Contingency Plan - Chapter 4 - My New Command Center
Updated: May 3
Twelve hours later, I stood smiling in my command center, watching the man who had unwittingly become a pawn in my plan kneel before me. “Excellent,” I said. “Most excellent indeed.”
I have always preferred to reside in the same facility as my headquarters and command center. I can’t afford the time expenditures or the security risks inherent in a commute. But establishing a suitable facility is not always easy to accomplish. For instance, when I posed as the reclusive Lord Barnevon, I placed my command post in the labyrinthine chambers beneath his castle. The facility was accessible only through a concealed panel in the servants’ quarters, where Ehrlich lived, posing as my butler. Even for the two of us, moving the racks of computers and surveillance equipment down the castle’s ancient winding staircase was a difficult chore. And the construction methods used to build fortifications in the late 800s completely failed to anticipate the eventual need to route three-phase power cables through the subterranean passages.
In the staging area on the island of Karnemakwa, I took up residence in an abandoned aircraft hangar, coordinating the logistics and strategy of my mercenary army from a lovely set of mid-century modern tables arranged in a small cluster in the center of the cavernous building. I loved to hear my voice resonate through the chamber when I shouted, “Next time, you had better bring me RESULTS.” The echoes of my mercenary commanders scampering away to do my bidding made a nice dénouement to my frequent crescendos of rage.
That old aircraft hangar was one of my favorite headquarters. I prefer large, dimly-lit spaces for my audience chambers and meeting areas. Such a setting lends an importance to the directives and commands I issue, and allows my screams for results to echo a bit, amplifying the fear they create in my often-incompetent underlings. And, during off-hours, Ehrlich likes to practice his yoga and krav-maga in the lonely, empty spaces.
My very favorite command center, however, was the one I abandoned ten days ago. I had established the nerve center of my operations on the bottom deck of one of the legs of the larger of my two stolen oil rigs. Inspired by the tenets of feng shui, I had arranged my set of replica Liao Dynasty writing tables in a flower pattern on my antique Ningxia rug. The contrast between the elegant ancient style of the furniture and the soulless machinery and plumbing of the rig produced a nice effect. I was so fond of that command center that I even bothered to tolerate Ehrlich’s endless complaints that the encroaching machinery interfered
with his krav-maga practice. Why couldn’t he practice his krav-maga on the helicopter pad?
I was in my command center in the oil-rig when Yuri, Ehrlich, and a squad of my security personnel brought me the handcuffed Mr. Wendleburr. He was onboard as a representative of one of my narco-warlord financiers. Rather, as all of us standing on my Ningxia rug learned, the handcuffed man was posing as Mr. Wendleburr. The real Mr. Wendleburr had been found a short time earlier, bound and gagged in a machinery space on deck five. We instantly sounded the intrusion klaxon and the imposter was captured in a matter of minutes. Yuri found him behind the communication rack, attempting to sabotage the satellite uplink equipment. Greenwald, my computer expert, discovered the tracking device he had connected to the empty network drop in the commissary.
“Mister Wendleburr,” I said calmly as he stood in front of me, a few feet from the edge of my Ningxia rug. “I suppose that’s what I shall call you until we find a more … accurate … name for reference to you.”
“Very well,” he said calmly. Was that a fake British accent he was using, or was that his real voice? “I’m very impressed with your little operation here,” he added with a smirk.
Being professionally roughed up by Ehrlich and Yuri seemed to have had no effect on him other than slightly mussing his hair. His sarcastic smirk and tousled blond locks amplified his boyish charm.
“Oh, you should be impressed,” I said. I strolled to the front of my replica Liao Dynasty writing table and sat on the edge. “In a few moments you will get to watch me tell the United Nations Security Council that I’ve initiated the launch sequence for the seven Angara rockets stored in the remaining legs of my oil rigs.”
“I’ve seen them. Very impressive rockets. What’s in them?”
“I suppose I can tell you now, since there’s nothing you can do to stop me.” Ehrlich began to say something, but got no farther than “Um-“ before I shushed him with a wave of my index finger. “They each carry a special kind of nuclear device.”
“You’re threatening the world with nuclear weapons?” Fake Wendleburr feigned disappointment, “I thought you had something much more interesting planned.”
“Oh, oh I do. Much more interesting.” I had to shush Ehrlich once again before continuing.
“Nuclear extortion isn’t practical. Plutonium is too hard to obtain. Uranium enrichment takes soooo long, and all those noisy centrifuges spinning endlessly give me a headache. But obtaining the cesium-thorium physics packages at the tip of each of my rockets only required well-laundered money, a few forged identities, some bribes, and a cadre of corrupt Russian physicists. Anyway, the extremely dirty nuclear material in those rockets will irradiate low Earth orbit very nicely. And that radiation will cause satellites to fail. All of them.”
“Well, I suppose everyone will have to get together and launch some new ones.”
“Those will fail too. Earth’s orbit will be polluted with enough radiation to kill even hardened military satellites for the next four hundred years, Mr. Wendleburr.” I paused for effect. I liked the way my voice echoed off the metal walls of the rig’s hollow leg. “But there is a way of making electronics that can survive in such an environment. Do you know how that can be done?”
“Lots of aluminum foil?”
“No. Only microcircuits made from rhodium borosilica can survive the levels of radiation I’m going to place around our planet.”
“I’m sure it was mentioned in the mission briefing your employers, whoever they are, gave you. It’s extremely rare, and can only be found in fewer than one percent of the meteorites that have fallen to Earth. Also, and this is the really interesting part, I have acquired all of it. Literally. All. Of. It. Is. Mine. I own one hundred percent of what is about to become the most valuable substance in the solar system.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll use it responsibly.”
“You can trust me to use it very effectively. Now good bye, mister Wendleburr.” I turned to Ehrlich. “Bind him under the rocket in leg four. And make sure he’s in view of the launch-chamber camera. I want to watch him incinerate when we launch.” Ehrlich, Yuri, and the security squad led the now silent Wendleburr out of my command center.
Ten minutes later, I jammed my finger on the public intercom and screamed what was to be my last English-language utterance for the next week and a half.
“Fool! You have no idea what you have done!”
In hindsight, I was probably wrong. The Wendleburr impostor, who was evidently an extremely capable secret agent, knew exactly what he was doing. No only had he escaped from his bonds under the rocket engine, but had managed to seal all seven launch doors, dooming both of my stolen oil-drilling rigs and everyone inside to an inferno of combusting rocket fuel. Whether he used a high-tech device disguised as an ordinary object to escape, or had help from a traitorous member of my crew, I’ll never know. But in the span of a few minutes, he managed to unravel my plot that had been years in the making.
My primary status display had turned into a sea of red alarm indicators. The klaxons sounded. I ran to the submarine and my initiated my sub-optimal contingency plan.