87

Langley, Virginia, USA
December 5—0619 Hours GMT–5

What you’re looking at was recorded about six hours ago,” Dave Collen said.

The DCI took a seat in front of a laptop displaying a series of satellite images. They were hazy and the resolution had been degraded by magnification, but there was still no doubt about the ferocity of the fighting. A military truck had exploded after slamming into what looked like a rock outcropping, and its burning parts were strewn out among the bodies lying in the sand.

“An underground facility?” Drake said as the images were replaced with ones of a group of men flipping a similar truck back onto its wheels and pushing it forward as moving cover.

Collen nodded. “We had no idea it was there, and as near as I can tell neither did any of the other intelligence agencies. We’re going back over our satellite data from the last few months and finding evidence of increased activity, but whatever the Iranians are doing there, they’ve pulled out all the stops to hide it.”

“And we think this is related to the parasite?”

“No way to know for sure, but I’d bet good money on it. We have photos of a private jet landing on an abandoned strip not far from there a week ago.”

“Omidi?”

“Again, there’s no way to be certain. But when you combine the jet with the fact that Smith and Howell saw fit to try to get into Iran on foot and the noise we’re getting about biologists being pulled off their jobs by the secret police…” His voice faded for a moment. “I’m pretty confident that Omidi got his parasite and that he’s weaponizing it in this facility. Maybe with the help of Sarie van Keuren.”

Drake leaned back and watched the battle unfold until it looped to the beginning. “I assume we’re not the only ones with access to this data.”

“You assume right. Those images came from the National Reconnaissance Office.”

None of this was completely unexpected, but that didn’t make it any less dangerous. Smith and Howell hadn’t gone into Iran to try to stop Khamenei’s forces on their own. No, they’d contacted the resistance and despite their deaths at the hands of Sepehr Mouradipour, Farrokh had used the information he’d been provided to track down Omidi’s facility. The question was, what should they do about it?

“There’s more,” Collen said. “We have reports of heavy fighting in the streets of a village a hundred miles north of that facility, and the Iranians are airlifting special forces there as well as scrambling a squadron of bombers.”

“ETA?”

“By now, they could have soldiers on the ground. I don’t have current information on the bombers.”

“Is it possible that the parasite has escaped the facility?”

“We don’t have any assets in the area and the satellite’s gone out of range. We won’t have another overhead for six hours.”

Drake let out a frustrated sigh. “I have—”

The phone on his desk rang and he fell silent when he saw the incoming number. The Oval Office.

Castilla tended to be a predictable man wed to his schedules and formal briefings. Impromptu predawn calls were very much not part of his management style.

Collen took a step back and watched him pick up the receiver. “Hello, Mr. President.”

“What the hell is going on in Iran, Larry? Have you looked at these satellite images?”

“I’m just going through them now, sir. We’re still gathering data at—”

“We’ve got a war going on between two unknown factions at a facility that we didn’t know anything about and you’re gathering data?”

“We should know more soon. The—”

“I’m at Camp David, Larry, and you’re going to be in front of me in one hour with everything we’ve got on this. I want to know what the hell the Iranians are doing with an underground bunker in the middle of nowhere and I want to know who just crashed their party. Do you understand me?”

“Sir, that’s not going to be enough time. It’s a complicated—”

“Let me repeat myself, Larry. You are going to be standing in front of me in one hour.”

Drake swallowed hard, fighting back a wave of nausea as the sweat broke across his forehead. “Yes, sir.”

The line went dead and he slowly replaced the receiver. “Get together everything we have on the parasite and the Iranians.”

“Everything?” Collen said, obviously alarmed.

“We’re getting on a helicopter for Camp David. We’ll strategize on the flight and sanitize what we have to. I’m not going to let this fall apart now. Not when we’re this close.”

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