Call to Treason
Published by the Penguin Group Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London we2R 0RL, England Penguin Group (USA) Inc, 375 Hudson Street, New York New York 10014,
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The moral right of the author has been asserted op-center1m is a trademark of Jack Ryan Limited Partnership and S&R Literary, Inc
TOM CLANCY'S OP CENTER CALL TO TREASON
This is a work of fiction Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments events or locales is entirely coincidental Printed in England by Clays Ltd, St. Jves plc Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
We would like to acknowledge the valuable assistance of Martin H. Greenberg, Ph.D.; Larry Segriff; Denise Little; John Heifers; Brittiany Koren; Victoria Bundonis Rovin; Roberta Pieczenik, Ph.D.; Carl La Greca; and Tom Colgan, our editor. But most important, it is for you, our readers, to determine how successful our collective endeavor has been.
-Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik
Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Sunday, 9:22 p.m.
Combat was not easy. But it was easier than this.
General Mike Rodgers stood with a Scotch in his hand, wishing it were a double and that he were free to slug it down. If he were in a dark saloon with Colonel August or one of his buddies from the Department of Defense, he would. Then he would nurse the sweet buzz with a beer chaser. But he was not with his colleagues. He was at a black-tie party in a three-story town house on N Street in the exclusive Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. The first-floor ballroom was crowded with nearly two hundred politicians and socialites, attorneys and foreign dignitaries, business leaders and television news executives.
They were all gathered in small groups. Though actively engaged with the people nearest them, each individual was also listening to what was being said in the groups around them. Rodgers could see it in the way their eyes moved. They always shifted slightly in the direction they were listening. Some of these silver-haired blue bloods possessed recon skills that would be the envy of CIA field ops.
On the battlefield, a man knew who the enemy was. At a party like this, alliances could be made and remade during the course of an evening. That was true throughout Washington, but the density of power brokers from so many arenas made it more likely here. In combat, a soldier knew when the fight was over. In Washington, the conflict never ended. Even at Op-Center, where Rodgers was deputy director, friendships were routinely tested by strong differences of opinion over high-stakes operations. Trust was frayed by competition for assignments. And loyalties were challenged and often destroyed by downsizing and bureaucratic squabbles.
The conditions at Op-Center were the reason Rodgers had come to this party. Since the disbanding of Striker, Op-Center's rapid-deployment force that had been commanded by Rodgers, the general had been organizing an in-house human intelligence unit. He was not enjoying the work as much as he had hoped. Rodgers was a man of grapeshot and action, not observation and note-taking. The work was essential. It just was not for him. To make things worse, his efforts cut into the jurisdiction of Bob Herbert, Op-Center's chief of Intelligence Operations. The strain on their relationship was subtle, but the impact was not. There was no antagonism; to the contrary, they were extremely cautious around one another, like outfielders going for a high fly ball and stopping short, letting it drop between them.
When an aide to Texas Senator Don Orr had called to say the senator was interested in exploring professional opportunities, Rodgers agreed to come. So far, the three-term, fifty-eight-year-old senator had not said much more than a big, "Hello, General! Thanks for coming," before being swallowed by the party. The white-haired rancher-turned-politician said that to virtually everyone as he moved from group to group, shaking hands and kissing cheeks. All of them, Rodgers suspected.
Rodgers did not follow him, as several others were doing. Subtly, of course. They wanted to be noticed and introduced to people. They wanted to be legitimized, like made men at a meeting of the dons.
Rodgers did not know any of these people, and so he stood near the wet bar, chatting with one of the two bartenders. As a grandfather clock tolled the half hour, a woman approached from the side.
"There is only one thing worse than being a Washington outsider," she said as she asked the bartender for a Coke.
"What's that?" Rodgers asked, glancing at her.
"Being a Washington insider," she replied.
Rodgers smiled. There was a hint of Vietnamese in her strong, cultured voice, but the rest of her was pure Beltway insider.
"General Rodgers, I'm Kendra Peterson, the senator's executive assistant," she said, extending a slender hand. "I'm happy you could make it."
Rodgers's smile broadened as he shook her hand. The woman was in her mid-thirties and stood about five foot seven, with dark skin, exotic eyes, and straight black hair. She had the cool poise of someone who knew things. She was dressed in a strapless navy blue satin gown with a wide, translucent sash. Her wardrobe was seductive, but her expression said she was not interested, whoever you were.
"I'm pleased to meet you," Rodgers said. "I was beginning to wonder why I was here."
"I knew there wouldn't be much chance for you to talk to the senator, but I wanted you to get a feel for the kind of people we work with."
"I see. Care to tell me why?"
"The senator is interested in you," she said.
"But you're not at liberty to tell me more," Rodgers said.
She shook her head once.
"I've heard rumors the senator plans to make a third-party run for the White House," Rodgers went on. "Are they true?"
The woman smiled evasively. "Would you be available to meet with the senator tomorrow afternoon?"
"I might be if I knew why," Rodgers said. "I don't like to go into situations unprepared."
The woman took a sip of her drink and turned toward the room. "This town house was built in 1877, four years after Georgetown was incorporated into the District of Columbia. Do you know what it was worth then?"
"Probably less than this party cost," Rodgers said.
She grinned. "Somewhat less. Just under five thousand dollars, according to the tax rolls. Seven years ago, at the beginning of his third term, the senator bought it for $2.7 million."
"Your point being?"
The woman fixed him with those fascinating eyes. "The house was built by a sea captain who never intended to live in it. He willed it to his granddaughter. He knew it would appreciate far more than anything else he could leave her. That is how the senator feels about his political future. What we start here will increase geometrically over the years to come."
"With respect, everyone says that," Rodgers told her.
"The senator has a voting record."
"I know. I looked it up," Rodgers said. "It's conservative and protectionist, with a heavy helping of big stickism."
"Are those very different from your own beliefs?" she asked.
"Not necessarily," Rodgers said. "But you knew that, didn't you?"
"The senator has powerful allies and extensive resources," Kendra admitted. "General, people have a great deal of respect for you. The senator will need an adviser like you." The woman leaned close.
"Someone who has experience in the field, off the field, and is fearless in both arenas. Someone who also has experience in intelligence. You are uniquely qualified."
"Thanks," he said. After weeks of feeling like a bastard son at Op-Center, that was good to hear.
The woman finished her Coke. She set the glass on the counter.
"General Rodgers I'm tired."
"You don't look it."
"I feel it," she said. "My staff and I put a lot of weeks into this party. Now I'm going to slip away and get some sleep."
"Actually, I'll be leaving right behind you," Rodgers told her. "Can I give you a lift?"
"You're sweet, but Mr. Carlyle, the senator's driver, is going to take me home. Besides, you should stay and be seen."
"Talking to people."
"Your 'extensive resources' probably told you I'm not very good at that," Rodgers said.
"We heard that," she admitted. "We also heard that you're a quick study. It would help us all if the power brokers started to associate your face with this group."
"A soldier who is seen is a target," Rodgers said. "I prefer high ground or a trench."
"Even in peacetime?" she asked.
"Is that what this is, Ms. Peterson?" Rodgers asked.
"Kendra," she said.
"Kendra," he nodded. "I see a lot of mobilization out there."
"I suppose there is no such thing as neutrality in Washington." She laughed. She removed a Palm Pilot from her purse. "Would three p.m. tomorrow suit you to meet with the senator and Admiral Link?"
"Admiral Link," Rodgers said. "I know that name."
"Kenneth Link, the barrel-chested gentleman speaking with William Wilson," she said. "Crew cut, red bow tie."
Rodgers turned. "I see him. I still can't place him."
"He's the former head of Naval Intelligence, later director of covert ops for the CIA," Kendra said.
"Right," Rodgers said. "Now I remember. I saw him at a number of NIPC meetings." The NIPC was the National Infrastructure Protection Center.
Based at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C." it was founded in 1998 to bring together representatives from various U.S. intelligence agencies, as well as experts from private-sector think tanks. The NIPC was chartered to assess threats against critical infrastructures in energy, finance, telecommunications, water, and emergency services. "He was always complaining about special interests and compromise."
"The admiral does not believe in making concessions where national security is concerned," the woman replied. "Do you think you would have a problem working with him on a daily basis?"
"Not if we agree that there's a difference between national security and paranoia," Rodgers said.
"What is the difference?" she asked.
"One is a door that has a lock, the other is a door that's completely unhinged," Rodgers replied.
"I like it," she said. "That's something you can discuss together assuming three o'clock is convenient."
"I'll be there," Rodgers said.
"Good." She tucked away her Palm Pilot and once again offered her hand. "Thank you for coming, General. I hope this has been the start of a long and rewarding relationship."
Rodgers smiled at the woman as she withdrew. He did not watch her go but turned back to the bar. He replayed their brief conversation as he finished his drink. The young woman had basically confirmed that Senator Orr would be ramping up a new party and running for president.
Rodgers would enjoy being a part of that. His own politics were a little right of center. It would not be difficult supporting the Texan's vision. Rodgers thought back to the early months at Op-Center when he and Director Paul Hood and Bob Herbert moved the newly chartered domestic-crisis organization into a two-story building at Andrews Air Force Base. They staffed the dozen departments with top people like Darrell McCaskey from the FBI, computer genius Matt Stoll, political liaison Martha Mackall, psychologist and profiler Liz Gordon, attorney Lowell Coffey III, and others. They built Striker and recruited the late Lieutenant Colonel Charles Squires to lead it. They saw their initial areas of responsibility expand from a national to an international arena. Those were exciting, rewarding times. There was also a sense of personal evolution for Rodgers. The warrior who had fought in Vietnam and had commanded a mechanized brigade in the Persian Gulf was running special ops missions in North Korea and the Bekaa Valley, rescuing hostages at the United Nations, preventing a new civil war in Spain and nuclear war between India and Pakistan.