Foreign Influence - Brad Thor

PROLOGUE

INNER MONGOLIA

The strategic military outpost was such a closely guarded secret it didn’t even have a name, only a number—site 243.

It sat in a rugged, windswept valley far away from cities and centers of industry. Its architecture was minimalist; a cross between a high-end refugee camp and a low-rent university. Tents, trailers, and a handful of cheap concrete buildings made up its “campus.” The only outward signs of modernity were the Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Subway mobile restaurant trailers which made up the outpost’s “food court.”

It was just after three a.m. when the attack began. Lightweight Predator SRAW missile systems took out the fortified entry control point along with the watchtowers. Mortar rounds blanketed the campus, obliterating key infrastructure and force protection targets. When the heavily armed assault teams breached the perimeter, the outpost was in complete chaos.

The well-trained soldiers tasked with 243’s security were no match for the men who now overran their positions.

Dressed in black, with specialized night vision goggles and suppressed weapons, the professional combatants appeared only long enough to engage each soldier with an economy of surgically placed rounds before slipping back into the darkness, often before their victims’ lifeless bodies had even hit the ground.

At the main concrete structure, a detachment from the assault team used a shaped charge to blow open the fortified door. As they rushed in, they heard the high-pitched whine followed by the thump of a limited EMP device being detonated. It was part of 243’s emergency protocol meant to destroy the facility’s data. The men in black, though, didn’t care. Their superiors already had a copy.

With night vision goggles impervious to electromagnetic pulse, the men swept through the rest of the building, making sure they killed every occupant. From there, they moved on and cleared two more buildings while their teammates took care of the remaining tents, trailers, and concrete structures.

Fifteen minutes later, three helicopters landed and the team was extracted. As they lifted off and disappeared back into the ink-black sky, not a single member of military outpost 243 had been left alive.

LONDON

A man in a blue linen blazer pushed away the hand of his subordinate. “I know how it works,” he said, placing the tiny bud into his ear and activating the video on the smart phone.

His liver-spotted hands cradled the chrome device in his lap as he watched the scenes from Mongolia. It had been the most expensive and dangerous undertaking of his life. Though his club was actually a haven for members of the espionage community, he also sensed the presence of some of history’s greatest sociopolitical figures around him at this moment. Had he looked up to see the smiling ghosts of Lenin, Stalin, Marx, or Mao, he wouldn’t have been surprised. Great men who change the world shared a bond that transcended time, and he was on the verge of becoming just that, a great man who would change the world.

Though they were alone in the club’s library, he kept his voice low. “We’re confident that all of their data was destroyed?”

The subordinate nodded. “We have the only copy that remains.”

“And the personnel?”

“Everyone associated with the program has been terminated. The Chinese have gone berserk trying to figure out what happened. They have no idea who hit them.”

“Excellent,” said the man in the linen blazer. “Let’s keep it that way. Now, what about our network?”

“The network is fully intact and ready to go operational.”

This was an incredible moment, the man thought as he plucked the bud from his ear.

He removed the SIM card from the phone and handed the device back to the subordinate.