Stickman Readers' Submissions May 3rd, 2008

Pro Bono Part 4

Taking a chance I walked back through town hoping to find the truck that just left. It didn’t take long, ten minutes later I found it outside a bar. Before going inside I turned off my mobile phone and bent a contact back from the battery. Inside
I saw the two men sitting off by themselves and I took a table next to them. I ordered a coke and sat there sipping it when suddenly I pretended to notice my watch and puling out my phone tried to make a call. Acting angry I cursed at my phone
and sat there fooling with it for a few minutes, taking out the battery, laying it there in pieces in front of me, before finally shaking my head in exasperation. The two men were watching me intently so I smiled at them and tried to tell them
I needed to make a phone call. They didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them, but when I pulled out a $20 and held up two fingers telling them I needed to make a call for only two minutes he looked at me like I was stupid
and handed over his phone. Smiling and thanking him I handed him the $20 and leaned back in my chair and quickly pressed the cursor up button showing the list of recently dialed calls. Reaching into my knap sack I pulled out a small notebook and
pen and pretended to find the number I needed to dial, meanwhile copying down the first three numbers I’d seen, figuring Ringo’s was probably the last dialed but I wanted to be sure. Pretending to make my call I instead called a
number I saw on a shop window across the street and chatted away in English for a minute and hung up. The shop owner must have been annoyed since he was yelling at me in his language. Pushing the cursor up key once more I noticed the next three
numbers and jotted them down in my notebook wishing I had a higher capacity for remembering strings of numbers! Handing the phone back I thanked him and he grinned holding up the $20. I paid for my coke and quickly left.

Back at my hotel room I put my phone back in order by bending the contact back in place and turning it on. Laying back on the cheap bed spread I stared at the ceiling and thought about what to do next. It was fairly obvious Ringo was still
into young girls and I could imagine what the girls were going through inside the building after I left. I consoled myself that each girl was worth money and wouldn’t be killed or damaged too badly before I could effect their escape. Hearing
footsteps stop outside my door I quickly moved from the bed to a right inside the bathroom door prepared for someone to enter, not wanting to get caught unaware on the bed. I heard some rustling and saw a large manila envelope slide under my door
and the footsteps quickly went back from the direction they’d came. Picking up the envelope I sat on the bed and opened it.

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The contents were interesting, my contact at the NSA must have immediately received my request and got straight to work. As I suspected Nasir Banilif wasn’t his ral name, and the credit card was a recently opened secured account. The
type used by people with no credit and/or no real identification. You could walk into any number of banks and pay a fee, put money on deposit connected to the card, and be instantly issued a card to draw the money on deposit. The pictures of Ringo
however were very productive, Army Intelligence has him on file and his summary was non-remarkable. Utad Kaliana was his real name and he’s served in the Republican National Guard, highest rank sergeant, discharged six months after the
liberation of Kuwait. He was suspected of working with his old commanding officer and fellow sergeants running weapons and human trafficking throughout the Middle East. Another sheet showed me the pictures of his commanding officer and the sergeants
who were none other than Ahab, John, Paul and George! The next pages were NRO (national reconnaissance observation) images from KH (keyhole) satellites showing prior activity at the approximately locations marked on the map. Mostly they were lone
structures isolated from the small villages, but a few showed trucks outside and one showed a string of bodies going from a building to the truck. 3-5 of the bodies were large, the rest small. I could guess what I had in my hand was their local
trafficking route. It would come in useful.

Everything had changed. I’d went from a single person who needed killing (Ringo) to five people who needed killing. No longer could I follow him into an isolated alley or upstairs in a brothel and silently kill him. Now, I needed to
continue to observe and find them all together, and kill them all once I had them together. Opening a fresh coke I poured it over ice and slowly sipped it while thinking. I needed a local guide and a 4×4, someone I could trust. A few hours later
I’d made up an equipment list, entered it in a text file, set up another connection string using my second internet card, and stuffing the nine pound Inspiron 7500 into my knapsack set out for the alley near the restaurant once again. Hopefully
this would be my last request, my contact owned me some favors but too much activity on his console and someone would notice.

A few hours later I was back in my room and since it was nearly midnight was trying to sleep. Sleep didn’t come easily, it was almost 0300 before I drifted off and it seemed like almost immediately when I was awakened by the noise
coming from the street below my window as another day started in this hot and humid country. Getting up to use the toilet I noticed another manila envelope waiting for me. I was getting old and careless, if someone could slip and envelope under
my door while I slept soundly then that same person could probably defeat the door lock and kill me while I slept. I made some mental notes to be more alert and set some proper safeguards as I used the toilet and went back to my bed and opened
the envelope. Inside was $5000,00 USD’s in mixed well used bills and a single sheet of paper. On the paper was a location and description annotated “PDC” and four simple words. “Don’t contact me again.”
My contact had the same fears I did about someone noticing his inquiries. He’s arranged for the money and given me a very well guarded location of something very few people knew existed.

Predisposed Caches were a suspected but very well kept secret. Caches of weapons, military equipment, electronics, clothes, and often even vehicles kept in cold storage ready to put into action. Medical equipment, passport and ID kits, and
just about anything needed for covert operations in a hurry were often included as well as area specific equipment such as diving gear when needed, mountain and snow gear, anything unique to the locality. Some of these caches were nothing more
than small storerooms in old tenant buildings, and some were elaborately hidden as invisible floor in an office building, units of self-storage opened up and joined together, parts of warehouses sectioned off, and one I remember fondly was inside
an airplane hanger that once belonged to a military base but had since been turned over to the local community for a local airstrip. By way of a huge floor elevator that used to hide airplanes under the hanger in “protected” shelters,
a certain combination of the alarm system would lower a huge 25×50 foot of the hanger floor down under the hanger where a huge network of rooms containing weapons, supplies, vehicles, an operating room fully equipped, and even two “little
bird” military style helicopters. We’d driven in quickly and parked our van on the pad, hit the combination, and were quickly whooshed down by the hydraulics, van offloaded, and the floor back in place. Five minutes later we watched
on CCTV cameras as several military vehicles offloaded men who must have seen us go in the hanger as they thoroughly searched every square inch not realizing two of their vehicles were parked right on the elevator platform. While a few of us held
our breath and watched them search, our medic made good use of the operating room to patch up one of our guys who’d caught a round right through his lung. We stayed holed up there for four days until they gave up looking for us and it was
safe for a charted flight to land at the strip during the night and exfil us out of there.

If the country’s politicians and leadership knew about these caches there would be a huge incident. Arrangements had been made decades before in most cases with the help of whoever was in power and the caches built and stocked. Many
dated back to WWII or earlier, and had remained a well kept secret well into the Cold War. With the establishment of Delta Force and Seal Team Six who both had missions and the discretionary funding, the caches were restocked with modern equipment,
new security features added, and some new ones build and stocked. It seems amazing that members of the team could be given a location in London, Moscow, Prague, and even Tokyo and Hanoi, and be able to have access to much needed gear for the highest
priority operations. I’d never imagined this country would have such caches, but thinking back over their history I suppose it made sense. I didn’t yet know what would be available once I entered the cache, and there was only one
way to find out. Unfolding my map I searched for the street names and soon found what I was looking for. It was less than 10km’s outside of town.

Packing my few belongings into my knapsack I kept a low profile throughout the day taking care to eat and hydrate myself even though I didn’t feel hungry. I didn’t leave the hotel until 0300, making sure the bars had closed,
the streets were empty, and I was able to slip out of my hotel unnoticed. I headed quickly away from the small town and soon found myself on a dark road heading into the country. Seeing headlights approaching I quickly moved into a ditch and waited
for them to pass. In days past I could have ran the entire 10km’s in 30-40 minutes on a road like this, but in my current condition it would take closer to three hours and increase the chances of me being noticed. Going slowly had its advantages
through, I noted which farms had structures, side roads, and whatever other information I could find.

I would have given anything for a GPS or even a compass, but all I had was the very rare road signs and a half moon and stars. With very few roads in this area that should be enough but the distance was going to be hard. How do you know if
you’ve walked a kilometer or a kilometer and one half? I improvised. An old sniper technique used a special loop of green or black nylon line with beads on the line. There were ten smaller beads, five bigger ones, and five more even bigger
ones. You could hang this from your combat vest or ghillie suit or neck. During training you’d measure exactly how far one stride would carry you over certain terrain. One stride carried you further on cement than a dirt road, further on
a dirt road than on grass, further on grass than on mud, and so on. With enough practice you’d be able to count your strides and multiply that by your terrain type factor and come up with a surprisingly accurate measurement of distance.
You kept track of that distance by moving the beads in the same way you’d use a abacus. I didn’t have any line or beads with me, so I bent down and counted our ten small stones of equal size and five larger ones and placed them in
my left pocket. I kept walking looking for the last official road marker I estimated to exist.

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Damn, I’d passed it and somehow a few minutes later I knew I passed it, not sure how, but I retraced my steps and there was the road marker. Turning back in the direction I retraced I started counting my paces. At 100 paces I moved
a small stone from my left pocket to my right pocket and started counting again. 3.2 kilometers later I had a right pocket full of stones and I was standing off the side of the road examining an old farm building 200 meters distance through my
Steiner Predator mini-binoculars. It was 30 minutes before first light and I hadn’t much time, but I watched for another 15 minutes before deciding it was ok to approach the building. I really wished I had a GPS, my field skills were severely
out of date and now that my leg was messed up I knew my distance factor would be equally screwed up. Still, this was the only structure even close to this area so I felt reasonably confident. I sure hoped I didn’t surprise a rice farmer
or two.

Approaching the structure the first light of the day was creeping across the field as I tucked into a shadow and watched, listening for any noise. Hearing done I swung open the huge door and was surprised to find it moved easily and silently
on what looked like rusty hinges. A closer look revealed the hinged to be very well maintained, with care taken to not remove the surface rust and other dirt that blended the hinges into the rest of the building. Moving silently inside I went
slowly to give my eyes time to adjust. There was no visible signs of power, no junction boxes, but over to the side was a huge stack of old lumber stacked almost 10 feet tall. Behind the lumber was another set of doors. The note had stated there
would be a floor box and had given me the combination. Getting on my hands and knees I felt around for anything under the dirt and dried grass that could hide a small box. I searched from one end to the other, finally feeling a sharp edge under
my fingers towards the far right side. Brushing dirt and grass aside I uncovered a wood lid and lifting it saw a very shiny and new looking toggle combo box with clear plastic wrapped around it for protection. I didn’t need to remove the
plastic, I toggled the buttons in the proper sequence and was rewarded with a green light and a very quiet “click” from the doors. I replaced the lid, smoothed dirt over it, and walked inside the doors and closed them behind me just
as the sun came over the field lighting the structure.

A small LED glowed on the wall and pressing it a small light came on over another toggle box and I entered the second combination. Slowly lights started coming on and I could see I was standing in a 20×40 foot room. In the room was a dusty
dirty Jeep, and an equally dusty motorcycle. The far side of the room held a huge 6×20 foot wooden work bench that was big enough to use for packing parachutes. Still, nothing remarkable could be seen. Opening the door to the Jeep I flicked the
stick shift into neutral noticing how smoothly it moved, and putting my shoulder to the door frame pushed it back about ten feet. Setting the gears I closed the door and examined the area under the Jeep. As suspected I found a 5×5 foot trap door
under a layer of dirt and pulling the handle marveled at the silent hydraulics that lifted it ito position revealing a shiny aluminum staircase leading under the room.

Pulling the trapdoor shut behind me I descended the stair case as the glow from battery operated lights started to come on. At the bottom of the staircase there was a control panel and CCTV monitors and I could see both outside the structure
and inside the room above. Turning the switch to douse the lights above I figured there must be hidden solar panels on the roof or at least close by, and a battery/inverter room down here somewhere. A quick inventory revealed about ten rooms including
an armory, equipment room, medical room, battery/inverter room lined with enough batteries to probably run the place for a few weeks, a bunk room, a small kitchen to prepare food, and a communications room. A red light blinked on the console and
I knew it was for me. Taking a seat I turned on the console and was asked for my operator number. I hadn’t had an operating number for years so I just entered my last one. A message appeared with Ahab’s and the Beatles full dossiers,
and a note from my contact simply saying several governments would appreciate me attending to them and to use whatever resources the cache offered.

Going into the kitchen area I opened the cabinets to discover not only a selection or MRE’s (meals ready to eat) military style, but also a good selection of freeze dried backpacker style foods, bottles of water, and even a few boxes
of foil sealed candies, cookies, and jerky. A small hot water maker provided the necessary hot water to revive my beef stroganoff, pouring it into a bowl and grabbing a bottle of water I went back to the console and studied the dossiers. I wasn’t
surprised to learn they were all suspected of torture of Kuwaiti’s, Kurds, and any of their own countrymen who were on Saddam’s bad side. They themselves got on Saddam’s bad side when it was discovered their weapons and human
trafficking was making them rich and they weren’t sharing it. They quickly left through Syria and continued to travel the globe doing their dirty work. They’d finally been “marked” when one of the trafficked girls turned
out to be the niece of a certain Islamic Prime Minister staying at his country home. A deal for cooperation was made, if we ever could provide proof the men responsible for his nieces disappearance were dead we’d gain valuable access to
their internal intel files.

I spent the rest of the day, even though it felt like night down here, going through the cache’s stores, mentally inventorying equipment, and trying to form some sort of plan to find Ahab and the rest of the Beatles. Pinning my map
on the corkboard I stared at the locations trying to visualize what the different locations had in common. Taking a compass I started measuring distances from each location to other geographical locations and finally it came to me. There was only
one main shipping port, and the locations were almost all an equal distance from this port. There was no way I would be able to travel the approximately 200km’s to the port area undetected, not being a big white guy in a very rural SEA
region, much less poke around the port and ships looking for what I needed. Then I had my second revelation, they asked me to “attend” to these men! This meant they wanted them attended to bad enough to give me access to the PDC,
so going back to the console I requested KH coverage of the port and a search of shipping manifests coming into the area. The keyhole satellites could read license place numbers and even recognize faces in good conditions, I was pretty sure they
could turn up some good intel if I could get them tasked. The issue was the tasking, the NRO gave certain blocks of time to each agency and rarely deviated from these allocations unless directed, and only two sources could direct the NRO. I wondered
how high up the chain this went? Going back to the console I gave them my requests, the coordinates, and asked signed off without an answer. It was now after midnight so I went into the bunkroom and spreading out some sheets laid down to rest..

Until next time..


Stickman's thoughts:

We have an Andy McNab in the making!

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