The Überlingen Collision Affair

briefcase

© Kyle Thompson

2 July 2002 – London

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” MI6 operative Ian Dennis could hear himself asking that question in his mind over and over again. How the hell was he supposed to find the courier’s briefcase amid the widely scattered wreckage of the Tupolev passenger jet? The horrendous mid-air collision with the 757 cargo plane could have sent it anywhere and by rights it and it’s classified contents should have been destroyed.

“The case is covered with genuine faux leather to be sure Dennis, but that conceals the titanium shell. Our man paid a small fortune in bribes to get in on board in Moscow so rest assured, it would survive the crash. It was designed to do just that.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Wilks. But why? This was supposed to be a milk run from Moscow to Barcelona. The courier was part of a UNESCO committee escorting a bunch of children on a school trip to Costa Dorada.”

“Thank you, Dennis. I am familiar with the facts of the Op.” A casual observer would conclude that Richard Wilks was in ill temper because what Ian had called a “milk run Op” had gone terribly sour but in actuality, he was always disgruntled. At age 72, he was one of the last of the old guard at MI6, his career as a field agent having spanned three decades. He was a young agent at the start of the cold war and he had a hand in the fall of the Berlin Wall (though very few were aware of that fact). Truth be told, he hated life behind a desk, but he had been forced to it at age 60 due to a botched hip replacement after being severely wounded in shootout in Sangi, Pakistan.

“Your security clearance does not justify you knowing the full details of the courier’s Op, Dennis. Your job is to go to Überlingen in the guise of an adviser to the German Air Accident investigators, retrieve the briefcase, and return it to London. You are not under any circumstances to attempt to open it.”

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The Ganesh Chaturthi Affair

celebration

© Lavanya

“This is fabulous, Ian. You’ve been to Ganesh Chaturthi here in Kolkata before?”

Ian Dennis could barely hear his assigned companion Victoria Craft over the celebratory yelling, music, singing, and chants as different representations of the elephant-headed god Ganesha appeared before them.

“Yes, Victoria. Over the years, the job takes you all kinds of places.” He felt a bit strange having an escort half his age, but he was her trainer and this was her first op. The two MI6 agents had been instrumental in preparing for the cessation of a forty-year dispute between India and Bangladesh over a common border that demarcates the eight divisions of Bangladesh and the Indian states.

She leaned up so he could feel her breath in his ear, “Do you think it will end?” He knew she meant the shoot-on-sight policy of India’s military on illegal immigrants crossing over from Bangladesh.

“That’s why we’re here. The pact will be signed in three days. If the killings continue, we put a stop to them. Meanwhile, pretend you’re on holiday.”

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge of February 13, 2018 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words. My word count is 174.

The image of the god Ganesha is distinctive, so it wasn’t hard to trace it to the annual Hindu celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi. You can learn more about it by reading 14 Most Ingenious Idols Of Lord Ganesha This Year! and What is Ganesh Chaturthi? Why is it celebrated?.

Since the image of Ganesha in the photo appeared to be a float with the date 2011, I decided to set my story then, specifically on 2 September. I looked up the year and lo and behold:

September 5 – India and Bangladesh sign a pact to end their 40-year border demarcation dispute.

I also looked up when the celebration occurred in 2011 and it was held between the first and the eleventh of September, which was perfect.

The disputes over the Bangladesh–India border have historically been very difficult (and that’s putting it mildly) including this:

The border is used as a route for smuggling livestock, food items, medicines and drugs from India to Bangladesh. Moreover, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh cross the border to India. Because of a large number of illegal immigrants crossing from Bangladesh into India, a controversial shoot-on-sight policy has been enforced by the Indian border patrols. This policy was initiated with reports of violence between the illegal migrants and Indian soldiers. The border has also witnessed occasional skirmishes between the Indian Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh, most notably in 2001 (emph. mine).

I know a lot of people in my country complain about President Trump’s stance on illegal immigration from Mexico and other Latin nations, but frankly, that’s not nearly as brutal as the situation described above. You can click the link I provided to learn more.

Once again, I dusted off MI6 agent Ian Dennis last seen in the flash fiction piece The Bristol Connection and showcased in the short series The Mauritius Robbery Affair. In this case, I’m involving MI6 in covertly “facilitating” the India-Bangladesh agreement, which I’m sure the Indian government especially wouldn’t appreciate given Britain’s colonial history in their country.

I set the action in the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) since it is relatively near the India-Bangladesh border. Ian needed someone to interact with to further the plot, so I invented an agent-in-training Victoria Craft. Perhaps we’ll see more of her in the future.

Oh, I apologize in advance if I’ve mischaracterized the celebration, Ganesha, any individuals, or the nations of India and Bangladesh. I’ve never been there and am getting all of my information on the internet, so any errors in this wee fictional tale are mine.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The Bristol Connection

hogarth

William Hogarth’s 1756 painting “Sealing of the Tomb” displayed at St Nicholas Church in Bristol – © BBC.com

Ian Dennis didn’t look like a spy, which worked to his advantage. Although the MI6 man fancied himself a “Sean Connery” type in his youth, he was now middle-aged with thinning blond hair and a bit of a belly paunch.

No one gave him a second glance as he walked into the newly reopened St Nicholas Church in Bristol, which had been closed since World war Two due to bomb damage. Ian absolutely loathed conspiracy theories, particularly the pseudo-religious type depicted in those Dan Brown books, but if his source was right, the renovated triptych “Sealing of the Tomb,” originally painted in 1756 by William Hogarth, contained both ancient and modern clues to the identities of the people behind human trafficking.

In the 18th century, Bristol was a center for the transport of slaves to America. If the triptych’s clues bore out, then it was today as well.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps place and street photo as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147 (and on the first draft, too).

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bristol in the UK.

After finding its location using Google Maps, I looked up the local news and found this item at BBC.com dated 23 January 2018: St Nicholas Church closed since World War Two to reopen.

The church had actually still been open as a museum since sometime in the 1950s and displays what I gather is a quite famous triptych (three paneled painting) called “Sealing of the Tomb” painted by William Hogarth in 1756.

In looking up Bristol, I discovered it was heavily involved in the slave trade in the 18th century. I looked up William Hogarth thinking I might tie all of this together somehow and for a moment thought I had something. He’s buried at St Nicholas Church but in Chiswick, London, not Bristol.

The most controversial thing I found about him was that he was a Freemason and often used Freemasonry symbolism in his paintings. There are all kinds of Masonic conspiracy theories, but for 150 words, I wasn’t going to do that much work, so I made up some stuff.

I decided to revive MI6 agent Ian Dennis, last seen in the eighth and final chapter of my Mauritius Robbery Affair series. Since part of the theme involves slavery, I invoked a human trafficking storyline pulled from my Mikiko Jahn series.

Although Ian views fictional works such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with distaste, I decided that’s exactly the sort of story I was going to write (I’ve never read the book nor seen the movie and after reading several reviews, have no intention of doing so).

One last thing. My work is purely fiction and yes, it does involve real people and places. However in no way am I suggesting that the actual William Hogarth was involved in slavery or any sort of criminal conspiracy, nor am I saying there’s anything sinister about the St Nicholas Church in Bristol or the painting “Sealing of the Tomb.” I made all that up just for giggles.

To read other wee tales based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Hellspite

scarecrow

Scarecrow of Romney Marsh – from the Official Disney Fan page

“Why the bloody hell wasn’t I notified earlier? Never mind that. I want every available agent to comb Orly. Thomas might still be in the airport. And get people on her daughter’s disappearance. I don’t mean the local police, I mean our people. Tell them they don’t need warrants, they just need to produce results.”

Geoffrey Colins had been in bed fifteen minutes when the cell on his night stand rang. Amanda Thomas had abruptly left London by air over five hours ago, no explanation and certainly not on her schedule. Ever since Mikiko Jahn had discovered her identity and that she was tied to the Shadow Man, now revealed to be high-priced attorney Richard Singleton, his agency had been routinely monitoring her digital communications, but for some reason there was a foul up and the recording of her conversation with her daughter Sienna’s apparent kidnappers hadn’t been reviewed until less than an hour ago. By that time, Amanda’s flight had already touched down at Orly International Airport just outside of Paris. Agency staff reviewed Paris police computer records and discovered that her nineteen-year-old daughter hadn’t attended classes all day long. Presumably, she had been taken very early this morning by parties unknown.

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The Man in the Dark

shadow man

Black soul – Foto Giovanni Dall’Orto – Wikimedia Commons

Autumn 2017 – London

“Here’s what we’ve got from your video and description of the suspect. Amanda Thomas, 48 years old, born Zuhal Amanda Clarke, Father George Sanford Clarke, British, a nationally syndicated columnist and novelist, Mother Aliya Fowler, moderately successful painter of mixed English-Arab descent.”

Mikiko expected to be debriefed or briefed or whatever in some official government office, like the British Secret Intelligence Service building where MI6 was headquartered, but she found herself sitting in an uncomfortable wooden chair with several other people, none of whom she knew, listening to Geoffrey Colins speaking to them in a darkened room in what seemed to be an out-of-business clothing boutique, or rather the break room of said-business. A small, portable projector was throwing images on the blank wall behind him, showing a loop of the video she’d taken last night of the woman now called Amanda Thomas.

She didn’t get back to her hotel room at the Premier Inn Heathrow until after midnight this morning. She’d walked back to the nearest bus stop from the house she’d been watching and then, in her normal identity, got on board a bus traveling in the general direction she had come from. She’d received a text from Colins as to which stop she’d exit the vehicle. Once on the street and with the bus out of sight, she heard a car engine starting two blocks away and then drive toward her. At the same time she got a text from Colins stating “Get in the back.”

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First Flight

 

Salerno

© Pacific Press/LightRocket/LightRocket via Getty Images – The bodies of 26 young migrants arrive at the Italian port town of Salerno on Sunday (5 November 2017).

The Present – Salerno, Italy

The young Japanese woman looked as if she were just another curious spectator in the crowd watching the corpses being offloaded from the vessel sent to retrieve them from the Mediterranean Sea. Mikiko Jahn felt the tears welling up behind her eyes and almost overwhelming grief and anger like a weight in the center of her chest before the neural circuitry in her brain suppressed those feelings and replaced them with an impassive calm.

Well, it was mostly impassive. The residual emotions she experienced moments before remained, but they were well contained. How had she come to this?

Two Weeks Ago – The Project – An Unknown Location in Japan

“He’s called the ‘Shadow Man’ for the simple reason that his true identity is not known. What is known about him is that he is a British national and one of the leaders of a cartel that siphons refugees, mostly young women and children attempting to reach Europe from Libya, from sanctuary into sexual slavery. We estimate that as many as twenty to thirty percent of these victims are currently in the UK with the rest distributed in Europe, Russia, and Asia.”

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The Search for Armageddon

 

camera

© A Mixed Bag 2013

“It’s just a camera. Where’s the special device you told me about?”

“It’s quite special Mikiko, if you’ll allow me to explain.”

Everyone called Desmond Llewelyn an “old curmudgeon,” but the Japanese agent found him endearing, sort of how she remembered Sofu. For the past year, he’d been outfitting her for missions assigned by their two governments.

“It’s a sophisticated sensor that detects specific rad levels from weapons grade uranium.”

“Then I’m going into North Korea…”

“Not precisely. During World War II, your government conducted secret operations to develop the atomic bomb. After VE Day, a U-boat transported Nazi uranium to a base in occupied North Korea. A working prototype was developed but the war ended before they could use it.”

“So you want me…”

“Intelligence says that Kim Jong-un is bluffing and has no nuclear weapons, but they are actively searching for the prototype. You have to find it first.”

Seven years ago, Mikiko Jahn had been horribly mutilated in a nuclear power plant disaster. Her “reconstruction” had been extensive and left her with a body more than human, but the frightened little girl inside didn’t know if she had the courage to face her personal atomic holocaust again.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge of November 5th 2017. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 200.

I leveraged two series I’ve been working on. The first is the saga of MI6 Agent Ian Dennis and his discovery that North Korea’s nuclear weapons development is a fake. The second involves Mikiko Jahn, a young Japanese technician who was horribly disabled and mutilated in a nuclear plant accident and who has been reconstructed using advanced synthetic materials and techniques to become more than human and an agent working covertly for the Japanese and British governments.

I did find out that the Japanese were working on the atomic bomb during the war, they did have a secret base in North Korea, and after Nazi Germany fell, a U-boat carrying the remaining Nazi uranium was sent to the Japanese. In real life, the U-boat was intercepted, and the confiscated uranium was used to make the first four American nuclear weapons. I thought I’d tweak history a bit.

Oh, “Desmond Llewelyn” is the name of the late actor who played “Q” in the first twenty or so James Bond, 007 films. I have a sort of affection for the character, so I thought I’d pay homage to the man behind “Q”. Also, “Sofu” in Japanese means “grandfather.”

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

To read other stories about Mikiko, visit:

  1. The Reconstructed Woman
  2. Burn Victim
  3. Woman Under Repair

The next chapter is The Swimmer.

The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Gardens of Peace

mi6

Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) building – London – Found at manchesterhistory.net

Chapter Nine: Gardens of Peace

December – MI6, London

“Glad to see you up and about, Dennis. I hear it was a near one this time.”

Ian was sitting in the office of Benjamin Cross, Director of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Although Cross’s name and background were a matter of public record, at the agency he was always referred to only as “The Director” or “Sir.”

“Yes, so I was told. Thank you for your concern, Director. Doctors said that if either shell had hit just a few centimeters one way or the other, I would have been killed instantly.”

The Director chalked up Ian’s stoicism to the attitude of a career agent, not knowing that during his recovery, the man had worked out the events of the night of Hall’s death in great detail.

“I’m sure you realize I didn’t call you in just to inquire about your health.”

“No, of course not, Sir.”

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: The Woman is Deadly

Chapter Five: The Woman is Deadly

“Phillip is at football practice, but Marcie and Roger are right here, Ian.”

It was good to hear Evie’s voice again. They’d divorced not because they lost their love for each other, but because of the stresses of his career. Even if he’d have quit MI6, his history with the agency was such that he’d always attract the “interest” of certain parties. He’d never be completely safe, and as long as he lived with his family, they’d never be safe either.

“It’s okay, Evie. I’d love to talk with them.”

“Here. Let me put you on speaker.” Then in the background Ian heard her say, “It’s Daddy calling.” He could hear Marcie and Roger squeal.

“Daddy, Daddy, how are you? When are you coming to visit?” Little Roger was all of five and always full of enthusiasm. He didn’t recall a time when Ian actually lived at home or the family living in London at all.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Patterns

Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius – Found at Mauritius Life

Chapter Four: Patterns

In spite of Ian Dennis’s determination to keep working, he found his brain too clouded to concentrate on even the idea of addressing Krista Bernham’s work. Krista was a brilliant researcher with the unique gift of taking data which seemed absolutely unrelated and finding patterns that even the most complex computer algorithm might not associate.

After her divorce from Malcolm Bernham, she moved with her son Ian from their home in Edinburgh to the island of Mauritius. Frankly, she could work from anywhere with internet access that could be secured by her employer, but her grandmother was originally from the island and she found she wanted to go “home.” Krista recalled visiting “old Gran” many times as a child and loving the beauty, the serenity, and even the profound loneliness of living on a tiny bit of land surrounded by thousands of kilometers of ocean.

She thought raising her only child here might give him a better life than in the UK. That might have been true for many other mothers of many other sons, but not for Krista Bernham. She had been set up on Mauritius with a cover identity by the British Secret Intelligence Service, provided with very expensive, highly secure hardware and software with which to work, and for the past five years, had broken some of the most profound and delicate intelligence cases for SIS.

Now she was dead. The only witness to the murder, her eleven-year-old autistic child Ian, a boy the MI6 agent had befriended and then further traumatized for the sake of his investigation.

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