Today is one of those rare days when I am actually looking forward to going into the office. I’m to undertake the annual stocktake of Basement 5, it’s not really what I would call work, it’s more like being paid to mooch around a museum and tick off the exhibits as you go.
Since its inception the service has relied on two things, brain power and ingenuity. Although, if it was brains alone, we may well have been up the swannie long ago. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed some of the brightest minds in the field fail at the simplest of tasks. Networking computers, hacking foreign powers, not a problem. New flat pack desk for the office and stand by for hissy fits and strong language. Colins desk is held together with bungie cord….don’t ask.
Basement 5 holds what could arguably be said to be the finest collection of espionage equipment in the world. Agents tend to treat the basement as their own personal toy box. Which is all well and good, but being as we serve both M.I.5 and 6, 24 hours a day 365 days of the year, someone has to put the toys away every once in a while.
We keep most of the cold war stuff, cameras and surveillance kit, as a source of reference. The advent of digital technology has rendered nearly all of it obsolete, not only the cameras but the listening devices as well, early parabolic microphones were the size of dinner plates, hardly concealable.The simple fact is that even the most savvy agent gets a kick out of using some of the older kit, hence the need for todays audit.
As well as equipment, Basement 5 holds many secrets, the answers to which are either classified or lost to the mists of time. With regard to the 7ft Christmas tree costume that resides in the corner, I am going mists of time…..I mean I could check through the day logs, surely the entry stating ‘Costume. Tree. Festive.’ Is bound to jump out but where’s the fun in that. It’s rather impressive with lights, tinsel and a rather buxom angel….perhaps a little too buxom thinking about it; the truth be told I haven’t the heart to write it off, so there it stands in the corner, my silent festive companion.
Alan has decided to join me for the day, I think he’d move down here if given half the chance. He came in the guise of lending me a hand but with the Uber nerd way he’s handling some of the items, I have a feeling this is going to take twice as long.
“Button hole camera’s circa 1960, 5. One loose, 4 boxed.”
“Are those 10mm or 8?”
“Two out in the field, one was with Agent number 3, don’t suppose we’ll see that again.”
“Pen recorders 10, Shoe knives 15, sizes 8, 9 and 12……does anyone still use these?”
“No…not since the 70’s, not after airports introduced metal detectors. Back in the day everyone wanted one. Of course most of it was Ian Flemings fault.”
“Talking of which, why do we have a Gorilla costume?”
“Now, these suitcase nukes. They aren’t, you know, real are they ?”
Remember what I said about the brightest minds,
“Of course they’re not real ! Do you think we’d just have one hanging around on the off chance it would come in handy ?”
“Well……you never know with the armoury techs.”
“Fair point, I can rest assure you it’s a prop, we used it to flush out a North Korean cell.”
“Oh I thought it was, you know, a little funny.”
“Funny ? It was bloody hilarious, you should have seen the look on their faces when the S.A.S jumped out, they said they’ve never had so many people give themselves up without a shot, and all the time that one chap trying to detonate a modified Speak and Spell. They send one to Pyongyang every year, on the anniversary, foreign secretary’s should stop them..……but it is funny.”
“What, a suitcase nuke ?”
“NO, a Speak and Spell, I’m beginning to worry about you Alan.”
Two hours later and we are done, there’s just one last box to tick. The frozen Russian or frozen Ivan as he’s affectionally known, is a little difficult to explain. We, that is the service, sort of acquired a North Korean safe house, and…well.. we sort of acquired Ivan as well. He came with the decor so to speak, or more accurately we found him in a freezer in the front room.
We could ask the Russians but given that he’s a spook they’re hardly going to put their hand up and admit to losing an agent, anyway PsyOps have tagged him as an asset so….
“Should we go over and check he’s still there?”
“It’s not like he’s going to have wandered off…i’ll tick it as done.”
So there you have it, button cameras, pen recorders, shoe knives, one Gorilla costume, one Christmas tree costume, a modified Speak and Spell and a frozen Russian. Tell me where else you’d come across that… ….I mean…. apart from the C.I.A.