Headlines from the Headline News Network on October 13th:
"London, Paris, and Berlin declare war on the U.S.S.R; others follow"
"New Soviet offensive near St. Louis"
"CID probe investigates possible attriocities during the fighting in Maryland"
Kneecap was designed after the Eurasian War as a place where the President and a few other select people could go to survive a suposed atomic attack on Washington, though today it serves as President Dugan's office while the White House is being refurbished and a safe place while Soviet bombing raids are not quite out of the question. Conrad was familar with the complex although he'd never actually been there; well he was familar on how to get in, even if he wasn't on of those select people. Despite its purpose, that's not why Conrad was going there on the morning of October 13th, he was summoned to meet with the President to discuss "pressing issues," even Conrad being new to the General bit, knew that whatever the President was going to say he wasn't going to like it. "The President will see you now." the secretary said. "Oh, thank you." Conrad responded, he then gathered his stuff and proceeded to the office. The room itself was not unordinary, a desk with several telephones, stacks of paper and various other office supplies, in the middle of a huge conrete room with a few odds and ends on the wall: a flag, a world map, nothing else worth noting. The President was busy with his nose buried in paperwork, which he didn't stray from to acknowledge Conrad's entrance. Conrad just stood there motionless in a half-hearted attempt at an attention posture. After another minute of silence, the President finally threw down his pen and made eye contact. "Your late." he started. Conrad stood moitionless, though he did manage to sneak a peak at his own watch by which he was one minute early. "Do you know why you are here, General?" "I was asking myself that very question." Conrad replied. "Do you read the Times? New York that is." the President asked. "I try not to make a habit of it. I find that it's full of liars and idiots, if I do say so myself. Mostly self-rightous bigots who'll say anything to make a big splash, sir." "Well did you read today's?" "No, my staff will brief me if there is anything important going on, sir." I think you should read this." the President tossed the front page of this morning's New York Times infront of Conrad, which he picked up and began to skim over. "Hmmm...interesting, someone finally gave the Reds a bit of their own medicine. Too bad I can't take credit for it, sir. The bullets are from a M-16, I use a 9mm. Some private got pissed-off and took matters into his own hands, hardly anything to get uptight over or warrant a front page cover." "Very good, General. Very good," the President said laughing "I was told that your skills in lying and manipulation were second to none and I must say you have not dissapointed." "I don't quite understand, sir." "Perhaps you skipped over this little section: '...an eyewitness account says that a General took a private's M-16 and shot the Russian P.O.W.'s in violation of the Geneva Convention...' must I go on?" Conrad just rolled his eyes. "You do know what they do to officers who do this sort of thing in Russia? They give him a medal, now the Russians care as much about the Geneva Convention as do Texas oil men do about the environment. If you're going to get mad at someone get mad at this asshole for printing such treasonous crap." "Now you listen, General. I've had calls from just about every Congressman and Senator asking for your head on a stick. You've put me in a mess, General." "I've got an idea, why don't you and your little politician friends go make your policy and give your speeches and leave the war to us big boys." "You're digging your own grave, General. I suggest you stop." "My grave was dug before I got in here." "Well it's out of my hands now. You've left me little choice but to relieve you of command of 4th Army. I am then reassigning you to Germany where you will observe the allied army along the border with Poland, it will also convince the Reds that an attack is in the near future and tie up forces in Europe." "Great, not only am I in a meaningless position, but I've been regulated to decoy duty as well. Why don't you just shoot me and end my suffering. "Becuase we need you. Just consider yourself on probation, a temporary thing till this passes over. I can't do nothing then they'll think that I've got no control of my generals. Now don't tell anyone this but you will be in charge of the 9th Army, which right now is nothing more than observers, however, shipments are set to begin of our new tanks." At this point Conrad knew that the President was making exaggerated claims. He had no doubt that some of what he just said was true, but not all of it. The President despite being a incompetent leader was a genius of politics and Conrad knew it, so he decided to "play the game." "If you needed me I'd be in the Midwest fighting right now, not answering for something that happend almost a month ago. But, I'll play your little game: I go to Europe and do what you want and then I get my army back, fine. But if you come crawling back to me begging for me to bail you out again; you can go straight to Hell, because I'm not going to be used like some toy and then tossed in the closet when ever I say or do something that displeases someone. You either get all of me, or none of me. Now good day." Conrad finished his rant then turned and left the room without asking or being granted permission to do so. He'd hoped that Dugan would fire him right there, so he could carry on the war in his own way, however, he didn't so Conrad was on his way to his dog house in Europe.
"Pack your bags." Conrad ordered Harrison as he stormed in his former HQ.
"Your meeting...you've gotten a new command." Harrison responded.
"Something like that." Conrad replied before his door slammed shut, before coming back open a few inches. Harrison knew whatever it was, the General wasn't happy about it just from his tone. Harrison was about to knock on Conrad's door, which was a few inches open, but stopped when he heard loud unintelligible yelling eminating from the General's office. Harrison feeling curious stuck his head in the crack to see Conrad with the phone next to his left ear having a heated debate with someone, in a language unfamiliar to him. Conrad didn't immediately noticed that Harrison was there, as he had his back turned to the door, but when he did, he picked up his stapler and chucked it in Harrison's direction missing him by a good two feet, but Harrison got the message and quickly left shutting the door behind him. Later that evening, Harrison and the rest of the General's staff found out the details of their new assingment. They didn't learn about directly from Conrad, who had not left his office since he'd gotten back from his meeting earlier in the afternoon, but rather by message from Washington giving the specifics of his new assignment, as it was S.O.P for Conrad's staff to open his mail, and when that they were to depart later in the evening.
* Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
"Welcome to London, General," a British officer yelled as Conrad stepped off his plane, "I assume your flight was good."
"No worse than it usually is." Conrad remarked.
"The car is over there...oh and there is a message for you." he then handed Conrad a slip of paper, which he skimmed over and then stuffed in his pocket.
"Very well, I want to get to my room as soon as possible. I'm very tired."
"Here is your room, General." the officer, a major, said touring the accomodations. "Your bags are already there."
"Excellent. Now leave me, as I said I'm very tired and tomorrow is another long day." Without hesitation he left and Conrad closed and locked the door. He then proceeded to his bags, which he began searching through randomly tossing an item on the bed every few mintues. After he had finished rummaging through his bag he changed from his uniform into a suit and donned a fedora. On his way to the window he loaded his pistol, 9mm and tucked it into this jacket. He opened the massive windows and used piping to climb down to the alley below. After making his way into the metro system, he got on a train and then after a few stops he got off. He stood around scanning the area until he found what he was looking for...a maintenance door which he proceeded to.
"Hey, you can't go in there." someone shouted from behind.
"Maintenance, Division 6. I got a call that there was a problem and was told to come down here and fix it" Conrad said in his most proper English. "Here's my identification." Flashing some sort of badge towards to operator who after looking at it laughed.
"In that case you'll need this," he said handing Conrad a hard helmet, "just follow this corridor to the 'T' and then take a right, third door on your left. You can't miss it, General." Conrad acknowledged the man, whom he knew he was supposed to find, and proceeded through a maze of piping until he came to the door which was looking for. Inside Conrad was promptly greeted by a pair of sub-machine guns.
"Sorry, sir. He's waiting for you in there." One of the soldiers said.
"Your late, General." Tomplimson said entering the room.
"You can blame your tour guide that picked me up from the airport for that." Conrad remarked.
"I haven't time for your excuses, follow me." They made their way through another series of doors, until they came to an office room. "Take a seat, please. Now, at 0300 this morning a certain US Senator was kidnapped from his residence in Kansas City."
"And your point is?" Conrad said slightly annoyed.
"That was no ordinary senator. Senator Archer was on the Senate Arms Development Committee." Conrad suddendly became attentive." Now, ordinarily we'd not go to such extreme measures to ensure that the Russians don't get the information he has, but this is a special circumstance."
"Which is, that he has information on the Chronosphere project."
"I've heard of it, something about time-travel, right?" Conrad said playing dumb. Tomplimson handed him a folder, which Conrad studied. "No wonder the Russians are so interested in this project. It makes their Iron Curtain look like a child's toy."
"Precisely, that's why it's of the upmost importance that we get him back before the Russians can get the location of the project."
"And where is this project located?"
"Right under the Bear's nose."
"Yes, and if they find out where it is, you can kiss years of research good-bye. That's why we must get Archer before the Reds do."
"The Reds do? You mean someone else did it?"
"Yes, we belive that another organization is responsible for his abduction, for no other reason than the facility has not come under attack, nor have the Russians seemed to note its existance. So what do you think?" Conrad paused.
"Do we know who?"
"We have our suspects, mainly Eastern European maffia types."
"Not much, we do know that the Russians don't have Archer...yet. I'd assume the deal would go down somewhere in the Middle East, outside the direct control of either power; Turkey or Iran would be logical choices."
"It looks like I need to get invited then."
"And how do you plan to do that?"
"I've got a favor to call-in."
"You? Owed a favor? With whom?" Conrad hesitated before answering inaudiably.
"Leif Monton? Why would he tell you? If I recall correctly, that was his yacI though you cost him a lot of money, crashing this luxury yacht into a Paris bridge if I remember correctly."
"I'm sure he's gotten over it, water under the bridge." Conrad said with a smile.
"Im sure..but how do you plan to find him, he hasn't been seen in nearly two years."
"I've got my sources."
"I'm sure you do, but just to make sure I'm sending 002 to help you."
"No, I work alone."
"Still setting conditions, Adrian? I guess we have no choice then, but do try to be careful and for god's sake tell us what is going on."
"Hey, its me." Conrad said with a wink as he walked out the door.
"That's what I'm afraid of."
* Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
"Yes, I'm hoping you can help me I'm looking for the poker game." Conrad asked one of the managers on the floor of the Casino.
"Ah, yes. The poker tables are right over there, sir." he replied.
"No, I don't think you understand. I'm looking for the game.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what you are talking about, sir."
"Perhaps this will jog your memory." Conrad said stuffing a wad of Turkish Liras into his pocket. The manager briefly glanced at his pocket and then spoke.
"Right this way, sir."
"Thank you." Conrad said with a smile.
Walking through the casino the manager led Conrad to a room far away and far under ground from the "casino."
"How shall I introduce you, sir."
"Conrad," he said lighting a cigarette."Adrian, Conrad."
"Very well, Mr. Conrad." The manager opened the door to a smoke filled room filled with a dozen varities of characters, mostly wealthy men from Asia or the Middle East gambling on various sorts of things. At the poker table there were three men: a middle-eastern oil tycoon, a wine merchant from France, and a Russian naval officer; they all had two things in common, they all were very rich and very good poker players and Conrad knew this.
"Gentlemen, this is Mr. Conrad, he'll be joining you tonight." The majority of the people in the room hardly noticed or cared to notice with the exception of the Russian Naval Officer, and an Admiral at that.
"This is hardly a place for ametures, this is an exclusive game, but if he wishes to lose his money I'll not complain." he said in this broken English. Conrad sat down and exchanged his several stacks of money for chips, $50 thousand in all.
"So, what's the game." Conrad asked.
"Hold-em, $500 blinds, , $1000 minimum bid." the dealer said.
"Is there a limit?" Conrad asked.
"Nyet, this is real poker, if you want to play that limit shit, go upstairs." the Russian interrupted. "Now may we please start." The dealer shuffled and dealt each player two cards, face down. The action was on Conrad who after a quick glance shoved $5 thousand in the middle.
"Very Agressive, Mr. Conrad." the Russian, an Admiral Peter Zavaksi.
"It's been burning a hole in my pocket." Conrad replied.
"Indeed, now tell me this name Conrad, it is very familiar to me, should I know it from some where?"
"I'm not suprised, 'tis a common sounding name, Conrad, Connor, Concord." The Russian huffed and matched Conrad's raise. Next, came the flop with Conrad checking and Zavaski checking behind him. The dealer burned and then laid down fourth street, again with Conrad and Zavaski both checking. The dealer repeated the process with the river card. Conrad hesitated for a moment before tossing another ten thousand in the middle.
"Call." Zavaski said turning his two cards over, a straight. "They are good, no?"
"Good, but not good enough." Conrad said flipping over two spades to complete his flush.
"Nyet!" the Russian said pounding his fist into the table. Conrad chuckled as did the other two players.
* Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
In another room of the casino, on of the upper floors, was a man sitting infront of several dozen TV monitors, browsing the action on his casino.
"Herr Monton, switch to channel 80." A man said walking up to the desk where another man was sitting.
"That is the back room, there is nothing that concerns me there."
"Sir, I think you should." The man at the desk then huffed his displeasure.
"What is soo, important it needed an interuption." He said punching 8-0 on his remote.
"Zavaski, he just lost $20 thousand to some new guy; on the first hand." Monton's attention perked turning his eyes on the television set.
"Could it be....no." he muttered to himself.
"Who, sir?" the assistant said confused.
"The man across from Zavaski, I know him."
"Yes, that's the guy that beat him. He's a banker of some sort, I think. Monton just laughed.
"Still up to his old tricks as well, I see." He said to himself.
"I don't understand. Who is he?"
"Ein Amerikaner, a General, I believe.
"Who Conrad? He's the only one I'm aware of in Europe, but what would he be doing in Istabul without escort."
"This no ordinary general, he is most capable."
"Does Zavaski suspect?"
"Maybe, but I doubt it, he too would be not expecting a Amerikaner general to be so far from friendly lines during this war. It seems I will be watching the back room tonight."
Two hours later, the game was down to Zavaski and Conrad, the Frenchmen and the Syrian, both quit an hour ago, Conrad had doubled up his original amount with $100 thousand and Zavaski was hurting with $20 thousand.
"Seems like your performance is going as well as your countries is, Zavaski." Conrad smirked.
"You're awfully arrogant for someone who's country is on the verge of collapse." Zavaski responded.
"Oh yes, Russian units retreating on all fronts. I'm supremely worried."
"I came here to play cards not discuss business." Zavaski concluded. The dealer dealt, first to Zavaski, then to Conrad. After looking at his cards he raised $5 thousand and Conrad called.
Now came the flop: an Ace, and two queens. Zavaski looked to raise but decided to check, and Conrad followed suit.
"Zavaski has four queens, Herr Monton."
"What about Conrad?"
"I don't know he didn't have his cards up long enough for the camera to spot them. Pocket ten's I'd guess, but it doesn't matter though, he can't win."
Then came 4th Street: an Ace. Zavaski raised another five and Conrad called. Then the last card was dealt, a ten. The bet was to Conrad, who raised ten thousand.
"Well are you going all-in?" Conrad asked knowing that's all that Zavaski had left.
"Nyet, I will re-raise," he then commanded one of his assistants to bring over a case, which he dumped on the table. "$250 thousand, now it is you on the short stack."
"I'll call." Conrad said.
"With what?" Zavaski asked.
"This." Conrad said tossing a bag on the table, which Zavaski picked up and emptied.
"Where did you get this, you mother-fucker!" Zavaski screamed as he stood up shaking the medallion at Conrad. "This is priceless Russian treasure, it's been missing since the revolution." Conrad just smiled.
"I'm sure that will cover my shortage."
"I will get big reward when I get this back to Moscow."
"You sound confident, Zavaski."
"I can be with these and knowing all you have is Full-House." he said turning over his two queens to make four of a kind. The room, which had already fixed itself on the match, erupted into chatter, except for Conrad who sat motionless. He did so until Zavaski reached for the medallion.
"You're right, they do beat a full-house." he said tossing his pair of Aces face-up on the table. The room erupted into a bigger uproar.
"Inconcievable!" Zavaski shouted as he leaned back into his seat. Stunned he picked up his belongings and stormed out the door. Conrad gathered his chips and headed for the exchange not before wading through the sea of congratulations. As he got outside the door he was stopped by two very large men.
"Mr. Conrad, please allow us to escort you."
"I feel much better now." Conrad said sarcastically.
"Adrian Conrad, what an unexpected suprise, a pleasant one though. How long has it been nine years now? And I hear you are a general now? You Americans must be desperate, you need spies to be general." Monton said with a laugh.
"Six actually, you haven't exactly been exposing yourself to the world."
"Business runs so much smoother when no one can find you, apparently I didn't do a good enough job. Ah, so what brings you to Istanbul, business or do you have a thing for pissing off my biggest patron."
"Both actually," Conrad replied, "I need you to do me a favor, I need to know where they are holding Archer." Monton began to laugh uncontrollably.
"A favor? He want's me to do him a favor." he said to his aid. "That yahct cost me a million euros, and it is sitting in pieces at the bottom of the Seine River, you're lucky I don't turn you into the KGB and collect bounty on your head."
"I've hardly to worry, you and I both know there is no good in a Soviet victory." Conrad replied.
"That maybe true, but on this matter I cannot help you. I do not know of this Archer you speak of."
"A senator, kidnapped last week;"
"I'm sorry, I quit dealing with crime years ago. I'm legitimate businessman now."
"Well that's alright. Oh, by the way I'd avoid KadikÃ¶y tomorrow around 11." Conrad said getting up to leave.
"Warum?" Monton asked.
"Oh...just something about a Turkish police sting. But as you said you got out of the organized crime years ago."
"Hmm...well played. I've seemed to underestimate you, now I don't know for sure but a few days ago, someone in my casino mentioned carrying a special cargo from America to Rostov. I didn't think anything of it then, but it seems this may be what you are looking for."
"Volga. It leaves tomorrow at 4 o'clock. I know someone that works that pier, he'll get you on to the ship. From there, however, you are on your own."
"I knew you counldn't resist helping, Lief." Conrad said getting up. "Now, my winnings?"
"I will hold them, consider it compensation for my yahct."
"Fine, but I get the medallion."
"That too I keep. It will be very valuable to me."
"Too bad it's a fake. The real one is resting safely in a Swiss vault."
"Yes, I know. It makes this all the more valuable." Conrad grabbed his coat and waltzed out the door.