PART I – Two Broken Arrows
Tacoma, Washington/Crystal City, VA
“Toss me another cold one,” instructed the Jackal.
The Omega Group members lounged around the pool at Terrance’s house as they enjoyed a rare day off. It was a hot day in Tacoma. The perfect day to do nothing but soak in some rays. Although they would never admit it the six men needed a release, an escape from the constant action.
Troy popped off the top and lobbed the glass bottle into the air. It was a slow motion throw that would have made the beer companies salivate. The Jackal glanced up and extended his arm over the clear water and caught the bottle by the neck without spilling a drop into the pool.
“Nice snag,” acknowledged Troy.
The Jackal looked at the bottle behind his mirrored, oversized, sunglasses and a smile formed on the corner of his lips. “A Corona! Thanks Cap! I figured you would toss one of those nasty imported beers you drink.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Troy, “What’s wrong with my Hefeweizen?”
“Nothing. But I ain’t German.”
“Dude, your drinking Coronas and you ain’t Mexican,” replied Troy as he shook his head.
“I am,” interjected Jesús from the side of the pool in a lounging chair as he raised his hand high and smiled broadly.
“You don’t count,” answered the Jackal.
“Why not?” asked Jesús with a perplexed look upon his face.
“Because you don’t drink, and all Hispanics drink,” replied the Jackal.
“Dude! That’s not right,” said Jesús.
“But it’s the truth,” said the Jackal as he raised the bottle to his lips and chugged half it down.
“Cap!” yelled Jesús as he looked towards his boss.
Troy shook his head, “Next mission if a negligent discharge occurs in the Jackal’s general direction, I got your back Jesús.”
The Jackal laughed, “You can’t hurt steel fellas.”
“Are the burgers and dogs done yet Sarge?” interrupted Digger.
“Keep your panties on,” answered Terrance, “I’m working on them. You know it’s my day off right?”
“It’s all of our days off,” said Harry who sat at the patio table under the umbrella.
“The sun won’t hurt you,” said Troy as he looked at Harry. “Try coming out from under that shade.”
“Cap, we spend most our days under the blazing hot desert sun. I’ll be damned if I spend one of my few days of R&R baking in it while home.”
“Man,” said Terrance, “I can’t remember the last time we sat around my pool and shot the shi…”
He never finished the last word. All around the pool area the six cell phones lying in various spots made a simultaneous, obnoxious alarm sound.
“Dammit!” yelled the Jackal in an irritated tone as he took another long chug from his Corona which drained it. “There goes our day off,” he said as he tossed the empty bottle into the grass next to the pool.
“I’ll call him,” replied Troy, “Maybe it’s a false alarm.”
“It’s never just a false alarm,” replied Jesús.
Troy dialed the Colonel’s number. The rest of the men could only hear one side of the conversation.
“Yes sir, we’re all here.”
“How long do we have,” followed by Troy looking at his watch.
“We can be there in ninety minutes.”
“Yes Colonel, we understand.”
“You’re right. The men are about to be pissed at you sir and for good reason since some pre-lunch buzzes are all for naught.”
Troy hung up the phone, the five men around the pool looked at him, their faces downtrodden.
“So?” asked Terrance. “What’s the emergency?”
“He didn’t say but we need to be on base in ninety minutes which means we better get a move on it. That’s just enough time to get quick showers at our places and grab our go bags,” replied Troy.
“Destination?” questioned Digger.
“Crystal City, VA. It’s a neighborhood in Arlington.”
“Northern Virginia? What the hell is there besides a bunch of bureaucrats and yuppies?” asked the Jackal
“And what’s in Crystal City?” asked Digger.
“A meeting,” replied Troy, “One we’re required to attend.”
The Gulfstream G450 touched down at Ronald Reagan National Airport at 5PM EST.
After he thanked the pilots, the Colonel stepped off the air stairs and walked toward the waiting black Suburban parked to the side of the tarmac. The rest of the Omega Group followed. A man in a dark suit with a coiled, cream colored earpiece stood next to the vehicle and awaited their arrival.
“I can get used to these private jets,” remarked Digger as he walked behind Troy.
Troy turned his head slightly, “Don’t. The Colonel only saves the best for special occasions.”
“More times than not that means we’re about to be pulled into a hell of a mess,” interrupted Sarge.
“Bingo,” replied Troy “We’re only one private jet away from a pine box and folded flag fellas!”
The Colonel heard the banter and turned around, “Like I told you guys already I don’t know dick about what they want from us.”
“Come now boss,” replied Harry. “They always give you the skinny, you’re the man after all.”
“Not this time, I’m in the dark. Told you everything I know.”
“Guess we’ll find out soon enough,” replied Troy as they climbed into the Suburban.
The drive was short, real short. Less than five minutes after it departed the airport the vehicle turned off S Eads Street and pulled into an underground parking garage beneath a ten story building. As the team stepped out of the Suburban Troy thought it curious that the vast subterranean garage was for the most part empty. The few other vehicles parked in the spaces were similar to the one that had ushered them from the airport. It had the markings of a government convention which didn’t always work in the teams favor.
They followed the driver who led them to the elevator which ascended one floor to the main lobby. Inside the lobby an older woman with streaky black and gray hair and a yellow sun dress looked up from behind the marble reception desk. She nodded and motioned with her right hand to the Colonel. Behind her stood three armed guards. Men that looked like they could handle themselves, not your run of the mill rent-a-cop security guards.
“Take the elevator to the sixth floor Colonel Marshall,” she said, “They’re expecting you and your team.”
“Yes ma’am,” he replied still not knowing who the hell he would find on the sixth floor.
Troy looked around the empty lobby. No businesspeople were visible which seemed odd considering the time of day. It was quiet, too quiet. His eyes caught sight of the building directory posted just to the left of where the receptionist sat. It only had one name on it in gold letters and read: Computerized Informational Applications, Inc. The name bounced around Troy’s head for a few seconds before it clicked, Computerized Informational Applications, the CIA. They were meeting with the spooks. That figures, he thought as they approached the banks for elevators, No wonder all the secrecy.
As they stepped into the elevator, the driver who had led them to that point stayed behind. He nodded to the Colonel as the door closed. The men noticed there was only one button to push on the silver control panel, the one for the sixth floor.
When the elevator doors opened, they stepped out into a spacious room. The walls appeared to be painted taupe and overhead several fluorescent lights cast too little light into the dim room. A single solid steel door the only thing on the wall opposite the elevator. No windows just security cameras in every corner pointed towards the elevator doors where the seven men now stood. Two men in full tactical gear, carrying MP5’s stood on either side of the room.
A man in a black suit with a red tie approached; a hand-held wand in his left hand.
“We’re armed,” said the Colonel who, as usual, did all the talking and tapped his right hip as he spoke.
“Not what I’m checking for sir,” the man replied in a measured tone. As he worked from right to left the man in the suit went over each of them from the top of their heads to their toes. Ninety seconds later after he finished with Harry he spoke out loud, “All clear.”
With that a metallic buzz and click came from the locking mechanism as it disengaged and the steel door swung inward. The man gestured toward the opening, “That way gentlemen,” he said, “The room is at the end of the hallway.”
Beyond the door was a long, narrow hallway that led to a single door at the far end. The door opened when they approached.
Troy had a surprised look on his face as they stepped into the conference room. In an instant he recognized all the people who sat around the large mahogany table. The room was large with redwood panels on the walls and a crimson red carpet on the floor. The table had fifteen plush leather chairs with seven chairs on either side and one at the head of the table.
“Thank you for traveling all the way here, gentlemen.”
“No problem sir,” said the Colonel as he approached the Secretary of Defense (SecDef) and shook his hand.
“Good to see you William.”
“You as well sir, it’s been a little while.”
“Yes it has. We’ve kept you and your men overseas a lot recently.”
“You have, and there aren’t any complaints on our end.”
“Please, take a seat please,” said the SecDef as he gestured with his hand towards the plush leather chairs.
The seven seats on the left side of the table were empty. Colonel Marshall took the seat closest to the head of the table where the SecDef sat. The Omega Group took a seat in order of rank: Colonel William Marshall, Captain Troy Evans, Master Sergeant Terrance Wallace, Sergeant First Class (SFC) Dave “Digger” Riley, SFC Jesús Soto, SFC J.C. “the Jackal” Kyle, and SFC Harry Collins.
Troy looked across the table at the six people on the other side, the seventh seat was empty. On the right side of the table closest to the SecDef sat: the Secretary of State (SecState), the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff (US DOD), the National Security Advisor (NSC), the Attorney General (AG), and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCI).
“I guess introductions would be helpful,” said the SecDef as he went around the table and pointed out who was who.
The Jackal nudged Jesús who sat to his left and in a quiet voice asked, “What the President couldn’t make it?”
With a slight smile the SecDef, who had great hearing, replied, “The President wished he could be here, but he is in Australia for the G20 summit right now.”
“Don’t mind him,” said the Colonel as he glared at the Jackal with a fierce gaze. “His lips move faster than his brain.”
“Nonsense,” answered the SecDef, “We value not just your abilities but also your voices. Please speak up anytime this meeting is an open forum.”
“Now may be a good time to explain why you brought us here? Why aren’t we meeting in the Pentagon or Langley?” asked the Colonel. “This facility is impressive, but I expect it’s not used for official gatherings.”
“Good questions, and an astute observation. The short version is this building is utilized by the Agency for classified meetings that require absolute discretion. This building is state of the art and affords us the assurances that everything we discuss in this conference room today is known by only those in attendance.”
“I understand,” said the Colonel.
The SecDef shook his head. “Before we get into why I brought you here I need all of you to sign these Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).” With that the SecDef handed one page documents and pens to the seven men to his right.
The Colonel looked over the document before he raised his pen. “My men have top secret clearance Mr. Secretary and we are up to date on our standard Non-Disclosure forms.”
“These NDA’s aren’t standard, what we discuss today has its own set of rules. Only a handful of people in the government even know what I’m about to tell you. So I need you and your men to sign these documents before I can continue. But please by all means read it before you sign.”
“Signing away our soul?” asked the Colonel in a rhetorical tone.
“Long past that aren’t we William!” exclaimed the SecDef.
After he finished reading every word the Colonel nodded, “Ok, all signed. After all, none of us want to spend the rest of our lives at USDB.”
“Leavenworth!” exclaimed SecDef with an audible snicker, “No, what I’m about to share is far more serious than a trip to Leavenworth if someone runs their mouth. Leaking this would get that person a one-way ticket to The Hole.”
The Hole was considered a myth or legend by most people that heard rumors of its existence. Little did they know it was an all too real and dangerous place. In fact, it was a black prison site not listed on any government document or database. Built in absolute secrecy in a third world nation and maintained by an autonomous entity. People sent to the Hole disappeared, never to be seen again. After a while they became only a distant memory that faded as time passed by.
“We got it,” said the Colonel as all six men signed the documents and passed them forward, “So what’s our mission?”
The SecDef looked down as he appeared to have a heavy weight troubling his countenance. As his head rose, he looked at the Colonel. His eyes piercing, his tone somber, “We have two broken arrows that require our immediate attention.”
The expression on Colonel Marshall face said it all. It wasn’t what he expected. A moment passed before he composed himself. “Where?” he asked.
“Hmm,” said the SecDef as he considered his words, “That’s why your team’s here. To find them. Where they were, I can reveal but their current location is unknown.”
“Lost or stolen?”
“It’s complicated,” replied the SecDef. “There’s a bit of history intertwined in the incident.”
“The abridged version will do sir,” said the Colonel.
SecDef paused, cleared his throat before saying, “DOD called it Project Nebuchadnezzar and the short version is Saddam Hussein was obsessed with King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian King…”
Before the SecDef said anything else, the conference room door opened and in walked a gorgeous woman. All heads turned towards her as she approached the table with a confident stride. Only one chair remained empty, and that was the one at the end of the table next to the CIA Director.
“Sorry I’m late Mr. Secretary,” said the woman with chestnut colored hair and green eyes as she took a seat. “Traffic sucks in this hell hole you call our nation’s Capital!” She wore a modest pair of blue pants, a white blouse with her hair pulled back into a pony tail. Her body toned yet her curves pronounced. She had the figure of a model, and not the waif kind.
“No problem,” replied the SecDef, “I just started to discuss Project Nebuchadnezzar.”
“Wouldn’t want to miss that,” said the woman whose voice, although feminine, had a slight rasp to it which made her sound even sexier than she looked. “Please continue Mr. Secretary, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
As the SecDef spoke the Jackal leaned towards Harry who sat to his right, “This meeting just got a lot more interesting,” he whispered. “And hotter!”
Harry was speechless, he could only nod in reply.
Troy took notice of her while he tried not to stare, but it was hard. Just like his men he glanced over at the woman numerous times as the Secretary continued to speak.
“As I was saying,” continued the SecDef who had failed to introduce the woman. “Saddam Hussein essentially claimed he was the reincarnation of King Nebuchadnezzar II, ancient King of Babylon.” He looked at the Omega Group members at that point, “Did your team visit the ancient city of Babylon during any of your deployments to Iraq?”
“We’ve been there,” answered Troy, whose eyes wandered toward the woman with chestnut hair once more. Her lips formed a subtle smile, and she winked as they made eye contact, What the hell? thought Troy. Does she know me from somewhere?
“Did you notice the inscription Saddam demanded be etched into the bricks?” asked SecDef.
Troy looked back at the SecDef, “Yes, it read To King Nebuchadnezzar in the reign of Saddam Hussein, protector of Iraq, who rebuilt civilization and rebuilt Babylon. We’re aware that he fancied himself like Nebuchadnezzar. The man had an ego bigger than an elephant’s ass! I was fortunate enough to be in the room and watch him drop and swing in 06. Let’s just say, it made my day to watch his body twitch after it was done.”
“I’m sure it did,” acknowledged the SecDef.
“So the DOD Project Nebuchadnezzar has something to do with Saddam, or did I should say?” asked the Colonel.
“But Saddam’s dead,” interrupted Terrance.
“He is,” confirmed the SecDef, “And to understand your mission I need you to know what took place during the Iran-Iraq War,” he paused for a moment. “Troy I’ve been told you’re a history buff.”
“I am Mr. Secretary,” replied Troy.
“Do you know when the war took place?”
Troy thought before replying, “Early 80’s till late 80’s sir.”
“Correct, in 1980 Saddam invaded Iran and made a land grab. It caught the Iranians by surprise, but he didn’t make the progress he expected. By 1982 Iran had regained most the land Iraq had seized, and they were on the offensive. It was a brutal war and accomplished nothing. The war ended in 1988 but not until hundreds of thousands on both sides died and chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi military.”
“Didn’t we supply them with some of those chemical weapons?” asked Digger.
The SecDef shook his head, “Officially no, but everyone in this room knows that to be false. Sure we did. Saddam was our ally, and we needed to do whatever was necessary to prop him up and maintain stability in the region. However, what we need to discuss is more serious than that. Project Nebuchadnezzar happened in 1985, and the after-effects are why we meet today.”
He paused and looked around the room certain he had everyone’s undivided attention.
The SecDef continued, “In late 1984 the Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) approached our government; he was sent by Saddam and met with Donald Rumsfeld who Reagan had named as his special envoy to the Middle East. The RCC Chairman presented Rumsfeld indisputable proof that Iran secured a nuclear weapon. The evidence beyond any doubt.”
“Where did Iran get a nuke?” questioned Troy.
“I can’t reveal that,” replied the SecDef.
“Well that’s a really big deal and something I have never been told. Why did the Iraqi’s come to us with this intel?” asked the Colonel.
“Because the RCC and Saddam in particular felt certain Iran would use the weapon on them in retaliation for Iraq using chemical weapons on the Iranian people.”
“Couldn’t blame them,” replied the Colonel. “And what did we do with the intel? What did he want?”
The SecDef looked down for a moment before he glanced at the Colonel. His face almost looked ashamed. “Saddam wanted a nuke of his own.”
“And we didn’t give him one?” questioned the Colonel. He could see it in the SecDef’s eyes before he added, “Did we?”
“No, we gave him two!”
“What the hell was Reagan thinking?” demanded the Colonel in an irate tone noticed by everyone.
“It’s complicated, there’s more to the story than time allows, but safeguards were put in place.”
“Jesus! What safeguards would work if you gave a madman possession of two nuclear weapons?”
“We agreed to build a secure bunker outside Dukan Lake to house the two nukes and had constant eyes on the facility. Nothing went in or out without us knowing.”
“And we had staff on site as well?”
“No, Saddam wouldn’t allow us to keep any personnel inside the complex, but we demanded that yearly inspections be performed, and he acquiesced.”
“How kind of him,” answered the Colonel in a derogatory tone.
“A lot of good those inspections did during the 90’s and their nuclear facilities!” interjected the Jackal.
Ignoring both comments, the SecDef replied, “We placed a device inside each of the two weapons.”
“What kind of devise?” asked the Colonel.
“One that allowed the weapons to be armed, and only we had the codes.”
“So we gave Saddam two nukes but no way to arm them?”
“And yet we are sitting here today so something must have gone terribly wrong.”
“Bush, 41, intended to storm the facility during the first Gulf War in 1990,” continued the SecDef. “But he changed his mind at the last minute while the recovery teams were inbound. So the nukes stayed put.”
“He left them?” questioned Troy. “Why?”
“The President had his reasons,” replied SecDef.
“Let me guess those are classified,” answered Troy.
SecDef didn’t answer, “During the 1990’s the inspections continued at Saddam’s nuclear program sites and at the facility at Dukan Lake. Fast forward to 2003 and the Iraq War. Bush, 43, insisted we secure the nukes as our first priority. It had been almost 18 months since the last inspection and the President demanded we recover the weapons on the night ‘shock and awe’ commenced.”
“I was in theater for the bombings,” interrupted the Colonel. “And felt the ground shake as the missiles struck the ground.”
“A team comprised of Seal Team Six, Delta, Green Beret, and even several members of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) arrived shortly before midnight on March 20, 2003.”
“And let me guess the facility was empty,” replied the Colonel.
“Completely,” answered the SecDef, “The only thing that remained in the chamber were the two devices that could prevent the nukes from being armed.”
“How did they get the nukes out?”
“We had 24/7 satellite coverage, and they showed no suspicious activity. After a thorough inspection a tunnel which was not part of the original design was discovered. One that ran under the facility and traveled 18 miles into the mountains. That’s how they snuck them out.”
“So two nukes have been missing since 2003. Is that what you’re telling us?”
“Why tell us now? What’s changed?” asked the Colonel in rapid succession.
“The situation is quite complicated and one of those nukes has been placed on the black market for sale to the highest bidder."
“And you want us to recover it?”
“Something like that,” said the SecDef with a look upon his face that revealed there was more to the story.
“Why not just buy it? Surely we have sources that could act as legitimate buyers?” asked Troy.
“It’s not that simple,” answered the SecDef.
“We’ll need all the intel you have,” replied the Colonel.
“There’s more I need to tell you. Plus, you won’t be alone on this mission.”
“Partnering us with another group? Seals or Delta?”
“Not exactly, we are assigning someone to your team.”
“Only one person?”
“Yes, a member of Division S named Sam Martin.”
“Who the hell is Division S?” interrupted Troy with a perplexed expression on his face.
Before SecDef could answer the Colonel asked, “So where is this Sam Martin and why is he so important that he needs to be assigned to the Omega Group?”
The SecDef smiled and pointed to the woman with the chestnut hair, “I failed to introduce her as she stepped in late, but that’s Sam.”
She stood, planted her palms on the table and leaned inward. She was slight in stature, but appeared to grow as she rose from her seat. “My given name is Samantha, but my parents always called me Sam. I’m a Captain in the United States Army and part of Division S.”
“I’ve never heard of it,” said Troy as he stared at the woman with a fierce gaze. “What is it you do exactly?”
“Never thought you’d ask,” replied Sam.
Up Next ... Part II