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The Agency- Chapter 1
A brilliant, fiery Florida sunrise began to stream in through the venetian blinds of Room 201 in the San Marco hotel, creeping across the suite, and resting across the simple, modern furniture which dotted the room. The rays highlighted a small leather chair, with an open attaché sitting upon it. A small portion of its contents lay strewn across the arm of the chair, some official-looking papers fallen on the floor. A long, stately credenza sat adjacent to the chair, a bottle of Scotch and an empty glass placed upon it. The sun finally rose over the Atlantic Ocean, as the suite slowly filled with luminous sunlight. The waves of light splashed against a large oak bed, whose sheets had been kicked aside in the night, an act of protest against the heat of another humid Florida night. The low slung, wide bed held the figure of a man in his late-twenties, whose green eyes absorbed the gleaming rays, but gave off little more than a tired look. He remained restful for a time, and then slowly began to move as if attempting to extract every ounce of energy he retained. Throwing his legs off the side of the bed, he began to stand up, and proceeded, as if entranced, to walk over to the doors of his suite’s balcony, and lifted the blinds. Sunlight streamed down a large, clearly-defined scar on the right side of the man’s neck, and swarmed around his white t-shirt and blue jeans. Blinded by the intense light, he winced, and shielded his eyes from the harsh rays. Looking outside of his 2nd-story room onto the beach below, he saw San Marco Avenue, the frontage road between the beach and the hotel of the same name, clustered with cars, which stopped for beach-goers crossing the avenue on their sojourn to a day of enjoyment.
“Don’t get any ideas, Damian. There'll be no sun-bathing today,” a low voice called from across the room.
A shocked Damian Reid spun around, amazed he’d not seen the well-dressed man sitting across the room, in a chair identical to the one next to his bed. The man was an older gentleman, in his late-fifties, with a lean build and piercing eyes which, though green, seemed black to anyone who received their glare. The look of his face resembled that of Damian’s, and of almost everyone in The Agency- high cheek bones, a rounded, almost cleft chin, and cuts from more than mishaps with a Gillette. The man’s name was David Orson, the Specialized Assignments Commissioner for The Agency. His age deceived his skill; few in Damian’s line of work dared to so much as argue with the man. Damian was the exception.
Perhaps it was his past which gave him the edge he needed. For Damian, challenges had been a way of life for as long as he could remember. Growing up in Chicago, Damian had lived under the various roofs his single mother provided, at times moving between buildings every couple of months. He excelled in school, despite the adverse conditions he faces. Damian never really understood why; to him, reasoning and logic seemed to come naturally. So did an immense sense of pride and a desire to do better, which pushed him to enlist after high school. After only a few months in basic training, The Agency had noticed his determination and skill in his training. As Damian returned to his barracks one afternoon, Orson approached him in full military dress, the stripes of a First Sergeant emblazoned on his arms, and told Reid he’d been reassigned. Damian was ushered into a large black sedan, which took him to The Agency’s central headquarters and straight into a life of obscurity and espionage.
Now Orson sat directly across from Damian, taking a sip of the Scotch he had poured for him. He relaxed himself, resting the drink on the table beside him, and sighed.
“Ah… nectar of the gods,” he said, tipping the small glass towards Damian. “Definitely top shelf. Undoubtedly on our tab?”
“You can bet your life. You called me away from a relaxing Seattle vacation to some motel outside headquarters? That’s to cure the jet lag. Or a consolation prize. Whichever you prefer, Orson.”
Orson chuckled, and sat the glass down as a serious look reappeared. “Well, Reid, I can assure you there’s a plenty good reason.”
“I’d think so. I didn’t come down here to get a cat out of a tree.”
A grin stretched across Orson's face. “Indeed you didn’t. You came here for a new assignment. Or a vacation. Whichever you prefer, Reid. How’s Russia sound?”
“Less rain than Seattle.”
“More snow than the North Pole,” Damian shot back.
Orson grinned, and took another sip. “The only thing that’s ever changed about you is your skill. Your attitude hasn’t changed a bit, but it’s what makes you good. And what makes you the prime candidate for this task. It’s a matter of international relations.”
“And yet you still haven’t spit it out,” Damian replied, looking at the papers strewn around the attaché. “You can start by explaining these.”
“I don’t think there’s anything to explain, Damian. Way it looks, I’d guess you’ve been working hard to figure it out for yourself.”
“You’d guess right, Orson. What is all this? A book of basic Russian? Travel brochures for Moscow? Packets of information on Russian culture? Please tell me the Soviets are behaving themselves.”
“As far as we know. But we made a bit of a boo-boo. You’re no doubt familiar with the reconnaissance the United States is performing over the USSR?”
“I’ve been briefed slightly. Kennedy’s keeping things pretty low key. But I know just about everything there is to know through The Agency.”
“Are you familiar with the name Gary Powers? The U-2 Incident three years ago?”
“Everyone knows about that. Ike’s probably still blushing…”
“There’s a good bet he still is,” Orson interrupted, “Sure was embarrassing for Washington.”
“So, what? Are we looking at a recon mission gone wrong?”
“I’m afraid you’re right. You see, three weeks ago, one of our B-52s disappeared.”
Orson pulled a map from the pocket of his suit jacket. “We don’t know for sure. Our last radio contact confirms their location just outside of Irkutsk, and approximately 300 kilometers north of Mongolia,” he said, pointing to the map. “Their last few transmissions, sporadic and broken to say the least, report that they had hit a snowstorm while circling around Lake Baikal. The last one reported visibility at only a quarter of a mile. After that, the plane vanished.”
“So we’ve got a nine million dollar plane missing in Soviet territory, with full crew unaccounted for?”
“It gets better. Last week, a Lockheed P-80, prepared specifically for a search and rescue, left one of our bases in South Korea…”
“Equipped with a camera, no doubt?” Reid interrupted.
“In the nose,” Orson replied.
“Did the pilot find anything?”
“Found himself in the same predicament as the Stratofortress crew. The last transmissions stated the craft had been located just off of the lake and was surprisingly relatively intact. Evidently, our captain was an excellent one. But here’s where the real trouble starts. The Lockheed sent a short transmission stating it had encountered shots from an unknown origin. The last transmission consisted of a frantic pilot’s claim he’d been hit in his vertical stabilizer, and one of his fuel tanks had ruptured. Badly damaged and losing fuel, his jet was forced to land. We assume the aircraft is located just shy of the 52.”
“So lemme guess. Washington called and wants The Agency to perform something just shy of a miracle. Why not just send in one of the CIA’s U-2s, scout the area, and recover them the next chance we get? Why us?”
“Washington wants to send in a small team with big-brass resources. You seem to forget the lasting reparations from our little stint with the Soviets last November. Not to mention the
U-2 incident and the botched Bay of Pigs. The CIA’s not exactly in the position for another embarrassment right now. Washington’s promised full cooperation with Central Intelligence, so long as ours remains the only name on the roster.”
“So when the guillotine comes down, it’s our head in the lunette?”
“More-or-less. It’s a gamble, but one that could get us the added attention we need from Washington.”
“But why me? The Agency’s never assigned me to anything like this.”
Orson leaned over, picked up, and opened a folder that sat at the side of his chair. “It’s not just us, Damian. Central Intelligence wants you. They saw your dossier, Damian. 6’, 1”, 165 pounds, and a backbone that would intimidate the devil himself. I’ve been here thirty years, Reid. That’s three times as long as you. I’ve monitored your progress; even seen you become an officer. You’ve had time to hone your skills, and possess an aptitude for new challenges. It’s time for a new challenge, Damian. I only pray you don’t leave The Agency after this.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to level with you, Damian. They’re impressed. More than impressed. I’ve briefed you on all that I can. Heck, all that they let me know. But things have seeped through the cracks, as they do that when two agencies conspire together. They’ve made plans to have you transferred as soon as this settles, no doubt in exchange for the prestige our agency is after.”
“Leverage…” Damian muttered under his breath.
“And an excellent example of it. Regardless, you will be flown into Langley tonight, to meet with your contact in the morning. From there, you’ll be briefed on the specifics of your mission.” Orson stood up, folded up his map and Damian’s dossier, and proceeded to button his jacket. “I’ll leave you to prepare.”
“Goodbye, Orson. I’ll see you back at headquarters soon.”
Orson smiled. “Delray won’t know what hit it. Between now and then, if you need anything, we’ll be there.”
“Thanks,” Damian replied, nodding.
Orson walked over to the door, opened it slightly, peered out into the hallway, and, seeing it vacated, turned around.
“And Reid,” he said, “I don’t know if it’s anything substantial, but…”
“Make sure they brief you about the warheads onboard that 52.”