Ch. 16, V-Trooper—First Mission

16

“Well, I guess the mission of our supply and service battalion hasn’t yet attracted the attention of electronic snoopers. The technicians from the communications security unit didn’t find any bugs in your office. They’ll check your quarters, and mine, before the day’s out,” Flynn said.

The Sergeant Major had walked with Russell on the perimeter road that circled the camp. Both men were determined to stay in condition. When they returned to the headquarters they went to Vic’s office and sat, cooling off.

“That’s good news. How can we make sure we don’t have new bugs that get in during the night?” Russell said.

“The men who did the survey said there’s a gadget that sets up a blocking signal. Even if a bug is active, no one listening would get anything but static,” Flynn said.

“I’ll ask the general to have a couple of those sent to us. We have to be able to talk without worrying who’s listening.”

A clerk knocked on the frame of Russell’s open door.

“Sir, there are two sergeants here to see you. They say they’ve brought some radio equipment you ordered,” she said.

“Send them in, please.”

The two NCOs came in and introduced themselves.

“Sir, we have a radio to install in your office. General McCaskill’s orders,” the senior sergeant said.

“Please go ahead, the Sergeant Major and I will watch. We’ll need some instruction on how to use the equipment before you go,” Russell said

As the technicians were installing the equipment, Boyd came to the Major’s door.

“Sir, I got the word that you wanted to see me,” Boyd said.

“Yes. Let’s go into Sergeant Major Flynn’s office and talk before you go on duty. Russell had thought Boyd was calm and self-possessed when he first met him.

Today, the man sat cloaked in watchful stillness.

Whether he is truly a vampire, or not, he’s remarkable.

“Sergeant Boyd, I’m going to call you Wilson, if that’s okay,” Russell said.

“Major, just call me Wil. That’s the name everyone but my mother used when I was growing up.

“Okay, Wil, have you ever tried skydiving? I know you haven’t been through the Army’s paratrooper school, but many people do sport jumping. How about you?”

“Do I need to be able to skydive for a mission you have planned for me?”

“It may be necessary. I’ll tell you after I have a chance to talk to a general I know. I’m going to have him transfer you from the MPs directly to this command. You’ll report only to Sergeant Major Flynn and me.”

An almost-smile hovered over Boyd’s lips.

“What will Lieutenant Nichols have to say about my transfer?” Boyd Said.

“Nothing. He’ll have no input.”

He’ll be in jail, or on his way.

Russell’s statement sketched a flat, grim line across Boyd’s mouth. “When will I move, sir?”

“I’ll get things started today. First let me tell you about a mission I have in mind for you. You’ll go back to Dostrem’s compound.”

Flynn tapped on the door.

“Major, the technicians have installed the radio. They’ve shown me how to operate it and now they’d like to show it to you.”

“Sergeant Major, please talk to Sergeant Boyd about the proposed mission. Remember, the information is only a proposed plan, but it is classified Top Secret. We’ll talk about the details later.”

In his office, Russell inspected the equipment General McCaskill had sent. It was housed in an olive-drab metal case built like a safe, with keypad for the cipher lock. It looked unremarkable to one who was accustomed to Army radios, except for the heavy steel casing. The technicians explained the radio’s operation and ended the instruction with welcome information.

“Sir, on the general’s orders, we’ve also installed a system that will alarm if someone activates a bug within twenty-five feet and will set up an interference field so that no one can electronically monitor your office. You’ll need to have someone change the code card every day, but your conversations are secure in this office.”

“That’s terrific news, I’d hoped to have that capability.”

The radio specialists gave Russell an envelope with code cards for the remainder of the month and were about to leave. The senior sergeant stopped.

“Major, General McCaskill’s secure contact information is included in the package I gave you. He directed us to tell you to contact him, in his office, as soon as your system is operational. That would be now, sir.”

As soon as he was alone, Vic called McCaskill and checked in.

“Sir, I think I have a plan for you.”

The General was silent for several heartbeats.

“Vic, I knew you’d come up with something. Tell me about it.” After Russell outlined his proposal, there was a longer silence.

“What are the chances of success? You’re putting a massive burden on a man who’s never been in combat, much less covert operations.”

“Sir, he’s an unusual man with unique abilities. I’ll let you know more about our percentages tomorrow. With your approval, I’ll have him put bugs in Dostrem’s compound tomorrow night. It may be better to let the smuggler live, at least until we can stop what he’s doing. Can you send me the equipment?”

“The equipment will be there by noon, tomorrow. I’ll include low-light camera gear he can use if appropriate. I’m going to have a surveillance drone loitering nearby. As soon as the bugs are in place, we’ll start listening. Call me when you get the devices. We’ll discuss any details. Call this thing EGGSHELLS. If you can’t reach me directly, use that codename. When I hear it, I’ll get back to you ASAP.”

After signing off, Russell set a combination and locked the door to the radio’s safe. McCaskill had bought into the plan with little hesitation. He was a man who was aggressive but careful.

The stakes of this mission had him a little edgy. It had to work.

The General was right, but had anyone in history ever depended on a vampire for saving lives?

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