Ch. 18, V-Trooper—First Mission

18

Russell opened the secure radio’s door again. As soon as he could activate the device, he called General McCaskill’s office.

“The General has left for the night,” the radio operator said.

“This is Major Vic Russell. Please bring the duty officer to the radio.”

The operator didn’t respond, but Vic heard a bumping around and distant, sleepy conversation.

“This is Major Kincaid. I’m the duty officer. What’ve you got?”

“I’m Major Russell. Are you briefed for project EGGSHELLS?”

“Shit! You’re the one General Mac told me about.”

“Kincaid, I’m going to ask you to authenticate, using the codebook the General sent me. If you can’t, you must go get him. We can’t screw around and lose time.”

The two officers went through the drill of spelling out alphanumerical sequences from the codebooks on both ends. The numbers and letters matched.

“Okay, Kincaid. Do you have the authority to direct a drone’s surveillance?”

“Within limits.”

“A drone associated with EGGSHELLS is currently monitoring voice transmissions from reconnaissance devices. These are bugs my trooper put in place tonight. I’d like for the aircraft to remain focused on the same coordinates but bring up the most sensitive radiation detection instruments in the inventory. Specifically focus on the courtyard of the compound. You should have live video of the location.” Vic said.

“Damn, Russell! Do you think there’s nuke material there?”

“I hope not, but we’d be stupid not to check, and I have good reason for suspicion.”

“Okay, I’ll tell the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) people to fire up the Geiger
counters.”

“Kincaid, you’d better tell General Mac what I’ve asked for and any results as soon as you get them. I’ve known the Boss for years. He’ll be expecting immediate reports. If the radiation detectors come up with anything, let me know ASAP.” Russell said.

“Roger, out.”

Vic followed suit, signing off and closed the door to the communications equipment without locking it. Flynn and Boyd had been sitting silently. As they listened, each new turn in conversation meant missions to be mounted.

“Major, if there’s nuke material in Dostrem’s compound, it’ll have to be heavily shielded to protect the people,” Flynn said.

“Yeah, I know, but if Wil sensed something so strongly, we’d be idiots to ignore the possibilities.

Boyd was still silent.

“Wil, go get some sleep. We may need you to go again as soon as it’s dark.”

“Major, I’m in pretty good shape. If Dostrem has a piece of a nuke, we shouldn’t take chances. We should take him down and grab the device, I’ll volunteer.” Boyd said.

Russell ached. His eyes, his neck and lower back radiated low-level discomfort.The stub of his leg itched and burned with the pain of a phantom limb.

“Thank you Wil. You may have to do just that.”

He stood, trying not to wince.

“Let’s all get a nap. I’m going to sleep on a cot, here in the office. General Mac will be on this as soon as he hears about my request.”

=========

Russell had barely closed his eyes when the radio chirped for his attention. He instantly checked his watch, 0710 He’d been asleep for about two hours. Not enough, but better than nothing.

“Major Russell.”

“Vic, McCaskill here. The duty officer sent along the request you made earlier. What alerted you?”

Think fast, the General won’t buy the truth. Not yet.

“Sir, my recon man saw three SUVs inside Dostrem’s walls. Despite guards on the gate and a roving watchman, there were extra guards inside one of the vehicles. The cargo was covered with a tarp, but filled most of the truck.”

Not quite true, but close enough to justify a closer investigation.

“Vic, the UAV went as low as possible in Dostrem’s neighborhood. On one pass, it got a positive radiation reading, low but real. When the pilots sent it back for another pass. There was nothing. Video feed shows the courtyard empty. One of the vehicles was carrying hot freight, but all of them have disappeared.”

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