In 1975 Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson published The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It remains a seminal work of conspiracy fiction. Today, The Omnivore presents a serial-fiction experiment: Illuminoimia.
Everything you're afraid of is true.
Previously on Illuminoimia
Ch 2: What REALLY Happened In Benghazi
0937 hrs Outside of the El Fadeel Hotel Benghazi Libya November 12th 2012
Operative Charles Brin, Central Intelligence Agency, had a small European hatchback, a vintage .45 automatic in perfect condition, an MP7 nine-millimeter submachine gun in near perfect condition, and, in the back of the vehicle, under a ratty, prickly blanket, a thermonuclear weapon that he estimated could yield more than one megaton of destructive power.
Charles Brin, whose test results had said was “emotionally unstable” and “ethically fluid” knew a good deal about nuclear weapons and their failsafe devices. He was pretty sure that, with the Passive Action Locks engaged, he could not hot-wire and set off an American bomb. His examination of “The Package,” however, told him that this was not an ‘American bomb’—or—if it was—it was not designed with the usual safety codes that would prevent primary fission explosion from triggering the X-ray compression of the secondary plutonium core necessary to precipitate nuclear fusion.
He was pretty sure he could set this sucker off if it came to it.
From down the street he eyed the El Fadeel with its bullet pockmarked exterior and new Now-Open-For-Business glass windows. He was looking for the CIA contacts who he had told to meet him there. He was listening for the drones which he knew were hunting him. He had already spotted one likely sniper on the top of an apartment building across the street. He had no illusions: his country and very likely his own agency was trying to kill him.
If he got the chance, Charles thought, he was going to return the favor.
There was no question someone was trying to kill him because Agent Abad, his Libyan contact, and friend who had been holding his blackberry during communications with command was dead. After the Benghazi diplomatic compound—and the nearby annex (which was until a few hours before the attack was housing the bomb)--were attacked and overrun, Brin, who had already vacated with the weapon had given his encrypted company blackberry to Abad and told him to type in whatever Brin told him to via phone.
Using his cheap Libyan cell phone, Abad told Charles he’d received an email … from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s account telling him to stay put, guard The Package, and then wait for extraction. Brin had told Abad to send her a message back: “Fuck period You period.” He’d waited, wondering if Abad would actually spell out the periods.
About thirteen seconds after Abad said “it’s sent,” Brin, who was telling Abad to drop the Blackberry and his phone and run like hell, watched a smoke trail scream out of a clear blue early morning sky and puff into the wall of the house where Abad was hiding.
It wasn’t the typical hellfire missile—the whole place didn’t go up. There was a cloud of dust and smoke and Abad then was off the phone then, the line dead. Some kind of penetrator, of course: they wanted The Package back—and they wanted him killed. But he’d had a pretty good idea that was the case since seventy-two hours ago when he started racing against his personal clock.
He’d seen The Video: Operative Brin watched a lot of YouTube, and it had saved his life.
Brin wore a black and white scarf wrapped around his head and hanging down the front. He wore trendy sunglasses. He could fit the guns under his coat easily enough that a sniper might not make them (and if he did: being armed in Libya was hardly unusual these days). He couldn’t do much about the extremely small—but very high yield nuclear weapon in the trunk—but he estimated that it would be a few hours until the NEST search gear was transferred from the states and mated to a drone so it could fly around looking for radiation signatures.
Operative Brin mentally tracked their device at somewhere just beyond the Mediterranean Sea. For now, holding a live, custom-built, un-coded nuclear weapon, this was his game. He’d demanded a meeting or else his “friend” would trigger the device. If Brin could have conceivably thought of anyone he could leave a rogue nuclear device with Libya he’d have done it. But he couldn’t—so he’d driven it here himself.
Now he exited the car, the sunglasses cutting off the glare thrown from the dusty metal relics around him, and he walked down the street. He moved confidently under the eyes of the sniper, walking like he owned the world.
The El Fadeel was one of the places they’d put up journalists during the last heady days when the rebels were hunting for Qaddafi and was, in fact, one of the places where they’d taken his dead body on its roadshow to various important people so they could see he was really dead. Brin had traveled with it for a time, amazed at the power the man had even after his death to frighten and cow these rock-hard serious-business carnivorous soldiers.
Now, in the post-traumatic Libya the hotel was, again, open to westerners. It was, again, presenting a façade of civilization. Charles Brin changed direction abruptly and moved into the shadow of the tower. As he was still alive, he noted, the sniper had either not made him—or made him and not shot him. That would be a good sign.
Overhead fans turned slowly in the dusty air. There was a restaurant or café to the right—but he went towards the main lounge with its threadbare couches and cheap circular tables. There was a man there, with a black and gray tightly clipped beard and sunglasses. He wore a suit. He was agency: Brin could’ve smelled it on him if it had a smell. He also made Brin—and raised a couple of fingers like a Boy Scout salute: Over here.
Brin slid in, hands under the table, the gun less than a second away in its holster. He forced himself not to look around: if the man moved on him he’d have to hope he was fast enough to get a killing shot off. If they decided to kill him now, escape would likely not be an option.
Likely. But not for sure. Brin couldn’t think of anyone he could leave a nuclear weapon with—but that didn’t mean he couldn’t think of anything at all.
“What tipped you?” the man asked, conversationally. “I mean, we’re usually better than that. It was a cluster-fuck to be sure—I know—“ he waved a hand: We’re past discussing that. “—but once the assault team went in it ought to have been … Fast and Furious.” He grinned at the joke.
“Are you asking,” Brin said, “How I knew the Secretary of State was going to call fire in on my agency Blackberry?”
The man looked legitimately taken aback. “No—Don’t think we don’t respect you, Charles. I mean how’d you know this was all coming in the first place?”
“I watch a lot of YouTube. I know the coding.”
The man chewed on this. “You watched The Innocents of Muslims?”
“And I saw the coordinates, the attack time—all the subliminals—all the encoding. I trained myself to see it out at Wachuka.” The man shifted.
“Jedi?” He asked, eyes narrowing. It was a particular code name for an exotic brand of training.
“There are exactly 14 chairs in the café,” said Brin. “There are three green cars outside and one white one. I can tell you the make, model and year. You have a sniper on the rooftop with a Mossberg rifle and you have a girl in the café ready to make an approach when you give the signal. If I see her get up, I’m going to shoot you.”
This last bit was a guess—but he couldn’t take chances: if the girl got up he was going to shoot Sunglasses.
Sunglasses … chewed on this. “So you realized we were clearing for the attack and you … ?”
“Made arrangements. A new ride. Some contacts. Safe house. Gave my blackberry to Abad—poor guy. Got a burner phone.” He shrugged: What can you do? Gotta take precautions when your government decides to kill you.
Sunglasses … considered. “What do you want, Brin? What’s your endgame then?”
“I want a Borune Identity,” he said. He let that hang. Sunglasses … didn’t smile. Neither did Charles—it was a joke—but it wasn’t lingo. It meant the same thing to Sunglasses that it’d mean to anyone who’d seen a movie in the last 10 years: it meant Operative Charles Brin wanted to disappear. With a new identity.
Sunglasses smiled then. Decision made. “That’s it? We get the weapon back? Okay. You win. You get a ticket and a new passport and one hundred thou—“
Brin shot him. The girl at the café was gone from her chair like a magician’s trick and Charles had to throw himself sideways to take cover behind one of the chairs before two rounds punched through it. On the floor next to the tiny round table he couldn’t see her—but he guessed she’d taken cover in the archway to the café and was adjusting her aim to penetrate the furniture and gun him down. He didn’t have time for the submachine gun but he had five rounds left in the .45 and he fired—blind—at where he imagined her to be. The sound thundered off the tile floors and rebounded off the walls. It was apocalyptic.
“You—“ said Sunglasses—he was badly hurt, but Brin had fired low in case he was wearing a vest. One round went into his groin. The other deep into his upper thigh, aiming for the artery. Sunglasses writhed on the couch “Shit,” he finished--expired. Brin adjusted his aim. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.
Brin’s last three shots went unanswered as his left hand worked out the MP7. He was having a hard time getting it untangled from his jacket and his body when he felt as much as saw a shadow over him. The sniper.
“You’re going to tell us where it is,” said the man, grinning grimly. “And then we’re going to throw what little’s left of you to the dogs.” He was pointing his rifle casually down into Brin’s face. Brin smiled.
There is a technique for marking playing cards that allows a person to see what the card is but does not change the visible back of it. It is a chemical called ‘Juice’ and its composition is a trade secret among professional cheaters. While it fluoresces clearly under black-light and can be easily seen, under normal lighting conditions it is invisible.
You have to be trained to see it. After that, all the cards might as well be face up.
There are other things like that. At the Military Intelligence training center out in the Arizona desert, Charles Brin had been trained in ‘coding.’ Coding—or more precisely reading coding—was how to see very specific types of secret messaging. Micro-expressions on the faces of actors, prominent symbology in certain patterns, changes in tones. These were “Keys.”
Once the “Key” got your attention, you could extract the message. Music was great for this—it allowed for individual tracks, which could contain extended sequences of data easily revealed with the right tools. Learning to see a “Key” took specialized training—and lots of it. There were, theoretically, an infinite number of “Keys” one could produce allowing for nearly infinite nearly number of target audiences and messages that would, theoretically, be invisible to everyone else.
But Brin’s major training wasn’t in Coding. It was in a discipline of Situational Awareness which aimed to very mildly alter the way he processed sensory input: it was practice in remembering large chunks of audio and visual input for several moments more than normal and then having about 30% improved recall of “trivia” during those precious few moments. It was a prototype program attempting to give an edge to operators in what was euphemistically called “fluid environments.” Those who had seen the results of hyper-awareness training had another name for the project: They called it “Jedi.”
The two kinds of training, however, seemed to produce a unique and synergistic effect that no one had anticipated. Charles Brin started “decoding” Keys about six months ago. These were Keys--and messages--he had never been trained for. Once you saw them, you couldn’t unsee them. When he started decoding Keys that didn’t belong to the agency there were suddenly secret messages everywhere. Charles Brin would have been very well served to decide he had gone insane—become paranoid.
It never crossed his mind to—he figured they really were out to get him. He started watching about six hours of YouTube a day—and sleeping two hours on his off-shift trying to determine what the storm of embedded whispers was trying to tell him. Mostly it was meaningless jibberish. Once in a while though …
In The Innocence of Muslims it had been a series of numerical codings which, upon examination, had proved to be (a) coordinates for mortar shelling from the park to allow a kill-through of the embassy and (b) discrete instructions on penetrating the annex without needing to blow it up, and rules for extracting the ultimate target: The Package. Those instructions would leave whoever was guarding it very, very dead.
That, he’d thought, explained the otherwise bizarre security pull-out Washington had ordered.
Whoever The Package was meant for, they would have been told to be watching for various kinds of media. When the video became viral they’d have certainly seen it. It was a perfect way of communicating that left no fingerprints whatsoever. The science was restricted—but reasonably well understood. Charles hadn’t been sure it was being run by The Agency—but when he saw it—and figured out what it was—he immediately made plans to run.
That had included this meeting to try to determine who, exactly, was trying to kill him (possibilities included: The State Department, The CIA, Military Special Forces, and a variety of other less relevant actors). When Sunglasses showed up—dripping CIA—Brin had made his determination: The State Department.
It was possible the email really was from Hillary Clinton.
Brin sprawled on the floor holding the empty gun outstretched so the man wouldn’t shoot him.
“Roll over. Slowly.”
Brin did. Slowly.
“Push it away. I will leave you wounded and alive if you do anything I don’t like.” The sniper said. The girl from the café was coming closer—her gun out—she was doing crowd control. Smart. But there wasn’t a crowd—everyone had taken cover.
Brin pushed the gun away—carefully—the man’s finger took up all the slack on the rifle’s trigger. It was unerringly pointed at his chest. A little low for the heart—and right over his spine. A shove—and the submachine gun scraped on the tile. The girl brought her handgun around on him.
It wasn’t hard to hire mercenaries in Libya these days. The man in the doorway was almost completely indiscriminate with his AK47 but enough of the fire was clustered on the two assassins standing over him that it didn’t matter. He checked Sunglasses’ blackberry before he ran.
WE’RE GOING TO KILL YOU – HRC.
Continue to Chapter 3: Atrocity Training