Oath of Honor
Namir Badawi absently studied the Nile River through his office window, lost in his thoughts. A midafternoon storm was building to the south.
A statuesque figure with a slim build and bald head, he watched the roiling clouds move toward the Republican Palace. But his thoughts were focused on a different type of storm, one aimed directly at the heart of his suffering country.
After nearly four decades of fighting, the rebellious southern region was holding its crucial referendum next month. The outcome was a foregone conclusion. There was no doubt in Namir’s mind that the people would vote for independence. They always do, even when it’s against their best interests, he thought.
John Garang, the deceased leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, would finally achieve his goal, albeit from the grave. I hope you’re burning in Jahannam for all the pain you caused from your self-righteous, sanctimonious belief in independence, he thought. After all the fighting, it’s a helicopter crash that wipes you from the face of the earth.
Namir knew better than to think that the South would declare its independence and stop fighting, not with everything at stake along
the border. Treasured oil was buried in the territory over which they fought. No peace agreement could prevent further atrocities and bloodshed. It was naïve to believe otherwise. And I am not naïve.
Independence would be declared, but unimaginable human suffering had become a staple for the Sudanese people in those contested regions.
In addition to the war with the South, his government had faced an uprising that started in 2003, when members of the Sudan Liberation Movement, supported by the Darfur Liberation Front, attacked the al-Fashir airfield in western Sudan. They’d destroyed four Hind attack gunships and killed most of the soldiers living on the base.
Khartoum’s response had been swift and severe in the form of a ruthless genocide. They’d recruited the Janjaweed militias to exact revenge upon anyone unlucky enough to be associated with the rebels in any way.
Namir had personally planned several operations that had resulted in tactical successes—with an intentionally large amount of collateral damage and civilian deaths. His methods had pleased his leadership and, ultimately, the president himself. His reward had been his selection to lead the Al Amn al-Dakhili, the organization responsible for Sudan’s internal security.
Unfortunately, the meddlesome international media had leaked images of the horrors to the United Nations and other intrusive organizations, and Namir had been forced to scale back his aggressive assaults. The UN indictments were jokes to the president and his advisors, reminders of the ineffective bureaucracy and hypocrisy institutionalized in luxurious office buildings in New York City.
Neither politics nor moral condemnation from others mattered to Namir. Things had quieted down after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the South and the 2006 agreement with the Sudan Liberation Movement in Darfur.
As the director for internal security, his singular responsibility was
clear—protect the Republic of Sudan and preserve the Islamic way of life. And it was those two duties that had him concerned as he waited for his next appointment.
A knock at the door was followed by the sound of creaking hinges as the large, ornate panel to his second-floor office swung inward.
“Sir, your two o’clock appointment is here. Shall I bring him in?” asked a young female voice.
“Yes, please, Alya. Thank you.” He smiled at his secretary and nodded.
He turned back toward the enormous double-paned window and noticed that the storm clouds had darkened. So fast. A storm is rare indeed for late December. He stepped away from the view, intending to seat himself behind his desk before his visitor entered. He stopped midstride. His visitor was already here.
Standing motionless before him was a young Chinese man who looked no older than twenty-five. He wore dark gray trousers, a white short-sleeve polo—well-defined muscles bulging under the sleeves—and a pair of black dress shoes tightly laced and impeccably polished.
Impressive. I should’ve heard him, Namir thought to himself. After years of training and field experience, his senses were sharp. The last person that had surprised him like this had ended up in a Kenyan river with a knife through his rib cage. He smiled at the memory.
“Major Lau, I presume,” Namir said in English and moved toward
the young man, hand extended. Major Lau immediately placed both feet together. He extended his right hand in a fist and covered it with his left hand. He nodded slightly and spoke.
“Director Badawi, it is my distinct honor to make your acquaintance.” His delivery and enunciation were as crisp as his appearance.
“Major Lau, while I appreciate your show of respect, please, have a seat. We have much to discuss.” His English is as good as any American’s I’ve met, Namir thought.
The young man relaxed slightly and sat down in a high-back leather chair that faced the window. His posture was purposeful, intended to display a sense of professional confidence. Namir settled into a second chair across from him.
He studied the trained soldier and killer, a man who’d risen quickly through the ranks of the Ministry of State Security of the People’s Republic of China. The MSS was legendary for its ferocious, methodical training. It had recently produced some of the most ruthless and successful undercover intelligence agents in the world. The one in his office was supposed to be one of the best they’d developed. He would tread carefully.
“Major Lau, your terms have been agreed to. The only question I have left is the time line. How soon can it be done? The referendum is only a few weeks away, and I’d like to advise my president as soon as this joint mission is complete. He’ll never know the details—just the end result. But it has to be soon, or we won’t be able to control it. Do you understand?”
“Sir, I completely—” was all Major Lau uttered before Namir interrupted him.
“Please, call me Namir. This partnership is unofficial. There is no record of this meeting, of my phone conversations with your government, of any of this. If there were and were we to be discovered, we’d both end up indicted by that worthless International Court at The Hague. I’ve been doing this a long time. I know what you are, and I assume you know what I am. We’re both professionals. Agreed?”
Major Lau exhaled and released some of the tension in his frame, a dangerous but genuine smile gracing his features. “As you wish, Namir. Please call me Gang, and I do have a time line. If all goes as planned—although you and I both know it hardly ever does—we will have confirmation and positive control well before the referendum. Once we do, it should provide you with guaranteed security, no matter what the South does.”
“How soon can you begin?” Namir inquired quietly.
“My men are here, and I’ve been informed that the software and equipment should be acquired within the next twenty-four hours. Once they have it, it will be shipped to a safe location, transported over land in our control, and flown here directly via private charter,” Gang said.
Namir raised his eyebrows, an unspoken question forming on his lips.
“There is no electronic trail of the shipment,” Gang said, reading his subtle expression. “I assure you. I’ll have a team I personally selected accompany it the entire time once it reaches Europe. I should have it in my custody in no more than five days.”
Gang hadn’t told Namir about the second team in the US—a team with a different but related mission—that had gone dark, and he didn’t need to. It was that part of the operation that had him concerned. The upcoming American holiday season and the general focus on other threats to their homeland were weaknesses he intended to exploit. Once he gave the order, there would be no turning back.
“If this operation succeeds,” Gang said, “and there’s no reason to believe it won’t—I’ve secured additional measures just in case—the prosperity of our countries will be guaranteed for decades to come, our financial fates sealed and intertwined.”
Gang was confident they’d be successful, but success was not enough. He wanted to humiliate the United States on the global stage. American arrogance would wither under the Chinese technological and industrial heel. A new world order was barreling toward the globe, a freight train of change and equality. He felt the fury rise in his stomach, a feeling he experienced at every glimpse of the American flag, a hypocritical symbol of opulence and superficiality.
Namir nodded thoughtfully. The plan was sound and compartmented. The president and the first vice president had plausible deniability if things went wrong. And with as many moving parts as
this operation had, things easily could go awry. Glory is reserved only for those willing to seize it.
The stage was set, the actors in place, and it was time for the curtain to open. “In that case, Gang, let’s begin.” He grinned broadly, his own smile as cunningly lethal as the young killer’s.