An anonymous man in a suitably non descript black suit walked towards Woods, his hand gripping a briefcase.
Gabriel Woods watched from the corner of his eye, as the man stopped nearby and turned to examine the famous tourist square. The movement allowed Woods to see the the man’s hand on the briefcase, in which he was gripping it with just his index, and thumb. The other three fingers were splayed out.
Three is good, 2 is bad recalled Woods.
Miming his surprise at seeing an old friend, Woods walked over to the man with a smile and an arm outstretched. The man responded similarly and they mimicked a conversation, whilst the man handed the briefcase in an effusive gesture. Woods smiled and walked away, the grin wiped away the moment the charade was over.
Walking towards the Berlin Alexanderplatz Station, and past the famous Weltzeituhr (World Clock), displaying the current time in 148 major cities around the world, Woods rested the briefcase in one hand and popped the clasps with the other.
Taking out a small key, he walked over to the train lockers that lined the exterior of the station and searched for the number on the key.
Opening the locker, he placed the briefcase inside and looked at the contents proper.
Inside, Woods noted the new passport that had been issued to him, proclaiming his name to be Christian Taylor, a UK resident from Cornwall. Noting that the photo featured rather thick framed glasses, Woods looked inside for the pair of spectacles that would accompany him as a disguise. Opening the simple black case, Woods tried the glasses on, and was pleased with the fit.
Tapping the side of the glasses, he noted the thickness of the frame, a feature that allowed tiny pin-sized cameras to be installed on both sides of the spectacles. A simple unidirectional microphone also allowed remote recording of audio up to 20 metres away, and with its wireless capability, it could transmit intel to his phone that would send the audio-visual footage to a CIA station nearby.
Woods also noted the new phone that would replace most of the capabilities of the military laptop he was used to. An nondescript Android design, the phone hid its true potential behind false apps, that Woods would have to explore to unlock what each function would do.
The final spy-craft item in the briefcase was a pair of headphones, that disguised recording and transmitting abilities allowing him to talk and report back, or listen in on conversations heard through his glasses. Shaped like any wireless headphones, they were a functional black colour, and fit in his ears snugly.
In addition to the gadgets, Woods found a wallet with 1000 English pound and 1000 Euros, with plenty of different denominations, a car key that also featured another key to the safe-house and to his surprise, a spare pair of smokey lens for his glasses that would double as sunglasses.
Taking all these items into various pockets on his person, Woods left the briefcase in the locker and took out the key. He would head over to the Tiergarten, a huge national park that was near the US Embassy and deposit the locker key in an agreed spot for collection.
As he hopped aboard a yellow-white Strabenbahn tram to the park, Woods recalled the brief he had read onboard the C-17 from Afghanistan, about the target he was meant to observe and eventually stop.
Blessed with a photographic memory and near perfect recall, Woods replayed in his mind the personal call from the Station Chief in the CIA London’s operating centre, as the C-17 flew through the night sky, Woods gripping a headset that the loadmaster had given him.
You’re probably wondering why we took you out of Afghanistan and transferred you to Europe. Well, we’re aware of your history there and this is priority one. Our Foreign Security Assessment (FSA) indicates that there is going to be a global terrorist attack happening on UK soil in a week from now.
Intelligence suggests that it will be occurring on the Valentine’s weekend where traffic is expected to be at an all time high. We’re putting every major asset in Europe on standby and we’ll be cooperating with the UKSF and SIS on this.
The truth is, you were asked to come, because the UK PM specifically asked for your services. We know that you are on loan for us, so we couldn’t refuse when they asked for you to come back.
Anyway, the bad news is that we don’t know the exact time of the attack. We suspect the evening because that is where traffic will be high. However, because Valentine Day’s falls on a Friday, we are not exactly sure whether they’ll be hitting Friday, Saturday or Sunday or worse case …. all three fucking days.
In any case, it is imperative that you make contact with your SIS contact and start covert surveillance on Sofia, a courier for Hassan Malik, an operative we’ve nicknamed the Sphinx, due to how well he seems to hide his tracks. We’ve been after this guy for nearly 2 years and have still been unable to properly track his whereabouts and movements.
We know he is Europe based, because we’ve managed to extract intel from detainees and low-level HVTs in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He’s been responsible for the recent train bombings in Paris, Madrid and Athens and we think its only a matter of time before he strikes in England.
As you can already see in the brief, actual photographs and intel on Malik is scarce. The only photo we have is approximately 5 years old, way back when he was in AQ training camps in Iran. At the moment, he’s considered a rogue terrorist for hire, a highly dangerous operative who offers his services to any groups linked to anti-Western agencies and government.
We don’t know who is backing him, as it could be any source ranging from Hezbollah, the Ayatollah or even Saudi backers. All we know is, he’s got a domestic network in Europe, and the logistics and capabilities to strike almost anywhere on the Continent.
Thus the key for you, is to find Sofia. Detainee reporting states that she is one of Malik’s most trusted couriers and sources.
Find Sofia, track her, and then eliminate Malik.
Currently, Sofia is under heavy surveillance. A team from 14th Det is tracking her 24/7. She has not made any suspect moves, but we’ve done the usual tracking on her phone, apartment and email.
I’m not gonna sugar-coat it Woods, the reason why you were chosen, is because we still think you’re the scalpel you were in the past.
Europe could use help from a graduate from the Counter-Revolutionary Warfare. The guy known as the Prince only 10 years ago.
Show the Sphinx, why Europe is really the Prince’s domain, not his.
Good luck Woods.
Woods snapped out his reverie when he heard the tram driver announce the stop for Tiergarten. The change from the mountains of Afghanistan to the well-oiled streets of Germany still played with Woods’ mind. He found himself unused to the sensation of comfortable footwear that didn’t drag in the snow and mud. The sharper, cleaner air that didn’t have the faint scent of petrol, oil and spice.
Even the atmosphere was different, the sounds of people chatting softly in German, slower and more measured, relaxed and safe, a far cry from the rapid-fire Dari and Pashto in Kabul, the type of conversation you knew you had to hurry, because you didn’t know when something would end it terminally.
Even the idea of being onboard a functioning tram was alien to Woods, who had spend so many months simply walking everywhere in Kabul.
Acclimatise quickly and blend in even quicker recalled a mantra taught to him long ago.
Hopping off, Woods walked towards the park and began to countdown the trees, before hiding the key to the train locker underneath an auspiciously placed rock at the base of the 7th tree.
Walking away and taking the tram back towards Alexanderplatz, Woods tried to relax slightly, but his mind was occupied on the Sphinx. As Woods got off the tram at the Alexanderplatz station and began his walk to long-term carpark for his car, it was then he noted the odd shuffle of a man wearing a backpack nearby. He was making his way into the main entrance of the train station, pale and murmuring under his breath.
At first, Woods decided that it was just a homeless guy moving around the city. Berlin, whilst prosperous still had its fair share of homeless people.
But usually due to malnutrition and mental health, they would pick a spot and rarely move. They would beg along a popular street, they wouldn’t be out and about if they didn’t have to.
Besides this man didn’t have the usual ragged clothing of a homeless person. He was dressed like an out-of-towner. A man who didn’t belong. A tourist. An outsider.
Woods frowned as he noted people seemed to subconsciously give this man a wide berth. Women would give double-takes, their eyes coming up from their phones more than once, unsure about why the man had his head down and was shuffling his feet so much.
Men would take an extra step to the right or left, unwilling to brush past closely, as if he smelled bad. They made the extra effort to sidestep him.
An alarm bell began to signal in Woods head. The fresh scars from Afghanistan were still bleeding into his mind. He recalled his training, the impressions he had received on his very first tour of Afghanistan, embedded in him by a Israeli IDF Shin Bet operative.
The 12 ways to identify a suicide bomber. They all gave the same clues. They were all unprofessional at it. After all, they’re amateurs at blowing themselves up. This is their first time doing it.
No one gets another chance at doing it.
Nor does anyone get another chance at stopping it.
Woods dropped his carry bag, lifted his shirt to check the Glock 19 in his waistband and immediately starting running.