CHAPTER 1: Early Reconnaissance
“What do you know about Vladimir Petrov?”
The name stung in Smythe’s head as he stared out the window watching the clouds rush by in a quick blur of sunset orange and purple. The question still hung in the stale air of the helicopter cabin, only the beating of the rotor blades broke the tense silence. Smythe turned back from the window to face his superior sitting across from him, impatiently waiting for a response. Michael Truman was a man raised with a ‘by the book’ state-of-mind. He wanted things done in an orderly, efficient, manner, and despised even the passing thought of improvisation. In his mind a secret service agent should be obedient and trustworthy, one that doesn’t question orders or break the mission protocol. Everything he believed a 1st tier Echo Echelon agent stood for, disappeared as soon as he laid his eyes on Jonathan Smythe.
“Vladimir Petrov,” Smythe finally repeated as he turned back to face Truman, “Ex-Russian General, exiled because of his militaristic ideals. He was bent on world domination, driven by power. In a word, ruthless.”
“That was over twenty years ago,” Truman shot back, as a three-dimensional holographic image of Petrov’s head appeared inbetween them. Smythe studied the image in front of him as it began rotating to reveal all the features of Petrov’s profile. Although he looked like he was approaching his late-forties, his hair and mustache were peppered with grey. His face was wrinkled and war-torn, with a distinct scar running down his left cheek. The look of his face tilted on the fine line between diplomatic gentleman and insane psychopath. Smythe squinted across the helicopter cabin through the transparent image of the ex-general and noticed that his superior’s expression had not changed at all. Truman pressed a switch on the panel beside his chair and the holographic image disappeared before Smythe’s eyes.
“Of course,” Smythe added, “after his embarrassment during the cold war, he vowed to clean up his act, so to speak. He is now working for the Russian government as an international ambassador for the world disarmament movement. It’s almost ironic.”
“But,” Truman interrupted, “if the information you received during that fiasco with the Soviet ocean-liner off the Atlantic last week is correct, he’s involved himself in some sort of weapons smuggling deal.”
“Or worse,” Smythe added, as he spoke under his breath, “I have a feeling it’s much more than that.”
“Which is why it is critical that we find out exactly what he’s obtained and what he’s planning to do with it.”
Smythe ran his hand through his carefully parted hair, jet-black with just a hint of grey. He looked his age, a man in his late-thirties in the prime of his life, forced to carry out the orders given to him. His heart was cold and pined for romance, but his soul reluctantly served his country and strived to prevent war and terrorism across the globe. He glanced over his shoulder through the window again and watched dusk set in over the city of Paris. The streaks of October sunset slowly faded into dark blue as the night crept closer. Smythe’s vision refocused on his superior, who was typing furiously into the console beside him. His dark blonde hair was slicked back in a no-nonsense style, clashing with his navy blue business suit.
“…And the mission parameters?” Smythe asked slyly, “Capture the villain… rescue the girl… save the world?”
“Hardly that easy,” Truman said in annoyance. Once again, a hologram appeared in front of Smythe, this time what looked like the schematics of a three-story building. The image rotated and highlighted all possible points of entry, one on the roof, another near the back and the last one through the main door.
“This is the Russian embassy here in Paris,” Truman spoke in a monotone voice that signalled the beginning of Smythe’s main briefing, “our contact, Agent Trove, has informed us that Petrov flew in last night and is staying at the embassy. Your mission is to infiltrate the building and find out what Petrov’s got, and what he’s going to do with it. The word is reconnaissance, Agent Smythe. Interrogate him if necessary.”
“The front and back entrances will be heavily guarded,” Smythe studied the image in front of him, “and under high surveillance.”
“Right. Which is why you’ll have to go in from the roof.” Truman pointed to a section near the top of the schematic, “There is a ventilation shaft that leads from the roof to the lower levels of the building. Keep in mind the shafts may be rigged with security lasers, so use discretion, Smythe.”
“Yes, and be discreet. Any sound louder than absolute silence and your cover will be blown. Remember, aside from oral communication, there’s nothing else we can do to assist you. You’re on your own, Agent Smythe.”
“How comforting,” Smythe gave him a forced smile as he pulled out his standard issue Beretta from the holster under his arm. He pulled a briefcase out from under his chair and opened it, revealing a cornucopia of weapons and gadgets.
“All the usual toys, I see,” Smythe muttered as he began to screw a silencer onto his handgun. He replaced the gun back into his holster and began sifting through the briefcase for supplies. Smythe wore the standard Echelon spy suit, a skin-tight black outfit designed for optimum maneuverability, while remaining completely silent. Although it seemed to fit him nicely, Smythe despised anything ‘standard’ about the Echelon. ‘I’d just as soon wear my black leather jacket then this uncomfortable garbage,’ he thought to himself.
He wondered why he was spending the prime of his life listening to orders and putting his life on the line for the very people that could care less about his death. Then he thought about all of the innocent lives that he’d saved. And the people he failed to protect. He wasn’t sure whether it was all worth it, a life full of violence and espionage. But for now, he had to focus on the mission at hand. He had a job to do, and he had to do it well.
Smythe began searching through the gadgets in the briefcase. He cracked a smile when he noticed some of his favourites. ‘Flash grenades, smoke bombs, infra-red goggles… it’s just like Christmas,’ Smythe thought to himself.
“Take only what’s necessary, Smythe,” Truman whined, “As soon as you learn what he’s planning, you’ll have to get out of there as quickly as possible. You’re no good to us dead.” He cracked a wicked smile at the thought. Truman seemed to enjoy testing Smythe’s resilience with every mission, and he would keep pushing Smythe to the limit until the Echo Echelon Agent finally met his death.
“What about the escape route? Once I’ve succeeded…” Smythe inquired.
“If you succeed, you’ll rendezvous with Agent Trove, who’ll be waiting in a silver sports car parked around the corner from the embassy.”
“I work better alone.”
“I didn’t ask for your preference, Agent Smythe. Agent Trove is there under my orders, to keep you in line and make sure you don’t break protocol.”
“He’ll have to be a damn good babysitter to catch up with me,” Smythe shot back.
“She will make sure you follow your orders to a tee,” Truman grinned.
“Agent Valeri Trove,” Truman leaned back in his seat and enjoyed the moment, “She insisted that she have the embassy job, but we decided to leave that task to you, Smythe. Better watch yourself, she’s as deadly as she is beautiful.”
“This is getting more interesting by the moment,” Smythe said as he found himself getting more and more excited about the mission ahead. He felt the helicopter slowing down and lowering towards the far end of the city, which was down covered in the darkness of night, only lit by the streetlights and buildings. The cockpit door slid open as a man with dark sunglasses ducked through.
“We’re getting very close to the drop point,” the man yelled to Truman, “better get your man ready.”
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