Genre: Science Fiction Espionage
Type of Short Story: Novelette
Summary: Follow the exploits of Gene Bukowski and his team from the International Security Assistance Force in this near future Science Fiction Espionage series. This is the first in the series and Gene's assignment is to extract a former witness, and his handler, before the Russian authorities can get their hands on them!
Sladjan Smukavec rubbed his gloved hands together in a vain attempt of staying warm, grateful that he had paid attention to the not so subtle suggestion that he pack for cold weather. Of course, if he were to be honest with himself the suggestion was more akin to a threat, but the sentiment was there. After all, he was a valuable asset to his employer, so it wasn't as if the thugs could do any harm. At least not until his usefulness ended, something he hoped would never eventuate. He just wished that they had told him how cold it would be when they first bundled him into a car. Resisting the urge to stomp his feet, he continued watching as people went about loading the long container vessel.
Then again, the thugs neglected to tell him where he had been taken in the first place.
One thing was certain however, this was no paradise.
Although, for a Russian this far north, it may as well be.
It was isolated, and the digital age seemed to be stuck in a time-warp, dating back sixty years. Of course, until recently he had no idea how long a reach his employers had, assuming that they were just thugs at best and a well organised syndicate at worst. This facility merely represented one avenue available to his employed, something the cybernetic-prostheses surgeon had no thought possible even in his wildest dreams. He continued staring, taking in the white netting and snow that covered most of the facility. Just never mind that the facility was a fully fledged seaport, with pens for nuclear submarines and an accompanying air strip housing state of the art fighter jets.
"I understand you've the best in the business," the woman next to Smukavec said, breaking the sombre moment. Smukavec blinked, and reminded himself who it was next to him. Marya Samsonova had once made history by being the first woman to have earned the position of commander-in-chief of the Russian Strategic Artillery Corps, and eventually rising to Minister of Defence. But that was before the current regime, which had singlehandedly reappointed senior military positions by men and women that were willing to work closer with Europe and the United States. Last he heard, Samsonova had been appointed as the Russian Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China. So yes, it was initially a bit of a shock seeing her waiting for him. Still, Smukavec knew he had to tread carefully.
"I was the best in the business, General," he said carefully.
Like with the weather, he had been told to watch how he addresses his employer. Yes, she may be a prominent politician and a reputable diplomat to boot, but she had resources that had impressed him--and scared the hell out of him. "But as with everything, the limelight I once enjoyed has moved on."
She pondered that statement quietly while watching the activity around them, and Smukavec tried not to dwell on the fact that he had once been the leading expert on cybernetic limbs and bio-neural operations. The techniques he had developed and technology patented had made him retire early, and make him rich beyond any expectation. It also got him into a lot of trouble later, especially when police arrested him for child pornography. That had been his undoing. It had been a humbling experience, a humiliating one at that. Neither the police nor the jury cared he had revolutionised medicine. All they cared about was that he liked watching children having intercourse.
Suddenly, she harrumphed. Smukavec tensed, reminding himself that the woman beside him controlled a criminal empire that reached beyond the city limits of Saint Petersburg. Finally, she glanced at him, and nodded to the anchored ship.
"There is a fully functional operating theatre aboard, along with the best med-techs and programmers in the Strategic Artillery Corps," she announced in a tone lacking the thick pronunciation so common of her countryman. "There are fifty of my finest men, Spetsnaz soldiers, aboard."
One should never question one's employer, and Smukavec did his best to remain calm, but wasn't about to fool himself. Still, he could not understand why he needed to know that Smaonova had attached fifty Special Forces operatives to the container ship. "No?"
"For augmentation, Doctor."
Suddenly, he froze. Of all the things she could have said, this one he least expected. Still, it made sense. In the time he had found himself employed by her, albeit indirectly, Smukavec had performed limited attachments of cybernetic-prostheses on the occasional thug who had their arm or leg shot off. Full on augmentation was tricky, challenging--and right up his alley. He sighed with relief. The healthier the person undergoing the procedure the better their chances of success. At least that was the general philosophy.
She glanced at him.
"Think of it as a pilot project," she then announced, and patted Smukavec on the shoulder with a woollen glove-wrapped hand. "If you successfully transform more than half of my men, you can assure yourself a long-term consultancy with my newly installed government."
Smukavec paused, and regarded her anew. The current government in Moscow, led by one Alexander Ivanov, was labelled as the first true democratic entity since Yeltsin. Whilst it wasn't without its problems, the regime under Ivanov had modernised economic infrastructures and secured several trade and defence agreements with Brazil and Venezuela. Equally, Russia went from a second rate country to a formidable power once again. Why she wanted to replace something that was good for the country at large was a mystery to him. Still--
"New government, General?"
She nodded, and smiled. Not that there was any hint of humour in that smile, and Sladjan Smukavec suddenly felt a shiver go down his spine...
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