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February 2022 – Operation Runner

18.01.2022 – 00:39 EET

Julia sits in the drivers seat of an old and smelly rental van, parked about one hundred meters outside the Kotova residence. After keeping an eye on the family for quite some time, she’s getting bored and done with the assignment. How much longer can you watch a family do nothing interesting? As the grey and wet Russian weather beats down on the windshield, a black Mercedes pulls up to the residence. Right as it comes to a complete stop, the entire Kotova family comes rushing out of the house. All packed with various sized briefcases and bags, they make their way to the car. Taking out her camera to capture the scene, she notices how the vehicle has no plates. Immediately calling in to Gabriel, she takes a few shots before calling and starting her engine to chase the car.

“Jules what’s up?”

“They’re on the move, tailing them now, black Mercedes sedan without plates, heading north. They’re speeding like crazy, I’m not gonna be able to keep track without exposing myself.”

“On it. I am tracking your location and sending in team Golf.”

“SHIT!!! FUCK!! They gunned a red light and I had to stop to avoid colliding with a truck”

“Can you still see them?”

“Negative, lost sight, also, there’s a cop behind me”

“Alright handle the fuzz, I’ll have all the other teams looking for the car. Just send me the pictures right away”

“Sure thing, talk soon”

18.01.2022 – 06:25 EET

Dimitri hears a faint ringing sound as he wakes up. Realizing it’s his phone, he jumps awake and looks at the screen. It’s Garbiel.

“What’s up?”

“We got a situation. The Kotova family left their residence at 00:39 local time. They were picked up in an unmarked Mercedes W221, possibly a government vehicle. Jules tried following them but lost sight, they were last seen heading north”

“Alright on it, what do you need?”

“They were heading north and had luggage on them, our best bet is they went for the airport. Can you see if there is any way into airport surveillance systems around the Moscow area?”

“Are you insane?! Do you know we’re all about to kick-off World War Three and you’re asking me to hack Russia’s critical infrastructure?”

“Yes”

“For fucks sake, I’ll see what I can do. I’ll include traffic camera’s as well, those should be easier and might have them on it as well.”

“Good thinking, keep me posted. We will keep an eye on the residence”

“Alright have a good one”

01.02.2022 – 21:00 EET

After days of trying to breach critical infrastructure and breaking into, plus watching hours of traffic camera and gas station footage, Dimitri has to give in. At this point any information they pull would be way too old and inconclusive, he needs to get the OSINT division involved. Maybe by now the Kotova family has left a trail behind. With the current tension in the world, the Tiberian Serpents’ OSINT division is completely rented out to nation states though, leaving nobody available for this. He checks the case file for the agent who found the shipment last month. Stray, currently top analyst with Tiberian Serpent. No way he’s going to get her off the Ukraine problem right now. Well fuck it, send it anyway, see what happens.

03.02.2022 – 08:45 EET

A message comes in through one of the many accounts serving as sock puppets for the Tiberian Serpent. Agent Stray found the residence, it was recently posted to the Instagram account of Elena Kotova, the daughter of Maxim. Gabriel immediately makes the needed calls to arrange for transportation, it will take them some time to get there from here. Who thought of building their HQ in the middle of fuck-all nowhere.

The BTRU gears up, nothing tactical that will stand out between the tourists. They head out to the hangar just outside their compound, there’s a Learjet 35 waiting to take them to the next stop. With most other planes occupied flying around the Ukraine, they will have to do the last leg with regular airlines.

04.02.2022 – 10:26 EET

Looking at pictures of the residence, Gabriel looks to his left. There it is, next to the main road. So peaceful in this nice part of the country, between all the other vacation homes.

“Fuck me this place must have been impossible to find, every damn house around here looks exactly like that”

They park the car further down the road and casually walk down the street. Since the residence has no fences or much else around it, they notice it’s completely empty. Carefully the team approaches the building, looking around for camera’s while not seeming too suspicious. Indeed the place looks completely vacant.

“Alright lets check inside, Gonzalez open her up”

Gonzalez, a former Marine with the posture of an oak tree, quickly picks the lock. The door slides open and the men slip inside.

“Sweep the place, lets all take a room, then swap rooms to check each others’ rooms”

After an hour all they found is a notepad with some imprint on it.

“Seems to be some names and numbers, might be something. I’ll send it over to the lab for analysis and let Stray know if it’s anything useful”

Later that day the results come back, it’s the imprint of writing, everything that was recovered is sent to Gabriel. He immediately notifies agent Stray to get back on the case. The BTRU finds a local hotel to sit tight, waiting where they need to go next.

05.02.2022 – 23:52 EET

A message pops up on Gabriel’s phone, it’s Stray.

“Alright boys lets head out, we’ve got the next location. They went to fucking Panama. These Russians really are having a vacation out here. Playing hide and seek.”

“Gabe we have problem though, our jet got pulled back to Ukraine. I will charter a helicopter somewhere nearby and get HQ to arrange clearance to country hop”

“Shit, well get it done, we don’t have time for this. Damn Biden and Putin having their pissing contest, pulling all our resources out”

06.02.2022 – 07:36 EET

“Look what I got”

Maria holds up a piece of paper, it’s burned and looks like a picture of something.

“Interesting, it has writing on the back as well. Maybe the locals know where this is. Maria, you have a friendly face, unlike these fuckers. Go and ask around if the locals know where this might be. Meet you at the car in 30 minutes”

“Yes Sir on it”

A short 30 minutes later, Maria returns, not looking too happy.

“Nobody seems to know the place, there was one guy who thought he recognized it, but was not sure from where. I’ve already sent pictures of this to Stray, let’s see if she can find something”

“Good thinking, let’s keep asking around for a bit and sit tight around the bar. Try not to be too suspicious”

About an hour later Gabriel receives a message, Stray found the harbor! It’s two and a half hours north by car. The BTRU gets in their rental van and heads out. Not stopping and always scraping the speed limit, they approach the harbor a little over two hours later. Slowly pulling into the grass area, a few of the locals look suspiciously at their vehicle. Looking around the boats, Gabriel spots them. A family of three, a little tanned by now. Maksim is walking back and forth between a Volvo station wagon and the docks, loading crates of supplies into a boat called Serenity. He parks the van behind a building and they get out, Gabriel takes out his phone and dials a specially prepared number.

“Handler One this is Golf. Eyes on Tango, seemingly unarmed, loading a boat at our current location. Can we get some local LEO’s to assist and take them in?”

“Golf this is Handler One, local police will be there in 10 minutes.”

“This is Golf, local police in 10 minutes, golf out”.

Maksim watches in shock as three Panamanian police cars drive towards the docks. To his left, he sees three men and a woman coming out from behind the utility building, all of them drawing a firearm from under their shirts, tucked on the inside of their belts. He looks at his wife and daughter, who stare back in disbelief.

“Maksim Kotova! No sudden moves, you’re under arrest on suspicion of the facilitation of war crimes and terrorism. Put your hands behind your head and get on your knees”

Gabriel raises his firearm as the police officers around him exit their vehicles, all aiming at Maksim. His wife and daughter now crying on the deck of the Serenity. Maksim looks at him, not defeated, but with a smile.

“Don’t worry, American, your joys are temporary, savor them”

He smiles at his wife and daughter as the police officers push him into the back seat of their car and leave a dust cloud speeding away.

06.02.2022 – 16:55 EET (US Embassy in Panama)

“Okay so you’re willing to rat out five Russian operatives, currently in two different NATO governments. And throw in a smuggling operation. For us to let you go after 6 months in minimum security prison?”

“Yes, these sources are credible. As I said I have all the evidence, just make sure they don’t know it was me. The smuggling operation is something I despise anyway, a friend tried to get me involved to move goods to Russia. I said it was a sick trade and didn’t want part of it. He gave me files and told me to reconsider. I can hand those over to you no problem.”

“Alright, if these people are as legit as you claim, you’ve got yourself a deal Mr Kotova. Your lawyer should be here tomorrow, he will look over the settlement papers and we’ll have you in a nice comfy box for six months until all this blows over”

“Great, it was a pleasure doing business with you. I knew you would be a reasonable man”

Agent Palmer, a sturdy looking military man in his early forties, gets up and leaves the room, joined by two members of embassy staff, both tasked with overseeing the holding of Maksim Kotova. One of the two, a young Frenchman named Vincent asks.

“Are we really letting him go after six months?”

Agent Palmer looks over with a slight smile.

“Hah, after what he’s done and where we caught him? No, after his sources are confirmed and detained, he’s going into a hole in the wall in Guantanamo Bay. It’s on the way over too, saves the plane back home some gas”

Vincent smiles, if only the world knew how many people his American coworkers erased without a trace.

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Written by Frank

Connecting dots. Ow no wait, wires... I connect wires. Sometimes also waves.

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