ANAMUR, ALIKHI COAST
The first rays of a new dawn touched the sleepy, rocky coastal town of Anamur on the Alikhi Coast, and from the Masjid came the first echoing wails of the Call to Prayer. Rusting, ageing ships lay dormant in port, all security absent for the prayers. Not that this town had much security. Not that that security wasnt completely in the Brotherhood's pocket anyway.
A few lone, silent figures used this time to slip aboard a moored Freighter, eager to see what cargo had been brought on the Midnight tide. They were eager, but not uncautious, and produced pistols and uzis from within their clothing, as they moved quickly across the unlicensed transport.
Some distance away from the Freighter, a man in a crisp business suit sat in his armoured limousine, and watched discreetly, a cigarette stub-end in his fingers. He should be going to prayer himself, but this Operation was Important, and he was sure Allah would understand. He would make up for it later. They all would.
"Have you got the Manifest?" whispered one figure.
"I have. Look for a Red Crate, marked DXB-098." came the quiet reply.
Sneaking through the iron corridors, they checked each room with precision, speed and stealth, quietly executing any sleeping or groggy crewmen who got in their way. They quickly found the container in question, and one of them produced a hefty crowbar.
"Cover the exits, and brace yourself." he warned, as he began to heave the container open. They tensed as it squealed and grated, but noone came.
One of the figures quickly sent off a text on his mobile phone "Happy Birthday!". The code signal. They had the Package. "Grab what you can. Lets make this look like a botched robbery." They quickly began grabbing stuff from around the room, mostly junk. Theyd pawn it in the Black Market later. This wasn't really a Cash Raid. The leader wondered if the crew even knew what they had really been carrying.
Suddenly, all their phones began beeping. "Cake has Spoiled." was the message. "Time to go, NOW." They began to rapidly move, all thoughts of stealth abandoned. The message was clear. They had to bug out. Now. The Package was in a large steel suitcase, which two of them carried horizontally like a coffin. Some more crew began to emerge, wondering at the noise. They opened fire, loudly killing indiscriminately. Reaching the top deck, they could hear in the distance the thudder of chopper-blades. Panic gripped them. "Over the side, now!" Speed-boats were skimming across the dawnlit waves. Their exit. They quickly threw themselves and the package into the waves. The streets werent safe. Most likely the Police or National Guard had already taken up covert positions.
In his armoured limousine, the waiting figure finished texting, dropped his cigarette, and ordered his driver to leave. "Its time for us to go Pray."
Five minutes later, A Hind-D quickly circled the Freighter, dropping off a team of the Caliph's Elite Immortals, who rapidly scoured the Freighter, checking the pulses of the slaughtered crewmen. Their commander rapidly proceeded to the Canister, and found it levered open. He sighed, and thumbed his commlink. "Pandora's Box, repeat, Pandora's Box." he said, feeling dismay. The Speedboats would be found swiftly enough by the Coastal Patrol, but their crew and cargo would be long gone. Noone knew how they did it, as RADAR in this area confirmed that the only aircraft had been the Hind-D, and try as they might they couldnt find any other waterborne craft within 30 miles.
Within an Hour, the Caliph's Breakfast was interrupted, as one of his advisors whispered into his ear, and handed him a Dossier. He sighed, glancing at its title. "Malakbel? So, you and your overpaid Agents have some real information at last, eh?" The Alikhi Intelligence Agency was a relatively new incarnation of a very ancient organization, but its glory days of being the All-Seeing Eyes of the Caliph were long over. He coughed, and looked again at the information before him. "You can't be serious. I thought we'd gotten past this Cold War Crap."
"Your Supreme Magnificence, we think that certain factions...upcoming reforms....paranoia...I'm sure you understand."
The Caliph grimly reflected that the agent could easily be talking about his own country as much as the Soviet Unions.
"Very well. Make the call. I want this...Colonel al-Falani...and his operation terminated. Its been Two years since anyone's even heard of Cain or the Brotherhood, but it seems this Serpent is now a Hydra." He sighed, and began to massage his ageing temples.
"Do it. It seems we must once more trade a fraction of our pride for a measure of security. Inform the Coalition that the Brotherhood is at large once more. Pandora's Box has been opened."
INTERNATIONAL WATERS, DUSK
The sun's setting rays flecked the frothy green sea with motes of orange and red, and the grim-faced men aboard their speedboats, anxiously gazing at the horizon, couldnt help but feel a little calmed by the beauty of the sight.
"Truly, Allah moves in mysterious ways." murmured one new crewmember. To the others, it was nothing new or astonishing. The beauty of the sea was the last thing on their minds. Death from Above was an ever-present fear. You never knew when you were being watched, or when a Gunship or Fastboat might appear on the Horizon, and end it all.
"Muhtadi, check the weapons." instructed their leader, a swarthy, dark-skinned man, who wore a dusty, ageing Alikhi Air Force bomber-jacket. His rank badges, faded but still visible, suggested hed once been a Lieutenant. Now he was a Pirate, like all of them. A Pirate, and something more.
Muhtadi stopped gazing at the setting sun, and tentatively moved along the crowded speedboat, to check the crate that contained their arms was secured. Inside was half a dozen AKs, and the disassembled parts of some RPGs. Dangerous to even have them, but necessary. Everyone else had a Skorpion Machine pistol tucked into their ragtag clothing somewhere. Just in case.
"We should be over the main shipping lines now!" yelled the Navigator, over the roar of the engines. "No Supertankers tonight, but maybe some juicy Freighters."
There was a murmur. Theyd been hitting Freighters alot, lately, and there was concern that the Alikhi Navy was anticipating this. It wasnt smart to fall into a habit, or form a pattern of attacks. Their survival rested in stealth and speed.
Unbeknownst to them, deep beneath the waves and some miles off, a tiny diesel submarine watched them carefully. Onboard was the Colonel himself. "Sir, is it wise to track our...associates so brazenly? What if the Alikhi Navy detects us?" asked one of the senior crew in a tentative whisper.
"Silence." the Colonel sternly shot back. These Pirates were scum, docktrash elevated by the Brotherhood's support. The Alikhi Navy would crush them in a year at most. But they provided valuable income and logistics for the Brotherhood, at least, untill the Opium crop could be harvested. This was a clever sideshow and a gapstop, drawing the Caliph's attention and propping up the Brotherhood untill its transnational holdings and secret Highland Labs could be developed. The Alikhi Highlands had almost been swept clean of Brotherhood activity, and it was mostly sporadic Insurgents and would-be freedom fighters that still fought on against the Alikhi Army. They could keep a vastly superior force tied down for years, and as such nicely divide and occupy the Alikhi Government's attention.
But still, all had to proceed carefully and precisely. Especially if Malakhbel was to succeed.
"Sonar's just pinged a Freighter, sir. Theyll spot it in a few minutes."
"Do we know anything about it?"
"No, sir. Might be the Trap, might not."
The Colonel frowned, and pondered silently. Seconds ticked by, in the sweaty, diesel-soaked interior of the submarine. Finally, he seemed to come to some internal decision.
"Let us leave. Its not worth wasting our sole torpedo tonight. Besides, I have grown bored of "The Lieutenant" and his petty demands for better equipment and support. If its a Trap, let them be cut loose. If it isn't..." he smiled. "I'm sure Alikhi Intelligence will welcome anonmyous insider information."