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Authors: Dale Brown

Whiplash

BOOK: Whiplash
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Dale Brown and Jim DeFelice

A Dreamland Thriller

Whiplash

Contents

Dreamland:
Duty Roster

 

1

NURI ABAAJMED LUPO STEPPED OFF THE TRAIN FROM Naples and…

2

AT ROUGHLY THE SAME TIME NURI LUPO WAS SCRAMBLING in…

3

NURI’S HEART DROPPED A BEAT AS HE STARED AT THE…

4

DANNY FREAH’S INITIAL REACTION TO GENERAL MAGNUS’S offer was thanks,…

5

THERE WAS NO GRAND FUNERAL FOR RAFI LUO, NO FINE…

6

DANNY FREAH FOUND HIS EXCITEMENT GROWING AS HE made the…

7

FOR AN OFFICER WHO SPENT MOST OF HIS TIME IN…

8

DANNY FREAH PULLED HIS YELLOW BASEBALL CAP LOWER as the…

9

WHILE DANNY FREAH WAS DECIDING HOW TO BEST IMPRESS the…

10

AFTER THEIR ADVENTURE WITH THE SUDANESE ARMY, NEITHER Danny nor…

11

LISTENING TO RED HENRI PONTIFICATE ABOUT HOW HE FINANCED his…

12

NURI WOKE THE NEXT MORNING WITH A KILLER HEADACHE and…

13

THE JEEPS THAT DANNY HAD SEEN DID NOT BELONG TO…

14

THE FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS FOR DANNY AND THE OTHERS…

15

“TEN MINUTES UNTIL YOUR MEETING WITH THE ADMIRAL, Ms. Stockard.”

16

NURI PUT HIS HAND INTO HIS POCKET, SLIPPING HIS FINGERS…

17

“HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT EVOLVING INTO THE LOWEST form…

18

THE TOYOTA LAND CRUISERS SHONE LIKE BLACK DIAMONDS in the…

19

AS SOON AS THE ARMS DEALER WAS IN HIS TRUCK,…

20

BOSTON INSISTED ON COLLECTING THE SUBMACHINE GUNS from the mercenary…

21

BANI ABERHADJI WAS IN A BAD MOOD. THE COUNCIL HAD…

22

FOR THE WHIPLASH TEAM, LISTENING IN ON WHAT WAS HAPPENING…

23

BY THE TIME UNCLE DPAP USED THE PHONE DANNY HAD…

24

COLONEL ZSAR TYPICALLY POSTED A SINGLE GUARD ON the road…

25

DANNY’S BUTTERFLIES MORPHED INTO BEASTS, ROILING HIS stomach. Everyone around…

26

NURI WALKED AROUND THE BACK OF THE BARN. THERE WERE…

27

DANNY DOVE TO THE GROUND AS RED HENRI BEGAN FIRING.

28

LEANING UP AGAINST THE WALL OF THE BARN BUILDING, just…

29

BOSTON THREW THE LAND CRUISER INTO REVERSE EVEN AS Danny…

30

NURI LAY ACROSS THE RAFTERS ABOVE THE SHEETROCK, waiting as…

31

THE VOICE TOLD DANNY THERE WAS A ROAD TO THE…

32

WITHIN HOURS OF NURI’S RETURN FROM BLEMMYES Village, his discovery…

33

WHILE THE PRESIDENT WAS MEETING WITH HER ADVISORS, Danny and…

34

“IF IRAN IS TRYING TO CIRCUMVENT THE AGREEMENT THEY just…

35

EVEN THE DIRT IN AFRICA WAS DIFFERENT THAN IN AMERICA.

36

BANI ABERHADJI COULDN’T BELIEVE WHAT HE WAS HEARING. The president…

37

OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING, THE GOAL OF THE OPERATION against the Sudan…

38

BREANNA WAS JUST SECURING HER GEAR IN HER OFFICE ON…

39

FOR NEARLY TWO THOUSAND YEARS AZERBAIJAN IN THE southern Caucasus…

40

BREANNA PICKED UP THE PHONE A SPLIT SECOND AFTER IT…

41

IT WAS A LITTLE OVER 250 MILES FROM BAKU TO…

42

DANNY HAD LEFT BOSTON AND SUGAR TO PAY OFF THE…

43

WHILE THE VEHICLES THEMSELVES WERE MOSTLY A DECADE or two…

44

TEHRAN HAD ALWAYS FELT LIKE A FOREIGN PLACE TO ARASH…

45

“AT LEAST FORTY MEN THERE, CHIEF.” SUGAR HANDED BACK the…

46

HALFWAY ACROSS THE WORLD IN ROOM 4 ON THE CIA’S…

47

AS SOON AS THEY HEARD THE SIREN, THE MEN WHO…

48

GREASY HANDS PARSONS WAS ABOUT TO GRAB HIMSELF A beer…

49

AS TARID HAD FEARED, HE DID NOT SLEEP AT ALL…

50

BANI ABERHADJI HAD SCHEDULED HIS MEETING WITH TARID for the…

51

DANNY’S INTERVENTION AS KIRK MEANT HE WASN’T AVAILABLE to fix…

52

BREANNA HAD FLOWN C-17S OFF AND ON FOR YEARS AS…

53

FLASH PICKED UP THE OTHERS IN THE VAN HE’D RENTED…

54

BOSTON, SUGAR, AND ABUL SPENT A DIFFICULT NIGHT SLEEPING in…

55

JONATHON REID HAD JUST BEGUN TO PORE OVER THE LATEST…

56

CHRISTINE MARY TODD HAD BEEN A NIGHT OWL FOR MUCH…

57

“THEY’RE GETTING READY FOR SOMETHING,” SAID SUGAR, standing on top…

58

LANDING THE MC-17 AT DIRE DAWA WAS EASY ENOUGH. The…

59

SUGAR TRACKED THE PICKUP TRUCKS AS THEY CROSSED off the…

60

THE PERIMETER OF THE FIELDS BEHIND THE BUILDING WHERE Tarid…

61

BREANNA HADN’T FORGOTTEN ABOUT THE REFUGEES, BUT they were pushed…

62

IT WAS COMPLETELY DARK BY THE TIME DANNY AND HERA…

63

BY THE TIME BREANNA GOT BACK TO THE OSPREY, THE…

64

“WE HAVE TO GET OUT NOW,” DANNY TOLD HERA, MOVING…

65

PRESIDENT TODD HAD JUST FINISHED SHAKING HANDS WITH the National…

66

TARID SPENT A MISERABLE AFTERNOON AND EVENING IN Tehran. While…

67

BREANNA REALIZED THE ISRAELI ATTACK ON THE SUDAN weapons material…

68

DANNY WATCHED THE SMALL SCREEN AS THREE MEN LEFT the…

69

THE CAB DRIVER WAS A TALKATIVE SORT, BABBLING ON TO…

70

THE VOICE DIRECTED DANNY AND HERA TO AN ABANDONED farm…

71

FROM THE LAYOUT OF THE AIRPORT GROUNDS, NURI THOUGHT it…

72

PRESIDENT TODD STUDIED THE VIDEO IMAGE ON THE SCREEN at…

73

TARID’S HEAD CLEARED AS THE CAB TOOK HIM BACK TO…

74

BREANNA LEANED BACK IN THE COPILOT’S SEAT AND PULLED off…

75

“SO WE’RE SUPPOSED TO SIT HERE AND WATCH THEM launch…

76

THE PRESIDENT HAD JUST REACHED THE OVAL OFFICE WHEN her…

77

BREANNA AND THE C-17 PILOT, CAPTAIN FREDERICK, HAD just settled…

78

DANNY PUSHED DOWN THE RAVINE, CUTTING TOWARD THE rear of…

79

SOME SIXTY MILES TO THE SOUTHWEST, NURI AND FLASH had…

80

DANNY DIDN’T REALIZE THE WIRES TO THE MY-PID CONTROL unit…

81

THE ABORTED ATTEMPT ON THE PRESIDENT OF IRAN HAD sent…

82

SEVERAL ARMY VEHICLES PASSED NURI AND FLASH AS THEY made…

83

SENATOR JEFFREY “ZEN” STOCKARD ROLLED HIS WHEELCHAIR forward as the…

 

Dreamland:
Duty Roster

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Harold Magnus

Magnus once supervised Dreamland from afar. With Colonel Tecumseh “Dog” Bastian as its on-the-scene commander, the organization succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Now as Deputy Secretary of Defense, Magnus hopes to repeat those successes with Whiplash. His hand-picked commander: Bastian’s daughter, Breanna Stockard.

Breanna Stockard

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force to raise her daughter and help her husband’s political career, Breanna found herself bored with home life. She was lured back to a job supervising the development of high-tech wizardry under a combined CIA and Pentagon program. But will she be happy behind a desk when her agents are in trouble?

Jonathon Reid

Reid’s official title is Special Assistant to the Deputy Director Operations, CIA. Unofficially, he’s the go-to guy for all black projects, the dirtier the better. He knows how to get around agency politics. More important, he knows
where all the agency’s bodies are buried—he buried half of them himself.

Colonel Danny Freah

Fifteen years ago, Danny Freah won the Medal of Honor for service far beyond the call of duty. Thrust back into action as the head of a reconstituted and reshaped Whiplash team, he wonders if he still has what it takes to lead men and women into battle.

Nuri Abaajmed Lupo

Top CIA operative Nuri Lupo is used to working on his own. Now the young CIA officer has to adjust to working with a quasi-military team—at least half of whom he can’t stand.

Chief Master Sergeant Ben “Boston” Rockland

Boston finds himself shepherding a group of young CIA officers and special operations warriors across three continents. To do it successfully, he has to be part crusty old dog and part father figure.

Hera Scokas

Despite her ability with languages and the black arts of special operations, Hera Scokas hasn’t been able to climb the CIA career ladder as quickly as she wished. Now that she’s been given her greatest opportunity, she faces her greatest challenge: taming her personality to get the job done.

John “Flash” Gordon

Six years as an Army Special Forces soldier taught Flash two important lessons: keep your head down when the shooting starts and never volunteer. Too bad he can’t follow his own advice.

Carl “Tailgunner” McGowan

Recruited to Whiplash from a SEAL team, McGowan is always ready with an irreverent putdown. He’s also the guy you want watching your back when things get nasty.

Clar “Sugar” Keeb

Raised in Detroit, Sugar stands just shy of six feet, but that’s the only thing shy about her. The CIA paramilitary officer could flatten any man in the unit—and will if they get in her way.

Termini train station
Rome, Italy

N
URI
A
BAAJMED
L
UPO STEPPED OFF THE TRAIN FROM
Naples and turned left, walking up the long platform toward the central terminal area. He was a short, solid man, five-eight, 170 pounds, though his trim waist made him appear lighter. He generally walked with a bit of bounce in his step, though this afternoon he was keeping the bounce very consciously in check. Gray daubed into the close-cropped hair at his temples made him appear two decades older than he really was. Nuri’s jeans and open collar shirt were nondescript enough to make him appear European, if not quite Italian—an irony, since all but one of his grandparents had come from Italy, and he still had relatives in Sicily and the Italian section of Asmara in Eritrea.

His shoes gave him away as an American. It was not so much the manufacturer—Merrell, which, though American, sold its wares all over the world—as the fact that they were hiking boots, rarely worn by native Italians except for the specific purpose they were intended.

Nuri found the shoes particularly comfortable, and today, being identified as an American did not bother him. His features were mutable; depending on the circumstances, he could pass as a European, an Arab, a Persian, a South or
Central American. He’d even once been mistaken for Filipino, though in that case he had been aided by some strategic makeup and a prosthetic device. Such variability was a result of his genes and his background, but it was an important asset to Nuri’s profession.

He was, to use the old-fashioned term, a secret agent. A covert officer. A spy.

In general, his job called for much less drama and danger than might be implied from watching James Bond movies or reading an old Le Carré novel. Today, however, it would have given its fictional counterparts a good run for their money. Already he’d survived a bombing, which was all the more disturbing because it didn’t appear to have been aimed at him.

Nuri wrapped his right hand around the strap of his backpack as he came to the large doors at the end of the platform. He glanced downward, avoiding the gaze of the two sub-machinegun-toting carabiniere, and moved to the center of the large hall, turning back as he reached it as if to get his bearings. He stared at the signs, pretending it was all new to him.

Not counting his childhood, Nuri had been in the terminal no more than five dozen times. Most of these visits had been made the night before, in a virtual reality program that had allowed him to familiarize himself with Rome while sitting in a hotel room in Alexandria, Egypt. The program was extremely realistic, right down to the notoriously unscrupulous taxi drivers.

“Subject approaching from platform,” said the Voice in his headset.

“Which door?” muttered Nuri.

“Center door.”

Nuri adjusted his headphones. They looked exactly like a pair of Apple iPod phones, a year or two out of style. He watched the door, waiting for Rafi Luo to come through.

Though he had been following him since Egypt, Nuri hadn’t gotten close enough to him to actually see him in the
flesh. He’d seen photos and even spoken to a three-dimensional computer model of him, but he had not come within five hundred meters of Luo since he first began tracking him two days before.

He hadn’t had to. Luo had been tagged with a biomarker that allowed him to be tracked via a satellite network to virtually anywhere on the planet. There were dead spots in large buildings and underground—subways were a particular problem—but since most people came out eventually, there was literally nowhere in the world Luo could hide.

Assuming, of course, that he stayed alive.

So far, he had—though the bomb that had missed Nuri had almost certainly been meant for Luo. A car had blown up on a street in Alexandria right outside the hotel where he was staying, seconds after he’d turned from the front door to return the room key he’d forgotten to hand in. Nuri had been walking down the street at the time. The force of the blast, funneled by the large buildings on the block, had thrown Nuri to the ground, but left him and the hotel unscathed.

Luo had noticed, of course. But the way things were in Alexandria these days, he couldn’t be sure that the bomb was meant for him. And in any event, his profession invited all manner of dangers.

Nuri spotted him striding into the station, head high, looking more like a movie star on vacation than a vital cog in an illegal weapons ring. Luo bounced through the crowd, arms and hips swinging as if he owned not only the terminal, but the continent it was built on. His slicked-back hair glowed black. His chiseled face was a magnet, drawing stares even as his smoked glasses imposed a certain distance from the common rabble.

Luo was fully aware of his looks. He’d used them since he was thirteen or fourteen, breaking the hearts of countless girls and women. Many of them could recognize his type from the distance, knowing he would use them and leave them without remorse, yet still they found themselves attracted to him, driven as if by genetic imperative. This had fanned Luo’s dis
dain, not just for women, but for much of the world. He was more than selfish and vain; he wanted and felt entitled to any desire that happened into his mind. Sex, of course, but lately money had become its very near rival. No corporate titan lusted after material rewards more than Luo did. And none had less regard for anyone who stood in his way.

He pulled his glasses down, scanning the wide indoor terrace of Rome’s train station. Luo had a vague notion that he was being followed. It was a notion that was always with him, a paranoia important to success in his profession. But as he scanned around he saw nothing to tip him off that he was actually being watched. He did not see Nuri, and even if he had, the tourist would not have registered as a potential threat.

Nuri, drifting behind a surge in the crowd, lamented that the Italians did not believe in take-out coffee. He didn’t have time for even an espresso.

“Subject proceeding toward western doorway,” said the Voice in his ear.

Nuri began to follow, girding himself for the inevitable squabble with the taxi driver. While in theory the fare should not have made a difference to him—he had an ample supply of euros, not to mention a stack of Egyptian and American bills—it nonetheless stung him to be cheated. And he would have to account for his expenses to the accounting department eventually. They always paid particular attention to the small items like taxi fares, which were impossible to document.

Luo turned left outside the door, ignoring the queue for the taxis, which were lined in a chaotic, Italian-style jumble at the edge of the plaza. He walked along the stone sidewalk and out along the Piazza Esquilino, more an extended bus stop than a traditional Italian piazza. For a moment it looked to Nuri that he was going into either the cinema or the five-star hotel at the corner near the Piazza della Republica; Nuri would have welcomed either stop, since he wanted a chance to get a coffee and maybe something to eat. But instead Luo continued down Via Nazionale, moving easily among the throng of tourists and local residents.

It was a clear day, pleasantly warm for March. A bright blue sky arched over the city, and the sun seemed to brush away the dust and grime from the facades and storefronts along the street. Via Nazionale had its share of hotels, but most of the shops here catered to residents, clothing and shoe stores butting up against a bookstore and the occasional tobacco store.

“Am I being followed?” Nuri asked, muttering to himself. He was wearing a pair of video bugs attached to the back of his collar, scanning the area behind him.

“Surveillance has not been detected,” replied the Voice.

Nuri’s heart began beating faster as Luo continued down the street in the general direction of the Imperial Forum. Luo wasn’t a tourist, and the course was too direct to have been plotted merely to see if he was being followed. He must be meeting someone.

Nuri quickened his pace and closed to within a half block. Luo crossed through the traffic near Villa Aldobrandini, then went down the narrow hill to a little street just above Foro di Augusto. Ruins spread out before him, Rome’s ancient past pulling itself from the dust. There were many lessons a man might draw from such a sight—the fleeting nature of wealth and power first among them. But Luo drew none, his mind far from the ruins.

Realizing he was getting too close, Nuri stopped in the middle of the parking lot near Trajan’s Column. The column was a majestic, impressive sight, undiminished by the fact that it stood in front of a building and square undergoing renovations.

“Who is that at the top of the column?” he asked.

“Trajan’s Column,” replied the Voice. “Colonna Traiana.”

“Is that Trajan at the top?”

There was a pause before the voice answered.

“St. Peter.”

“St. Peter? How’d he get there? Isn’t that a Roman column?”

This time the pause was longer.

“The answer is not immediately available,” said the Voice,
indirectly announcing the limits of its network memory. “Do you wish the matter researched?”

“Negative.”

The Voice’s admission of its limitations cheered him a little, making up for his lack of caffeine. Nuri walked along the parking lot, pausing to hear the pitch from a man selling picture books. He wanted ten euros. Nuri shook his head and started to walk away.

“Five euro,” said the man, in English.

Nuri hesitated, thinking the book would be decent cover.

“Quatro,”
he said, turning back. “Four.”

The man said in Italian that he was driving too hard a bargain for a wealthy American.

Nuri shrugged and started to walk away. He was a little annoyed that the man had responded in English rather than Italian; he felt his accent had been perfect.

“Four euro,
si
,” said the man, holding the book out.

Nuri stopped and reached into his pocket for some coins. The man began telling him a story as he counted the change, explaining in English that he lived in the area. Some years before he had been a woodworker, but his hands no longer cooperated: a fact obvious from their violent shaking as he took Nuri’s money.

The man knew a great deal about the ruins, more than what was in the books. He offered himself as a guide, but Nuri merely shook his head and took the book. Turning to go, he remembered his question about St. Peter on the column.

“Ah, the pope—1587,” said the man. He pointed at the book. “The story is there. The legend—when Traianus was taken up, yes? From the vault below, his skull was there. It told the story of his release from hell.”

The explanation confused Nuri, but now Luo was getting too far away. Nuri thanked him.

“I can tell you the entire story—if you want a guide—I am here every day,” said the man, calling after him.

Up the street, Luo was nearly to the Coliseum, his pace as jaunty as ever. A long line stretched around the side of the
amphitheater as visitors waited to get in. But he had a pass that allowed him to avoid the lines, and he walked through the group entrance, stepping through the metal detector without pausing to empty his pockets. The detector found nothing.

Nuri headed toward the end of the line. As he reached it, a young man with a British accent stopped him and asked if he’d like to join his tour.

“Twenty euros, and you beat the line,” said the young man. “You get right in. And you get a full tour.”

“I beat the line?”

“Yes, you come right in with me. Twenty euros.”

Nuri unfolded a twenty from his pocket. The young man grabbed it hungrily—generally he had to bargain down to ten or fifteen this close to tour time—and directed Nuri toward a short, dark-haired woman standing near the entrance. Nuri went over, starting to get a bit anxious—if Luo was meeting someone inside, he wanted to be close enough to hear what was going on, or at least see who it was.

“We can go right in?” he said to the woman.


Si, si,
” she said. “We are on our way. Come.”

Nuri started toward the gate with a dozen other tourists, a hodgepodge from Britain, Japan, and China. Tour groups were given special privileges at the Coliseum, and in fact at most of the attractions in Rome and Italy. If you were in a group, you could jump ahead of the line, entering at a prescribed time—or perhaps immediately, depending on the arrangements the group’s sponsor had made with the authorities.

“Direct me,” he muttered to the Voice as he passed the metal detector.

“Proceed twenty paces straight ahead.”

Nuri walked down the main corridor, passing the displays of ruined bits of columns, mortuary plaques, and statues. He went through an arched opening—
vomitorium
was the proper name—and came out onto the main aisle circling above the arena area. He walked forward, pretending to look at the ruins, but in fact scanning for Luo.

He couldn’t see him.

“Direct me,” he said.

“Reverse direction,” said the Voice.

Confused, Nuri followed the directions to a door just off the main corridor inside. The Voice told him to open the door and go down the stairs inside, but the door had an alarm on it, apparently not included in whatever schematic the computer had accessed.

Nuri reached into his pocket for his key chain. On the chain was a small card that looked like the sort of tag one held against a credit card reader when making a purchase; not coincidentally, it carried a Visa logo to reinforce that impression. Pressing his thumb firmly against the middle, he slid the card along the doorjamb, waiting to hear a buzz in his headset. As soon it buzzed, he pushed through, the alarm temporarily deactivated.

The corridor opened onto a darkened staircase. Nuri found a banister at the right and descended slowly, listening as he went.

“Turn left,” said the Voice, directing him down a tunnel-like corridor. A dim blue glow of natural light shone toward the far end, where it met another hallway at the right.

Nuri paused, considering whether he should proceed. While he wanted to know why Luo was here and who he was meeting with, being discovered following him would be counterproductive, and very possibly fatal.

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