Chapter 4:
Chapman delved into how they planned to conduct Operation Caelus.
plans to launch Mr. White into space using a new vehicle the government has
recently developed," she said as she gestured to the slide. "The vehicle is
capable of vertically launching into space and then flying–not gliding–back to
the same location after returning from space."
indicated to her briefing assistant that she wanted the next slide. "For those
who are interested in more details on the vehicle, they are available for review
on a need-to-know basis."
didn’t know a thing about government or classified information or briefings.
But one of the things that his sponsor–the unit member initially assigned to
provide him orientation on how things worked–explained to him was that security
was tighter here than she had seen anywhere else.
meant that RMD members knew only what they had to know. Very few people were
privy to most of what was going on. Even fewer were privy to everything.
also meant not a lot of information was available as a hard copy. So there were
no briefing packets here; no operation orders; no note taking even. No
electronic devices either–not even secure ones.
briefing assistant advanced the presentation to the next slide and Adam saw
another stock photo of space. This one took up the entire slide and bullet points
were printed over it.
will launch into the thermosphere," Ms. Chapman continued. "The thermosphere
begins around 85 kilometers above the earth’s surface. That converts to 53
miles. We will continue going until we reach 100 kilometers, or 62 miles. This
way we will ensure that we are in the globally recognized definition of outer
space," she added. "And this is important–because this way we will no longer
have to worry about respecting the airspace of sovereign nations."
continued talking as her assistant continued to advance the slides on cue. Adam
listened as she briefed the room on how the RMD planned to launch him from a
point in the continental U.S.
we reach the 100 kilometers mark in the thermosphere, our vehicle will orbit
until it is directly over the CAR," Ms. Chapman said. She had a very clear
speaking voice, with each word being very distinct. "Mr. White will then
conduct a space dive directly onto the HVT’s position."
slide advanced and she continued. "For the past few weeks, we have been
launching the exact same type of vehicle into space from the same U.S. location
on a regular basis. The official reason the U.S. government gives for these
launches is that it is testing new spacecraft," she said. "The launch with Mr.
White we be conducted in the same way so as to deceive China, Russia, and other
nations about what we actually are doing."
this legal?" Adam asked. "I mean, is it legal for the U.S. government to
operate in space this way?"
Chapman was not as abrupt this time. She forced a smile and held her hands in
front of her. "RMD lawyers have assured us it is," she said. People looked at
Adam again. This time he met a few of their stares. He looked at one woman who
quickly lowered her head and looked at the conference table. He looked at one
of the men. That man tried to be more casual in looking away, turning his head
back to Ms. Chapman as he adjusted his tie. Others didn’t wait for him to meet
their eyeballs and they also looked back at their briefer. "No one has even
publicly talked about the idea of deploying ground forces by space," Ms.
Chapman added. "The concept is so extreme at the moment because the technology
doesn’t exist for anyone who isn’t using, um, a superhuman like . . . like
I can’t survive in space," Adam reminded her.
But RMD has developed technology specifically for you that will allow you to do
so," Ms. Chapman said. "Part of the reason we rigorously tested your abilities
during the recruitment process was so we could see what you’re capable of–what
you’re capable of doing, that is. Those endurance tests, specifically the ones
that measured how high you can fly, showed that you are nearly capable of
flying into space with no special equipment. The equipment we’ve developed will
make it so you can fly in the thermosphere."
just nodded.
Chapman then handed the briefing over to a familiar face: Ms. Bannister. Ms.
Bannister would provide intelligence on the HVT and his location.
Ms. Chapman mentioned, Toumani Cisse is a Malian native. He was a former U.S.
asset who manipulated the U.S. into funding and resourcing his own terrorist
group," Ms. Bannister said. The briefing assistant automatically forwarded the
presentation to the appropriate slide. "He changes the name of his group every
few months. So RMD analysts have come to call it the Cisse Conglomerate for the
sake of continuity. Cisse has said he wants to create his own nation out of a
number of African countries. But we’re not certain that’s true. Our
intelligence collection and analysis indicates he’s probably more interested in
acting as a mafia; someone focused on acquiring money and power."
next slide appeared on the screen and Adam saw a list of terrorist attacks and skirmishes
Cisse had organized. "Regardless of his true intentions, he is a bad guy," Ms.
Bannister said. "He has murdered hundreds if not thousands across the region.
And, of course, the U.S. feels responsible for that since it created him."
continued with the intelligence they had on Cisse. It was thorough and more
than Adam could absorb. But she also briefed him on the amount of enemy forces
he could expect at the target location. She said intelligence suggested that
Cisse would probably have a platoon-sized or company-sized force surrounding
him for protection.
then she mentioned what the RMD wanted him to collect on Cisse.
you neutralize the HVT, the RMD needs you to collect an iris scan,
fingerprints, a DNA sample, photos of scars on his back, and both full body and
facial photos of him," Ms. Bannister said. "We need these so we can make a
positive identification that we have successfully eliminated the threat. We
will provide you with the equipment for this collection and train you on how to
use it."
Bannister wrapped up her portion of the briefing by mentioning that the U.S.
had one human asset on the ground. That asset had developed pattern of life
intelligence on Cisse. He also would confirm that Cisse was on site before the
RMD launched Adam from space.
then she turned the briefing back over to Ms. Chapman. Ms. Chapman ran through
a detailed OPORD–operation order–for Operation Caelus from start to finish.
Afterwards, she concluded the briefing and asked for any questions.
long will we have to rehearse this?" Adam asked. "Also, what happens if I tell
you I have qualms about doing this?"
week for rehearsal; time is of the essence," Ms. Chapman said. "And your
previous actions along with our in-depth interview of you have made us confident
that you will conduct this mission." She paused. "So, will you?"
said he would. She asked if there were any further questions. No one said a
it’s time to take you to get your special equipment for this mission, Mr.
White," Ms. Chapman said. "Once you have that, we will start our first
rehearsal. And if everything goes as scheduled, you’ll be in space one week
from today to get Toumani Cisse."