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Authors: Duncan Falconer

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Thrillers, #Suspense

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BOOK: Undersea Prison
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‘Excuse me, sir,’ Sumners interrupted politely. He had started off the briefing feeling a little nervous but Nevins’s increasing encroachments on what he regarded as his patch were now beginning to irritate him. ‘I can expand on that subject.’
‘Go ahead. Go ahead,’ Nevins said.
‘Our analysts have prioritised their trawling for anything related to Styx and they’ve come up with some interesting threads. On the subject of interrogation, it would seem that the CIA receives a level of cooperation from the facility’s civilian management.The deduction is that the interrogations, under the guidance of the Central Intelligence Agency, may involve pressure and therefore require the assistance of the prison’s life-support and engineering staff. This ties in with other evidence that suggests there is a deeper and somewhat nefarious relationship between the Agency and the Felix Corporation that owns and runs the corrections facility.’
As Sumners talked he skilfully produced on-screen visual material in support of each topic. The resulting pictures had even Nevins’s full attention.
‘The Felix Corp is part-owned by the Camphor Group, an R&D subsidiary of Aragorn Oil. We’ve also picked up a thread of FBI interest in several executives of the Felix Corp. The Bureau has been conducting covert investigations of offshore accounts connected with the company. The circle begins to close with the evidence that there are connections between certain Felix Corp shareholders and Congress. To examine the relationship between these Felix Corp executives and the CIA I’d like to go back a few years. I’ll be brief but I think it’s useful to understand the genesis of Styx itself.
‘The underwater facility was originally a NASA- and US government-funded research programme experimenting in the subsurface engineering of habitat, mining and agricultural environments. The Camphor Group was one of several smaller investors. NASA’s main interest was the relationship between deep-sea and deep-space habitability. The Camphor Group provided funds and technology for the mining module. Early surveys revealed evidence of precious minerals. It was hoped a mine might provide a contribution to the overall costs of the research facility. Construction began in 1983 and the first habitats were occupied on a full-time basis four years later. I should add here that the project was given the security classification of “highly confidential” with security provided by the federal government. This kept media interest to a minimum. By 1993 some sixty personnel were living in the facility which was by then fifty per cent self-sufficient in breathable air, potable water and sewage recycling and was providing twenty per cent of its own energy from wind turbines and solar panels. Two babies were born in the facility,’ Sumners added, clearing his throat and instantly wishing that he’d left out that particular snippet.
‘Five years ago, in what was apparently a surprise move, NASA and the administration pulled their funding. The government agreed to provide the money to maintain the facility for a period of three years in the hope that an investor might be interested in the site. The pumps were kept operating and vital machinery was serviced. Before those three years were up the decision was made to pull the plug - no pun intended. It was then that the newly formed Felix Corporation stepped in with a surprise proposal. This was aimed at the US Department of Corrections and the intention was to provide the ultimate top-security prison. The idea was greeted with a mixed response. The Agency played no small part in seeing that the proposal received some heavyweight support, enough to see it pass in principle through the House of Representatives. It was awarded a probationary development licence. Technically Styx is still in that category but the first prisoners were interned within its underwater walls two years ago. It’s unclear what number of inmates Styx was originally licensed for but it would seem the figure has in any case been exceeded since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. One of the Felix Corp’s proposals was to reopen the mine.The running cost of the prison is obviously much lower now than it was at the time of NASA’s experiment and the small yield of precious minerals apparently provides five per cent of those costs as well as giving employment to selected inmates. It’s the mine that appears to be the focus of the FBI’s interest. After this briefing I’ll provide you with a more detailed report of the corporate structure behind Styx and the relationship between Felix Corp and the Camphor Group with details of the FBI’s investigation to date.’
‘Interesting,’Van der Seiff said as he folded his arms across his chest and looked down at his feet extended in front of him. ‘I was talking with one of our people in DC the other day. Styx has been popping up as a subject of concern in the White House for some months now. The Oval Office appears to be running its own independent inquiry. They must be concerned about the obvious political implications of an undersea Alcatraz as well as the questionable interrogation techniques taking place down there.’
‘It’s basically a Guantánamo Bay where outsiders can’t get at it,’ Jervis said.‘They’ll weather the criticism.They’ll keep that going for years - decades if they want to.’
‘If the White House is conducting its own investigation, ’Van der Seiff said, continuing his train of thought, ‘it’s because they don’t want any other government agencies involved. That should provide us with some clues. I have noted for some time now how the White House has shown itself willing to act independently of its intelligence and judicial communities in a variety of arenas. It’s no secret that the Oval Office has its own special-operations wing in the guise of “select Secret Service agents”. It’s also interesting that certain White House staff include people whose curricula vitae are more suited to black ops than to the administrative duties indicated on their payslips. I believe that if the White House decides to close down the prison they’re willing and able to go against their various national security agencies.’
‘The implications for us right now are how it affects Durrani’s future,’ Nevins said. ‘We have to be prepared for the possibility that prisoners could be moved out of the facility any time soon.We may not get a warning.’
‘What about the risk of Durrani removing the tablet himself?’ Jervis asked.
‘I think that’s unlikely,’ Nevins said. ‘He’s a tenacious, pragmatic individual, moderately intelligent and with a stubborn single-mindedness forged by more than twenty years of guerrilla warfare. His mission was to hand the tablet over to those he was ordered to and he’ll do his best to achieve that goal no matter how long it takes. Unless someone with authority whom he knows and trusts can get to him and convince him to cut it out and hand it over he’s going to hang onto it. It’s his simplest and most obvious option. While he remains in Styx the chances of that happening are remote. That won’t be the case if he returns to a more open prison on the surface . . . Now, do we have the time to get to him?’ Nevins asked. ‘Probably more to the point, is it possible?’
Jervis did not need to look at Nevins to know that the man was talking to him. He replied: ‘Someone has to get into the prison before Durrani gets out . . . Breaking it down, we have two options: official entry and unofficial entry. “Official” means going in as an authorised entity. That means officially requesting to interview Durrani for some reason.Which will without doubt invite curiosity and surveillance by the Agency . . .
Un
official entry of course means getting someone inside the prison without the Agency being aware of that person’s true purpose. That would be bloody difficult.’
‘But possible?’ Nevins asked.
‘Nothing’s
im
possible. It’s all a matter of risk.’
‘Risk to the person who goes in?’
‘No,’ Jervis replied, sounding as if he thought Nevins was retarded. ‘Risk of compromise. Risk of failure. We won’t know the percentages until we come up with a plan. I don’t doubt we can get someone in. But the risk has to be worth it.’
‘And what about getting out?’ Nevins asked. ‘The Americans say that’s impossible. I’m inclined to accept that.’
Sumners wished he could suddenly be struck by a moment of brilliance and present an idea. But his initiative box was utterly empty.
‘That might not be necessary,’ Jervis said, thinking out loud. He looked at the others. ‘The tablet only needs to be destroyed. That reduces the scale of the operation by half as far as I can see.’
Nevins nodded, feeling encouraged so far.
‘I don’t think this can be done without the help of the Americans,’ Van der Seiff said.
Nevins looked at him quizzically.‘But isn’t the whole point of this to do it
without
their knowledge?’
‘I didn’t say do it with their
knowledge
. I said with their
help
.’
Jervis smiled as if he had an inkling of where Van der Seiff was heading.
Nevins was none the wiser. But neither did he feel inferior because of it. The two men in front of him were among the finest in the world at this sort of thing but Nevins had his own specialities. ‘You’ll have to explain,’ he said.
‘They could help us get into Styx without knowing why we want to get in,’ Van der Seiff said. ‘We would provide them with a reason that satisfied their curiosities. Frankly, I can’t see how we can do it without them . . . Jervis?’
‘The loose ends,’ Jervis said. ‘It’s the loose ends that would bugger us. I see where you’re going. Yes. That would be quite sexy.’
‘Sexy?’ Nevins asked, feeling even more in the dark.
‘There’s a sniff there, and a cheeky one at that,’ Jervis said.
Nevins shook his head, suggesting it was still unclear to him.
‘You can smell a solution without knowing it,’ Jervis offered.
‘When can you give me something more tangible?’ Nevins asked. A sniff was not quite sufficient reason for him to propose to the minister that they should go forward.
‘Cheeky, yes,’Van der Seiff agreed, the slightest suspicion of a smile on his thin lips.
Nevins frowned. ‘Sumners?’
Sumners looked wide-eyed at his boss and shook his head. ‘I have no idea what they’re talking about, sir.’
‘I didn’t expect you to. Is there anything else?’
‘Nothing significant. The file is available for their eyes on the internal.’
‘I need to make a few calls,’Van der Seiff said. ‘Can we get together later in the day?’ he asked Jervis.
‘Sure,’ Jervis said.
Nevins took a moment to consider the situation. ‘OK. End of the day. Then let’s see where we are.’
Van der Seiff got to his feet and smoothed out his suit. ‘I take it you’re going to clean up Kabul,’ he asked Nevins sombrely.
‘Of course,’ Nevins said. ‘That’ll go in tonight even if we don’t go ahead with the Styx op.’
Van der Seiff nodded and left the room. Jervis followed and Nevins indicated for Sumners to close the door again.
‘What do you think, sir?’ Sumners said.
‘That’ll depend on what they come up with.’
‘And Kabul, sir? You haven’t finalised your options.’
‘I want pinpoint accuracy. No bombs. People have a terrible habit of surviving bombs. It has to look like a local hit. Local weapons. That’s more to convince the Americans than anyone else.’
‘And is that all of them, sir?’ Sumners asked, innocently.
Nevins took a moment to consider the question. ‘Mullah Ghazan and Doctor . . .’
‘Emir Kyran, sir.’
‘Yes. Not Sena.’
‘I’ll pass that on right away, sir,’ Sumners said, heading for the door and out of the room.
Nevins put his hands on his hips as he walked over to the wide-screen monitor. He flicked a button on the keyboard. A dozen image windows appeared on the screen like a contact sheet. He touched one of them to expand it. The undersea prison filled the screen and he stared at the complicated diagram. It looked like an impossible task to him. But if Jervis and Van der Seiff said they had a sniff, well, that was good enough for him to wait until they got back to him.
He clicked off the screen and headed out of the room.
Chapter 4
Sir Bartholomew Bridstow sat alone in the back of the British Embassy’s black armoured Lincoln Town Car perusing a newspaper through a pair of silver-rimmed reading glasses. His sharp old eyes looked above the small lenses as the vehicle stopped at the first security checkpoint on 17
th
and East Street in north-west Washington DC. The driver powered down the inch-and-a-half-thick window enough to hang out his pass while another security guard looked in the back. Sir Bartholomew smiled politely at him while holding up his own ID. The vehicle was invited to continue. It passed through two more gated checkpoints manned by members of the uniform division of the Secret Service, the last of whom directed the driver into West Executive Drive.
The Lincoln pulled to a stop outside the West Wing of the White House. As Sir Bartholomew climbed out he was met by a member of the Presidential office staff. The aide escorted him through the entrance where they turned immediately left and up a narrow set of stairs to the Vice-President’s office.
Sir Bartholomew was escorted straight in.
Vice-President Ogden eased his heavy frame out of his seat and stepped from behind his desk, wearing a broad smile. ‘Good to see you, Barty,’ he said, extending his hand.
‘You too, Frank.’ Sir Bartholomew shook the VP’s hand that was almost twice the size of his own.
‘How’s Gillian?’ Ogden asked.
‘At this very moment she’s being dragged around Georgetown Park Mall by Senator Jay’s wife.’
‘Kicking and screaming, I’ll bet.’
‘No fear of that, I’m afraid,’ Sir Bartholomew said, with a chuckle.‘Gillian could shop for Britain, I promise you.’
‘Tea?’
‘No, thank you. I’m not going to keep you long. It’s very good of you to see me at such short notice.’
‘Have a seat. I have a meeting in ten minutes. Is that enough time for you?’
BOOK: Undersea Prison
3.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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