The Hades Connection
by Gabriel S. Timar
part 2 of 2
“Thanks, ensign,” I said and switched on the communicator to the White House: “Mr. President, please order the commander of your team not to attack the complex under any circumstances.”
“History is repeating itself,” I replied. “The events unfolding here and now took place on my world. Even the names are identical. Therefore, I know the terrorists are well armed, have ground-to-air missiles and are expecting an attack. Tell General Graham that I will personally shoot him if he attacks the Pointe complex.”
“How did you know that General Graham is in charge?” Holdsworth queried.
“In my world he led the attack on the hotel,” I replied. “Seriously, Mr. President, I understand you will send another Ranger battalion, and General Graham will be in overall command. Please, do not let him attack until I tell him to do so.”
“Are you planning to take over the hostage negotiations?” he asked.
“Damn right I am,” I said. “I told you I know what transpired at the Pointe on our world. It may happen here the same way or it may not. Therefore, I would like to take command of this operation. “
“I understand you, Captain, believe me I do,” Holdsworth stated sadly. “You should be in charge. Can you tell me more?”
“I would be happy to do so, sir,” I replied, “but I just discovered this historical connection between our planets a minute ago. If I am right, we don’t have much time. Please tell General Graham I will manage the crisis. With one of my officers, I shall go to his headquarters shortly.”
“Done,” replied Holdsworth. “Please remember, Captain that generally I advocate negotiations and rarely endorse the use of force.”
“I understand, Mr. President,” I stated flatly and hung up. I turned to Ensign Garfield: “Now we shall put on our dress uniforms; Mr. Fedorov will deliver us to the Rangers’ field headquarters.”
“That should be just across the road from the Pointe between a dry gorge and a Mexican Restaurant,” she replied.
“Tell me, ensign,” I started, “how come you know so much about the Phoenix massacre?”
“I majored in history,” she replied. “My thesis was the background to the outbreak of the war. As you may know, hostilities started with the Phoenix massacre. During the nuclear attacks, Kuo’s rockets destroyed Phoenix and the Pointe. I had to reconstruct the events using contemporary photographs, news reports, postcards, and other material I could lay my hands on. It wasn’t easy, sir.”
“You don’t know how useful this is, ensign,” I sighed.
The Ranger battalion’s field headquarters were located exactly at the spot suggested by Garfield. I ordered Fedorov to land the “Baby” in full view of the Rangers. I marched out of the ship with Garfield. We were wearing our dress uniforms complete with battle ribbons and decorations.
General Graham reported to me like a proper soldier. He did not question anything, but I saw on his face that his mind was full of questions. We shook hands. I suggested retiring to his operations’ center to discuss the next step. Holdsworth had told him that the “Baby” was an experimental aircraft, and I was an officer of a secret international military organization.
The general was not very happy about the fact that the President had placed him and his troops under the command of a foreigner. He also resented the fact that I was supposed to be a Kraut. He let me know his feelings and suggested attacking the complex before the terrorists had a chance to consolidate their defensive perimeter. When I nixed his suggestion, he withdrew into his shell, did not communicate, and just followed my orders to the letter.
Meanwhile, I got all the background information on Desan from Garfield. He was a Somali mercenary leader with all members of his team coming from the same town: Burao. Their families still lived there; they had their training ground in the desert in the vicinity of the town.
Although Garfield told me the whole story, I could not understand why the terrorists had killed all their hostages and why they were ready to accept the same fate. Mercenaries are never suicidal.
Garfield explained that the objective of the raid was to kidnap two members of the Canadian team. Allegedly, these people had invented a very special weapon. Desan was suppose to deliver them to a supersonic transport waiting at the airport.
General Kuo, the Minister of Defense of the People’s Republic of China, had hired the mercenaries, because he wanted the invention for the use of his own military. According to Garfield, it would have given him great superiority in weapons.
After the failed attack, General Graham made a deal with the terrorists. He told them that they were free to go, and they could take the two Canadians with them. However, he decided to double-cross them. Desan’s team was cornered; they had to fight it out with the Rangers. In the process, they blew up the main building of the Pointe, killing all the other hostages. The targets of the raid, the two Canadians, also perished in the fight.
Following the massacre, the Rangers killed all the terrorists except Desan. They captured him alive and took him to the Phoenix city jail. He did not spend more than a couple of hours there because Holdsworth feared other acts of terrorism, gave him a full presidential pardon, and shipped him back to Somalia.
However, as a condition of his pardon Desan had a half-hour telephone conversation with the President. Obviously, he gave Holdsworth all the information he had about his client. He did not realize that by talking to the Americans he was signing his own death warrant. Desan died in a car accident upon leaving Mogadishu Airport.
I called Desan. He immediately replied.
He was intelligent, well-spoken, blunt, organized; he obviously knew exactly what he wanted. He demanded safe conduct out of the country with three of his hostages, or he was going to kill all fifty of them; and for good measure, he said he would massacre the hotel staff as well.
Desan explained that he did not want to waste time with negotiating and he was not giving us any hostages to show good faith. He bluntly told me that I had one hour to come up with his safe conduct, or he would start shooting hostages. He said all that in one breath.
I listened and did not interrupt him. When he finished his monologue with the usual “Do you understand me?” I replied simply, “I don’t” and waited for his reaction.
Nothing happened. He was not prepared for that.
“Look, Mr. Desan,” I countered, “we are both professionals and we don’t want to waste our time with unnecessary formalities of routine hostage negotiations. By the rules I would now have to attempt to gain your trust. We both know it’s plain, old-fashioned crap. If you carry out your mission, you and your team will die, together with the hostages.”
Desan was still on the line; I heard his heavy breathing.
“The Americans are not likely to let you go with your hostages. Your chance of fighting your way out of the hotel is slim. Should you succeed, your problems would be only beginning.
“Arriving in China and delivering the hostages will not end your contractual relations with Kuo. If you take the wrong people, General Kuo will have you killed on the spot. Arriving with the right captives will not assure prompt payment either. I would not put it past Kuo to have you killed anyway, since he would not have to pay a dead man. If the Americans play the high and the mighty and don’t let you take your captives, you would kill a number of people and die for nothing. Why don’t we talk about our options like a couple of sensible people?”
There was silence on the other end of the line. He did not hang up; that was a good sign.
“Okay,” I continued pushing my luck, “I have an hour to get your safe conduct. I have no intention of renegotiating the deadline or handing you a lot of crap about the President not being available or anything like that. This is your timetable.
“If I can get your safe conduct, you will leave. If I cannot, you may as well get ready to die. However, before we finalize our deal, I’m going to explore a few other avenues and would like to talk to you in twenty minutes.”
“Fine,” came the guttural reply. “Call me. You have my number,” and he hung up.
That was exactly the reaction I expected of him.
I let the President know that if I could not dissuade Desan, I was going to grant him the safe passage out of the country and let him take whomever he wanted. Holdsworth was not pleased with my decision, but he knew it was the best deal we could get.
I instructed Garfield to invade the cable television system satellite and get us a channel. Meanwhile Fedorov set up a scanner to give us a bird’s eye view of the town of Burao. I also established telephone contact with the mayor and patched him in on my line to Desan. Only twenty minutes had passed when I dialed Desan’s number.
“Yeah,” came the reply.
“Okay, Mr. Desan,” I started, “please switch on your TV set and tune it to channel sixty-one.”
Desan said something in Somali; there was momentary silence on the line.
“Yeah,” he came back. “I can see an aerial photograph of Burao. So what?”
“Can you identify the mayor’s house?” I said.
“Yes. So what?”
“Now, Mr. Desan, the mayor is listening in on this line,” I explained. “Tell him what you want done to convince you that you are really seeing a live aerial view of Burao.”
“Okay,” he said in a suspicious tone and begun to talk in Somali again. The mayor answered him and in a few minutes, certain lights started to flash on the TV screen.
“Mr. Desan,” I interrupted, “are you satisfied?”
“Yes, I am,” he replied.
By this time, I had the image fixed on the monitor of my wristwatch and had it projected on a screen in the operations room.
“Thank you, Mr. Desan,” I said in a cold tone. “Can you see the small gray building on the lower left side of your monitor?”
“Yeah,” he grunted. I felt the suspicion creeping into his voice. “That is a pumping station built by the Chinese Aid Organization many years ago.”
I cupped the mouthpiece and ordered Fedorov to wipe out the building with a laser shot. The result was spectacular.
“What was that?” Desan asked nervously.
“My secret weapon,” I replied calmly. “In five minutes I will start systematically wiping the community off the face of the Earth unless you surrender unconditionally.”
“I’ll start shooting my hostages,” he said with resignation in his voice.
“Go ahead,” I replied. “You have fifty of mine, and I have twenty-five thousand of yours. Is it worth it? Besides, I guarantee your safe passage home provided you agree not to accept any more mercenary contracts against us.”
There was a moment of silence on the line.
“Okay, Ali Ahmed,” I kept pressing, “tell me what will it be. Do we start shooting?”
Suddenly Desan’s voice filled the room: “Okay, you win, I surrender. “
“Thank you, Mr. Desan,” I said. “Please discuss the manner of your surrender with the commander of the Rangers, General Graham. I will order him to observe all military courtesies due to prisoners of war. Then we will meet and sign the contract. After that, you and your men will be free to go. If you wish, we can even fly you to Burao directly. Your services will be needed there to rebuild the pumping station.”
To be continued...
Copyright © 2004 by Gabriel S. Timar