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This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

THEATER OF OPERATION

First edition. March 9, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Rick Jones.

Written by Rick Jones.

THEATER OF OPERATION

By

Rick Jones

© 2017 Rick Jones. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and should not be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information e-mail all inquiries to: rick@rickjonz.com

Visit Rick Jones on the World Wide Web at: www.rickjonz.com

ALSO BY RICK JONES:

Vatican Knights Series

The Vatican Knights

Shepherd One

The Iscariot Agenda

Pandora's Ark

The Bridge of Bones

Crosses to Bear

The Lost Cathedral

Dark Advent

Cabal

The Golgotha Pursuit

Targeted Killing

(COMING SOON) The Barbed Crown

Stand Alone Novels

Familiar Stranger

The Valley

Mausoleum 2069

Hunter Series

Night of the Hunter

The Black Key

Theater of Operation

The Eden Series

The Crypts of Eden (A John Savage/Alyssa Moore Adventure)

The Menagerie (A John Savage/Alyssa Moore Adventure)

The Thrones of Eden (A John Savage/Alyssa Moore Adventure)

The Atlantis Series

City Beneath the Sea (A John Savage/Alyssa Moore Adventure)

(COMING) The Sacred Vault (The Quest for the Emerald Tablet) (A John Savage/Alyssa Moore Adventure)

PART ONE

DESPOT

PROLOGUE

Niamey, Niger

West Africa

Four Months Ago

Niger is a unitary semi-presidential republic that is helmed by a president and a prime minister. It is also a fragile government that is growing increasingly under the power of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, with the Muslim faithful in Niger flexing their authoritative muscle for complete and absolute control over the country’s National Assembly. Once the pieces had been put into place, a coup was staged by a militant who was as vicious as he was ambitious.

On the day of the takeover, Abaeze Bunta delighted himself by killing innocent people with malicious amusement. Those within the Assembly who contested Bunta quickly discovered how cruel he could be with the slicing edge of his machete; examples were made, tongues swiftly fell silent, and those who wished to live another day bowed and prayed to their new god.

With the government on the verge of becoming a failed system due to terrorism growing increasingly violent to fundamentalist currents, Abaeze Bunta became a puppet to the ISIL regime and acted as judge, jury and executioner with the support of the faction.

Now with martial law having been declared in Niamey, the streets were empty with the exception of Jeeps, tanks and Strykers. Heavily armed troops canvassed the parliamentary grounds and government buildings to ferret out those in hiding. And those who had been located hiding underneath desks or inside closets were marched into the streets, forced to their knees, and summarily executed—being man or woman made no difference. In time the bodies began to mount, and the ground and gutters began to run crimson as if the earth was bleeding out. Reports of gunfire could be heard from as far away as ten kilometers. And columns of black smoke rose from several points across the city, most notably from the administrative buildings.

In the office of the presidential palace, President Mosi Abimbola was eagerly going through his safe and placing CFA francs totaling more than $100,000 U.S. dollars into a briefcase. The moment he clasped it shut, the door swung wide, and a team of heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues entered the room with the points of their rifles aimed at Abimbola.

At first the president seemed taken aback by this, since his office was sacred ground. But the moment Abaeze Bunta entered the area, everything on Abimbola’s face gave way to neutrality.

President Mosi Abimbola, said Bunta, his smile in high contrast against skin that was dark and shiny as eggplant. He was handsome with strong, angular features. His development was powerful with sinewy ropes of muscle. But his most outstanding feature was the stark color of his eyes, which were golden yellow with a striking hue similar to a cat's. Your government is on the verge of failing, he said. The parliament has been disbanded…And a new one will take its place. He continued to walk around the room admiring all the top-end furnishings, sometimes tracing a fingertip over certain items like the gold-plated cigar box, and the sleek curve of the ivory tusk that hung against the wall. I guess it truly is divine to be king, he added.

What do you want, Bunta?

The soldier turned toward the president. What do I want? Bunta pointed to the presidential chair. I want that seat, he told him. I want that desk. I want that tusk you have hanging on the wall. That cigar box. I want everything you have, President Abimbola. And I have come to claim them.

Bunta, your coup will fail. The prime minister—

Prime Minister Kwame Obasi is dead, he interjected. Then to drive his point home, Bunta reached over his head, grabbed the handle of a bolo machete from a scabbard that was strapped to his back, and removed the blade. It was still glistening red from a recent kill, as he pointed it at Abimbola. My weapon of choice, he said, simply because it never runs dry.

President Abimbola’s eyes focused on the machete.

Your regime was always on the verge of failing, said Bunta. Always disbanding the parliament in order to create another, so that you could continue your political agendas without opposition.

It was for the good of the whole, the president countered.

For the good for the whole? Bunta sounded dramatically incredulous. Then he broke into mock laughter. You lie, Abimbola, as you always have. With you it’s always been for the good of the one. And for Prime Minister Obasi the same; for the good of the one.

Bunta directed his machete at the briefcase on the president’s table, and issued an order to one his soldier’s to open it, which he did. Inside were the neatly stacked bills of CFA francs.

Bunta grabbed a cash bundle, waved it before Abimbola’s eyes, then tossed it back into the briefcase. Your alliance with your American friends, Abimbola, is over. A new regime is now staking a claim where the Americans will no longer have a foothold in Niger.

You’re taking control, Bunta, under the ISIL banner, though it will not fly from any of our poles. You’ll become their puppet and do as they say…When they say.

Bunta’s brightly lit smile diminished as he leveled the machete in the president’s direction. What I do, President Abimbola, I do under my own volition, he contradicted harshly.

What you do, Bunta, lacks mercy.

What I do will bring Allah’s words back to rule. Sharia Law will become absolute. And the heathen freedoms will be dismissed in full. The Great Satan will no longer have a political hold on those within the new parliament. That I promise. Then with the blade of the machete, Bunta used it to sweep the briefcase off the table and to the floor, causing the bundles of cash to scatter about. No doubt the fruits of your corruption, said Bunta, referring to the money.

Abimbola held his hands out in supplication. Please, Bunta, I plead for mercy.

Mercy? Bunta took a step closer to the president. I think you said it yourself, Abimbola. Did you not just say that I hold no such virtue?

Abimbola’s chin started to shake with a gelatinous quiver. The money…Please, take it.

This isn’t about money, Abimbola. It’s about ideology. The Muslim faith is spreading throughout Africa. And the word of Allah is spreading as it should. But those like you, Abimbola, who worship a god that is in the form of money, he pointed to the bundles on the floor, have no place in Allah’s brave new world.

Abimbola fell to his knees and clasped his hands together in an attitude of prayer. I do so pray to Allah.

Then let Allah decide if He will take you fully into His embrace…Or deny you paradise. Bunta raised the machete and brought it down again and again and again, the strokes ending Abimbola’s life while his blood stained the surrounding bills that had become his bed to lie upon.

Chapter One

Istanbul, Turkey

One Month Ago

Abaeze Bunta was impeccably dressed in a suit, shirt and tie, the garments of Western wear as he sat with one leg crossed leisurely over the other while waiting for his contact inside a restaurant in Istanbul. He had taken a booth in the back, one that was far from the earshot of others. On the table before him was a perspiring glass of Ayran, a liquid yogurt that had been whipped with added water and salt, then served cold.

Right at the mark of noon, a woman who was sporting a skirt with its length-cut just below her knees, entered the restaurant and took the seat opposite Bunta in the booth. Removing her hat to expose raven hair, and then her sunglasses, she placed them both on the seat beside her. In Bunta’s eyes she was magnificently beautiful. But to dress as she did to look like a whore, however, made him look upon her as if she was repulsive. Allah would never approve of her dress, he thought. Nor did he.

Abaeze Bunta, she said. You know who I am.

He nodded. I do.

Her name was Anahita Iravani, an Iranian national who worked for the Ministry of Intelligence, or the VAJA, in Tehran. She was well-educated and proficient in several languages, including French, which was Niger’s primary language.

My principals want me to inform you that our union here today must be outside the scope of the IAEA for obvious reasons, she told him evenly. The IAEA was the international center for cooperation in the nuclear field, and worked with all the Member States of the United Nations and with multiple partners across the globe to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.

Of course, he said. Since the coup, my country has become the focal point of international courts who want to levy sanctions against the regime. If the IAEA learns of our union with Tehran and the reasons behind it, the effects would cripple our nations in the eyes of the world community. Your efforts to create nuclear weapons off-the-grid would be one of impossible achievement, should global inspectors decide to examine your nuclear programs much more closely.

She nodded. As you know, Iran has two uranium mines that are under the strict monitoring of the IAEA, she told him. Since they require us to record every tonne prospected from those locations, we have to manage a site of development in Niger in order to keep the IAEA blind of our intentions.

Understood, Bunta said. Without an extended hand from each of our nations in support of the other, there can be no final jihad. You have the technology…We obviously have the resources.

Niger was one of the top-producing nations in the world when it came to producing weapons-grade plutonium. Now that Iran had the technology to produce nuclear weapons, and Niger had the engineering resources to mine the uranium, the benefit to create an undisclosed arsenal of WMDs under the Niger and Iranian banners were possible. Iran would provide the engineers, and in return Niger would provide the uranium.

Of course, he continued, being discreet in this day and age with the advancement of technology the way it is, and given that the Americans and the CIA are posted everywhere, it may be one of great difficulty to maintain discreet communications.

It can be done, she told him. There are always systems to bypass the methods of the watchman’s eye. As the evolution of intelligence changes, so must we if we’re to progress to the next level. We create the advantage, Abaeze…And we embrace it.

Bunta nodded. Though he didn’t like the dress of the whore across from him, he did like the way she carried herself, which was with confidence. With her by his side, he believed he could achieve the means to generate a program that could enable Niger to create nuclear weapons with enough yield to have a measure of destructive efficiency.

And ISIL would finally have their scepter of rule.

We will begin the export of gas centrifuges to your location in Niamey to commence the enrichment process of U-235. Once this is done, half the yield will be smuggled into Iran without the IAEA having any knowledge of its transport. In return for the processed U-235, we will send four of our leading engineers to aid you in the development of nuclear weaponry.

Abaeze nodded at this. And then: Since the coup, he began, we have conscripted many to work the mines.

By force?

Is there any other way?

Be careful, she told him. If tensions rise high enough, civil war could destroy everything we strive to achieve.

He raised a hand and patted the air. Everything is under control, he told her. Insurgents are quickly dealt with as examples, with their bodies hanging in central squares as reminders to those who consider speaking out against the will of Allah.

She eased back into her seat. You mine the uranium for our covert program of development, and we will provide you with the tools of technology to develop your arsenal.

Agreed.

Additional plans were discussed regarding the delivery of the gas centrifuges and the engineers who would work them. Another tactic that Abaeze wanted to employ was to establish a science center inside a defunct hospital, but disguise it to the world as a working medical facility. Strategies to see the operation through without the IAEA or the world community privy to the undertaking were also mentioned. And as the day wore on the woman across from Abaeze Bunta became less of a whore to him, since a new alliance had been born.

Iran would get its undeclared uranium to covertly develop nuclear weapons without the IAEA’s notice.

And Abaeze Bunta would get the technology needed to give ISIL a weapon of mass destruction.

Chapter Two

CIA Headquarters

Langley, Virginia

Present