Frederick Harrison Novels


The RCI 

a novel by Frederick Harrison

Copyright 2009 by Frederick Harrison



Naomi Benson stowed her cell phone and rushed across the hotel lobby to join the crowd entering the ballroom.   Today’s luncheon at a downtown Washington hotel, the second of three she was scheduled to attend that week, was being sponsored by one of the trade associations that helped the information technology industry navigate the enormous government market.    Their events, staged as business development opportunities, were designed to bring company representatives together with government employees and military personnel who could be their potential customers.   Hearing her name called, Naomi turned to greet Tom Fox, a salesman for IBM, whom she occasionally saw at functions such as these.

            “Last time we talked,” he recalled, “you were working for All Star Systems.   Are you still there?”

            “You’ve got a good memory, Tom.   But, that was three jobs ago.   I left All Star for Starburst Technology and then went to Regent Computers.   At the moment, I’m with Secure Passport Technology Corporation.”

“God, has it been that long?   I hear that Secure Passport is having  problems.”

            “So do I, Tom.   If you run across something promising, I’m good to go.”

            While chatting with Naomi, Tom was looking around to spot the person he should greet next, preferably someone connected with potential business.

            “Do you know Sam Glover?”   He indicated an attractive, youthful-looking man in his mid-forties talking with several people nearby.

            “I know the name.   He’s the CIA big shot who turned in his badge several weeks ago.   But, I’ve never met him, having never tried to sell anything at CIA.”

      “Sam and I were at college together.   After graduation, he went civil service, while I went after the big bucks in the IT business.   Come, I’ll introduce you.   Maybe he’s got a job lined up at some place that can use our latest stuff.”

            Glover greeted Tom enthusiastically and Naomi with interest.   He was, she decided, one of those rare people who look even better up close than from a distance.   As they were chatting, the call came for everyone to be seated, and they found places together at one of the large round tables.   Rumors of rubber chicken notwithstanding, the meals at these luncheons were usually respectable.

            “How’s it going, Sam, now that you’re a free agent?” Tom asked.

            “I’m still waking up at five in the morning to get ready for work.   It makes for a very long day when you’ve got no place to go.   I never used to go to affairs like this, but now it’s a welcome break from reading and watching cable news channels.”

            Naomi was amazed.   “Surely, you’re busy evaluating a slew of job offers?”

            “As a matter of fact, I am.   But most of the companies wanting to hire me are looking to exploit my CIA and other Intelligence Community connections.   First of all, I’m limited by law as to how much of that I’m allowed in the next two years and, secondly, it’s really not what I want to do.   More than likely, I’ll end up at a think tank or maybe writing my memoirs or a spy novel.”

            “You’re too young to have memoirs,” Naomi scoffed.

            “I’m ninety-two,” Glover replied with a straight face.   “One of the things I’ll include in my memoirs is how the Agency came to give me this younger face.   If I had hung around a few more years, I could have gotten an even newer one.    Allen Dulles was a hundred twenty-four when he died, and we’re not sure that he actually did.”

            Naomi stared at him, refusing to laugh.   Instead, she pretended to be scandalized.   It was going to be difficult dealing with a big-shot spook who was also a wiseass.

            “I knew Allen Dulles, and you’re no Allen Dulles, Mr. Glover.”

            He smiled.   “Touche, Ms. Benson!   You are obviously not as young as you look.”

            Tom Fox, sitting between them agape, was greatly relieved when they simultaneously began to laugh and declared a truce, at least until after lunch.

            Samuel Payson Glover had followed the now tradition-enshrined path from the Ivy League to the CIA after graduation.   Following training, he had been assigned to the Directorate of Operations, which was what the Clandestine Service was then called.   After a year at Headquarters, mostly taking specialized training courses, he was attached to the Soviet element of the DO and posted to Angola.   At the time, the peak of the Cold War, assignment to operations against the Soviet Union was considered a great plum for a rookie, but the Angola posting confused Glover and depressed him.   Despite frequent protestations of concern, the United States Government did not care very much about Africa at that time, and people posted to the region could expect little in the way of career prospects, assuming they were not invalided out with malaria or some other tropical disease.

            However, the continent’s stock rose precipitously when Moscow began to meddle in indigenous insurgencies in a number of post-colonial countries, in particular that of Jonas Savimbi in Angola.   Washington’s interest, and that of the CIA, was also stimulated by the discovery of massive offshore petroleum deposits along the continent’s west coast.   So, Glover’s assignment to Luanda turned out to be an unexpected access to the ground floor; he was never able to determine whether it was fortuitous or an early recognition of his promise as a professional spook.   In any event, Luanda Station’s success brought him a desirable follow-on assignment at Headquarters, in which his performance confirmed him as a comer in the eyes of his superiors.  

            A successful career at the CIA is realized much the same as at any large organization in government or commerce.   The old adage about working hard and taking advantage of opportunities is true, as is also the one about the importance of luck and having a high-ranking mentor or rabbi.   Sam Glover had ascended the CIA hierarchy rapidly by being in the right place at the right time, partly by design, mostly by luck.   When the Cold War ended, he shifted focus from the Soviet Union to the Middle East, while many of his running mates were electing to go elsewhere.   Arabic was too difficult to learn easily, and there were few posts in the area where the living was pleasant.   After a tour as station chief in Beirut, Glover returned to Langley headquarters to head what was then called the Counterterrorism Center.   He did so with a towering reputation earned from an incident that was talked about wherever CIA operatives lurked throughout the world.

Beirut and its surrounding countryside is home to warring political and religious factions, most of which regard the United States as an enemy.   In an earlier period, which had seen a U.S. Marine barracks attacked with hundreds of casualties and a station chief kidnapped, tortured, and murdered, CIA’s Beirut Station personnel had adopted the practice of taking along a hand grenade whenever they went out into the city.   It gave them the option, if threatened by would-be kidnappers, of blowing themselves up to prevent capture and torture. During his later tour as station chief, Sam Glover reinstituted the practice in a period of serious lawlessness and fighting in the streets.

One day, Sam and two of his case officers went out to meet a covert source, his companions to serve as lookouts while Glover met with the contact.   It turned out, however, that the latter’s objective was to abduct the CIA’s station chief.    But, as was his practice in such ambiguous situations, Sam was gripping a grenade, pin removed, squeezing the safety handle that kept the fuse from activating.   When the man pointed a pistol, Sam showed him the grenade.

“If you shoot me, I will drop the grenade and both of us will die.”

The man thought about it for a few seconds, then turned and walked away into the arms of Sam’s sentries.   It turned out that he was wanted by Lebanese Army intelligence, and was traded for valuable consideration.

“How did you know the guy was not willing to see you both blown up?”  Glover was asked.  

“If he was prepared to commit suicide for the cause, he would have been the one carrying the grenade,” he replied.   “But, I could see in his eyes that I was going to win.”

As dessert and coffee were being served, the president of the sponsoring

association introduced the luncheon’s guest speaker, Harley Fallon of the Department of Homeland Security, who was going to brief the progress of Project Hercules.

“What’s Project Hercules?” Naomi asked.

“You might recognize it as Project Aurora or, maybe, as Project First Light,” Tom replied.   “It’s been going on almost forever, and they still can’t get it finished.   Every time it hits the wall, they declare victory, change the project name, and tell Congress they’ve moved on to the next phase.    It’s eaten a good chunk of GDP, and the end is likely to come only when they run out of new names.”

Naomi chuckled.   “Actually, I recall selling them software when it was called Project Penumbra.   I wonder whether they might be interested in buying it again?”

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