, and of the map you see here. Each page has a notation which indicates what map grid reference it corresponds to. If ah- yes, if you'll look at page one, you will see this photograph which corresponds to this-” he pointed to a location on the map “map grid reference, as you can see it is the location of the village of Spera, items one through three are BMP-1 armored vehicles, items four through six are downed Mi-24 helicopters.”
The silent GRU man pulled the first photograph down off the easel and replaced it with another one. The briefing continued “if you will turn to page four you will see an image which corresponds to this-” pointing again to the map “map grid reference located to the northwest of Spera, it is what we believe is, or rather what used to be a Pashtun village. As you can see; most of the area, including the structures have been covered in some sort of overgrowth which made identification of the village rather difficult. We as of yet have been unable to determine exactly what the growth is, however from what we have been able to determine from the photographs-”
Another photo was placed on the easel, this one of a larger area than the previous two, it had several labels indicating different locations, one said 'Spera' another said 'Shamal' and so on. Dominating the photograph was a white squiggly line which seemed to outline a region which occupied more than half of the photograph, looking more closely at the picture allowed Vladimir to see that the area inside the region was a darker color than the area outside.
The man continued “this growth seems to cover an area nearly twenty kilometers across, and it appears that very little plant life is alive within the region. If you continue to page five you will see this photograph-” another picture was brought out “it corresponds to this map grid reference here which is approximately at the location of the town of Shamal. Now as you can see, there is very little difference in appearance from Spera, except if you will note the region demarked as item 1, you will see what appears to be a large grouping of... some kind of animals.
“At first we had assumed that they were people, but if you look closely, you will notice that their appearance is quite non-human. We have as yet been unable to identify the species of animals seen here, if you will also notice there are a number of animals which are somewhat larger than the majority of the grouping, they are also unidentifiable. We estimate that the number of animals in this grouping is somewhere around one hundred.”
“Items two through seven denote groupings of equal or larger size to item one. Going through all of the other photographs taken from the flight, we have been able to identify a total of fifty three groups of comparable or larger size. Judging by variations in size and density of all of the groups, we have been able to determine that there are an estimated seven to ten thousand animals within the region, however this is only an estimate. It is entirely possible that there are far more than that.”
Another photograph was taken from the portfolio and placed on the easel “if you will turn to page eight of your packet, you will see a photograph of the approximate center of the previously denoted region.” The photo showed a couple of the same swarms as the previous photo also showed, it also showed a series of odd looking shapes on the ground. After Vladimir looked back up from his copy of the photo the GRU man proceeded “now this particular image represented the most challenging part of the analysis, if you will notice that the ground is of course covered with the same overgrowth that was observed previously. However it appears to be considerably darker and quite possibly thicker as well. The... structures that can be seen all over this area appear organic in nature, and vary in size from as small as five meters across to as large as thirty meters across. Of special interest is this-”
he pointed to an object in the upper left quarter of the photograph “object, is unlike any other structures, it appears to be the only one of its kind, and seems to be at the rough center of the complex of structures. It also seems as if it is the only structure that is not covered in the strange overgrowth, and this feature surrounding it appears as if it is some kind of barrier. Also noticeable is the presence of six rather large creatures which are congregating around the central structure. If you will look closely you can see that there are four of these apparently black ones that are about the size of a rinocerous, and these two which appear much closet to the size of an elephant. These are the only creatures of this kind that we have observed in the photographs.”
Vladimir was less than pleased. He had been hoping for something more substantive than unidentified objects or swarms of strange animals “we have as yet, been unable to determine the nature or significance of the various structures located in this photograph, although judging by their central location and uniqueness, it is possible that this is the origin of the anomalous items.” -3:25 PM, April 21, 1986, Khost airbase, Khost Province, Afghanistan
Vladimir and Boris stepped out of the helicopter and onto the tarmac, Vladimir carried a briefcase; followed shortly after by the rest of the platoon, twenty seven men in all. Across the tarmac stood a group of men and a long line of UAZ trucks. As they approached Vlad saw that one of the men in the group was Lt.-General Boris Gromov, the commander of forces in Khost “good afternoon Colonel, I trust that your trip was not too unpleasant.” the men exchanged salutes.
“It went as well as could be expected.”
The general gestured toward one of the trucks “please accompany me to headquarters, we can review the tactical situation once we arrive.”
They entered the truck, first the general, then Vlad and Boris. As the truck started to move the General looked around to face the two men in the back seat “so what does Moscow intend for me to do about this situation?” he asked bluntly.
Vladimir glanced at Boris briefly, then at the general “we don't have any specific details regarding the disappearance of the helicopters and the mechanized infantry platoon, we know the location of the vehicles themselves, but the exact situation-”
The general cut in “I'm not talking about that, what am I supposed to do about this request for a truce by the Mujahideen and the Americans?”
Vladimir raised an eyebrow and both he and Boris looked at each other and then back at the general “What truce?” -3:42 PM, April 21, 1986, Red Army HQ, Khost, Khost Province, Afghanistan
The general, Vladimir, and Boris walked down a corridor and rounded a corner “I thought that when representatives from both the CIA and Mujahideen approached us for a truce, things couldn’t get any stranger. Then they started talking about strange beasts that come out of the hills to massacre whole villages. I had almost thought that they were mad and sent them back the way they had come, but after the mess near Spera, all of the rumors that keep spreading around, and then I heard that we would be getting a representative from the GRU directly from Moscow in response to whatever the hell is going on over there...”
“Well, I decided that I would at least wait to see what Moscow had to say about this before making a decision.” The trio came to a stop outside unlabeled door being guarded by two armed men who saluted “Are you going to tell me that they aren’t crazy?” asked the general.
“Perhaps” Vladimir said, he leaned closer to the other two “I wasn’t prepared to reveal this to either of you, however as I’ve become aware of further information regarding this situation, I have come to the conclusion that matters have become serious enough to reveal to you that the accounts we have been getting of strange creatures and monsters may not be as absurd as once thought.”
“The reconnaissance mission flown by the Tu-22 the other day, indicates that something… strange has been going on over in Paktika, and the evidence seems to indicate that the accounts of ‘monsters’ cannot be discounted out of hand” explained Vlad.
Both Boris and General Gromov looked back at him with a look of surprise on their faces “are you suggesting that we seriously consider this call for a truce?” asked Gromov.
Vlad folded his arms “I’m saying that we should seriously consider just what these men have to say. I have been authorized by Moscow to deal with this threat in any way necessary
. If that means securing a truce with the Mujahideen for the duration of the crisis, then that is what we shall do.” Gromov opened his mouth as though he wanted to argue “I understand that you are the commander on site here General, and I have no wish to undermine your authority. However as far as this situation goes, I have the authority of both the GRU and
the Kremlin to resolve this problem, authority that outranks yours General. I do apologize, and as soon as this problem has been dealt with, I can be out of here and you will no longer have to deal with me.”
Gromov scowled, but did not look like he wanted to argue the point “very well colonel, why don’t we see just what the CIA and Mujahideen have to say?”
Opening the door, the three men entered an interrogation room with a table in the center. Two men sat at the table, they both rose. Although they both looked like they could pass for Afghan, the one on the right wore a much thicker and grayer beard, Vladimir guessed that he was the actual Mujahideen, while the man to his right must have been the American “I’m Adam Melborne, CIA, and my associate here is Mahmood Aziz, currently of the Hezb-e-Islami Mujahideen. I’ll be acting as an interpreter, Mahmood doesn’t speak much Russian” the man on the left said in slightly accented Russian, confirming Vladimir’s suspicions.
General Gromov gestured toward the two new arrivals “this is Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov and Lieutenant Boris Medved of GRU Spetznaz, they are here as representatives of the GRU here in Khost” he explained. Boris and Vladimir nodded.
All five men sat down “So tell me Mr. Melborne, just what is it that you are doing here?” Vladimir asked.
Melborne took a deep breath “As I have told the general here before, Mahmood wishes to propose a temporary truce with the Soviet and Afghan government forces here in Khost while the tāziyāne-ye bozorg still exists as a common threat. I have come along to act as both a representative of the United States Government and to assist in mediating the truce, I am the closest thing that we currently have to a neutral third party under the circumstances” he said.
Vladimir’s expression changed to one of confusion “I’m sorry, you want a truce while what still exists?” both the Afghan and American exchanged a few words in Pashto “I’m sorry, the tāziyāne-ye bozorg, it is what the locals have taken to calling them, the creatures. It means literally ‘great scourge’ in Pashto, personally I think it is an apt name.”
Mahmood started speaking again, Melborne exchanged a few more words with him again in Pashto, then in Russian “he says that the tāziyāne-ye bozorg have been responsible for the deaths of many Pashtun’s and Russians. He and his people are willing to stop fighting you so that you may fight against this common threat together” At that the three Russians exchanged looks of amazement.
The idea of Mujahideen and Russian fighting alongside one another is something that none had considered possible in the past seven years. Vladimir was intrigued, but he still needed more information “Mr. Melborne, you are the ‘neutral third party’ here, just what do you think of the situation?” he asked.
Melborne looked Vladimir square in the eye “if you are asking my opinion, honestly, I say you nuke the whole fucking area, right down to the damn bedrock.” The three of them gaped at the American “the things I have seen over the past week have led me to the conclusion that the threat we are facing here is the biggest threat to both the Soviet Union and United States since Nazi Germany, and quite possibly this is an even bigger threat than that.”
Although Vladimir thought that the American may have been exaggerating a bit, the expression on the man’s face was dead serious “why don’t you explain just what has brought you to this conclusion Mr. Melborne” asked Vladimir.
The American took a deep breath and closed his eyes “well, over a week ago, one of our other SAD teams operating inside of Afghanistan went silent. Our information on the circumstances or the cause were sketchy, we had some keyhole-11 imagery which indicated that the whole village they were operating out of had been wiped out by someone or something of unknown origin.”
“It wouldn’t be until almost two days later that we received information that one of our blackbirds had come back with photo’s showing something… strange growing on the ground a few kilometers from the site of the village. So we were sent in with orders to get a closer look at whatever it was that was going on and report back what we had. When our team arrived we found the place crawling with dozens of these creatures. Half of us was wiped out right there, and I don't know how the hell the rest of us got out at all.” Melborne paused and looked down at his lap.
A second later he looked up at them again “we lost our map, and the whole incident disoriented us, so we wound up going in the wrong direction, because the day after our first encounter we managed to get to the heart of the whole damn thing. The ground was covered in this... growth of some kind, and there were these strange... organisms growing all over the place, there were animals, plants, people... they were stuck in this... stuff, dissolving, being eaten, being turned into more of those creatures...” he trailed off.
Vladimir reached into his briefcase and pulled out the folder with the reconnaissance photos, and opened the packet to the page with the photograph of the area with the strange structures on it “This photograph was taken from a Tu-22 flying over the area the day before yesterday” all five men leaned in closer to look at the photograph “does that growth on the ground look farmiliar?” he inquired.
Melborne nodded “yeah, that's the stuff, that shit grows everywhere, and it grows fast, the day before I got picked up by Mahmood's people, the only other man in my team who was still alive had a growth on his leg, there was hardly any there the day before, but in only twenty four hours it had taken over a third of his body....” Melborne sighed and rubbed his face with his hands “I put a bullet in his brain.” then he looked up.
Vladimir saw the look in his face, and he appeared about ten years older “there were eight of us when we started, in less than four days I was the only one left. From what I can gather these things have wiped out at least a dozen villages in the area, and nothing has stopped them. If you want my advice, pull as many people as you can out now, before those things can get here and nuke the whole fucking province down to the bedrock.” -3:47 AM, April 22, 1986, Woodland Hills, California, United States
Nathan woke suddenly with soaked sheets and his heart pounding, he'd been having a nightmare again. He had always had problems with extremely vivid dreams, and all too often nightmares. No comfort awaited him as he was greeted by silence and an empty bed. Carla wasn't there, off on some doctors conference in Ohio for the week. He got out of bed and headed down to the kitchen for a glass of water. The past week or so had been especially bad, each night another horrific experience, and tonight was no different.
It started with him running through the hills in some inhospitable looking place, unable to stop or slow down, driven by an irresistible force which compels him to keep going. He is accompanied by a huge swarm of monstrosities which looked like they belonged amongst the scribblings of some madman than running around in the wild, of course each time it takes him a while to realize that he too is one of the monstrosities.
Eventually he and his fellow swarm members come across a village, it reminds him of many pictures out of a National Geographic magazine. The people in the village flee, screaming in terror at the horror that they see running toward them at full speed. It does them no good. Soon he and the others are amongst the villagers, and the slaughter begins.
Some of them are armed however and start fighting back, but again it does them no good. Nathan joins in with the others and starts killing villagers.
One of the men raises a weapon and aims at Nathan, he is hopeful that the dream will end early this time as it had a couple times before. His hopes are dashed as the villager is killed by another creature. Nathan continues with the slaughter, using massive razor sharp claws or teeth. He mutilates and disembowels one villager after another, women, children, men, it doesn't matter. The dream eventually ends as it usually does, with him suddenly waking up just after massacring the last person in the village.
Nathan grabbed a glass out of one of the kitchen cabinets, then with a sigh he turned on the tap and filled his glass. He would have to call Doctor Levin in the morning, he thought he had a handle on these horrible dreams, but now it was worse than it was before the last time he started therapy. “...The associated press reported today that a total of five foreign journalists from various publications who were covering the Soviet offensive in Paktika have gone missing in the past six days. No information regarding the cause of the disappearances has been discovered as of yet, but sources in the US department of defense have indicated that fighting has drastically increased in intensity over the past week and a half, especially in the eastern part of the province which may explain the disappearances somewhat.
Some information has also been uncovered indicating that a new faction of insurgents has emerged in the south of the country, specifically centered around Paktika province as there have been recent reports of locals claiming that a number of villages have been massacred by what they have referred to as ‘The Great Scourge’ it is unknown if this is the actual name chosen by the alleged new insurgent group, or if it is one that has been made up by local Afghan civilians. Soviet officials have issued a statement recommending that foreign journalists should leave the region for the immediate time period due to the increased risk posed by the fighting...”
-Washington Post article dated April 27, 1986, Written by: Richard M. Weintraub
-2:18 PM, April 28, 1986, Hotel Islamabad, Islamabad, Pakistan
Roger Jourgensen leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee. Although the menu at the cafe here at the hotel was limited, he did enjoy the coffee they made. Upon looking up, Roger saw Mike Hamilton approaching from the lobby, moving with an urgent sense of purpose in his stride. Mike was an attache with the American embassy in Islamabad. As he sat down, Mike placed a brief order with the waiter “coffee, no sugar or cream, thanks” his no nonsense demeanor lifted slightly as he looked over at Roger “good to see you again Roger, how're the kids holding up?” his coffee arrived in short order, he took a sip.
Roger shrugged as he shifted in his chair “they're doing fine, Bobby is almost out of the fourth grade. I wish we were meeting under better circumstances.” Roger folded up the copy of Dawn he was reading and laid it down on the table.
Mike added some cream and sugar to his coffee “no kidding, we've got a real shit storm brewing up north. Do you think it has anything to do with Hamid calling this meeting?” Mike's question seemed more of a statement than a sincere question.
Roger made a nonchalant expression “does a bear shit in the woods? I think he suspects that something's up, so do the folks back in Langley, and that's the last thing we need right now” Roger said as he took a sip of his own coffee.
Mike looked at him with raised eyebrows “this mess has them worried huh?” he asked.
Roger nodded “yep, so much so in fact that I've been authorized to show him some of our cards if I think that's what it takes to keep the ISI playing ball. Langley does not want the Pakistani's slamming the door on us right when we are in the middle of one of the biggest intelligence cluster fucks since the Bay of Pigs.”
Mike appeared thoughtful for a second, then his expression tensed a bit “here he comes.”
Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul approached the table and sat down, he did not order anything. The general's expression was hard to read, but Roger didn’t think that it looked good “good afternoon gentlemen” he said in a thick Pakistani accent.
Both Roger and Mike greeted the general in kind. “so what exactly is it that brings you out here General?” Mike sounded as innocent and unaware as a saint.
A bit of annoyance added to the general’s expression “I'm quite certain that you both know what this meeting is about” Hamid's voice dripped with irritation.
Roger and Mike both exchanged quick glances “I'm not quite sure I follow” Roger tried to sound as innocent as he could.
The look of annoyance and irritation was now replaced by a humorless smirk “if that was too subtle a question for you, then perhaps I shall try a more direct approach” Hamid steepled his hands and rested them on the table. He continued “a listening post of ours intercepted a distress call from a Soviet mechanized infantry platoon last week, and then shortly afterward from a squadron of Mi-24 helicopters, both reported coming under attack from 'horrific monsters' and this is on top of the additional dozen or so aircraft we believe that they have lost over the eastern half of Paktika province over the past week.”
“We keep getting reports of strange creatures attacking people all along the border near there, we've lost contact with more than one intelligence source in the region, the Red Army has been completely redeploying most of the forces participating in this years offensive for some unknown reason, nearly every SAD team in northern Pakistan has been either relocated or placed on high alert for... something, and an SR-71 made an over flight of the area by crossing our airspace without any word of warning from Washington
ahead of time. Surely the two of you are not going to sit there and tell me that none of this has escaped your notice.”
Hamid looked as if his eyes could shoot daggers. “before you attempt to convince me that you are still ignorant of the situation, I must tell you that General Rahman has received authorization from our president to end all cooperation with the CIA with regard to Afghanistan. We were perfectly willing to work with you on those heroin shipments, but as you would say, Afghanistan is in our
backyard, it is not your place to start testing new chemical weapons there without even informing us. Although my government has no more a desire to see a Soviet controlled puppet on our border than yours does, if this mess continues to escalate out of control, it is we
who will have to clean it up.”
Roger and Mike exchanged glances again, this time for longer, then Mike nodded to Roger who blinked slowly as he began to explain “although you are correct that we know more than we have been letting on, that’s as far as the deception goes. We had nothing to do with whatever the cause of this mess is, and we are starting to think the Russians aren’t behind it either” Roger explained. Hamid looked incredulous, but he didn’t interrupt “About two weeks ago we lost contact with one of our SAD teams…”
About twenty minutes later Roger had finished explaining to the general the situation, he still had an incredulous look on his face though “this is what you expect me to believe?” Hamid was almost yelling.
Roger looked General Gul directly in the eye “do you honestly think that if it were a cover story that we would come up with something so unbelievable?” Hamid opened his mouth as if to say something but remained silent, his look of incredulity was replaced by one of consternation.
After another second or two he spoke “exactly how long were you prepared to keep us in the dark about this?” the tone of irritation in Hamid’s voice was still there, but it was not as strong.
“Well, we had hoped that the Soviets would be able to keep a lid on this, ever since we had gotten evidence that whatever this is wasn’t the Russian’s doing, we started sending out feelers to them in hopes of at least getting an idea as to what it is they planned to do about it. They haven’t been too forthcoming, but they seemed to have dropped a hint that they were contemplating a ceasefire with the Mujahideen while they try to contain the situation” said Roger. Hamid’s expression changed to one of surprise this time, that got his attention
“yeah, they are that scared. They are about as clueless on this as we are, and it’s thrown a monkey wrench into the works of their offensive in the area. We believe that they have suspended nearly all offensive operations against Mujahideen forces in Paktika and surrounding provinces, and like you've said they've started redeploying nearly all available forces, but we don't know what their exact objective is, although they seem to be moving a lot of troops into the City of Khost” Roger paused to sip his coffee, mostly for dramatic effect and to let these new facts sink in.
Hamid leaned forward in his seat, it was his turn now to be forthcoming “we have intelligence that they are hoping to mount some kind of defense against whatever it is we are dealing with. To this end they in fact have managed to forge a temporary ceasefire with the Mujahideen surrounding the city. They have also reinforced the garrison with various forces from the surrounding area, it looks like they have something close to an over strength division holding the city now, including an armored battalion which was allowed to pass through Mujahideen lines un-opposed.”
Hamid leaned back in his chair “what exactly is the position of the CIA on this situation?” most of the confrontation had gone out of Hamid at this point, although he didn't seem entirely happy either.
Roger shrugged and made a casual dismissive gesture “right now we are in a 'wait and see' posture, we want to see if the Soviets can contain the situation on their own, other than that there isn't much more that we can do without taking more overt action, and it is their ballgame as of right now. We won't be able to make any other moves until we have established what level of cooperation the Russians are prepared to participate in. And your people?” Roger finished his coffee with one final gulp.
Gull’s expression was unreadable again “we've ordered all our forces along the border be put on full alert, we have activated an additional five divisions which will be sent to the border within the next week, and it has been recommended that the president close the border altogether. If the Russians cannot
contain this on their own, we will be prepared” he said.
Both Roger and Mike raised their eyebrows, Mike spoke this time “are you saying that the Pakistani Army is prepared to commence military operations across the border?” he asked.
Hamid merely made a dismissive brushing gesture with his hand “although it has been considered as an option of last resort, such action is not on the table as of yet, however I would advise your people in Afghanistan to keep their heads down. I would hate for them to be the victims of any friendly fire incidents, especially since you seem so intent on keeping so much from us” Hamid made a joyless smile as he proceeded to rise from his chair “now if you'll excuse me, I have a very busy day ahead of me. Good day gentlemen.”
After the general left Mike looked at Roger with a furrowed brow “this situation is getting out of hand Roger, I don't even want to know what the Chinese will do if the Pakistani's make a move into Afghanistan” he said.
Roger rubbed his temples with his thumb and index finger “I know, I keep thinking that maybe we should have come clean to the Pakistani's from the beginning, but I'm not sure that it would make a difference, and if it really does come down to what Hamid suggested, then we won't just have to worry about what the Chinese think. At the very least containment of this story will be damn near impossible, and we better damn well start making preparations for what to tell the public” Roger got out his wallet to pay the bill.
“One thing though Roger, why didn't you tell Hamid about the blackbird photos?”
Roger threw a few rupees on the table “if you think the risk of the Pakistani army crossing the border was high now, what do you think would happen if they really knew the truth? They probably still think that its some kind of air or waterborne hallucinogen making people go crazy, if they actually had a clue of what was really going on there'd be Pakistani tanks rolling along the Khyber Pass as we speak. If the Russians can contain this, then we won't have to worry about what the Pakistani's know, and if they can't...” Roger threw his hands up in a show of exasperation “Having the ISI pissed at us will be the least of our problems.”