Operation: Red Crescent
Hey guys, I've had this one brewing for a bit, so it shouldn't take very long to finish. I mean, it'll probably be long, but not rambling and trying to find its way in the dark like Where the Wild This are is. I know some of you are disappointed that I haven't updated in a while… I'll try my best to get something out within the next week. In the meantime, enjoy Operation: Red Crescent, taking place after Crocodile Tears.
I begin focusing on Agent Shalom. From the next chapter on, its all Alex's POV pretty much, but I wanted to set the stage without too much exposition. So you'll meet Alex next chapter.
As per usual, I do not own the rights to Alex Rider, even a little. This is purely an intellectual exercise for personal and public entertainment with no monetary transaction involved (happy, copyright lawyers? Sheez…).
Kevin Davis, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency looked up when he heard a knock at his door. Like anyone who lived the life of an agent, he knew that when his colleagues cam to call at three in the morning, something big was going down.
Usually, it was something bad.
Tonight however, was a good night. Certainly, the events of the last 48 hours had left a bittersweet taste in his mouth, but that was how it worked when a trusted agent goes rouge. Cleaning up messes like this was part of being the head of any intelligence agency. He had been heading this search for the last two days, subsiding on energy drinks and sheer willpower, and he would be very happy when this dangerous agent was back in the custody of their home government.
"Come in," he called in response to the knock.
Two guys from the FBI escorted a young woman in. Neither of them looked happy to be there (hell, their director hadn't exactly been happy when Davis, newly assigned to the director position of the CIA, took control of the case and then used FBI research and manpower to bring the rogue agent in, but they would live with it).
Because Davis had won this round. He looked up at the woman, studying her, already analyzing every movement to try and get a read on her. She looked far to young to be the seasoned agent gone rouge that he had been ordered to hunt down and bring in. Davis glanced down at her open file in front of him. He didn't need to see it to know what it said - he'd long since memorized every detail in it's pages that hadn't been redacted. It said that she was twenty-three, but he doubted she was a day older than twenty. Her wrists were handcuffed behind her back, but as far as Davis was concerned, that hardly made her less of a threat.
"Agent Yedit Shalom, you are in a lot of trouble," he said finally, clearing his throat.
"Your information is wrong," Shalom said. Her voice was calm, completely and utterly calm. Not desperate, not angry. Did she have a contingency plan for escaping custody, or was she just not afraid of being caught? "I'm not here to run away from Mossad. I'm here to clear my name. I did not compromise any information. Not to any government or otherwise. I am loyal to my country, Director Davis."
"Your handlers say differently," Kevin Davis said, gesturing for the FBI men to unlock the agent's handcuffs so she could sit down. Both FBI guards could fire a non-lethal shot before Shalom got anywhere near one of the three of them, and given that there was a desk between them, Davis knew himself that his gun was close enough to grab and fire before she reached him. He wasn't threatened in the slightest.
Shalom, on the other hand, was thrown off guard, which was kind of the point. She sat after a second of hesitation, rubbing her wrists to ease the pain of their confinement.
"My handlers have been misinformed," she replied. "I was set up."
Davis opened the file on his desk, going through it for the sake of the agent in front of him.
"Pictures, bank statements, tapped phones… It looks pretty convincing, Agent Shalom," Davis said. "Who would go to the trouble of faking all this evidence, just to get rid of one Israeli agent? You have no shortage of trained operatives."
"Look, I do not exactly... what is the phrase you would use...? Play well with others?" Shalom said. "I've pissed a lot of people off, and I could paper a house with the list of them all. I can name five people off the top of my head that have the resources, motive, and access to pull this off and blame me for it."
"Your government has asked me to extradite you to Israel to be tried," Davis continued, largely ignoring her. The hint of desperation in her plea was a good act - but all the evidence he had in front of him told him that it was nothing more than an act. Even if he did feel some sympathy for Yedit Shalom, he could not, as the director of the CIA, take her words on faith alone. "You will loose, and you'll probably spend the rest of your life in jail, unless your agency decides your death would be simpler."
"Mossad is not Scorpia; we don't do assassinations," Agent Shalom replied. Davis mentally snorted; from the information he had, his analysts had gathered that Yedit Shalom was formerly assigned to Kidon, the unit in Mossad responsible for kidnappings and assassinations. What was interesting, however, was that she hadn't even flinched when Davis had implied that she might be killed by her own country. So she was either sure of escaping... or genuinely didn't fear death.
Though that was only partially correct: Shalom wasn't afraid of getting taken out by her colleagues. She was afraid of what they would do if they thought she was holding information that might save their country.
Davis could feel his third headache in twenty-four hours building behind his eyes, and fought the urge to rub at his forehead and show any weakness that this trained agent might exploit.
"You say 'we' like your agency still considers you to be one of them," Davis said coldly.
"Look, I just want to clear my name," Agent Shalom replied. "I have dedicated my life to the protection of Israel, and I will not go to jail for crimes that are not my own, or defect, do you understand? I just need some help to prove it. What was the information that led Mossad to condemn me? Where did it come from?"
Davis leaned forward over the desk.
"See the problem with you asking me for help is… I don't believe you," he said quietly. "I've seen agents in your position before, they try to lie their way out, and they'll say almost anything to get themselves off the hook. You may have been a good agent at one time Shalom, and you may have saved your country many times, but you're a traitor. You stole information that could potentially lead to mass destruction, and then sold it to the highest bidder."
Agent Shalom stood abruptly. The two FBI men took a step forward, ready in case she was going to fight.
"Well, I see it was wrong to let myself be taken in to ask for your help," she answered. "I'll just see my way out then."
She turned, kicking out one of the FBI guys' legs from beneath him as she did. He fell. Agent Shalom picked his gun out of his hand and aimed it at the other one.
"I'd stay where you are," she advised him. There was a hardness around her eyes that said that the agent had no problems pulling the trigger and ending the mans life. He put down the gun.
"You're just making it worse for yourself, in the end," Davis advised her.
"I am innocent!" Agent Shalom hissed. "And I will find a way to prove it."
With that, she bolted out of the office, knowing she only had a few seconds before the two FBI agents were after her again.
The agent barely looked up when the alarms started blaring. Her last hope had been the Americans. Even though they were allies with Israel, she had hoped that at the very least, the CIA would hear her out.
Seeing the file up front, however, had been at least a little helpful though. Whoever had set her up was a professional; she couldn't have done better herself, and she had been in the business for a long time. Unofficially, she had started when she was fifteen, though her papers officially stated she was eighteen at the time. It hadn't really been her choice, but she preferred this kind fieldwork to being in the military.
Agent Shalom heard steps coming down the hall behind her, and immediately dodged to the doorway on her rights – she got lucky; it was a service stairwell. She pounded down it as fast as she could.
What good would getting away do if there was nowhere she could hide to pull together her defense? Agent Shalom wondered. She might as well just give herself up to the reinforcements running down the stairwell after her. She needed to go somewhere she could regroup, and then find some of her old contacts, see what she could drum up. Maybe someone would know something. She didn't know what had been stolen, or by whom... but she did know that it was big. Huge. Whatever was going on here, Yedit needed data to crunch, information to process, to try and figure this out.
Agent Shalom almost ran headlong into someone at the bottom of the stairs. She was halfway up again when the man pulled a gun on her. She cursed one, in Hebrew, looking up the barrel of the gun. The man considered her for a second, and then held up an arm to get her to her feet.
"Got her," he said into a cell phone he pulled from his pocket as the FBI filled out on the stairs above and below them.
After a minute, the agents on the stairs above them parted for Kevin Davis, who was coming down from the top floor.
"It would have been much easier to just give yourself up," he told her. Agent Shalom shrugged, glaring at him.
"I would tell the Israelis to keep looking for leaks when you hand me over," she answered. She felt exhausted. She'd been running for... she didn't even remember. Her last chance had been hoping that the Americans would believe her, and now? Now she was well and truly screwed. "I'm not the one who betrayed my country."
She knew what happened next. She'd be carted away to some cell for an hour while Davis confirmed with the Israelis that she was captured, and Mossad would retract the international alert they had put out on her. The CIA would fly her into Israel, and Mossad would attempt to discovered exactly how big the leak they had was from her, before throwing her in prison for the rest of her life. Procedure.
Meanwhile, our enemies are laughing at us, she thought uneasily. There was a leak, no question. Setting her up had to have been an inside job. But to what end?
The agent she had nearly tripped over handed her a pair of handcuffs.
"Put those on, behind your back, and come quietly," he said. Agent Shalom looked around at the FBI, the CIA agents that had managed to catch up and the guns they were carrying. She scanned the stairway, but there was just no way to get out of this, unless…
She glanced casually over the rail. The stairs continued down, and there were no agents on the level below her.
She winked at Davis, and launched herself over the railing. She slammed into the stairs one story down, and pulled herself up, ignoring her aching shoulder. She had to run. She could already hear shouting and the pounding of feet. A gun went off, striking the wall in front of her.
Crazy bastard! Agent Shalom thought. There was no worse place (aside from airplanes) to shoot a gun than a crowded stairwell. Obviously, one of the American agents was a newbie, and running scared. That wasn't good.
Knowing there would be agents coming up the stairs in a matter of seconds, agent Shalom pushed open the door to the third floor, slamming it behind her. She had almost made it to the end of the hallway when she heard the click of a gun.
"Don't move!" A voice yelled. For the second time in about five minutes, Agent Shalom turned to find herself staring down the barrel of a gun. Damn it! He was reasonably tall, dark haired, wearing a black suit.
Field agents have a way of standing, of walking, just a manner about them that warns anyone nearby that they are capable of killing a man with two fingers. It's something around the eyes, and the hard lines that draw their face that tips you off that this isn't a person you want to mess with.
The man picked up his cell phone and dialed again.
"She's out on the street, she used the fire escape from the second floor, heading east," he said, and clicked the phone shut.
"What do you want?" Agent Shalom asked, edging a few steps away from the other agent. At least he wasn't directly interested in killing her or capturing her, which was good. Possibly.
"My name is Ben Daniels. I am a field operative employed by MI6," the man answered. "I've been assigned by my agency to track down the leak in Israel's security. We don't like the idea that someone is talking with Hammas, Fatah, Iran and Jordan, all at the same time, all about some big secret piece of information that we think is rather dangerous. We have a vested interest in the area, and we would like to clear this mess up."
"By killing me," Agent Shalom spat.
"No," Agent Daniels said, putting down his gun. "We want to talk. You say you aren't the leak, Director Blunt is willing to hear you out. My job is to bring you to MI6."
"You are aware that circumventing Israel's alert in defiance of the ICC is kind of against most of the international agreements you're a signatory to, right?" Yedit asked. Daniel's just raised his eyebrows. Yedit sighed.
"Okay, so what's the escape plan?"
"The only way I'll get you out of the country is to pose you as some low level criminal that's escaped justice in England by flying over the pond," Daniels told her. "I can get you out of here within the next hour or so – or you can take the chance that the Israelis will be nice about protecting their intelligence."
"Extradition papers take days to process, weeks sometimes," Agent Shalom said, wondering exactly why Daniels had come up with a plan like this when it needed so much legwork.
"We filed them three days ago, they were approved this morning," Daniels replied. "We figured you would come to the Americans if the Israelis gave up on you."
Agent Shalom studied Daniels for another moment. On the one hand, she'd already proven that nobody trusted her or was willing to even entertain the idea that she might not be a traitor. On the other hand, there was really no way she was going to get out of this alive. She had no weapons, no tactical support, nothing. If MI6 believed that she was telling the truth… she might get out of this, and she might even get her job back. If they didn't... well, Yedit was running out of options very quickly.
"Fine," she said. "I'll talk with your director."
"Wonderful," the british agent said. He reached into the backpack he was carrying, and pulled out a smaller bag, handing it to Agent Shalom. "You need to look a little less like you if I'm going to be sneaking you out of here as someone else," he told her when she peeked inside. She nodded, and looked around for a bathroom. There was one at the end of the hall opposite to the stairs, which was good – she would have plenty of warning if anyone came by.
Five minutes later, she left the restroom. Her red hair had been dyed black, and she had applied dark makeup around her eyes. Using some of the chemicals in the bag, she had ruined her clothes beyond recognition, and had cut the sleeves off her tee. She sliced a few holes in her jeans too, for good measure. Her lips had been made several shades darker with some crimson lipstick. Her arms looked bruised and dirty, and she had cut a good foot of her newly darkened hair, which had previously hung in a braid down to her waist. It was now hanging around her shoulders, tied back with a kerchief. She had left what she had used up in the trash under a few layers of used hand towels.
"Nice," Agent Daniels said when Agent Shalom tossed the bag back to him in the hall. He caught it, and tossed the handcuffs back to her win the same movement. Agent Shalom grit her teeth and cuffed her hands in front of her, looking up at Daniels when she had managed it.
"I was going for sort of a crossover between druggie and gang member," she replied, offhand.
"You did fine," Daniel's said. "The CIA doesn't have any pictures of you in their database. Tragically, they must have gotten lost along the way."
Daniels was smiling, and Yedit returned it. The thrill of a hunt was already baying in her blood, pushing her back into the job.
"Your name is Sylvia Rameirez; a Costa Rican national, but you officially renounced your citizenship three years ago to carry a passport with the Union Jack," Agent Daniles told her cheerfully as he led her back towards the stairs. They passed a team of four FBI guys running down, but they gave the two little more than a passing glance. "Your associates were arrested while you were planning an arms smuggling operation," he whispered into her ear as they passed another group of federal agents.
"Arms smuggling?" Agent Shalom asked as they reached the garage.
"Fastest way to get someone extradited is if the feds think they're dealing," Agent Daniels said, pushing open the door. There was another team of agents by the door.
"Name?" they asked.
"Agent Daniels, from MI6," Agent Daniels pulled out his ID with one hand, keeping the other firmly around Agent Shalom's arm. "Here to pick up an arms dealer for extradition. Her name's Sylvia Rameirez."
"Check that," one of the agents said. There were a few tense seconds when the agent at the computer scanned his database, and then he turned back to Shalom and Daniels.
"You're cleared," he said. Daniels nodded, and half pulled Agent Shalom over to a dark government car.
"Get in, in front where I can see you," Daniels said. His back was to the other agents, and he winked once at Agent Shalom. She saw what he meant immediately. He wanted to make these guards remember that Daniels had left with his arms dealer. It meant less trouble for Daniels if the CIA started wondering how Agent Shalom disappeared, and allowed Agent Shalom to assert her cover.
She turned and lashed out with her foot. Daniels went down, but was back in his feet in instants. Agent Shalom slammed the open door into his face.
"You killed my brother you bastard!" She yelled, kicking him in the stomach once – not as hard as she could have, but hard enough to be convincing with it. The agents were running towards the two of them, pulling their guns.
But Daniels was already on his feet. In moments, he had Agent Shalom pinned to the hood of the car.
"Your brother was dealing in arms, like you were," Daniels said without pity. He tossed Agent Shalom into the front seat, unlocking her left handcuff so he could pin the right cuff to the door. He flicked the safety on before slamming it.
"Thanks for the help guys," he told the agents who had just reached him, wiping blood from his nose. "Effective security. Bloody Americans," Daniels added the last under his breath.
"You handled it fine," the head of them told Daniels. "Better you than us taking this one in, anyway," another one added with a bit of a grin.
"Bugger off," Daniels said, glaring at the four agents. They returned to their post as Daniels started up the car.
"That was fun," Agent Shalom muttered as they reached the exit. Daniels pulled out his identification and Sylvia Rameirez was checked through the system for a second time, and then they were out on the street.
"By the way, how exactly, do you propose getting me on an airplane? My passport got taken, and even if I had it, it'd be useless for getting me anywhere."
"How did you get from Israel to America then?" Daniels asked.
"I don't have personal conversations when I'm in handcuffs, as a rule," Shalom answered. Daniels shrugged.
"Well, they're staying on until we reach MI6, so its going to be a pretty quiet ride if you don't want to say anything," Davis replied.
"Like I said, I'm not generally talkative when I'm in handcuffs," Agent Shalom answered.
There was a small, four seater plane waiting for them at the airport. Daniels didn't even bring them through security, but loaded Agent Shalom back onto it, handcuffing her hands back together.
"Hey Fox," the pilot called when they approached.
"Eagle," Daniels nodded. "Hope the wait wasn't too boring?" Eagle shook his head and started the engines up.
Agent Shalom sat back for the ride, closing her eyes; she didn't know what she was walking into, but she knew she would want to be well rested when she got there.
I really hope that this isn't a mistake, she thought to herself as the plane coasted down the runway, lifting into the sky as it headed towards the ocean.
Edit: Chapter updated as of May 15, 2012