|Mortal Gods: “HVT” Cover Art.|
© Paul Hair, 2017.
Click on the “Mortal Gods HVT Serial” tag at the bottom of the post to view all the chapters of, Mortal Gods: “HVT.”
Note: This story takes place after the events of, “Like Hail and Fire, Mixed with Blood,” in the book, Mortal Gods: Ignition.
Adam returned to his quarters and stayed there until someone contacted him on the landline phone in his room. He soon was back in the series of hallways of the underground facility.
This time his feet made a louder sound on the clean floor, with his boots pounding out a dull thud. He didn’t pass anyone on his way to his destination this time.
He wore a black tactical uniform. The RMD had specifically designed it for him and while it bore a resemblance to a military battle dress uniform it had its unique aspects as well. The solid black color was one of those unique aspects. The lack of name tapes and insignia was another one.
Adam walked a different route than he had previously. When he reached where he was supposed to be he grabbed the proximity badge on the lanyard around his neck, scanned it, punched in his code, and entered the room.
The briefing room was much larger than the waiting room of the medical facility where he had gone for his second physical exam. But it was smaller than the actual medical examination room.
Adam walked into the filled room and was familiar with many of the faces as they all looked at him. The lighting in here was different—better—than the hallways and medical facility. The overhead fixtures were more sophisticated and they burned soft, incandescent bulbs. The walls were still metallic and navy blue, and the floor was still black. But the lighting gave it a different feel.
A wooden conference table sat in the middle of the room. It was large but the room was big enough that the table didn’t congest it even with people sitting around it. Five chairs were on each side of the table and one at the end facing the monitors at the other end of the room.
Several more cushioned chairs lined the long sides of the room. There were a few chairs at the front of the room with the monitors as well.
People filled the seats and a few more stood near the monitors. But even then, there was still adequate space in the briefing room. Adam guessed there were just under 30 people in it. There were only 100 in the entire RMD.
The lights were low and he saw a dimmer switch near the door. As everyone continued looking at him, he moved towards the only seat left unfilled. He sat down at the head of the table.
One of the women standing at the front of the room took a step forward. “Good afternoon, everyone. Let’s begin.”
Eyes gradually moved away from Adam and to her. She wore a dark grey boardroom dress with a matching jacket and heels. She also wore her long hair down. She was in her late twenties or early thirties.
“My name is Ms. Chapman, and I’ll be your briefer,” she continued as the lights dimmed further. The largest monitor behind her lit up with the cover page of the briefing created through a presentation program. The page had, “OPERATION CAELUS,” centered in bold and all caps on it. “This briefing is classified top secret,” she said. The “top secret” classification, along with additional control markings, were at the top and bottom of the cover page.
People again swiveled their heads to look at Adam. His clearance was interim at this point, with the government doing the best it could to perform a security clearance background check on him. They all knew it. And that, along with how he came to be in the government’s employ, was a sore spot for many in this room; many in the RMD. But he knew they weren’t going to bring it up today.
Ms. Chapman began the briefing. Another woman sat at a computer workstation off to the side, controlling the advancement of the presentation on her cues.
“Operation Caelus is designed to kill a high-value target named Toumani Cissé,” she said as her assistant advanced the slide. Eyes returned to the front of the room. It showed a picture of Cissé along with major details about him.
Ms. Chapman explained that he had initially been a U.S. asset but that he had betrayed that relationship, using money and resources the U.S. had given him to start his own terrorist group. He was a Malian native but he had taken up safe haven in the Central African Republic.
“Wait a minute,” Adam said. Everyone again looked at him. “You mean to tell me you’ve put me through this whole vetting process and set up this task force so you can send me after one guy?”
“He’s not just one guy,” Ms. Chapman told him. “He’s a national security threat to the U.S.”
“What makes him so special that other U.S. forces can’t take care of him?”
“I was about to get to that before you interrupted me,” Ms. Chapman told him.
She continued and people focused attention on her once more. “The reason the RMD has decided on this HVT as the first operation for Mr. White is because we want to test if he can provide the U.S. with a new capability.”
The briefing assistant advanced the presentation and the next slide showed a map of the CAR and the surrounding nations. “The government of the CAR has invited the U.S. to neutralize Cissé at our discretion,” Ms. Chapman said. “However, the U.S. currently cannot get to the CAR because the surrounding nations have denied us permission to use their airspace. And they have denied us from having any security personnel in their nations for the purpose of counterterrorism or military actions. In short, the CAR truly is a safe haven for Cissé.”
The next slide popped onto the monitor and Adam saw a stock photo of the earth from space. It actually showed part of the earth (just enough to see its curvature) on one half of the photo and the blackness of space on the other. The photo was on the right side of the slide and bullet points were on the left side of it. The heading of the slide read, “Deploying a Ground Force from Space.”
“So we developed a plan that will test if we can successfully deploy Mr. White from space to get the HVT, and then to see if he can return from the ground to the delivery craft in space.”