The Dreadful Renegade: A Thrilling Espionage Novel (Techno thriller, Mystery & Suspense)

BOOK: The Dreadful Renegade: A Thrilling Espionage Novel (Techno thriller, Mystery & Suspense)
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THE DREADFUL RENEGADE

 

Charles Z David

The Dreadful Renegade

Text Copyright @ 2015 by Charles Z David

All Rights Reserved

 

This book is a work of fiction and all its characters and events are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, or to real events, is purely coincidental. Likewise any depiction of Israeli governmental bodies or agencies is solely the product of the author's imagination.

 

Contact: [email protected]

 

The Dreadful Renegade

Charles Z. David

Renegade - a person who deserts and betrays an organization, country, or set of principles (Wikipedia).

 

Prologue

The large innocent looking suitcase was pushed slowly on its four wheels by an elegantly dressed young woman whose bulging belly announced to the whole world that she was carrying a baby, or perhaps even twins. Gentlemen who offered to help her were repelled by her fierce look and those bold enough to try and actually take hold of the suitcase handle were shooed away by a loud hissing sound emitted through thin lips enclosing her small mouth.  She struggled with the wheels that appeared to have a will of their own and looked as if they were arguing with one another about the direction in which to move.  Finally she reached the escalator leading to the second level of the large shopping center and realized that the suitcase was too wide for the escalator stairs.  She turned around abruptly knocking over a toddler that was holding his mother's hand and without an apology headed toward the wide elevator. The toddler's mother barely managed to hold back the curse that came to her mind and settled for a drop-dead look that she sent to the receding back of the woman who was just entering the elevator.  If radiation detectors had been mounted in the elevator they would be chirping like crazy with flashing lights indicating a deadly level of radiation, but none were installed so no one was the wiser about the imminent danger.  The woman entered the ladies restroom with her suitcase and barely squeezed into the stall reserved for the handicapped.  She quickly removed the pillow that made her midsection bulge, changed her clothes into nondescript jeans and a tightly fitting top that accentuated her slim figure, removed the blond wig she had been wearing and passed a comb through her jet black short hair. She placed the pillow and old clothes in a plastic bag that she left in the corner of the stall next to her suitcase.  She then set the combination locks on both sides of the suitcase to the code that would give her 30 minutes to get far enough from the shopping center.  She waited until she was certain that the restroom was empty, opened the booth's door and exited. With a small screwdriver that she pulled out of her purse she set the sign on the door to "occupied" and entered the next stall to relieve herself from the sudden urge to urinate. She made her way to the parking lot, went straight to her car that was still parked in the spot reserved for handicapped drivers and without any visible signs of being in a hurry merged with the traffic on highway 55 and then headed north on the I-5, trying to get as far away as possible from the Costa Mesa Mall.

 

Part 1. Getting in
Chapter 1

Six Years earlier, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Nagib Jaber was carrying out another series of experiments with the electrochemical cell that he had developed under the supervision of his doctoral thesis advisor, Professor Jack Chen.  Nagib was well aware of the fact that his professional future as an analytical chemist rested on the success of these new measurements. If he could reproduce the results obtained in his earlier tests then he would be able to complete his thesis and after passing the final exam get his doctorate and start looking for a well-paying job in industry or government. The subject of his thesis was the design of a small, compact, pocket-size device that could be used for determining trace amounts of uranium in water or in soil. With such a device surveys of uranium deposits could be performed in the field without the need to collect samples and transport them to a remote laboratory for analysis. This would enable the surveyors to track uranium bearing mineral deposits simply by following the increase in concentration until the main source was located and also to carry out environmental contamination surveys quickly and cheaply.

Nagib was the only Palestinian student in Professor Chen's large research group that consisted mainly of Chinese students who erroneously thought that Jack Chen was also Chinese and applied in masses to join his prestigious laboratory.  Chen was actually originally from Israel, where Chen is pronounced with a hard CH and in Hebrew means "grace" and his first name was Jacob but he preferred the American version of Jack.  The students who followed the numerous publications of this prolific scientist were unaware of this fact. Nagib, who was a graduate of Bir-Zeit University in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, also applied to Professor Chen for graduate studies assuming that he was Chinese. Professor Chen himself was quite indifferent about the nationality of his graduate students as long as they agreed to work long hours at a salary that just about allowed them to survive in Las Cruces where the cost of living was quite low.  Chen used to joke that he preferred Chinese students because they did not complain and were just grateful for the opportunity to study and live in the United States. He also liked Palestinian students because, as he jokingly said to his American colleagues, they had no home to go to for their vacations thanks to the Israel Defense Forces. In the case of Nagib this was accurate – his brother, Yassir, had been involved in the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli youth near Jerusalem and had been apprehended, tried and convicted by an Israeli military court. He was sentenced to a long prison term (capital punishment was not practiced in Israel) and the house of his family was torn down by bulldozers as a retaliatory act and as a warning to other would-be terrorists.  Surprisingly, Nagib and Professor Chen got on very well and occasionally shared a meal consisting of Middle Eastern special dishes prepared by Nagib or by Chen's Israeli wife. Nagib knew that as a graduate of Chen's laboratory, and with proper recommendations and references he stood a good chance of getting not only a good job but also a "Green Card" that would allow him to work in the USA and receive citizenship after a few years. It was his dream to become a US citizen and work in one of National Laboratories in which nuclear weapons were designed and produced. He did share this part of his plans with his advisor but did not divulge the second part of his dream – to return to Palestine and seek revenge of the Israelis for destroying his ancestral home.

 

Five Years earlier, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Nagib decided he deserved a short vacation after successfully defending his thesis at New Mexico State University (NMSU) in Las Cruces the previous day. Indeed, while all his friends were partying and having fun, he had spent the Christmas and New Year school break studying day and night for his final exam. He passed it with flying colors despite his fear that the external examiner, an Israeli scientist called Dr. Benny Avivi, who was added to the examination panel, would give him a hard time. To his surprise Dr. Avivi was totally aboveboard and did not try to undermine his theory or question the validity of his experimental results.

Nagib wanted to spend part of his time in Albuquerque interviewing for a job as an analytical chemist and part having fun and skiing in Taos.  While in Palestine he had never had a chance to ski, although every two or three years some snow did accumulate in his mountain village near Hebron and like the other kids from the village he liked to take a thick plastic sheet and slide down the snow covered hill on his backside.  He learnt to seriously ski in the mountain area of Cloudcroft in New Mexico and became quite proficient with the help of Amanda, his girlfriend who was also a student at NMSU and came from a family of winter sports athletes. He was sorry to leave the sheltered life of a graduate student in Las Cruces and especially saddened that Amanda had ditched him in favor of a local boy who was her childhood neighbor, much to the joy of her conservative parents who did not encourage her relationship with a foreigner, especially a Muslim like Nagib.

Nagib had never lived in a city with more than 200,000 residents and viewed Albuquerque as a major metropolis with its own international airport, large university and its position as the business and cultural center of New Mexico. He knew that job opportunities there were very good for someone with his credentials and the proximity of Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories were an added attraction for his long term plan.  After a few interviews he was offered a position as an assistant director and chief scientist in a medical laboratory that carried out bio-chemical tests. He was clever enough to realize that the fancy title was actually a kind of compensation for the meager pay and monotonous routine work and declined the offer saying that he was more interested in real research and development.  Through the contacts of his advisor, Professor Chen, he was also interviewed by Geo Consultants Ltd (GCL) a sub-contractor of Kirtland Air Force Base that carried out geological and environmental surveys in and around the base. Kirtland was quite unique as its runways were shared with the civilian ABQ Albuquerque airport making it a combined civil-military airport. Employees of GCL were not required to be US citizens and it was sufficient that they were legal aliens and holders of a Green Card on the way to full citizenship. The pay as a consultant to a sub-contractor was way below what an analytical chemist with a Ph. D. degree would normally receive but Nagib was pleased with the pay that was significantly higher than that of a graduate student and with the position that allowed him access to a military air force base. He reckoned that being close to the world's largest storage facility for nuclear weapons (he read this in Wikipedia) would also potentially help his long term objective, so he gladly signed the employment contract. 

Most of his work consisted of following a predetermined route that took him to several points near the large storage facilities in the base and then to its perimeter and finally to other points that were up to 50 miles from the base, mainly in the downwind and downstream direction. At each point Nagib and his driver/technician, Renaldo who was also a Green Card holder originally from Chihuahua in Mexico, would collect samples of soil and vegetation and water from drilled wells (if possible) and carry them to the laboratory. Nagib and Renaldo were also in charge of performing the chemical analyses to determine if there was any environmental contamination that originated from the base. The reports were passed on to their GCL supervisor who then arranged them in tables and graphs, added his own signature and delivered them to the environmental officer of the Kirtland base. Neither the supervisor nor the environmental officer really understood the meaning of the numbers in Nagib's report so that after going through this routine for a couple of years, without seeing any significant variations in the numbers Nagib suggested to Renaldo that they reduce the amount of the tedious analytical procedures and just copy some older values. Renaldo who anyway thought that he was underpaid for his efforts gladly agreed to lessen the work load and agreed. This went on for another year without anyone noticing the fraudulent reports but then Nagib was offered a promotion and pay increase that would permit him to stay in the air conditioned laboratory without having to travel on gravel roads to the remote sampling points. Nagib was allowed to hire Renaldo to help him in his new R&D job.

Nagib travelled back to NMSU to discuss his new appointment with Professor Chen.  His advisor was glad to see that his former student was doing well professionally so when Nagib asked for his permission to carry out field tests with the pocket-size device that they had developed jointly Chen immediately agreed. He also added that an application for a patent had already been submitted to the US Patent Office but, as was the custom in his group, future proceeds, if any actually were forthcoming, would be shared between Prof. Chen and NMSU. 

Nagib returned to GCL with the news and proposed a special mission for discovery of leaks that involved release of uranium using the new device and suggested that he should be put in charge of the project. Nagib's supervisor told him that he would discuss this idea with his own boss and get back to him. By now Nagib knew that his supervisor would take credit for the proposal, just as he had done with the reports previously, but that did not worry Nagib as long as the idea was approved. He was keen to have the added responsibility as the new mission would give him a good excuse to enter the actual storage facilities under the guise of collecting samples for tracking leakage of uranium from stored weapons.

Nagib was certain his proposal would be approved as he had read (once again in Wikipedia) that Kirtland had suffered a shattering setback in 2010 when it had lost, temporarily one may add, its certification to manage and maintain the nuclear warheads stored on the site. It took several months to be recertified but the lesson had been learnt and now any idea, proposal or suggestion that could enhance safety or security was almost automatically approved. Nagib was also aware of the jet fuel leakage incident that was discovered only in 1999, probably after decades of leaking. In this case some hazardous chemicals had even reached the aquifer and endangered the city's drinking water reservoir and wells. His supervisor at GCL had so gotten used to Nagib's presence and had forgotten that he was not yet a US citizen so he failed to note that fact when filling the forms that would enable Nagib to gain access to one of the most secure places in the US nuclear facilities. However, a routine check by the officer in charge of base security revealed this fact and the supervisor was removed from his position for gross negligence and was lucky to escape charges of endangering the national security. Nagib who had not even seen the forms filed by the supervisor was put under special surveillance through no fault of his own. Nagib now was faced with a dilemma – if he quit his job with GCL under a cloud of suspicion he may find it difficult to apply for a job with one of the National Laboratories after receiving a US citizenship, but if he stayed on the job he would not be able to gain access to the part of the base that really interested him because everyone would be alerted that he was subject to entry restrictions.

Nagib was still responsible for carrying out the analysis of the samples that were collected in the Kirtland base and the vicinity. He was in charge of a small team of lab technicians and analytical chemists who did the work but was no longer in the field to collect the samples. He was instructed to closely screen the samples that were taken inside the storage facilities as they would indicate if any of the stored nuclear weapons caused contamination. This suited him well as he believed he would be able to learn about the construction of the weapons from the analysis of these samples but soon realized that this was not the case. In fact, no traces of radioactive materials were found on the swipe samples that were collected in the storage facilities.  

Nagib liked living in Albuquerque where he had rented a studio apartment near the university and had made many friends among the student crowd. He was not an observant Muslim and enjoyed a few beers or cheap Scotch at parties, liked Mexican food that often contained pork meat and most certainly had fun with some of the female students who were intrigued by the handsome foreign man who had earned a doctorate and was gainfully employed. Combining all these joyful deeds with week-end skiing vacations in the nearby Taos ski resorts, something that happened at least once a month in winter, kept him going. There was nothing he liked more than taking a good-looking, all-American, preferably blonde, girl to spend the days on the ski slopes and the nights in a comfortable king-size bed after a good meal and a bottle of local wine. The girls also liked this but he seldom took out the same girl more than once or twice as he was not interested in a long-term relationship. So he reached the decision to remain employed by GCL at least until he became a US citizen.

Nagib had gotten so used to the good life in Albuquerque and felt that he was given an opportunity to fulfill the American dream. He had almost forgotten his grand plan to avenge the destruction of his ancestral home. He was even considering settling down with a nice woman, preferably of a Palestinian Muslim origin but like himself not really devout, and starting a family and a new life in the land of the free. However, one day he received a phone call from his father who told him that Yassir, his brother, who had been incarcerated in an Israeli prison for several years, was freed in a deal in which over 1000 convicted Palestinian detainees were released from Israeli jails in exchange for one Israeli soldier that had been held by Hamas in Gaza. Yassir was not allowed to return to his family home that was rebuilt in the village near Hebron in the West Bank and was sent to Gaza where he had to remain in a kind of exile. Nagib's father said that his brother had joined the military arm of Hamas and was the commander of a group that launched rockets into the Israeli territory. This was curtailed when an Israeli drone fired a US made rocket at Yassir's group just as they were getting ready to launch one of their rockets, killing all its five members. His father said that his brave brother Yassir was now a martyr, a Shahid, and that it was Nagib's duty to avenge his death. Nagib who had loved his brother and admired his courageous fight against the Israeli occupation was shocked by the news of his death. After this phone call Nagib abandoned all the plans of settling down in the US and continued to plot his revenge with even more determination and motivation. Nagib and his father were both unaware of the fact the phone call was recorded by the Israeli army intelligence unit responsible for monitoring all calls from the Palestinian Authority, and that the transcription of the conversation was passed on the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and brought to the attention of the section in charge of following suspected terrorists and their families.  

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