When they ring you at three in the morning it’s important. Then a car arrives at your door five minutes later, you know it’s really important. Anyone that has come up through the ranks knows there will be times when you’ll be called to drop everything and to do whatever’s asked. Having done so and spent a week in Afghanistan wearing nothing but the clothes I stood up in, I’ve learned to plan ahead. Running out the door, I grab my to go bag and jump in the back of the car. Planning ahead consists of the day to day essentials that make life in the field bearable. This is different for everybody, for me it’s a toothbrush and toothpaste, you only use whisky once, clean underwear and toilet rolls, which, depending on where you are on the planet can also be used as currency.
It’s usually just the overnight staff that are in the building at this time. No one keeps regular hours in this line of work you just do what ever it takes, so its not unusual to find extra bodies hanging around. Judging from the numbers in the main office something big is about to go down. Head of section calls a halt to the rising clammer and asks us to gather round.
“Alright, simmer down, simmer down. The situation is as follows, a new member of the cabinet has seen fit to give a press briefing on our overseas operations, without clearing it with us first. As you can imagine this has right royally screwed the pooch.”
The room goes silent, he instantly has everyones attention.
“ As we speak we have two field agents in Morocco that have been compromised. For reasons that I cannot go into, the Moroccan government has no knowledge of operations or operatives on their soil, to reveal their presence at this time would……make things complicated.”
Across the office people bring satellites online and log onto any database covering the region. Everyone is 100 percent focused, it could be anyone of us out there. The Head takes a call and the office falls silent. Beats of silence pass, cradling the phone in his neck, he pauses before speaking. This is serious.
“Okay…people…i need an extraction and repatriation. Ideas?”
Now is not the time to throw out random suggestions, the golden rule is, if you don’t know what you’re taking about, shut up. A few of the old hands make suggestions.
“If they can make their way north, we could pick them up off the coast of Tangier.”
“There’s a Type 23 frigate, HMS St Albans, anchored in Gibraltar. We could have the Navy pick them up.”
“Relations with the Moroccans ain’t at their best, a naval ship off the coast could be seen as provocative.”
The powers that be have always encouraged an atmosphere in which individuals feel free to speak up. You never get the best out of people if there is a culture of fear, just ask the Russians.
“We could use local smugglers, they’re quite active in the region. It would give us a chance to get them off shore.”
The head seems to warm to this,
“Good work people, lets firm this one up.”
Alan interrupts him mid sentence. For any one else, this would likely result in a death stare, but Alan often sees the small details others miss. The Head nods and gives him the floor.
“Speak up Alan.”
“There’s always the risk of a Spanish patrol picking them up, we could always disclose our interest, but as you said that would get messy, and letting them be processed by the Spanish would leave them vulnerable at the reception centre.”
Alan takes a biscuit from the open packet on his desk and takes a bite. There is total silence. Alan is thinking.
“So…..” No one is breathing at this point.
“If the St Albans runs a night exercise…launches its Lynx helicopter…which encounters a slight engine problem forcing it to touch down on shore, momentarily of course, we could pick up the packages right off the beach. Relay the emergency landing over open channels, the Moroccan’s wouldn’t refuse an aircraft in difficulty permission to land. A quick fix and hey presto back in the air.”
The Chief joins the group and exchanges silent glances with Head of section, and with a nod, it’s a done deal. The chief picks me out of the masses.
“We’ll debrief them abroad the Sunborn, if it’s available, somebody find out please? I think it’s about time Sir Richard had another holiday.”
Sir Richard Privitt, our fictitious multi-millionaire we use as a cover, particularly when large numbers of people and equipment have to be involved. He has been assisting Her Majesties Secret Service with overseas operations for years. His parties are world famous, both for their extravagance and for the number of guests. When one spends a small fortune, one usually gets away with a little more than you or I ever could, particularly when it comes to privacy. A blind eye is often turned, and as for Sir Richard himself…..the less said the better.
Lucky the Sunborn, a luxury 5 star yacht moored in Gibraltar harbour has excellent state rooms and a particularly fine wine list. Sir Richard has stayed there many times…always has a private deck, which comes in handy for everyone at our end. After all, if you’re going to have a cover, make it a good one.
I start drawing up a list of the admin staff who’ll be coming along…..just to ensure Sir Richard is comfortable you understand, when Alan interrupts.
“Do you think they’ll have ginger nuts on board this time?”
“I am pretty sure Sir Richard will insist on it.”
The British Secret Service…proudly serving the Crown and biscuit manufacturers since its inception.