Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Lion and the Sun -- Christmas 1994

“Are you with me, Dan?”
Conte turned and looked at Scigliasi, who was looking at Conte with his head tilted to one side and a slight scowl on his face.
“I said, you need to read this.” He handed Conte a brown envelope. “Eyes only. Reseal it when you’re through, will you?” Scigliasi tossed Conte a roll of heavy paper tape, then walked over to a desk in the corner, sat, and started sorting through papers.
Conte tore open the envelope. There was another envelope in it marked with an If lost, return to stamp, with a name Conte didn’t recognize written on the line. He opened the inner envelope and took out a cable with a TOP SECRET//COMINT cover sheet. The document itself had other caveats and restrictions on distribution, including UMBRA -- the blackest part of the shadow, where absolutely no light penetrated. Conte rested his backside against the table and read.

Subject: Russian Agent Planned Defection
Summary: A Russian intelligence service agent, code name, Tetris, contacted a United States intelligence officer and stated a desire to defect to the U.S. Tetris is a known SVR officer with a long history of working some of Russia’s highest priority operations, including the recent joint operation with U.S. special forces to recover a Russian plutonium pit that found its way into terrorist hands in Iran. Bonafides provided check out. Tetris has placed certain demands on his defection, including specifying who will bring him into US hands. Tetris’s current situation is tenuous, as he is being pursued by the Russian FSB and has been unable to leave the country. The DCI requests immediate action to extract Tetris and acquire this high-value target.

Conte skimmed the rest of the document, looked over at Scigliasi. He was watching Conte now. Conte held up the document. “You’ve seen this?”
“Yeah,” he said dismissively. “No secret who it is, or who he wants to bring him in from the cold.”
Conte tossed the document on the table. “Shit.”
Scigliasi walked over and began repackaging the document.
“Oh, sorry.” Conte handed him back the tape.
“Look, Dan, I don’t think you’re in any shape to do this. I told Corbin Bishop that. He said that Bala… Tetris is a dead man if we don’t get him out now, and thinks that if you’re well enough to travel over here, you’re well enough to go the extra mile to pick up Tetris. But you know, you can just say no.”
“And then what?”
“They’ll find someone else that’s acceptable.”
“You think so?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think, but it doesn’t have to be your problem.”
Conte sat back down, raised his one good arm, and rubbed his forehead. Balakirev was counting on him to come and get him. He trusted Conte. And he’d made sure that Conte owed him. The tape had saved Conte’s ass. Then again, who set up Kaitlyn? He’d asked that question twice now and no one seemed to know.
Conte looked up at Scigliasi. “What’s the drill?”
Scigliasi walked back to the desk and picked up his briefcase. He put it on the table, entered the combination, and snapped the locks open. He took out an envelope and handed it to Conte. “Passport, identification papers, cover materials, itinerary, airline tickets, et cetera, et cetera. You’ve been through it all before.”
Conte fingered the envelope. Looked at Scigliasi and then down again.
Scigliasi shook his head. “You’re going to do it, aren’t you?” he asked, with a look of disbelief.
“I don’t know.” I don’t know.
Scigliasi sighed. “Well, you’ll need to read the plan here and give it back to me. The rest of the stuff you can take.”
Conte looked at the airline tickets. The flight left Vienna International the next day at 1117. He read the plan. It was a typical pickup operation. Dead drops, test runs, diversions, hand offs – tradecraft; the advanced course.

The Lion and the Sun, Published May 2013

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