This is my first post towards my promise. “Ghosts and Shadows” is a thrilling short story full of espionage, secrecy, and action that will hopefully keep you at the edge of your seat, wanting more at the end of each part released. Feedback is appreciated, but not necessary.
“Ghosts and Shadows” – (Part I)
Downtown Berlin, Germany - 0900 Hrs. 20th of June 2017
There are only two ways out of secret warfare: killed in action as a shadow or missing in action as a ghost. Work for the enemy, or a familiar enemy. Either way, you are dead the second you sign up on whichever side. The only difference is what your file reads. And for those in this line of work, there will always be a war between ghosts and shadows. Evil versus lesser evil. Might as well work for the evil you know, right?
My grandfather always told me, “Is there something you can do about it? No? Then don’t worry, it’s out of your power… Yes? Okay, then don’t worry. Do what you must to fix it.” And I took this to heart throughout my life, and it worked wonders on my anxiety. After I graduated MIT second in my class in cyber communications and reprogramming, someone from the military, a Marine, approached me with an opportunity to “do good,” he said. I am not one to fire a gun, but if there was any chance for me to save a life behind a computer screen, then sign me up!
My name is Jack Morrison and the CIA gave me the codename “Shepard,” probably so if I were ever captured the bad guys could not track down my family and have their faces show up on CNN before a beheading. When I was newly recruited, I was sent to aid in a sensitive mission to stop someone from building a piece of software that could hack into any system and rewrite it to whatever the user wished. Controlling everything electrical in the world is something that some people at the Pentagon do not like.
On my flight to Europe, sleep was going to be an old friend I knew I had to say good-bye to once I landed, so I caught my last full-night’s sleep for a while the entire way. I walked into an Spec Ops room on the third floor of a CIA Black Site in northern Germany and it was full of faces I have never seen before except for two, the only two men standing.
One was squad leader of Echo-9 aka “Shadow Brokers,” a somewhat newly formed unit made up of leftover operatives from other teams that have accomplished several successful missions that did not exist. A man dressed with fatigue pants and a button-up shirt waved me in. His name was unknown, like most in the agency, but his codename was “Skip.” Presumably because he was at the time or at some point the rank of a Naval Captain. He was not the tallest, nor the biggest, but the way he held himself demanded your respect and attention. I was given limited access to everyone’s records on my way to the Black Site and read every little detail, even the whispers covered in black tape the CIA hid behind specially encrypted firewalls.
The other man I knew was Andrew Baker. He was the Sargent from the Marines that showed up to my classroom—mid lecture—and asked me why I was second in my class. Well, the professor could not properly read my algorithm that could backdoor itself into a program and rewrite any security measures of the program and trick it into thinking all of the lights were shutting down, although more lights were to come on instead. I called it the “Blind Switch.” He laughed and said himself that what I created “was over everyone’s head at the campus, and quite possibly the world.” Let’s just say the offended looks of condescending minds in the room required us to leave then and there. Baker was reassigned back home for “Special Teams,” he called it. He is who recommended me to replace the fallen comrade the Team lost a week prior to this mission. This is the first time the team has been mobilized since the funeral. The room was silent and cold the moment the door shut behind me as I walked to the meeting table.
“Hey, Skip, why do we always get stuck with the fresh meat to try and replace heroes?” said a man with the codename “Goblin.” Slender, lean, and always has a calculating look on his face. Probably coming up with his next smartass remark. Goblin’s file read that he was dishonorably discharged from the Green Berets’ Special Operations Sniper Team for insubordination and assaulting a superior officer. Although there were conflicting reports from his former squad members that their Sargent gave up Goblin and his spotter’s (best friend) position to the enemy to draw heavy fire away from the target in a rescue mission 3 years ago in east Africa. After they returned to base, the target was unharmed, however Gob’s spotter was not so lucky. He took a bullet to the head warning Goblin they were being ambushed. But of course, Command rewrote the reports and covered their asses.
Skip smirked and said, “Easy, Gob. He’s our new tech man.”
“Great. Someone from IT will be getting us killed this time,” Goblin sarcastically said.
The room began to chuckle a little among themselves. Skip cleared his throat that ended the slaughter, out of respect for the older man, but at the same time, everyone knew if they spoke out of turn right now, a glare from the man alone would haunt you in your sleep. Everyone crowded around a large table in the far end of the room. Field tablets and paper maps covered every inch of the table. I sat my bag on the ground at my feet as I stood next everyone else after Baker gestured me to be closer, because all of the chairs were taken.
“Okay, boys, here we go,” Baker said as he used his data pad to bring up a 3D map on the bigger one laying on the table. The CIA always had the best in experimental gear; a playground for the kid inside me to thrive. “At 1700 hours last night, a high-jacked bus crashed into the side of a Swiss bank. Three men got in and out easily with an NSA Black Box containing a highly classified hard drive. The hard drive’s GPS singled a moderate stop in Switzerland in-transit back to the states. The robbery was all done under five minutes. They got in and out, nothing on forensics.”
Skip chimed in quickly, “There were no traces forensically because whomever did this covered their tracks very carefully.” An image of a destroyed building laying in ruin projected a foot above the table. Sheets of light danced above the table with many colors to form an HD image without any loss of resolution. “The bus was loaded with an untraceable explosive that we’ve never seen before that leveled everything to a cinder—professionals. However, a CCTV camera picked up a spotty image of a license plate number on the getaway car. It’s hardly something, but it’s all we have as a lead.”
The largest man in the room slightly raised an open hand. “Any idea what was on that hard drive, so we know what we’re looking for, Skip?” Cookie, as the team called him, was a nickname to his codename, Cook. A bit of irony, given that he’s 6’6 and 290 lbs. and a hard-stocked Navy SEAL. His composure was well crafted, but anyone can see there was a caged monster inside. Cookie’s file did not have anything other than the normal SEAL Teams stuff—covert Ops, backwater missions, lots of medals. Good man. I would want him watching my back if the lights went out and everything hit the fan.
“No,” replied Baker as he pointed to Cookie, “not as of yet. We will be updated as the mission goes on and someone appointed will give further instructions once we locate the hard drive.”
“Figures. Leave it to the pinheads upstairs to tell us how to do our job—” Goblin was interrupted before he could expel that breath to finish his smart-aleck remark.
A man codenamed “Moose” sitting next to Gob hit him in the side, silencing him, and said, “Quit your bitching, Gob. We’ll get the job done, anyways. Like we always do. And when we get back, you can file a complaint with CIA’s HR.” Moose was highly trained in close quarters combat (CQC) and specialized with knives and shotguns. Quick reflexes and precise brutality were some words you could use to describe how he keeps his friends going home to their families alive, instead of in coffins. Moose always knew how to pack a punch, being the second largest of the group. Once during training, Skip said Moose hits harder than Cookie.
“Listen up,” Skip said in a stern voice. “The license plate takes us to a little shack in the countryside of northern France. We need two undercover as deliverymen asking for a fake address—Moose and Sheppard—two on sniper support—Goblin and Cookie—while Baker and I monitor from a drone flying overhead.”
“Questions?” asked Baker, as if there were ever going to be any doubt with this team.